Friday, June 27, 2008

Get Off My Lawn!

Last night we were lucky enough to see Liz Phair performing at a small club here in New York. In honor of the 15th anniversary of the release of her first album, ‘Exile in Guyville,’ she’s doing a short tour at small clubs in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, playing the entire album in original song order. A fantastic show.

This was the eighth time I’ve seen her perform, having seen her at least once on each album tour that she’s ever done. The first time was back in November, 1993 at the original location of Washington DC’s 9:30 club, also touring for ‘Guyville.’ If I remember correctly, it was around 100 people at that gig, and it was one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen. You could see how much her band adored her as she shyly played through most of that album and a few other songs she had written back then. Last night's show was the only other one of her I’ve seen in such a small venue – only about 3-400 - and it reminded me of how important that kind of intimacy is to enjoying live music.

It was an interesting show also to see how much things have changed. Not just Liz Phair herself, who has a confidence in playing that she has worked hard at over the last decade and a half. The audience, as well, has changed, though not much in demographic but rather in how an audience behaves. 1993 predated the internet and cellphones. And those technologies have completely changed how an audience relates to a performer on stage.

What is it with cellphone cameras at these things? At the risk of sounding like a Luddite old fart, screaming at the kids about his lawn, it pisses me off. We were surrounded by people who spent the entire time taking picture after picture on their cellphones to email to their friends. It was bizarre to see people who paid good money (tickets to the sold-out shows were scalped for close to a hundred bucks a pop), spend the entire show viewing it through a 1”x2” small screen. They would hold it up, blocking people’s view, snap the picture, and then fuss with it before scrolling down a list of people to email it to.

It seems to reflect an inability to be able to relate to live performance; as if the only way that people can relate to something is through the medium of a screen. I don’t begrudge people from taking a shot or two (the above photo was stolen from the blog of someone who saw the show last night), to share with friends who aren’t at the concert, but I thought that’s what the phone part of the cellphone was for – dialing them up and letting them listen in.

Of course, I am an old fart. Back in 1993, after we saw a cool show we would tell people about it in person. Uphill, both ways, of course.


Here's a Youtube from a guy who was standing pretty much next to me. He recorded it on his cellphone, so the sound pretty much sucks, though in his post he's proud of the video quality, which isn't so bad. Divorce Song: