Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Be Here Now" - Aren't We?

I went to an amazing tribute concert for the late Michael Bloomfield this weekend at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. The show was led by Jimmy Vivino (the Conan O'Brien Show) and Barry Goldberg (Electric Flag, Bob Dylan, Steven Stills), and included blues luminaries Nick Gravenites, Elvin Bishop, Harvey Mandel, Charlie Musselwhite, and Maria Muldaur.

The Sweetwater Music Hall is a tiny venue in downtown Mill Valley with a long history of musical performances dating back to it's opening days in 1972. Like most musical shows these days you see plenty of people with their cell phones shooting pictures and video all night.

Concert goer blocks view of Charlie Musslewhite.
In your face use of cell phones at concerts is funny and irritating at the same time. It's funny when you think about whether or not these people are actually paying attention and enjoying the concert. It's irritating for other concert goers and the artists who want to just experience the show.

So it came as no surprise when Maria Muldaur blurted out her desire for people to put down their phones by saying "Be Here Now" -- quoting Ram Dass. Of course the crowd cheered Muldaur's reprimand.

Another way of thinking about this phenomenon is that people (especially celebrities) don't want candid photos or videos of them ending up online. In a blog entry back in 2010 Digital Forgiveness vs. The End of Forgetting, I spoke about how these images and videos can be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove after the fact. Indeed, according to George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen, many bars, nightclubs, and even private party hosts now require visitors to sign agreements not to tweet or otherwise post information about other guests and whatever is going on there that night.
Maria Muldaur at the Sweetwater Music Hall.

Rosen also talks about a Pew study showing that more 18-to-29-year-olds are concerned about their online portfolios than older adults are because they understand the consequences of over sharing.

It wasn't long before the phones came out again. Most people were at least nice enough to wait until Muldaur left the stage.

Which brings me back to why it is that so many people do this now days. Throughout the show I had been thinking the same thing myself. I wanted to enjoy the show and didn't want to bother anyone behind me if I decided to pull out my phone and shoot some video.

For me the urge to capture part of the show was not just to be able to share it with friends online. The video would help me remember the show and re-live some of the brilliant performances. It's what people do now.
Maria Muldaur sings "My Girlish Days"

The Grateful Dead were pioneers in allowing and actually encouraging live recordings of their musical performances. In what can now be seen as being way ahead of their social media times, the Dead allowed the recordings in order to maintain and, in fact, improve their fan base and ticket sales.

Today, if you do a YouTube search for Sweetwater Music Hall you receive a seemingly endless list of amateur and professional live video recordings from this venue. Included in that list are the two short clips I recorded last Friday night. Although not very professional, the video I shot is a nice piece of the evening I can share with the world and use to help me remember the show.

On the other hand, Muldaur is going to simmer in her disdain for the practice of fans putting their phones in her face whenever she's on stage.

Perhaps someday she will appreciate the recordings of her shows or at least be able to acknowledge the fact that people liked her performance enough to want to capture it and share it with others.

Click here to see another clip from that amazing show. Enjoy!

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