Band Of Horses Singer Not Too Thrilled With The Cameraphone Era

phones.jpgA couple of weeks back Band Of Horses played a show in San Diego, and lead singer Ben Bridwell was feeling a bit cranky–so cranky, in fact, that he flipped a fan off while she was trying to get a digital shot of him as they played their single “The Funeral”–which was the first time a huge chunk of the crowd took notice of the show. Naturally, she blogged about it:

So there I am with my tiny Sony digital camera, capturing the song, and suddenly I realize I’m getting flipped off by the singer. While playing the super emotional song, “Funeral”, he flip me off and mid song yells, “I see you recording me.” I look around and at least 5 other people are taping him and he calls me out. Fuck you. I duck out and I am fucking outta there. There’s nothing worse than a fucking whiny baby onstage. It wasn’t bad enough that earlier in the set he complained about the sound and the mix, asking his band, “Should we keep playing?” Now he’s gonna be a whiny bitch about me recording his shit. Fuck him. I was outta there.

Whining about whining–how meta! And she later calls the band “Bandaid of Horseshit,” tee hee. Anyway, today Pitchfork has an interview with Bridwell where he apologizes to the blogger, but also takes time to discuss the incident and the YouTube culture of shows in 2007. (I should probably take a second here to note that I’m not really a fan of Bridwell’s band at all, but I do feel for him on certain points–particularly the ones about more members of the crowd being in attendance to treat shows like photoshoot opportunities, instead of enjoying them in real time/IRL.)

But then you had all these kids up front, that seemed so disinterested in the show and didn’t look up at the stage or anything. They just kind of sat there in front of the stage. Just seemed like they didn’t want to be there at all, until we played “The Funeral”. So all of a sudden you had these people that seemed so disinterested in the show all, somehow at the same time, pull their cameras out of their bags and start filming.

So I’m sitting there– now they’re really interested in this one song– and they still won’t make eye contact, looking through their little lenses, taping this one song for their blogs or for their fucking YouTube [accounts] or whatever, and it was just so annoying. It’s like, this show is already going south, and these people that seem disinterested are only here to further their YouTube accounts or their blogs or whatever, and it just pissed me off.

It was really annoying. It was just scratching at the surface of what’s happening to shows lately. Everybody’s got a camera in their pocket, and they turn it on to just, I don’t know, exploit us in some way or further their own projects or whatever the fuck they’re doing with their websites and shit. It’s become a little bit ridiculous, and it was just a bit unnerving, and [with] the situation with the show and everything, all the stars lined up and I got pissed off….

I don’t know what to say. I admit that I was being a fucking asshole. I feel bad to single her out, but it wasn’t so much her. It was mostly these other people in front of the stage that seemed so disinterested that kind of got the wheels turning, and once they all popped up with the cameras at the same time, I guess that’s where it just exploded.

Pitchfork: Is it like that at most shows you guys have played recently?

BB: It seems to keep happening. You see it getting progressively worse. It’s almost like the skateboarding community, where everyone’s a fucking photographer now. You look at shots, and it’s hard to keep the photographers out of the shot, you know? It kind of seems like the same thing with indie rock; everyone’s got a fucking camera in their hand and, I don’t know, is there no sanctity left for live performance with going to a show and seeing it with your own eyes and remembering it? Do you have to tape every second, or even just your favorite song? I understand it, but it’s becoming annoying.

Truth be told, I’ve probably been guilty of having my eyes on my phone the few times I’ve been at a Band of Horses show–but that behavior’s been saved for the back of the room, because there are few things more annoying than having your already-lousy position in the crowd made even worse by a host of viewfinders being hoisted in front of you. It’s just another aggravating thing about the live-show experience in 2007, up there with expensive, crappy beers and, uh, people talking on their cell phones, and it’s doing the probably undesirable effect of making my nostalgia for “the old days” even more inflamed. Because even though having to check my cell phone at the Morrissey show at the Apollo a couple of years back was excessively annoying (mainly because of the post-show glob of people who were trying to retrieve their phones from the lineless coat check), it was also kind of awesome, if only because I was able to actually watch the show–and, sometimes, have my thoughts drift off into unexpected places–without my ADD acting up and me berating myself for missing a “perfect” moment to shoot.

BoH’s Bridwell Talks YouTubers, New Album, Sex Clubs [Pitchfork]
[Photo: DG Jones]

  • brainchild

    i side with the guy in the band. unless the band is cool with tapers and people taking flicks… leave your cameras at home, and turn your phones off.

  • King of Pants

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. And also, thank you.

  • Anonymous Communist

    I feel badly for this young man. It must be awful that people are willing to promote his band for free.

  • Eamon

    I saw BOH at Langerado this spring. They put on pretty good show and were energetic and engaged the crowd. People had their cameras out that day, myself included and he didn’t seem to mind. Maybe it was better crowd that day…

  • ehague

    The camera-phone: the mosh pit of the 00s.

  • Jay

    At the last big show I went to, they wouldn’t let me tape anything at all. I was like, “Fuck you Cirque Du Soleil, now I’m not buying any of your $40 t-shirts.”

    But I had to anyway, you know, for my Mom.

  • Antiheroine

    I don’t know the band well, but dude’s got a point. It’s one thing to record events for video/blog, whatever, but it’s another to be more concerned with the recording than the actual event.

  • janine

    I’m with the guy in the band. He shouldn’t have apologized. I’ve had it up to here with the area in front of the stage, the place that should carry the most energy in the room, being glutted with camera people. Forget about whether you’re bothering the band, you’re selling your fellow concert-goers short.

  • saturn

    The “good old days” weren’t so great. Ever go to the Middle East upstairs in Boston? Before cell phones, before digital cameras, people would just talk. Loudly. With their backs to the stage. Wake Ooloo cut a show short because the audience was largely not paying attention.

    But then I’m guessing that most of the Austrians who went to the debut of some new Mozart piece were there more to be seen than to hear the music itself.

    Long story short: if the only people who paid to see a live show were people interested in the music itself, live shows would be totally unprofitable.

  • catdirt

    ‘canes is a funny venue, but i guarentee you that everyone there was there to see band of horses, because their “walk up” is approx. 0. so- band of horses singer- those are your fans homie- see: modest mouse.

  • the rich girls are weeping

    @saturn: Ha! Good point. However, I’d totally rather see people interacting with each other in a social setting than watch scores of socially awkward people mitigate their experience of a show through a lens. I mean, is the prospect of having emotional engagement with the music that terrifying to people? If so, they all need to be in therapy. Stat.

  • xtianrut

    Gotta side with Birdwell on this one. The camera-phone-pit royally sucks. If you wanna watch the show at home, buy a DVD. Those lit-up phone-screen things are totally distracting.

  • The HZA. [member of the zombie nation]

    @Jay: I bought the 20 dollar Cirque CD myself.

    Delirium was a really good show.

  • janine

    @prolixrush: First, I have trouble reconciling that people who likely have their entire music catalog held in a tiny ipod believe that music (particularly live music) is for looking at. Second, these people are disruptive in that they are impediments for any kind of energy to build for the audience or the performer. Bands are not performing in a vacuum.

    @pwbk: I assume you’re a blogger. Has anyone ever written you to say how your pictures really got them into a band? It was probably the review, right?

    Sorry, but I really hate it when people treat live shows like a spectacle that doesn’t involve them. I hate it a lot.

  • Bob Loblaw

    @pwbk: Bloggers like to think people never heard about or went to shows in the days before blog. I call bullshit.

  • prolixrush

    I buy Bridwell’s argument, but if people in the audience are that distracted by cellphones/cameras, they seriously need to remember what life was like before the dawning of the age of (comparably considerate) hipsters. I’ll take an easily ignorable glowing screen any day over beer down my back; cigarette burns; groupie bitches who wanna elbow past you for a better spot to flash tit; tall, inconsiderate assholes; drunk sorta-sing-a-longers who are louder than the band…

    But at a truly great concert, none of this shit matters anyway, right? Including camera screens. It’s all gravy if they’re serving up filet mignon on stage.

  • Anonymous

    I take photos at shows for the sake of mementos. Add another 20 to my 32 years, and I might not care about going to clubs or theaters to check out a show. Plus, I’m hoping that with practice, I’ll be even half as good as Glen E. Friedman or Charles Peterson.

  • pwbk

    I’m sorry, but without all those camera phone people, no one would even know who Band of Horses is, and that club likely wouldn’t have been nearly as full. Instead of disinterested newspaper and magazine reviewers showing up at shows, you have bloggers showing up, who may or may not like the band, but will still show their fan base what it was like. At least by having it recorded, you’re getting yourself extra fans. Unless of course you flip out on camera at them. That might lose you some fans.

  • drjimmy11

    “But then you had all these kids up front, that seemed so disinterested in the show and didn’t look up at the stage or anything”


    if you cannot GET the audience interested,, particularly the hardcore fans the front, you suck. The end.