Newspaper article

Social-Media Blackout Lets First Avenue Music Fans Concentrate on Magic Moments

Newspaper article

Social-Media Blackout Lets First Avenue Music Fans Concentrate on Magic Moments

Article excerpt

Fans attending last week's Neutral Milk Hotel shows at First Avenue were met by signs that read, "For Tonight's Neutral Milk Hotel Show: No Photography/No Video Recording Allowed/This Includes Cell Phones."

The same message was broadcast on the small screens around the club and on the big screen in front of the stage, reminding the gathered hundreds to, as Neko Case once tweeted, "Just put the phone away and watch the show."

So I have no photos or video of NMH to share, no memories to scroll through on my phone, and no problem.

While a few may have lamented the lost chance to document the experience of being in the same room with one of indie rock's most beloved cult bands, I and the few members of the crowd I informally polled about the no photos/phones policy were happy to engage in a live show that felt more like a music hall of yore than a rock club at the turn of technology.

I'd like to go on record as saying I'm all in favor of this new golden age we're living through, a time when we document absolutely everything we can get our lusty lenses and prurient prisms on and then flood the world with perfect/arty/blurry images of friends and strangers making or hearing music. I also appreciate the fact that exactly two photographs exists of one of the most mystical and important musicians of all time, the great bluesman Robert Johnson, especially now, when if it wasn't caught, captured, Snapchatted, Instagrammed, taxidermied, and presented to the world it didn't happen or exist.

Ergo, we've all become amateur Alec Soths and Dan Corrigans -- the latter of whom recalls here the "mind-boggling" sight of a sea of cell phone viewfinders capturing a Hanson concert at First Avenue a few years ago.

That wasn't the case at the Neutral Milk Hotel shows, which struck a blow for old-school paying attention and being present, not reporting back to the insatiable social media maw going on outside the walls of the club.

In her terrific ode to being here now, "A Natural History of the Senses," Diane Ackerman writes: "When we describe ourselves as 'sentient' beings (from Latin sentire, 'to feel,' from Indo- European sent-, 'to head for,' 'go'; hence to go mentally) we mean that we are conscious. The more literal and encompassing meaning is that we have sense perception."

Heightened sense perception and total consciousness are two of the regularly achieved states of the live-music lover, which is purportedly why, along with maintaining visual aesthetics and protecting listeners' rights, Prince and other artists have banned photography at their concerts. Which comes to the chagrin of the many, of course, whose real-time sharing of photos, videos and opinions has become part of the concert-going experience itself. …

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