OK, we’ve gotta discuss an ongoing epidemic at shows. No, not the loud talker, not the drunk girl yelling at her friends, not even the guy texting. We’re talking about photographers. I understand you would like to capture the moment. At times, I would too. But here’s the difference. I take out my phone, snap a few quick pictures, then I put it away. I. Put. It. Away.
Friday night, as part of the New York Guitar Festival, Nels Cline and Thurston Moore played as a duo at Rockwood Music Hall. They called it “Pillow Wand” maybe because it feels like being hit with a magical pillow. These possibly the two most widely known Avante Garde leaning guitar players, who have crossed over into the mainstream world. Cline as a part of Wilco, and Moore founding Sonic Youth. Needless to say, lots of people were in that tiny room.
This was my first time at Stage Two of Rockwood Music Hall, a lovely addition. It seems to be reserved for more well known acts, were as on Stage One, there’s always the chance that dude with a weird Jew Fro will go on right before your friend’s band and play the entire Plastic Ono Band album front to back. Its a cozy space, the sound was great, and despite it being packed, it was not that hard to obtain a beverage.
Oh right, it was packed. It was definitely over fire department capacity. People would walk down the entrance stairs, see that there was nowhere to go, and literally just set up camp on the stairs. That can’t be safe.
Now, before we get to the problem of people preserving their memories on compact flash cards, lets talk about the music. They played a continuous set of sound….not really just noise, but not melodic compositions. It was basically a fucking giant explosion. Tons of effects pedals, lots of volume, several Jazzmasters. They played like they meant it. I would compare it to some type of experimental painting. You see some weird shit thrown on a canvas and you think “I could totally do that.” Well maybe in the case of some phony artist who just wants the image, you could. But look at one of those giant Jackson Pollock canvases, and there is no way you could. That’s what these guys were like.
Every sound seemed like they meant it. There was no phoning it in. It’s a wonder their guitars didn’t just fall in pieces to the floor. They put these instruments through incredible abuse. Cline plays the strings with a little kitchen whisk, Moore sticking a drumstick under the strings on the neck and thrashes back and forth. They hit the tremelo so hard, it would be no surprise if the bridges just popped off. Yet somehow, they did not. But that was the good part, lets get to the other thing.
There seems to be a rule with professional photographers. They respect those around them. And when they don’t, its brief. A guy asks you if he can switch spots for a minute to get some shots, then moves along. Its a mild inconvenience, but you live through it. When I was about 11, we went to see Slash at the now defunct NY Club Tramps. His manager came out beforehand and told all of the photographers, “YOU GET ONE SONG! THEN YOU’RE OUT OF HERE!” lo and behold, he came back out after that song, yelling “THAT’S IT! GET ‘EM OUT!” fucking professionals.
Somewhere between 1994 and now, things have changed. I don’t dispute that the iPhone camera is awesome. I love it. I use it all the time. It makes life better. You can remember any moment, because you always have it with you. And the pics look pretty good! But think for a fucking minute. How many pictures do you need? Can’t you actually live in the moment and enjoy the amazing things happening in front of you? You really need to look in a 3″ LCD monitor to experience what’s in front of you? Fuck you.
The light from all the iPhones and cameras rivaled the stage lighting, which was minimal. Its 2 dudes with guitars. The lighting doesn’t change. They aren’t even switching guitars. How different is it going to be? That’s not even the issue, I guess if you want to get all artistic, that’s fine. But don’t do it in a tiny club. The amount of dudes with fucking giant DSLR’s with huge telephoto lenses on them was just ridiculous.
We got pushed in front of several times, and the photographers just planted themselves. Also, those cameras are kind of loud if its not a big rock and roll moment. If the music gets quiet…..CLICK CLICK CLICK….really? I’ve heard a bootleg of Neil Young at the Bottom Line, where he asks a photographer not to shoot during the songs, because people can hear it. Jeff Tweedy would call out anyone with a camera and tell them to get rid of it on Wilco’s last tour. Just last month at Carnegie Hall, Ryan Adams stopped the show and went on a hilarious rant….to paraphrase “oh my god, you HAVE to have gotten that shot by now. You need to keep taking them? What is your camera from like 1975 and you need to change flashbulbs or something? Want ME to take it for you?? Just put it away” They have a point.
At one point, the asshole with the Hubble Telescope in front of me changed cards…because you need to fill up more than one giant flash card during a 45 minute set. Then he was fucking reviewing and deleting photos! Are you fucking kidding me? This place is the size of a shoebox and you’re standing in front of everyone just doing that? And those people with the iPhones who just leave them held up the whole time! Are your poorly lit out of focus shots going to be that great?!
OK, I need to calm down. I’ve decided next time this happens, I’m going to get right in front of every lens I see, and just give the F.O.B Peace Sign. Or yell “CLICK CLICK CLICK!” or just point my phone directly in front of their camera, turn the flash on, and just go for it. We need to do something about this, kids. Who’s with me?