My mom and I went to see Sarah McLachlan at Wolf Trap on Saturday night. It was a great night to be on the lawn, and a lovely show. (By the way, just how much Wolf Trap picnic food is provided by Trader Joe’s? A LOT.)
I’ve got technology on the brain these days as I work on my book, so I was interested in how people were experiencing the concert with and through their smartphones. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Wolf Trap, but I’ve seen the norms change dramatically even during that time. Whipping out one’s phone to send a text or check Facebook used to be rare and (I sensed) frowned upon. By now it’s the norm, at least on the lawn.
One of the great things about live music is the way it knits together audience and performer as a community, albeit for a limited time and in a particular place. Does the use of social media expand that community, or does it dilute the overall experience? Or are both possible? (I think you know I’m a Both kinda gal.)
Before I go further, let me say this: the vast majority of cell phone usage I saw was from people who were way older than I am. So those of you clearing your throats for your “kids today” lecture, save it. This is a seriously intergenerational phenomenon now.
Here are some ways I witnessed people using their phones during the concert… or did so myself.
- Looking up Sarah’s Wikipedia page to see how old she is, because she looks amazing. (She’s 46)
- Taking notes on her setlist, presumably to download tunes later, or create a playlist.
- Googling the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, a free program for underserved kids in the Vancouver area that provides high-quality music programs and lessons at no charge, which Sarah mentioned during the show.
- Random checking of social media during the slow moments.
- Texting friends to say, “I’m here watching Sarah McLachlan and remembering so happily our Lilith Fair days.” (That was me. Shoutout to K and G)
- Receiving a photo of one’s children proudly displaying the awards they received at the swim team picnic that evening. (Also me.)
- Lifting up glowing screens during the slow songs, with or without the benefit of the Candle app.
- Recording snippets of songs to share with friends.
My guess is that some of those activities seem legit to you, and others make you bristle. Which ones and why?
It should be said, I could’ve done without the gals in front of me taking repeated selfies after it got dark… with the flash.
I also could’ve done without the people next to me talking loudly during much of the first act. Oh yeah, that has nothing to do with smartphone use. But wait! I thought technology was the downfall of polite civilization! You mean people can be boorish and rude without benefit of their cell phones? Get outta here!