Artists starting to urge their fans not to press ‘record’

The harsh blue light of a phone’s screen can be distracting for artists trying to perform (Cara Smith/AQ)

You’re standing front row at your favorite band’s show. You’re just about to press ‘record’ on your smart phone to capture the moment when the band asks that the audience put them away.

This request from artists is being made more and more. City and Colour’s Dallas Green, alt-rockers Death from Above 1979 and Vancouver’s folk singer/songwriter Dan Mangan have all asked the audience to put down their phones during a performance.

“I don’t think people were bummed out,” said St. Thomas University student Ashley Rerrie. “I think a lot of people who were true City and Colour fans were happy it happened. I had heard he has a reputation that he doesn’t want phones on and taking videos.”

Rerrie caught Dallas Green’s performance last February in Halifax. She said it was distracting to see the harsh blue light of cell and camera screens while the artist was performing.

Jake Sullivan is a local musician who played with Fredericton’s Hungry Hearts before moving to Alberta in September. He saw Dallas Green perform at the city’s Playhouse during that very tour.

“His reason for not allowing flash photography was just for sake of not ruining the intimacy of the show for everyone. As far as phones, I’m pretty sure he allowed them to be used for taking video, but reminded people that since we’re living in such a digital age that it’s important to allow yourself to become immersed in the experience as it happens, rather than getting it on video to watch later,” said Sullivan.

Tim Baker, front-man of Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta!, played Fredericton’s Boyce Farmer’s Market last month. He said the band was introducing three new songs to the city’s audience that night.

“The whole advent of having every performance you’ve ever done on YouTube forever is fucking terrifying… unbelievable,” said Baker. “I mean, all this new stuff we’re doing tonight will be up tomorrow, and that sucks. You don’t want to try anything.”

Baker said it’s a big risk to release any new music at shows.

Death From Above 1979 seems to be aware of that risk took precaution. The Toronto-based duo is touring eastern Canada and will be making a stop in Fredericton at the farmer’s market Wednesday night.

Band member Sebastien Grainger posted in the band’s blog section of their website on Oct. 28, urging audiences to think twice before taking out their cell phones and cameras.

“We are asking that those of you that are coming to the shows respect the sanctity of what we are doing and to try your best to not shoot video or record audio,” writes Grainger. “In the end, do what you want, but it is our preference to keep what we are doing on this tour between us.”

Death From Above 1979 has only one studio album, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, which was released in 2004. The band broke up two years later but reunited in 2011.

They’re touring with old material but are introducing many new tunes to see how they are received. The blog post reads that some of the songs don’t even have words and are still very raw.

Grainger also writes about the experience of taking in a live show and stresses the importance of the relationship between the band and the audience members, without technological distractions.

He compares being at a concert to “standing at the edge of a massive canyon. You can’t photograph it, or film it or even explain it. It is you in the presence of something that is unexplainable, in a space and in a time.”

Rerrie said the motivation behind Dallas Green’s request was to urge everyone to “experience the moment,” and thinks they have every right to ask that of the audience. But when it is to limit the amount of unreleased music leaked online, she said she doesn’t have such a strong opinion.

“If you have fans excited about your stuff you can’t stop them but I don’t really know I don’t have a firm stance on the issue. I think artists have the right to request what they want but I don’t think fans are obligated to comply,” said Rerrie.

Sullivan said he respects what Death from Above 1979 is asking of fans.

“Very rarely do songs go unchanged from the first time they’re played live, maybe they don’t want video of the songs floating around that might misrepresent the finished product,” he said.

After the Death From Above 1979 performance Wednesday night, it’s almost a guarantee there will be videos posted of the show almost instantaneously. But Grainger continues on the website with a final plea.

“We PROMISE you will have more fun if you just forget about everything and go bananas. Forget the future, forget that past. It’s you and us together tonight.”

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