Cellphone-Free Concerts Could Be The Next Big Thing

BOSTON (CBS) — Artists who have stopped their performance to berate a member of the audience taking pictures on their cellphone, talking on it or letting it ring include Tony award winning actress Patti Lupone, German pianist Christian Zacharias, country western singer Kip Moore and talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

They believe that there is a time and a place for cellphones and this excludes live performances. Enter Graham Dugoni, founder of Yondr.

Yondr has developed a phone case that locks. The Lumineers have used it. So has Alicia Keys. Dugoni explains how the Yondr case works.

“You go to a show, you walk up to the front, there is usually a security pat down and everyone has their phone in their hand. Your phone is then placed into a Yondr case by a vendor staff. They come in three sizes, small, medium and large and they fit every phone on the market. Once the case is closed, it is now locked. You keep possession of your phone. It’s a form-fitting case so it fits into your pocket but you are physically unable to use it. If you need to use it, you can unlock it immediately in the lobby and all phones will be unlocked as you exit. The case will then be placed in a hamper, much like 3-D glasses at theaters.”

Dugoni came up with the idea at a music festival. He saw two strangers laughing at a man dancing. They then posted it on YouTube.

“All these other things aside, distractions and everything that goes along with what your Yondr is, there is also just a very real element of privacy, and what kind of privacy you can expect in the public sphere,” he says.

Boston-based comedian Jimmy Tingle does not like being recorded during a live show.

“You know, you’re trying out material a lot of times, and the material’s not ready, you know, you don’t want it recorded. It’s hard enough to listen to yourself after you record some of these sets, you know, for mistakes or to see if you’re getting a good audience reaction. The last thing you want is some stranger recording you with material that is not really ready to be seen by the public.”

He also says it can be inhibiting.

“You know you look out into the audience and there are seven or eight people there with their phones. It’s a weird feeling I have to tell you. It is not a comfortable feeling.”

Not everyone minds cellphone use. Some musicians view cellphones as free publicity, especially musicians at the local level. Club Passim in Cambridge holds a Labor Day Weekend Camp Fire Festival every year.

It features folk musicians from around the country. Jenny Reynolds grew up in Dedham, now lives in Austin, Texas and traveled back east to play at this year’s festival.

“It’s really a nice thing to come back to a place and see it going so well. It’s really a historic place for the folk music movement,” she says. Reynolds doesn’t mind cellphones when she’s on stage, although she calls talking on them at a show abhorrent.

“There’s a movie theater in Austin that caught someone using her phone. They threw her out and she called and left a terrible voice mail complaining, and they use her voicemail message now as the ad before the movies to tell everybody to shut up,” she laughs.

She has no problem with pictures and videos.

“Sometimes you see people recording and then they put it on Facebook and sometimes that’s good because it can prevent you from being so obscure. You know the rule of the game is you put it all out anyway, so I think you should leave it on the stage, no matter what people are doing. Their ears are still there. I’m gonna play to them, you now, I can’t control what they’re gonna do. I can control what I’m gonna do, so my deal is leave it all on stage and give them everything I can,” she says.

Andrew Coffman of Salem, NH was in the Passim audience. He doesn’t see a problem with cellphones at big events.

“We were at Dead and Company and we took a picture during it, but that’s huge, you know, I don’t think that’s gonna affect the artist. But right here, maybe, I don’t know,” he says.

Abby Oltman is Assistant Club Manager at Passim. She says disruptive cellphone use really isn’t an issue.

“It’s slightly different at this venue because we’re all seated and it’s pretty small. I think someplace like The Sinclair across the street where it’s hundreds of people and everyone’s standing and moving around more would be more of a problem.”

Earlier this month, The Sinclair featured the Boston-based group Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys. Allison Deeda of Somverville was first in line.

“I don’t have my phone on me right now. It’s not intentional. It’s just once you get into it, what time is there to take out your phone and take pictures?” she said.

Water Sickert and The Army of Broken Toys (Walter Sickert/Contributed)

Water Sickert and The Army of Broken Toys (Photo: Sarah Edrie/Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys )

Backstage, Rachel Jayson, who plays the viola, says there is a way to take advantage of social media.

“I’ve seen artists incorporate it pretty well and actually create a moment in the set. They are, like, everybody take out your phone and do XYZ, whether it’s, like, take a picture of yourself and tag yourself on Facebook, or, I’m gonna take a picture of the crowd and I’m gonna put it up and now you tag yourself so that we can all prove that we were here together and I think that that acknowledgement that this is a part of our existence and a part of the way we communicate is important,” she says.

She describes the music of Walter Sickert and The Army of Broken Toys as a raucous, circusy kind of chaotic energetic swirl. Her least favorite part of band life is the hurry up and wait element.

She describes the best part. “I think seeing the audience in different places and seeing people connect with your music that have never heard it before and kind of winning that audience, so, walking up to a crowd that has never seen you and at the beginning they are questioning and by the end they are totally into it and they love what you do.”

She calls the experience is incredibly gratifying, whether or not it’s phone-free.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake reports Part 1: 

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake reports Part 2: 

Comments

One Comment

  1. Jerry H. says:

    “You know, you’re trying out material a lot of times, and the material’s not ready, you know, you don’t want it recorded… The last thing you want is some stranger recording you with material that is not really ready to be seen by the public.”

    Dear Jimmy Tingle – we’re talking about a paying audience, right? If you’re charging people money for “comedy” that you’re “trying out,” that “isn’t ready” – especially material that’s “not really ready to be seen by the public?”

    I’ve never found you very funny even at your best, but – you know – that’s just a taste thing. Or maybe I caught you when you were “trying stuff out.”

    I don’t think you should present anything on stage that isn’t ready to be on stage.

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