Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of bands and venues express their distaste for having mobile phones present at gigs, but now, Jack White, a noted critic of the technology’s ubiquitous influence at live shows, has spoken with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich to explain why he’s decided to ban phones at his upcoming gigs.
Just recently, Jack White returned to the live stage for the first time in two years, in preparation of his new solo album, Boarding House Reach, which was released on Friday. Fans who are lucky enough to be in attendance at these shows, as well as those heading along to one of White’s upcoming solo shows, may have noticed that there’s a bit of a caveat to the gigs: no phones.
As Rolling Stone notes, Jack White recently sat down with Lars Ulrich for the Metallica drummer’s Beats 1 radio show to explain how his recent banning of phones has turned into an “interesting art experiment”.
“I really react to the crowd, just like a stand-up comedian would,” White explained. “If I finish a song and go, ‘Ta-da!’, and it’s crickets, I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do now.’ Am I supposed to play a heavier song, a faster song? Do you want me to play acoustic? Do you want me to leave? I’ll leave!’”
“But what I don’t like is, ‘Is that how they really feel, or are they just not even paying attention because they’re not engaged… because they’re texting?’”
“When you go to a movie theatre, a symphony, church, whatever – there are all these moments in life where people put those away and engage,” Jack White continued.
“And I love the idea of rock concerts being punk as hell and there are no rules. I love that. But I don’t like the idea that I have no idea what to play next. And I need that. Because I’ve walked offstage before like, ‘Man, I don’t know what to do anymore. If this is how it’s going to be from now on, it’s going to be very difficult’.”
Of course, this isn’t exactly a new thing for Jack White, in fact, Aussie fans might remember when he last visited Australia back in 2012, punters were met with signs at the entrance that asked them to “please leave your phones in your pockets/purses and enjoy the show live and in person.”
Other bands have followed suit, including Neutral Milk Hotel and A Perfect Circle, just to name a few, while venues such as Melbourne’s Cherry Bar have even toyed with the idea of banning mobile phones from gigs held in their venue.
“Not entirely of course,” Cherry Bar wrote in a statement last month. “We will tolerate a quick snap of a band. However, holding up your phone and filming an entire song is just not on.”
“It blocks the view of those behind you, it distracts the band and it’s just uncool.”
Whether or not more artists, bands, and venues will continue to adopt this stance in the future remains to be seen, but we can definitely say that for the sake of truly experiencing a live show and getting lost in the moment, this is a step in the right direction, but for those who enjoy documenting their gig experiences, it’s bound to be a bit of a blow.