Is there anyone in metal who gets more unbridled disdain on social media than Glenn Danzig? Short of the egotistical capitalist parading as socialist Tom “Do you know who I am?!” Morello, I don’t think there is. And granted Danzig says some absurd statements, produces some campy videos and gives us some truly cringe-worthy moments, he is 100% right on the money with his most recent cellphone ban for the Misfits reunion shows.
We all know that Americans have massive problems in terms of attachments to their phones. In fact Nielsen reports that we spend upwards of 10+ hours per day looking at screens and that number is growing. Americans foolishly text and drive, look at their phones during meetings, classes and public events and many can’t even help but wake up in the middle of the night just to look at their phones.
Live music is an experience that is difficult to replicate. Even with professionally produced live releases and the latest gimmicks like Megadeth’s 360 degree video, there are few events that are similar to attending a metal show and this is one reason why so many individuals spend upwards of thousands of dollars per year to attend metal concerts across the United States and the world. It’s difficult to experience the wretched stench of Watain up close or the wails of the human air siren, Bruce Dickinson, belting out “The Trooper” while waving the Union Jack dressed in an old red coat uniform in the virtual world.
Mayhem’s most recent tour was a celebration of their seminal work De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and the shows, for many, were mesmerizing. Vocalist Attila Csihar is a master at creating costumes, stagecraft and art to transport the audience into a different time and place. In order to help the audience feel this unique atmosphere the band politely requested that all cellphones be put away for the duration of the performance. This allowed not only everyone to see the stage but also took away excess light and ambient noise. While many complied with Mayhem’s request, there were those who didn’t and I stood next to one individual in Bergen, Norway who texted the entire time, barely looking up once. The glow stood out and clearly annoyed many. Quite simply, this individual could have texted from the lounge area, the bar or other part of the venue that was outside of the main house.
It used to be that if you were brave enough to go into the pit you’d be guaranteed a clear, albeit somewhat dangerous view of the band and the stage. Not anymore. So many people in the pit – just a few feet away from the performance – have become obsessed with “in action” selfie shots to post on social media in feverish hope for “Likes” or reddit gold or some other virtual street cred. Others simply click away aimlessly right above the heads of other fans with their cameras and phones. The worst are those who seem to believe that they’re going to get any semblance of a high quality video from their cellphone, or worse yet, tablet, that they hold for minutes at a time above the rest of the crowd, thereby blocking the view of everyone behind them. Do people really watch these terrible looking videos with horrendously distorted sound? We all know the answer to that question.
While Danzig is known for being super uncooperative with those who want to take his photo, there are no surprises about his policies. I’ve seen Danzig well over a dozen times. Every single time the photo, video and cellphone policy was clearly spelled out before I purchased the tickets. In fact, nearly all of the physical Danzig tickets I’ve held have the policies right on there. Additionally, at all venues I’ve entered I’ve seen clearly marked signs about the policies in place both inside and outside the main entry doors. Danzig gives concertgoers every opportunity to comply with the policy and, quite honestly, the introduction of the Yondr pouch is a welcome addition as I don’t have to worry so much about being bothered by texts or calls while I’m trying to enjoy the experience I just paid a great deal of money for.
Performers like Danzig and A Perfect Circle also have the right to perform without distraction. Cellphones can be a massive annoyance and we all know this. Nothing says “I’m not paying attention to you” more than using your cellphone during a meeting, conversation or performance. Artists, just like stage performers and public speakers play off the enthusiasm of the crowd. It is a two-way, synergistic communication path. Your favorite artists are entirely more likely to give a significantly higher intensity performance when they’re feeling fully engaged emotion from the crowd. If you don’t want to engage with the performer during a live show, again, the bar area or lounge is for you. Many venues have these areas where you can socialize with friends, use your phone or just relax and listen to the music without fully engaging with the performers and the crowd.
So while Glenn Danzig may put a wrinkle in your plans to buy an expensive ticket and then stare at your screen the whole time, he’s 100% right in his desire to do away with cellphones in the venues he’s performing in. Let’s hope other artists follow his lead.