Saturday, January 21, 2006

Cell Phone Memories, or How I Went to a Concert and All I Got Was This Blurry Cell Phone Image

Last Tuesday, Gene and I saw Dashboard Confessional with the opening act, Lifehouse. I enjoyed both acts, even though I hadn't heard of either until a few hours before the show started (were you there? we were the fogies in the bleachers who didn't know any of the lyrics).

Check out audio and video on the Dashboard Confessional website. A lot of the songs they play have a nice acousticy feel (acoustic guitar with electric guitar - is there a name for that?). It's definitely not danceable, except in the "sway in place" sense, but I did like it. They must be pretty popular on the college scene, since the crowd knew the lyrics to all the songs.

Lifehouse was mellower than DC, with a sort of WB feel (the kind of music you hear on Gilmore Girls/Smalleville/whatever replaced Dawson's Creek). At one point, they did do a respectable cover of Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up", which at least got my blood pumping a bit. At least in theory you can listen to and watch Lifehouse on-line as well, with the stipulation you are willing to fill out a long registration form that requires both a snail mail adress and phone number. (I tried filling it out once, got an error message that the user name was taken, and the check marks in the "please spam email me" boxes magically reappeared. At that point I gave up. I take it that only the hard core fans are wanted there. Oh well.)

Anyway, despite appearances, the music is not what this post is about. It is really about technology. The security seemed pretty tight for a show on a college campus - no bags allowed and a pat down search before going in. Despite the high security, people were allowed to carry in their cell phones. Why is that peculiar? Well, back in the old days, even small concerts banned cameras and audio recording devices. Today, most cell phones have at least basic photo capability*, if not audio and video recording as well.

It was easy to tell when the band started playing a crowd favorite; at the sound of the first notes dozens of cell phones were held high in the air. The glow was much like the sea of lighters in the olden days, without the flicker or the smell of butane. Every popular moment of the show was immortalized in snapshots, audio and video recordings. The guy sitting in front of me had a phone that could record 3 minutes of audio at a time; not a bad souvenir.

With all that recording going on, how can bands control the sharing of their music online? The answer is that they can't. Why not encourage the amateur bootleggers as potential evangelists of their music? Dashboard Confessional at least seems to have embraced the idea. The official DC web site links to Dashboard Confessional Live which is devoted to trading live recordings. It's nice to be able to see their full set list from the show, since I wasn't familiar with the songs before the show. I can't help but think that this will eventually become the norm. Viva technology!

*Oh, and why no photos on this post? Because I don't have a cell phone camera myself. Sorry.

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