The exact moment when the awkwardness set in is hard to pinpoint now. But there I was, mid-concert, in the company of the Ex Hex, (Helium singer Mary Timony’s new band), and amid all the excitement of a kick-ass rock show, I found myself doing a little light shopping for their music.
Next morning, as I flipped through the PayPal receipts from the night before, now glowing in my inbox, I felt miserable, and a tad pessimistic for the state of music culture. Shouldn’t a concert itself be enough? It’s not as if the Ex Hex’s show had lacked anything – it was full of fantastic feedback and LA glam rock colour. Do we really need to always be shopping? What happened to doing things in the right order, at the right time?
So, I began to wonder if there’s some awful emerging science underpinning this. Perhaps the use of smartphones is now how marketers can get us to stand even longer in the queue at the post office, or in the supermarkt or night club…?
Or maybe the truth is even more profane: alcohol opened the door to our sentimentality. And back in the day the booze meant we only affected the next person to us – sharing our endless stream of love and society commentary as the music filled the air. Now, we stay alert so that we can embrace the world in general, share every thought like a boss, – and of course, always be shopping. Most of the time, these are such senseless, stupid purchases, I can’t even see how a ‘You’re Drunk!’ anti-shopping app is going to save us here.
“I buy, therefore I am” – yet from the niche to the mainstream, all social differences, cultural meanings have been ironed out, it’s just another meaningless purchase, counted on a faraway server.
Rock concerts were always an easy way for me to meet people without making efforts to really have a date – also the perfect antidote to the day-to-day pressure and true escapism into a dreaming (and drinking) world.
But today this is no longer enough. Every social occasion has to be a social media ‘moment’. All subversive acts of refusal have been institutionalised. Concerts only gain our full concentration when the light shows are triggering our key stimulation centres, something they presumably think the music and performance will fail to do on their own. Pop music has become just another occasion when you must step up and prove you haven’t disappeared from the social map of the world. Even when the show is going at full tilt, the screen of your mobile is shining brighter than the ones on stage.
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