Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Cell phones diminish party, concert experience

Published:Thursday | April 13, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Part of the large audience at Stars R Us, held recently at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, Hope Road, St Andrew.
Patrons enjoying the Magnum New Rules show, held on Saturday, March 25.
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Based on what I have seen at the parties and concerts I attend, I am convinced that the cell phone (of the smartphone variety) has wrecked the immediate enjoyment of collective consumption of music. For in many instances, the focus is on recording with the smartphone and not being immersed in the entertainment now.

I can give two recent examples of concerts two weekends apart. On the night Champs 2017 ended, the vintage show, Stars R Us, took place at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre. The audience was generally older people, although there were quite a few relative youngsters (looking like under 30 years old). The previous weekend I was at the National Stadium car park for Magnum New Rules, the concert constructed around Alkaline, and saw few 'elders' like myself, as the young people turned out in numbers.

They carried their cell phones, as I am sure the older folk at Stars R Us did. But they used them with a frequency that I did not see at Ranny Williams. Standing near the back of the audience, when Alkaline came on stage I saw a light show above the heads of audience members, as it seemed hundreds - maybe thousands - of people focused their cell phone cameras on the Vendetta man.

A few people were recording at Stars R Us, but it was minimal. That increased when Beres Hammond did a surprise cameo and his star power pulled a cluster of persons to the front of the stage. Even then, there were many more persons with their phones out, they were in the minority.

The young people's focus was not only on the stage, but also themselves. I found it very humorous when I saw young women walking across the stadium's car park stop, hold their cell phones up and out, grin and snap a selfie. It happened repeatedly. I did not see any selfie shots at Ranny Williams.

GENERATION GAP

The difference between smartphone use I observed at these events represents a generation gap between how music is experienced. It goes beyond capturing the actions of others and one's own prettiness and handsomeness, to simply paying more attention to the phone than the event. I am always intrigued when I see someone at a party glued to their phone, head down, and wonder why they came out in the first place.

But it works for them.

In my earlier experience of engagement with Jamaican popular music in the 1990s, there was one video man who roamed through the dance, zooming in on the hot girls and judiciously avoiding those of the 'bad man dem', who did not want to be filmed (because some had no problem being caught on camera). The 'videolight' often affected people's behaviour, the reaction ranging from performing for the lens to avoiding it.

That process of recording the event has grown into the various social-media services which are now a part of the Jamaican popular music experience. That is on the professional level. On the audience level, the smartphone has done a lot to transform collective enjoyment of Jamaican popular music into a self-absorbed, distracted, intermittent recording for immediate or delayed broadcast.

It really diminishes the fun.

Melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com