No Phone Is A Hard Cell
October 23, 2015
I had this crazy dream Sunday night (10/18), and I'm hoping you can help make sense of it.
I was at a concert I really, really wanted to see. It was Don Henley -- at the famous Ryman Auditorium! How much more awesome could that be? I mean, that's actually like a dream come true. Anyway, my buddy Russ went with me; he's not in the biz, but loves all kinds of music. We walked to our seats and all the ushers and Ryman personnel were holding big signs that said something to the effect of: "Absolutely no cell phones during show, no photos or filming whatsoever. Violators will be subject to removal."
I figured, hey -- I'll just check in on Facebook. No harm right? Because -- hello?! Why wouldn't I want everyone I know to be jealous that I'm at the Freakin' Ryman, to see Don-Freakin'-Henley? It's called "humble-brag," people. Work with me here!
No sooner had I tagged Russ and hit "post," did an angry looking young man in a nice, dark jacket with a very bright flashlight strategically aimed at my retina lean in, and tell me in a stern voice to put my phone away, asking, "Didn't you see the sign?" which he was holding and pointing at. This was my one warning, he admonished me. One more slip, and I'm out! My first thought was, "Why the flashlight in the eyes? The show hasn't started and all the lights are still on."
Then I understood: This was no dream! I actually WAS at the Ryman with Russ, sitting in section 13, row K, seats 4 and 5. And the policy wasn't simply any filming or photos, it was no cell. Period. For the entire show. My GOD, that could be hours! I've read the average person checks their phone at least 150 times a day. Let's say the average person is up and active for 16 hours. That's 9.3 times an hour. Let's say Don Henley played for two-and-a-half hours. That's approximately 22 less phone-checks than normal and an insufferable -- hell, impossible -- amount of time off the grid. What kind of person can do that? Almost nobody at the Ryman, as it turns out. The sense of righteous indignation in that room was palpable. As more and more audience members were busted, the look on their faces seemed to say to the ushers, "Don't you know who I think I am?"
As for Russ and I? No biggie. We didn't plan on photo ops or filming anything. See, I consider those 30-second film clips people post on Facebook as unsatisfying and annoying as food photos. Neither one ever appears as fantastic as it does in person. As for live music via your clips, the sound quality is always awful, as in: I can't hear a damned thing; the video quality is equally bad, and what the hell good does 30 seconds of "Boys Of Summer" do me anyway? I KNOW the hook; gimmie the entire song, but not on your stupid cellphone, please and thank you.
I also have this crazy, odd, probably outdated thing I do at live concerts, and I'll share it with you now because well, I've already related a very personal, vulnerable experience -- my dream -- and I feel like we're bonding. When I'm at a concert ... I like to .. (shhhh, I'm whispering now) ... wait for it … WATCH the actual EFFING SHOW!!!!
Right? Hey, person in front of me with your cellphone or iPad Mini blocking my view as you film everything but watch and hear nothing -- as I said earlier, your video sucks and you're missing live humans, singing and playing real instruments. Check it out sometime. You'll be amazed. Two years ago, I was at a Keith Urban show with great 10th row seats and this absolute idiot in front of me whips out -- I shit you not -- a laptop, and hits record. While I'm philosophically opposed to it, I can almost work around your cellphone. But your MacBook Pro?
"I thought the cell phone policy was a pure delight," Russ told me. "I wish all venues would have a 'be in the moment' policy." This is exactly what Don Henley was going for, as he explained late in the show -- while thanking the crowd for putting up with the no-cell edict. Of course, they weren't putting up with it really. There were a ton of renegade Tweeters, posters and Instagramers in the audience, keeping the Ryman staff busier than normal. The problem is, everybody is so busy multi-tasking, there is no single "the" moment. There are many moments happening simultaneously, which everyone feels compelled to share, search, post, re-post and record, all at the same time.
I am, if nothing else, an obedient person. However, so once warned, my hand held device was hands off, and you know what? I DID live in the moment that night. In fact, I lived in 190 consecutive moments of Don Henley's magic and loved every one of them.
He only featured one Eagles song on the set list -- "Seven Bridges Road" -- which started the show with Henley joined by his band in an acapella arrangement that was incredible.
He promised to go all over the musical map, and he delivered. The bulk of the show featured songs from his recent, #1 Country album debut, "Cass County," which itself is all over the map -- and brilliantly so. Henley gave the audience 12 songs from that collection, which features collaborations from the likes of Miranda Lambert, Merle Haggard, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, and the incredible Dolly Parton. Before the show, there were whispers of what special guests might show up -- this was a Nashville show, after all. But none did, and that was actually fine, as his band includes three young ladies who handled the Martina, Trisha, and Dolly roles in fine form.
Henley told a story about recording the Dolly track, "When I Stop Dreaming," a cover of the Louvin Brothers song dating back to the '50s. In the studio, Dolly apparently commented about the key being a bit challenging. When Henley told her that's what they had to work with, he remembered Dolly replying, "Well then I guess I'll just have to rear back and get it." Well, we know she did that on the album, but at the show, backup singer Erica Swindell, singing in place of Parton, also reared back -- way back -- and nailed every challenging note possible, eliciting a roar from the crowd that probably interrupted even the cell phone cheaters, mid-post.
Two songs I never, ever saw coming from Henley: Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" -- which followed up the "Cass County" cover of Ray Charles' "Too Much Pride" and served as a great companion piece -- and, perhaps more surprising … shocking, actually, "It Don't Matter To The Sun," from Garth Brooks' much maligned and underrated "Chris Gaines" Pop album from 1999.
Unfortunately, a small portion of the crowd missed that, having left early -- way too early. Sure, the show was two-and-a-half hours long and featured a lot of new and probably for many, unfamiliar songs. But the music was so strong. We've all been to concerts from iconic, legendary bands -- whether it's The Eagles, the Stones or Paul McCartney. When they say, "Here's a new song," don't lie and tell me you're not headed to the bathroom, the bar, or both.
That was not the case here, as "Cass County" is a fabulous new album that I have admittedly only heard in its entirety once or twice, yet wanted to hear again and most definitely, live. Though Henley played 12 of the 16 songs on the album that night, frankly, I wish he's played all 16 and made the show an even three hours in length.
My buddy Russ and I never had "the talk" before the show -- the one about when we wanted to leave. But for me, once the music started, I never wanted it to stop. And besides, I drove and paid for parking so I sure as hell wasn't leaving before the lights went on in the Ryman for good that night, all due respect to the late hour and my good friend. Turns out, we were on the same page as he later said to me, unsolicited, "Who would leave a show like that so early? I was offended by the rudeness of those that chose to hurry home, cellphones in hand."