NPR Music's Bob Boilen recently went to see M. Ward at Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club and was surprised by the sign out front: "Tonight, no photography or videos. Including cell phones."
Today Boilen wrote a lengthy post detailing his anger towards the one-off rule, which seemed to be instigated by M. Ward himself. Conceding that cell phones and cameras can be distracting towards the performers and their audience, he still asks "who has the chutzpah to tell an audience at nightclub to turn off their phones?"
He argues that cell phones and cameras are just part of a club's nature, just like "clinking glasses, cappuccino machines, friends having fun with friends, [and] plenty of chatter." That might be, but he sounds downright bratty: "I want to take pictures and I want to text and tweet and Instagram. I can do two things at once. I can snap a photo, shoot a minute-long video, send out a tweet or two and still thoroughly enjoy the night."
The issue is less about his enjoyment and more the about the performer and the audience, both of whom he is impacting with his own actions. Neko Case even defended M. Ward, stating his ban on video and pictures is forgiveable given the fact that he's "traveling thousands of miles to play."
Shouldn't it ultimately be up to the performer? Is it wrong for them to ask for your undivided attention for one to two hours? As part of the audience, who hasn't had an issue with annoying cell phones or video ruining a performance? Yes, there are other distractions at clubs, but maybe there shouldn't be more added to the scene.