Shut off the smartphone – it’s showtime

Kelsey Matzen, Staff Writer

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is an epic three-day concert that takes place in the sweltering desert of Indio, California. After saving up months of paychecks and resisting the urge to buy anything at all, I was lucky enough to attend the second weekend, Apr. 18-20.

Three days of 100-degree weather, hour-long waits for a shower, horrifyingly gross porta-potties, perpetually drunk people and waking up at 6 a.m. unable to sleep through the suffocating heat. Despite all this, I absolutely loved it.

During those three days, I was immersed in music. I experienced some of my favorite live acts. I discovered new artists who are now a part of my everyday playlist. I indulged in some of my guilty pleasure musicians. I bemoaned the acts that I wasn’t able to make it to. It was the most amazing, joyous experience I’ve ever had and worth every cent of the exorbitant amount I spent on it.

It would have been a perfect weekend if I could have spent it alone; unfortunately, about 89,999 other people attended it – 89,999 people with 89,999 cell phones.

It’s not the people themselves that I had a problem with, but those damn smartphones. I could handle any other normal concert faux pas, but the moment someone pulled out a phone to snap a selfie, I wanted to strangle them.

I’m not anti-smartphone; I love all the time-wasting, productivity-killing features that they provide me with. I’m guilty of Snapchatting my friends during class and downloading stupid apps when I’m procrastinating. I just don’t understand why people would spend more than $400 on a festival ticket, then waste the whole weekend with their noses buried in their phones.

Right in front of them, an amazing concert is going on, but they prefer to watch it from behind their phone’s camera. It wasn’t only during shows that everyone pulled out their phones: everywhere I walked, I saw people posing for pictures. I understand the appeal of taking lots of photos to make memories of good times, but will 400 blurry pictures of someone staring drunkenly into the camera at different areas of the festival evoke a storm of nostalgia? It seemed like a lot of people were only concerned with impressing the people who weren’t able to make it to the festival. They were so focused on bragging about all the fun they were having that they forgot to actually have any.

My anger peaked during the Muse show.

A little background: Muse has been my favorite band since eighth grade. I was determined to make it to the front row for its set, so I went to the stage hours ahead of time, slowly making my way forward during the performances leading up to Muse. When Muse finally came on, I was exhausted, dehydrated and alight with excitement.

During “Knights of Cydonia,” one of my favorite songs, a girl shoved her way in front of me, posed for a selfie in front of the band, then proceeded to check her email for the rest of the set while standing right in front of me.

Let me repeat that: during one of the most amazing, intense, glorious musical sets of my life and the entire festival, this girl was deeply absorbed in the fascinating contents of her spam folder. My friends had to hold me back from attacking her.

A poll on debate.org asked whether or not cell phones should be banned during concerts; of the people who replied, 81 percent said yes. However, according to a T-Mobile study, 53 percent of respondents used their phones as cameras during a concert, 47 percent used them to text and 32 percent updated social media accounts. In theory, many people seem to agree that cell phones should be put away during a concert, but when it comes to putting that idea into practice, many fail to leave their phones in their pockets. Is there an inherent need to always have one eye constantly on their screens that drives people to do this?

Not only is this obsession with phones idiotic, it’s disrespectful. Yes, everyone paid for this concert, so theoretically they should be able to do whatever they want. I wish people would realize that the musicians they paid to see are also people, who are getting on a stage in front of thousands and seeing only phone screens flashing back at them. They deserve to have their audience give them their fullest attention.

Jeff Magnum, lead singer of Neutral Milk Hotel, was my hero that weekend. Stopping in the middle of his set, he got on the microphone and pleaded with the audience to put their phones away, to watch and enjoy the music without relying on their cameras. Though they were reluctant, people complied – and you know what?

That may have been the greatest part of the festival.