I’m an avid concert goer, something most folks around me know or have been a part of over my 21-plus years as a person. I’ve been to big shows, small shows, and everything in between, but for the first time, I had a small part taken out, and it made the concert experience an even more euphoric event.
Last night, I had the chance to check out a concert experience that’s been impossible over the course of my lifetime. The eclectic Jack White announced his no cell phone policy, and even by his occasionally over-the-top standards, it was quite a strict policy.
Upon arrival at Columbus’s EXPRESS! LIVE concert venue, concert attendees like myself were required to seal all “gizmos” (phones) into neon green pouches (made by a tech company called Yondr) with a hyper-strong magnet.
The technology seemed much like you’d see on security tags seen on new clothing at one of the million-and-a-half retail stores across this country. Devices could be unlocked in an unsatisfying corner with no view of the stage, discouraging use.
Granted, the venue was so full from the arsenal of legitimate music fans, the zone remained relatively empty. Fans arrived early for the 6PM doors and when I’d arrived at 6:45PM, the plaza, the beer lines, and the viewing areas were all flooded with tech-free fans.
Personally, I was excited about the phone-free experience; the wonderful people at CD102.5 provided a pair of tickets to the show, further adding to my enthusiasm for the policy.
The venue isn’t tremendously big, it’s a general admission event, and tickets were just $65 to see one of the most prolific artists of this generation (so, not a bad deal by ticket-cost standards, which is why the show sold out in about a day) play through a renowned live set.
Then, the music started and unsurprisingly, at least to me, the no-phone policy made the concert experience remarkably more enjoyable.
Nashville-based country artist, Lillie Mae, and a fantastic backing band played what seemed to be a 45-minute stint (not that we could’ve known exacts, because we had no phones or even a clock to keep any strong knowledge of time).
During opening acts, I’ve certainly been accustomed to peeking at my phone, using the time to fire a text or graze Instagram. Instead, I got to watch a wonderful band play a handful of beautiful arrangements, with Scarlett Rische shredding the mandolin like 1960’s Jerry Garcia.
In between sets, I found myself again disinterested in my cell phone (not that I had a choice) and entered some time of observation. It was a beautiful night in Columbus, Ohio, a night of roughly 75-degree weather, low humidity, and a casual sunset looming behind the sold-out, 5,200-member crowd.
With anticipation and excitement mounting, perhaps due to no-phones, thus no stimulation, Jack White arrived on stage to a roaring audience. Opening with a standout track from his 2018 lackluster release, Boarding House Reach, “Over and Over and Over” turned the crowd from anticipation to elation.
After White trounced through notable cuts, including “Lazaretto” and “Hypocritical Kiss” from the solo days, and a knock-out rip of the White Stripes “My Doorbell”, which moved White from his native guitar to a stirring piano performance, I thought about the viewing experience.
No phones arching over the top of a concert should be the standard.
I’m of average height and even then, during shows I’m usually required to jerk my head left and right until I can find a viewing gap between arms held high for photos and videos. Not to mention, the Johnny Baseball-Coaches around me are usually busy texting away by song four of any set.
Instead, I could only focus on the spectacular show in front of my face. White brought a simply incredible army of a backing band, notably Carla Azar.
I’ve seen a lot of shows and I’ve never seen a drummer as daunting as Azar, who’s feel on the drums pairs like a cold beer to a slice of cheap pizza alongside White’s future-blues guitar playing.
Get tickets to see this show and live without your phone, because I doubt many artists will continue through with this no-phones policy. White’s shows are whimsical adventures through a mostly-excellent discography of one of this generation’s most impressive artists.
White ran through a career-spanning setlist, saving traditional hits for another day. Instead, fans saw rare numbers from White, including a wonderful, acoustic rendition of “You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket” atop the encore and a thought-consuming “Sugar Never Tasted So Good”.
Personally, I wish all shows had this no phone policy, but instead, I’ll expect it to become worse as technology advances, but perhaps my pessimism is for the birds.