I Adore Watching Strangers Call Loved Ones at Concerts

I Adore Watching Strangers Call Loved Ones at Concerts

Call me nosy or sentimental, but I adore watching strangers call loved ones at shows. Anyone who has been to a concert in the past few years probably knows what I’m describing; anyone who has been to a concert specifically in the last few months may have even noticed an uptick in this trend. Time after time, I see a big song start, and multiple people in my section scramble for their cells, fighting through spotty venue WiFi to reach out to someone.

To be clear, I’m not talking small, intimate gigs, or events where an artist has strong feelings about phones. Take Mitski, who in 2022 tweeted and deleted a request for fans to pocket their cellular devices: “If we’re lucky, we can experience magic at a show,” she wrote. “But only if we’re there to catch it.”

By purchasing tickets to a concert, we as audience members (ideally) enter into an agreement with the act on the bill. You want me to sing my heart out with you or jump up and down? I will stretch beforehand and do my best. You want me to wear a mask? No sweat, I got you.

.I attended a concert in Osaka in an arena and experienced a phenomenon I’m not sure could ever be replicated in America; concert culture in Japan prioritizes the in-person experience, and technology stays tucked away. The audience treated TOMORROW X TOGETHER’s set with the reverence of a Broadway show — you could hear the band’s shoes as they shuffled across the stage between songs, despite the fact that there were 8,000 people in the room.

But in American arena shows, giving a loved one a call is totally non-disruptive. At Olivia Rodrigo, I saw two teenage girls FaceTime their friend during “traitor,” and the friend promptly started crying. Earlier this month, at Fall Out Boy, a couple in front of me called another couple during a cut off From Under the Cork Tree, and the duo on the other side, seated at home on the couch, was visibly delighted. Obviously I saw multiple such calls during “The Eras Tour” over the summer, all to great results.

I’ve taken some comfort in learning this feeling might not be exclusive to me — in a piece about spying on fellow airplane passengers’ in-flight movie selections, the Washington Post shared the sentiment, “The voyeurism of watching a movie on someone else’s screen just adds to the experience.” A few scientists have dubbed it “shoulder surfing,” and I am absolutely riding the waves as they appear in live music.

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