Just a few weeks ago, I had an extremely last minute opportunity to travel to Tulum, Mexico with a few friends from my apartment complex. Despite the short trip already being packed in terms of plans, I knew that one of my favorite artists, Claptone, happened to be playing a show in Tulum that weekend. I knew I had to make the time to go. To my surprise, many people in the group were also fans of Claptone’s sets. Knowing nothing about the venue or its policies, we made the very last minute decision to buy $140 tickets to the show.
As the 20 of us arrived at the venue and started the entry process, we were shocked to find out that per venue policy, a rapid COVID test was required for entry. After all 20 of us tested negative for COVID, we went through extremely rigorous security check. We were directed to a booth where we were required to turn in our cell phones with the event staff, where they would be held onto while we were inside the venue.
At first, the idea of this terrified me. I was nervous I may lose my friends or lose track of time. Most of all, I was worried of missing out on capturing photos and videos from the once in a lifetime opportunity of my friends and I had of seeing one of my favorite artists while on vacation in Tulum. As a phone addict who loves to take photos and videos to look back on in the future, I thought this was the worst idea.
After going to the show without my phone, I am confident in saying it was the best experience. I believe all venues should implement a no phone policy. Throughout the show I did not have to worry about my phone being broken, stolen, or dying. On top of that, the difference it made in the crowd's level of engagement, compared to what I have seen at normal shows, was night and day. If you look around at any concert or live event, a sea of cell phones recording the show surrounds you, with very few people actually living in the moment with their friends. Without cell phones, the crowd was far more connected with the music and each other, and rather than spending their time recording, people actually danced to the music! Instead of worrying about capturing videos for their Snapchat story or trying to get that perfect Instagram photo to show everyone where they were, everybody in the venue was there to enjoy the music and spend time with those around them. Even though the outdoor venue, Zamna Tulum, was probably the single most incredible live music setting I have ever seen, I can say with confidence that I can go through life without a few photos of it.
My main takeaway from this is how profoundly phones are used at live events. People are so fixated on showing others on social media that they are having a good time, that they often forget to have a good time themselves. I never had to worry about losing my friends and needing a phone to call them because we were all in one place together. As for videos of the show, I found a few on Instagram the next day from the media team and they were a way better quality than anything I would have recorded myself. The entire group agreed with my take on this, with many of them still texting occasionally about how amazing the show was in our vacation group chat. Despite my reluctance, after attending this show, I believe that safely storing cell phones at the entry of a venue should become normalized.