GODSMACK frontman Sully Erna has spoken out against cell-phone use at concerts, saying that there's "something really magical that happens when" you are not experiencing live performances through a "little four-inch screen."
Erna made his comments while speaking to "The Eddie Trunk Podcast" about Yondr's technology, which has been employed by performers ranging from GUNS N' ROSES, MISFITS, Alicia Keys and CAGE THE ELEPHANT to the comedian Dave Chappelle to create phone-free spaces for the duration of their events.
Through the use of technology like Yondr, fans are able to place their phones in a pouch that unlocks only after they leave the no-cell-phone zone. The pouch can also be unlocked at specific cell phone stations inside the venue.
Phone-free concerts are touted as a way to cut down on illegal filming and non-stop selfies that can take away from the performance.
While seemingly praising the idea of lockable pouches for phones, Erna said that he wanted the fans to enjoy the show without any distractions.
"I'd love to see that happen, just because for the fans — not for me," he said. "I really want the fans to be able to experience the show as they should and not through this little four-inch screen in their hands.
"I mean, I get it — I know that sometimes it's your only opportunity to go to a show, it's your first and only time you're gonna see this act. But there's also something really magical that happens when you don't have that and you can just absorb it and sit in the moment and be able to immerse yourself into the performance and the show," he said. "And I just experienced that myself recently — just last year, I found myself going to shows that were available to me, 'cause they were in my area or they were where I was on a break that day. And they just happened to be these iconic bands, like TOTO and Tom Petty and Joe Walsh. And I even got to go see Elton John at Caesars Palace on New Year's Eve, which… I didn't even think to pull out my phone; I was just so hypnotized by the performance and the songs that meant so much to me. And I think there's just something really amazing that happens when you allow that to happen."
Saying that he understands "why people wanna capture" the concerts they attend and "be able to relive it a little bit," Erna argued that "even when you get it home and you watch it two days later, it doesn't feel the same. So sometimes it's better just to retain it in your memory and in your body, because I think that's the stuff that you will take to the grave one day and remember all these great times you had in your life and not through a four-inch computer screen," he said.
Although Erna stopped short of saying that GODSMACK would consider banning cell phones from its concerts, he argued that technology is ruining the ambiance and taking away from the human experience of attending live shows.
"I think sometimes you just need to allow yourself to enjoy the moment and know that you're gonna have that memory — you're always gonna have that memory," he said. "It doesn't go away. The brain is way more complex and way more powerful than the fastest computer in the world, and I think they've proven that. Because you can have a computer that can spin numbers at a million beats a second, but the brain can compute so much faster and retain so much more, and you have the elements of emotion and feeling and sense and taste and smell and all that as well. So there's just so much more. And your brain is your best computer you could ever ask for, so you have to trust in it. And plus, we build these shows for those reasons — we want you to see these moments; we want you to, in a blink of an eye, to be able to catch these great effects and things that we use on stage that we spend months and months and months designing. It's for the human body to absorb; it's not for a computer."
A number of other musicians have come out in recent years to say that mobile technology is ruining the concert experience, including SLIPKNOT and STONE SOUR singer Corey Taylor. He told "Loudwire Nights" that "it's fine" if people want to take pictures of his bands' shows, but not so much if they are videotaping entire performances. "It's one thing to film it, it's another thing to just be staring at your screen while you're filming it," he said. "It's right there. Are you so terrified of real life that you can't do anything unless it's on that little four-by-four screen? Ugggh. It's very weird."
Former SKID ROW singer Sebastian Bach in 2015 urged fans to keep their cell phones at the bottom of their pockets and just watch his performances. "Be in the moment," he said. "You're distracted and it's distracting to the performer as well. Like, put your fuckin' cell phone away, dammit! You're never even going to watch that footage."
The overuse of cellphones to capture grainy, blurry photos and videos at concerts has for years vexed and enraged artists like Bach, who lamented the fact that every one of his performances could be recorded and shared on YouTube almost immediately.
"If I go to a wedding and sing a song, it's on Blabbermouth the next day and everybody analyzes it," said Bach. "It's a really backwards way to watch a band. It's a drag sometimes when I go up there and the first thing I see is everybody getting their phones out and holding them toward my face. It makes you feel intimidated."
Back in 2012, Bruce Dickinson chastised a fan for texting during an IRON MAIDEN concert, calling him a "wanker."
When Axl Rose reunited with his former GUNS N' ROSES bandmates, Duff McKagan and Slash, for the first time in 23 years at the Troubadour in Los Angeles in April 2016, the concert was phone-free.
"God, it was wonderful," McKagan told The New York Times. "It was the old-school feeling, where people were dancing and getting down. It was really cool."