Shut the Hell Up Already & For God’s Sake, Turn Off Your Phone!

The other night, I went out to see a good friend play at a local nightspot. This cat is one of my favorite performers on the scene and musically speaking, it was a great night. The band was smoking. The songs and arrangements were very cool. And of course, my friend was on his A-game, per usual, and completely brought it. It could and should have been a perfect evening…..

….except for the stunningly obnoxious group of women sitting at the table next to me.

These women–purulent blights on the ass of humanity– talked loudly throughout the show. There was no way in hell that they were going to let a performance get in the way of their conversation and consistently kept the volume of their cackle several decibels above the music. They were also engaged in constant cell phone activity: texting, talking, Facebooking and taking photos with a flash.  Aside from one of them taking about 20 seconds of video, I don’t think they ever looked at the stage or paid attention to even one song. It was one of the most blatant displays of rude behavior that I have seen in a long time and it went on and on and on.

As I write this today, two questions come to mind: What is wrong with people & what do you do in a situation like that?

There was a cover for this show.  From a practical standpoint, I’m always mystified as to why people like that pay a cover and then proceed to ignore the show. If all you want to do is chatter and update Facebook from your cell phone, why not spare the rest of us and camp out instead in some noisy alehouse that doesn’t have a live performance? And why is there such an incessant need for these silly women to fiddle with their gadgets, text nonstop and Tweet to the world that they’re at a jazz performance, acting like complete assholes? Whatever happened to basic respect? Where is that internal mechanism that alerts one to the fact that it’s not OK to engage in such disruptive behavior at a performance? Are we really incapable of powering off our phones for a whole two hours? If not, what does this say about us as a culture? Were these women even capable of sitting still and listening to my friend play or do their pea-sized attention spans and gargantuan senses of entitlement prevent that?

So what do you do when you spend hard-earned cash to hear a live performance (or see a play or watch a movie) and instead all you get is chatter and nonsense from the people around you?  To be clear, this happened in a small, intimate venue that is set up for a listening experience. This was no loud nightclub pumping dubstep. I wasn’t the only person in the room who was annoyed by these women. Several other audience members were shooting them the stink eye. Still, these asshole women were oblivious. A few days after the fact, I told my hairdresser about the whole debacle. She said she would have confronted the women. She’d had a similar experience in a movie theater with a guy in the seat next to her texting away. She told him to knock it off and he seemed stunned. (But he did shut off his phone.) Her take is that people are just clueless. In the past, I have been that person–the one who asks people to be quiet during a performance. It’s never gone well. People who are that rude in the first place don’t like to be called out for behavior that is, in their mind, reasonable. On this particular night, I chose not to be that person. I didn’t want to create anymore ruckus than was already happening. Besides, I didn’t know if these women were friends with the performer. So I kept my mouth shut while they ran theirs.

I don’t know if there are any answers clear answers here and I don’t have a lot of hope that this kind of behavior will miraculously cease anytime soon. Of course, some clubs make a pre-show announcement asking people to turn off their phones and reminding them to keep table talk at a low level. Jazz Alley comes to mind. The venue I was at the other night does not typically do this. But geez, do we really need to remind adults to act like adults? Until yacking away during performances and fucking around with cell phones becomes as socially unacceptable as smoking in a public venue, then we’re probably doomed to suffer through long evenings of loud narcissists with cell phones and not a single clue.