We hate them; we are them. It’s the paradox of public versus private good. Nobody wants to stand behind the person using their phone at a concert, but everybody wants to use their phones at concerts. One day we’ll learn manners. But in the meantime, a company called Yondr has invented a “patented system to create phone-free spaces.”
Upon entering the “phone-free area,” you put your phone in a self-locking pouch, which lets you keep your phone on your person, albeit neutralized. When the show is over or whenever you need a break from unmediated life, you can go to the lobby and “tap” the “unlocking base.” Testimonials on the website include comic Dave Chappelle, rapper Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) and Las Vegas’ Sierra Vista High School Principal John Anzalone.
Persnickety rock star Jack White has made headlines by using Yondr to institute a phone ban on his upcoming tour, which concludes with an Aug. 23 stop at the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan. The show is sold out, but that won’t stop the controversy over whether phone-free shows are a blessing or curse.
When the Cosmopolitan posted the phone-free show announcement on its Facebook page on Jan. 26, fans reacted: “If you don't feel comfortable going to a show because you can't have your phone then don't go,” David McQuiston wrote. He attended December’s Misfits show at MGM Grand Garden Arena, which had the same phone policy. McQuiston left his phone in the car and had an “awesome concert experience.”
Posting on the same comment thread, Sonia Verde called the pouches “dangerous and dumb.” She cited the Route 91 shooting and the subsequent renewed focus on concert safety.
Her point rings true: If the unthinkable were to happen, would you want to be locked out of your phone? Or, on a basic level, are we as a society OK letting others control access to our private property? Should we have to choose between cutting off our psychic arm or skipping a coveted concert?
The last time White played Vegas (February 2015 at Brooklyn Bowl), he simply shamed the audience into keeping their phones tucked away. He lets people “get it out of their system’ by taking photos and videos during the first song and then by providing free live photos of all his shows on his website. Both the carrot and the stick worked, and it let people keep their phones without keeping their phones out.
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.