No cameras

Well I have been known to take photos at gigs, and do enjoy watching videos on YouTube, so call me a hypocrite, but......

I don't know why NMH did the "don't film or photo us" thing. It might have been that Jeff gets anxious (I would know how he feels, I get that anxiety with cameras and especially videos too- it can hit anyone!) or (more likely) it could be that they wanted to influence the sort of atmosphere they were playing in. If it's either of these, this should be their choice, as performers. They didn't "ban photography" as some have suggested, they just asked people not to photograph. There's a difference.

The key thing is, the moment people are taking photos, they're not fully listening and not fully watching. If you're watching on a screen, it feels a little bit like watching TV rather than having direct eye and ear contact. And these feelings are infectious. You lose a load of the intimacy of the show as a result. As it turned out, I think it was a really important part of people being "in the moment". Where I was it was the most gripped and attentive audience I've ever been in at GM by some distance. 

I know there's an access issue with the video screens, some people can't get close to the stage for various reasons and do really need a screen to be able to see bands. I'm not sure what the answer to that one is. But for those who were left not being able to see, I'm pretty sure most had the option of moving forward into the crowd for an hour. I watched a few bands from the back this weekend, and without exception there were people around me chatting pretty loudly all the way through. For those I was up the front for, only NMH didn't have quiet bits punctuated by babble from behind, and it made the experience much better. Some artists are fine playing to an audience where some people are happy to have them as background music. NMH maybe don't, and it's their choice to alienate a few people to please the majority.

My feeling is that bands should make any requests like this that they want. As long as it's up to us whether we comply. It might just improve the show.


Great points BC!

I'm still seething about The Low Anthem's set 4 years ago being absolutely ruined by loud talkers on the hill. We learnt our lesson. If there's a band we really want to experience we forgo the "comfort" of the bank. This is a crying shame! The natural amphitheatre that is the Mountain stage should mean that the experience is accessible to all.

Sometimes it just comes down to a lack of awareness or manners. If I need to talk to my children during a performance (eg. to point out Neko Case's cool 4 string tenor acoustic) I lean over and whisper in their ear. They have come to recognise this consideration for others around them and if they need to tell me something (eg. "Anna Calvi is crap and I'm off to the toilet") then they tap me on the shoulder and whisper in my ear. I was 3 rows from the front for SKM; a compelling performance. Whilst he was whelling up our hearts with beautiful lyrics about his friend Brett (those who know the song Micheline will appreciate the emotion at this point) a group of lads to my left were introducing each other and inquiring loudly about each others' camping spot!! WTF! 

At 3 rows from the front you can't see the screens anyway so would a lack of video have made a difference? I don't think so. It was a plain and simple lack of consideration. For feck sake there's 30-45 minute gaps between bands when people can talk! 

i agree that the atmosphere for NMH seemed a lot better but I was quite far back amidst a thinning crowd and amongst people who were there to enjoy the band not to discuss the relative merits of the 3 different types of paella. I presume there must be some people on the bank with small children who don't feel that they can venture forward into the crowd but who feel that they deserve to experience the band with screens and sound. 

Maybe a compromise would be that if a band put in a request for no screens that they play in the Far Out with no screens inside but the screen on outside? That way the "chatters" could watch tv on the grass outside and the diehards could squeeze up inside. 

Whilst I totally agree with sentiment that you really shouldn't chat loudly to your family, friends, children etc when bands are actually performing, I wouldn't like to see the video screens disappear. I watched quite a few bands leaning against a support pole at the front of the Mountain Bar, beer in hand, and in fact it enhanced my enjoyment of some performances, Bill Callahan in particular. Maybe the video screens could be used to show the following at regular intervals:



Please be aware that there may be people stood next to you

who just want to listen to the music without the constant chatter


What annoyed me was not so much the request itself, but the way in which it was done - just a brusque announcement from the organisers with no explanation. If it had said 'we think the atmosphere of a gig is changed by the use of phones so we'd rather you didn't use them', or even 'out of the respect for others please don't use your phone' I wouldn't have minded so much. But it came across to me as a bit arrogant, and simply not realistic at a relatively big festival, where you can't expect to control things in the same way as at one of your gigs, where people have come specifically to watch your band. And just as I can't see a 'keep off the grass sign' without wanting to walk on it, so I almost wanted to take a photo just for the sake of it (but not having a camera or phone with me I couldn't).

I don't really know much about NMH and they passed me by the first time (in 1998 I was probably too busy listening to Idlewild b-sides, Six by Seven and Gay Dad to pay attention). But I was looking forward to it and ready to be impressed. But the 'no photography' lost a part of my goodwill before they even started and then (in my subjective, personal opinion) they didn't really communicate with the crowd or seem that interested, and the set didn't draw me in. In that context the 'no photography' thing struck me as an egotistical action by a band who believed their own legend a bit too much. This may well be completely unfair, but it was how I felt. I should have gone to Kurt Vile instead. Oh well.

On the wider issue of behaviour at gigs I do agree it's just about having some consideration for other people - and I do wonder if this is something which as a society we've got worse at lately (I blame Thatcher and neo-liberalism myself). I confess I got very annoyed at talking during the quiet bits of Mogwai a few years back when I was pretty near the front. In fact I've found sitting back on the hill better in terms of being annoyed by talkers - you're more spread out so you can't hear the people on the next picnic blanket, whereas if you're at the front and somebody is right next to you it's much harder to ignore.


I actually missed the announcement (probably stuck in the queue at the Courtyard Bar at the time) but NMH felt like one of the more intimate main stage sets, and maybe that helped. It's pretty much the same as Kate Bush has just requested for her shows, and as Savages do at their gigs. Guess they just want to create a certain mood, perhaps more like gigs used to be before camera phones, and I'm OK with that. They were raucous enough to drown out any chatter from where I was standing anyway. To be fair, compared to most gigs, I thought in front of stage the audience were very respectful for the most part, as you would expect at Green Man. That was really apparent during Angel Olsen's set, which had some real 'could've heard a pin drop' moments. 

Angel Olsen seemed annoyed at what she percieved to be the 'non-participation' of the audiance. 

actually, she's ALWAYS like that

it's just her on-stage persona

i've seen her solo, with the band, on a bunch of different occasions

and she's always been exactly like that

droll, stand-offish, sarcastic - and often very, very funny


"it's time to fall in love with... angel olsen!"

something like that, wasn't it?

odd, as he's not exactly a lad!

at the time, i thought he was probably immediately thinking that it was a stupid thing to say

though not as stupid as the pretty boy on the walled garden stage who announced 'mariam AND the believer'

She was one of my must see artists of the weekend with her cd being amongst the best of the year but it did not work on the day for me--perhaps not suited to a large field on a sunny afternoon.Not bothered by her attitude as a bit of feistiness is always good but the performance just came across as flat with the crowd on the left hand side of the stage showing no interest.Though will watch her again in a small indoor venue.

Mind you just my opinion,i spoke to other people who loved her performance but then again also many people who thought Anna Calvi was the performance of the weekend---vive la difference.

Just saw on Neutral Milk Hotel's website that the DVD of their Green Man Performance will be available in October priced $29.99 plus postage and packing. 











The above statement is not true; merely a poor attempt at satire. (I'm here all week)

Jeff Mangum doesn't like to be photographed and I don't really see a problem with that. I don't get why that puts people off him so much - I really don't think it's an arrogant request, it's a personal one that stems from his own anxieties about photography and filming, and I respect that because I respect him as an artist and a person. You can't even really tell what he looks like these days with the big beard and the hat pulled down over his eyes, anyway. The biggest problem with it at a festival performance is from an access/disability perspective, because some people rely on the screens to be able to see, and I don't know what the answer is there. Still, it was one band out of the whole entire weekend, does it really matter that much if you're asked to respect the wishes of an artist who doesn't want you to take photos of him?

I like Chrissied's idea, also printed at the bottom of each page on the programme, and in big letters at the back of the stage....ok I'm not sure it would make any difference but

I saw NMH a few months back here in Belfast. There was the same no photos etc announcements. In the middle of the set, at one of those points that only Magnum is on stage, he spotted someone with their phone and asked them to stop. They appeared to ignore him and carry on. He asked again and the crowd started booing. N ot at Magnum, but at the man filming. Magnum piped up and said:'don't boo him, it is me being a dick. But please stop.' He did stop and on we went with the show. 


That said, two things. I still think asking to have the screens turned off is annoying. After all they did sign up to play a festival with a big crowd... And the Belfast gig was much better. But perhaps i was just tired on a sunday night at GM. 

In the days before mobile phones there was a general 'no cameras' rule at most gigs and it was all the better for it. Not festivals though, and I was a little surprised at the NMH request at GM. I was much more surprised that people took any notice of it. 

I think the big screens add rather than detract from the live experience. If I choose to go up close I'll ignore them completely. If I'm watching from further afield the close-ups on the screen make up for some of the lost detail on the stage. 

I've no problem with people around me taking a few photos provided they don't spend half the gig doing so. Videoing does annoy me however as it's so distracting an completely pointless. 99% of the stuff posted on youtube is utter crap and that's going to be the best of it. 

I was at a loud and lively gig last night and some gorm spent a lot of time in the front row with a phone held aloft videoing it. He wasn't even looking at what he was filming, and was dancing around as enthusiastically as everyone else while he was doing so. So with the video jerking about all over the place and the sound guaranteed to be total distortion, what possible use can the resultant footage be to him or anyone else?

I've been thinking a bit more about this issue. I went to the theatre last night to see a trio of short plays by Samuel Beckett. The first of these, 'Not I', is a frantic monologue performed in total darkness with only a spotlight on the performer's mouth. It was a powerful experience, bleak and claustrophobic. Before the performance, we were repeatedly told to switch off phones and generally to be quiet. And this didn't bother me, because a phone going off or even just the light of a screen would totally have ruined the atmosphere and the experience. And also, I suppose, because of the environment - at the theatre you expect silence and rapt attention. Plus Samuel Beckett was a towering figure of modernist literature and his work demands and deserves respect.

In that case, then, is the difference simply that at gig (or festival) you don't have the same expectations and the usual standards are different? Or, do I actually think that Beckett is somehow more culturally valuable than a rock band? Which deep down I probably do, miuch as I love music. But on the other hand, I've always (I think) bought into the postmodern notion that there is no distinction between high and low art, and that pop culture deserves to be taken seriously. And generally I think a bit more reverence and a lot less talking isn't a bad thing. But I still somehow resent being told what to do Neutral Milk Hotel, but not by Samuel Beckett. Maybe I need to examine my own prejudices a bit more.

Oh, and the excessively facetiously and probably completely unfair low-budget documentary I made about NMH at Green Man now has 327 hits - not quite viral yet, but not so bad.

a homage to Jeffery Lewis' low budget videos? Are you cross with Kate Bush too?