[UPDATED] Hollywood Bowl shows ruined by cell phones and texting

[UPDATE:] As a result of this post, I had a spirited conversation with Sophie Jefferies from the press office at LA Phil that touched on new technology’s impact  and the challenges it presents in a public setting; as well as the attending etiquette and social participation insofar as attending outdoor concerts at the Bowl is concerned. She had a quibble with me using the word “prohibited” when the Bowl site says cell phones “may not be operated.”

We both agreed that consideration for others is essential in the uncharted territory we find ourselves in as technology advances. “For some people, their cell phones are a part of enjoying a performance, especially for younger crowds. It doesn’t seem to happen at classical concerts.”

She made some good points about different types of music drawing different crowds with different expectations; said the language on the site about cell phones and pagers needed to be updated (“People don’t really use pagers anymore, do they?”); seemed to think the provisions on the back of the ticket more accurately explained the venue rules (They’re actually stricter and threaten expulsion.); and told me that at the Incubus concert the next night you were the exception if you weren’t using a cell phone in some way during the performance.

One more thing– the other acts on the bill on Sunday evening were Blitzer Trappen and the super charming and totally amazing Jenny Lewis.

From the Hollywood Bowl site:

Turn off any pagers, watch signals, or other electronic devices. Note: Cellular telephones, pagers, cameras, laser pointing devices and recording devices may not be operated in the theater.

nocellFor me and probably others, cell phone use at Hollywood Bowl is ruining performances and up to this point nothing is being done about it. I went to the Ray LaMontagne/LA Phil  show on Sunday (LA Phil produces most of the summer concerts) and people were using their cell phones for texting and video recording so much it was impossible to enjoy the show.

At the beginning of the performance Anne Litt from KCRW, a co-producer of many Bowl shows, made an announcement asking people “to secure their open bottles and electronic devices” but she did NOT say that using cell phones is PROHIBITED at the Bowl, cell phones “may not be operated” as it states on their web site.

Six of the eight people in the row directly in front of me (in section K2) were texting, snapping  photos, recording video and talking on their phones DURING THE PERFORMANCES and I could see it happening throughout the audience in front of me. I did not see any usher telling people to stop.

One particular idiot in front of me was swaying to the music as she texted away. Sick.

I bought a package of tickets to five shows this summer and I don’t even want to go back if this is the way the Hollywood Bowl is going to allow it to be.

I called the Bowl’s main number and the woman I spoke with was sympathetic but she also said it was the first complaint along these lines she has heard in her 13 years there. But she also said, “We can’t stop people from texting” and she couldn’t seem to fathom how having someone texting in the row in front of you in a dark theater would be distracting.

“You should definitely have let the ushers know about it,” she said, but “there isn’t the manpower” to police the aisles. During the show, what I saw was ushers standing around and watching the performance without any regard or awareness of anything happening in the stands. It appears there is plenty of staff on hand who could be enforcing the rule throughout the auditorium.

In response to an email, I got a call from an LA Phil patron services rep. Although he pointed out he was not authorized to speak for LA Phil, he said he plans to address the problem at the Bowl’s weekly operations staff meeting to ensure patrons are not using their phones for texting, calling and otherwise interfering with performances. He also said the video screens display the no-cell rule repeatedly before the performance along with other announcements but I never saw it and the screens were not visible anyway until it got dark.

After my conversation with him I feel guardedly optimistic that actions will be taken but who knows what the results will be. Have the rules of etiquette for public behavior shifted, or just disappeared?

Clear pre-performance announcements about prohibited cell phone use as well as a pre-show warning video (since they have those huge screens,) would be a step in the right direction. Most people using their phones appear to be unaware of how inconsiderate they are being as they arduously avoid being in the moment, alone with their thoughts. Are they unaware of the disturbance a bright screen causes in a dark auditorium to those seated behind them?

Or maybe they just don’t care, as the people in front of me told me (in so many words) when I asked them to stop. But they need to turn their phones off during the performances. And if they really want to use them so badly, they should show respect for those there to enjoy the music and step out of the auditorium to do so.

28 Replies to “[UPDATED] Hollywood Bowl shows ruined by cell phones and texting”

  1. Respect or appreciation for anyone or anything seems to be dying. Here at work, we handed out gift cards to neighbors around a construction site as a good faith “we’re sorry we disturbed you” effort. We got a call today from someone bitching about the fact that they had to pay a $5 activation fee. Mind you, this was probably on a $50 gift card. Um…hello? You still got $45 because we were being NICE. It just doesn’t pay to be decent anymore. Which really makes me sad.

  2. The reason I stopped subscribing to the Bowl is because too many performances have been ruined by bad seat neighbors… the singer- and hummer-alongers, the amateur photographers, the smelly BO funkass stinkers, the drunkards, and of course, the neglectful parents who lets their child roam during the show.

    WTF, people?!

  3. “During the show, what I saw was ushers standing around and watching the performance without any regard or awareness of anything happening in the stands. It appears there is plenty of staff on hand who could be enforcing the rule throughout the auditorium.”

    I’ve been in your shoes and I can assure you that whoever you spoke to that claims she’s heard one complaint in 13 years is being disingenuous, to put it politely. Her assertion is unbelievable and ridiculous.

    Did you notice the ages of the ushers you saw? From what I’ve observed the Bowl hires young, inexperienced kids and then apparently trains them poorly at best. I’ve been going to the Bowl since I was about 9 years old; our family had a box we made ample use of until I was 20. I’m well aware that given the outdoor setting and the tables, etc. available to box patrons and others there’s no way one is not going to hear chatter, rolling wine bottles, crackling paper etc. throughout a performance.
    That said, the ushers of 25 years ago really were more proactive in removing drunks, loud, disruptive people and putting a stop to prohibited flash photography. No longer!

    I realized what a really serious problem this was during one “family” concert when (now into adulthood and responsible for my own tickets) we were sitting above the boxes in the regular-but not cheapest-row seats. A very large, very drunk middle-aged man, apparently alone, was between us and several small children seated away from their parents. His breath stank so strongly of hard liquor I couldn’t believe it, and he proceeded to drink many mega-sized beers in the Bowl’s plastic cups throughout the first half. When he began speaking in a loud conversational voice to the kids, asking them creepy questions(this during a soft, piano solo of Copland on stage I’d specifically come to see) I asked him to please hold it down for a minute.

    Of course this was a big mistake as he became wildly enraged and, leaning over me, coldly described to my friends how he’d stab us in the parking lot when the show was finished. I was terrified and hustled over to the nearest ushers. Both were about 18, a boy and girl, and both just SHRUGGED when I said there was a v drunk attendee threatening me and my companions. I was told by the braces-wearing kid “Um, there’s really not anything we can do” I said “Well, why are you guys here?” “Uhhh, [giggle] I dunno…sorry[another shrug]”. I asked if he could call security for me please and he said he didn’t know how and that I could call the office in the morning about it–it was obvious he simply didn’t want to tackle my problem or get anyone to bother with me.
    If there’s anyone that’s really potentially dangerous it’s someone who’s extremely drunk.
    We wound up leaving before the end of the performacne to avoid possibly being assaulted-of course the evening was ruined.

    The problem is that the management of the Bowl does the absolute minimum as far as maintaining basic rules (no flash photography/ video,loud talking, cel use) and in training their staff or having proper adult security in place to enforce rules and safety issues, so we patrons don’t have to run all over the Bowl by ourselves trying to get any help in a situation.
    It’s not fair to expect teenagers to act as bouncers, but patrons have the right to expect them to do more than simply provide directions to seats and bathroom locations, which is all they do now.

    They should pay more than the minimum wages they now do and hire actual adults, and/or employ much more in the way of security to make the Bowl experience worth the costs and trouble(and it is trouble, as anyone who’s schlepped to the parking shuttle or undergone the self-park nightmare has). Yes, the back seats may be under $10, but those front boxes are still in the hundreds per event. Regardless of ticket price everyone deserves to watch a performance in safety and relative silence.

  4. Blackwingdiaries – I think you’re right, but I will say that at the (fairly) recent Radiohead concert, I had SO many people thrown out around me for sparking up, it was impressive. And I was quite happy they were vigilant about it, even though it majorly distracted from the show.

    Maybe the Bowl only uses the well trained ushers for shows where they know the audience will be very disruptive. The classical and family oriented shows probably aren’t high on their list. Which is apparently a problem – I’m sorry about your experience. That really sucks.

  5. “Maybe the Bowl only uses the well trained ushers for shows where they know the audience will be very disruptive.

    I suspect you’re right, chigirl (and thanks for the sympathy-it did suck).

    I’ve been back since that happened and there have indeed been issues with those brightly glowing text screens around me(I’d bet the expensive seats are even worse than the cheap ones where cel use is concerned).

    As for what you saw-the very different handling of the crowd-I’m pretty certain that for non-LA Philharmonic functions (all the concerts like Radiohead that aren’t on their regular season tickets plan) the security is arranged and paid for separately by the promoters-which explains why they HAVE security and that they security guys actually DO something.

  6. Now I don’t know if they’re legal (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) but this would take care of the people in your immediate vicinity…
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.4355
    Personal Cell Phone Signal Blocker Device and that’s with free shipping…I’d be tempted to get one just for times when I want to scream…
    Of course if the Bowl gave one to every employee and told themto use them, the problem would be solved…but it sounds like they don’t want to offend the customers by making them follow the rules.

  7. Probably true about the stand alone concerts having their own security detail. But I think what’s really sad here is that people have no pride in their work anymore. They just figure, “hey, if I show up, that’s enough to get paid!” I’m showing my age, I think. And I’m not old!!!!!!! Grrr…

  8. Sophie Jeffries: ”People don’t really use pagers anymore, do they?”

    Aren’t they still common among doctors? My friend has one.

  9. boo hoo. get over it people. if you want a serene environment with no drunks, texting kids, weed smoke, or loud parties then go to the Disney hall for a classical performance. This is an outdoor summer rock concert. What were you expecting?

    If someone is physically threatening you then thats another thing entirely but if your concert experience is ruined by a few cell phone screens and some people SIGNING ALONG (OMG!!) then you should probably stay home and listen to headphones in the dark.

  10. Yeah, sorry Chal, but I have to lean towards Neil’s POV here. And joz, what’s wrong with people taking pictures? If it was a classical performance, that’s one thing, but a rock concert is different…hell, I’d be annoyed if everyone was sitting on their hands and clapping politely after the songs. The Bowl is a different type of experience–it’s outdoors, you can eat and drink during the show, so I think people are more relaxed. Now, true–it’s not as loud as the same show would be inside a club, so perhaps you notice things from the people around you more than you were if you were indoors. But I say that unless you are being physically disturbed by others, or if they are so loud that you can’t hear the concert (and really, this would take a lot of effort), I say you have to roll with it.

    To address the cell phone issue–the boundaries are what is considered appropriate phone use are changing, for better or for worse. That goes for everywhere, not just the Bowl. People of a younger generation will kind of shake their heads in disbelief that people like you (and me, for the most part) think it’s rude to stare at your phone and text or take pictures during a concert or even while you’re having a conversation with them. It’s just the way it is.

  11. i think the ppl who get annoyingly drunk right next to you are worse.

    and what’s wrong with texting? it’s usually quiet and easy to ignore.

  12. Texting is really not easy to ignore in a dark theater, especially when the texter is in front of you. The light is REALLY annoying. I will grant you that it’s quiet though.

  13. The worst experience I had at the Bowl–just remembered this now–was about 9 or 10 years ago, when I saw Dave Brubeck there. There were tons of people that impatiently sat through the concert, just waiting for him to play “Take Five.” He played it–of course–near the end of the show. When he was done, and moved on to the next song, so many people stood up and started talking, knocking over bottles, etc. Assholes.

  14. Don’t cry, kids and anarchists–feel free to throw glass bottles and talk and text all you like at your Bowl ROCK concerts. The type of act performing makes a difference, obviously.

    I was talking about classical concerts, with an orchestra playing music that should be listened to, live performers–hell, SOLOISTS. The fact that it’s outdoors doesn’t mean that it’s okay to talk loudly enough for people to hear you or otherwise take away from their experiences.

    I’ve been to rock and jazz and other different acts at the Bowl and when it’s a raucous situation of COURSE I don’t expect people to sit on their hands and be mannequins. I think that was plain from my post. I was talking specifically about Aaron Copland’s gorgeous music ruined for me by a frightening drunken man that the teenage ushers wouldn’t make a move to talk to or do anything about. My tough luck.

    I thought the real point of the original post was not just texting being OBNOXIOUS, which it sure as hell can be ( though it’s “quiet” to text the phone emits quite a bright light source and it IS distracting if you’re not the person doing the texting), but about the ushers who do nothing about anything if called upon to help. Can we agree on that? If not, well…

    The ultimate issue was the lousy job the Bowl-or the LA PHIL assoc. or whomever-does of having effective ushers at the CLASSICAL LA PHIL performances. It’s still unanswered, and it’s a fact I’ve seen borne out too many times. They don’t even ttry, but instead fall back on that old BS of “Well, it’s OUTDOORS! I mean, come ON! It’s the “Bowl Experience”! ” Bowl Experience my arse. It’s lazy and inept handling of crowd control…and insulting to people who pay over $100 for seats that are too expensive to put up with no security or help for the patrons. It isn’t a free bunch of concerts on a public park lawn.
    And while we’re at it–you gouge horribly on your food & drinks, too.
    I’d like to see the Weekly or the Times (haha, sure) do a number on this.

  15. I went to a screening of “The Sound of Music” and people in the audience were SINGING ALONG wth the movie! I mean, the entire audience was singng out loud!

  16. I have worked in the music biz my entire adult life and one thing is abundantly clear: kids these days don’t “appreciate” The Live Music the way I wish they would.

    …and that’s cool. Times, they are a-changin.

    But you have absolutely singled out a pet peeve that ruins so many outings. If people around you aren’t texting/chatting and are instead enjoying the entertainment – be it movie or classical music – that pretty much means DON’T BE THE AHOLE THAT STARTS DOING IT. I see it just as much with the 30-something Bberry addicts as teens with My First iPhone. Friggin annoying, and doubly so if the venue bills itself as a PDA-unfriendly zone.

  17. I was at this event with Chal. If one tries to be inconspicuous while operating their phone, I don’t mind. Even an occasional pict. Don’t mind. However, these peeps held their mobile phones (aka desk units) to their faces at eye level while they EMAILED, texted, and shot pictures. With darkness and a lit megascreen beyond them, it was impossible not to stare unless I held my hand over my eyes. There is no justification for this rudeness, AND their reaction to our request for more discretion. It is entirely unacceptable. With technology advancing, so must our etiquette — and rules if need be. I might note, these were no teenagers. These were 30 somethings — possibly 40s.

  18. laure, thanks for sharing the link. Here’s the pertinent quote from the Wired article:

    “It’s teen nature to want to text your BFFs during a movie (“OMG he got shot!”), but the bright displays on modern phones pose a serious distraction to those around you. In this sense, public texting could be compared to public smoking: Is it intrusive in a way that will annoy people near you? If so, thumbs down.”

    I love that Wired chose to put it in appropriate context, i.e. “teen nature.” Perfect. Technology is allowing some of us to maintain an adolescent mindset.

  19. Interesting article. But It doesn’t matter what the prevailing behavior is among teenagers-what’s rude is always going to be rude and it comes down to using common sense and the Golden Rule. To assert(which isn’t being done here, mind you-just saying) that “new” technology makes rude, inconsiderate behavior okay because “everyone does it, too bad” is not going to fly.

    The fact is there have always been people-always-who’ll push it and do whatever they think they can get away with. When I was a kid not that many eaons ago movie theaters’ ushers were often older(paid better), and the better chains and independent theaters–the Chinese, the ones in Westwood, etc.–were pretty strict about intervening when anyone-kid or adult-was simply talking too much and disturbing a patron enough that they’d get up and complain to the management.

    Result? Talking during a movie or concert or ballet etc. wasn’t even close to being as ubiquitous as it is now everywhere all the time. As theaters got cheaper and became megaplexes where there were too many shows for ushers to bother monitoring, not only theater-hopping became common but so did pretty much behaving as if the place was one’s private living room, others be damned. In fact, how dare they expect any kind of consideration from you? Screw ’em.

    So it is with texting. But like smoking near others (which for years was simply obnoxious and annoying to nonsmokers nearby, so could be done without fear of getting busted) texting isn’t illegal and it isn’t yet an act that will get the person embarrassed. Which, if they’re in a darkened theater where other people can see the light on the screen, they should be.
    It’s never going to be okay to basically not give a damn if you’re annoying other people at a group event, not even ONE other person. And if “everyone” really did it then the entire damned theater would be totally aglow, but that’s not the case–it’s usually just a few, a minority of arrogant and entitled and oblivious people.

    To my mind there’s actually hope for most of us. But it would help a lot if ushers everywhere just enforced rules about it.

  20. Second-hand smoke = lung cancer

    People texting near you in the dark = annoyance

    Perhaps a better analogy is called for.

  21. evan, so if i kept banging my foot on people’s seatbacks in front of me during a concert and not stopping when they asked me politely to stop, i guess it would be okay, since i’m only annoying them and not giving them cancer.

    is that a better analogy?

  22. In the second hand smoke and kicking analogies, there is a physical disturbance of other people. I don’t think that’s the case with cell phones, and I think it’s a bit of a hyperbole to compare cell phones bothering people now and a prior annoyance, but acceptance, of people smoking around you.

  23. No, evan, actually it’s apt enough. Please don’t divert the point.

    Standing next to someone at a bus stop or in line for a short few in OPEN AIR isn’t going to give ANY bystander lung cancer. Repeated and consistent exposure to second-hand smoke under other circumstances is another issue entirely.

    The analogy is about rules put in place for the comfort of patrons in an certain kind of area where they must share a space. Incidentally, breathing the air in Los Angeles, particularly OUTDOORS near the 101 fwy, is a larger contributor to cancer than secondhand smoke on the street. And no, I don’t smoke. Hate the things. But anything which ruins an experience for other people that they have a right to expect a certain kind of experience for, i.e. hear music/breathe, is an ANNOYANCE; it needn’t be cancer-causing to be prohibited or strongly discouraged.

    But you’ve stated you vote for unfettered cel use by everyone at Bowl concerts and it’s the others who have a problem, so there you go. We just disagree on several things.

    At least you DID find it rude behaviour that some “assholes” got up and left after the one Brubeck song they wanted to hear. We’re in agreement on that one–as Brubeck would be, too, I’d guess.

  24. evan, so only physical disturbances are inconsiderate. got it. at least you acknowledge cell use in these settings is a disturbance.

    i am sooo getting one of those cell phone jammers that gabriele360 suggested. but will it be inconsiderate to texters at concerts if i use it?

    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.4355

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