On Monday, October 11th, KCPR presented Chicago-based indie band Whitney at SLO Brew Rock.
Yet, this event was missing a key element in what’s expected when you go to a concert in the 21st century. There were no friends posing for photos while sipping on SLO Brew’s collection of craft beers, and no sea of cell phone LED screens in the air while opener Renée Reed or Whitney performed — in fact, you’ll notice there are no photos to accompany this article. This concert was a phone-free experience.
For this event, Whitney partnered with Yondr, a company specializing in creating phone-free events and experiences. Per the band’s request, representatives from Yondr were stationed outside the venue with pouches which concert-goers placed their phones into. The pouches locked shut and could only be opened by a Yondr attendant, who had special unlocking magnets. Phones could only be used in the designated phone use areas, but the pouches were held by each attendee the whole time.
Sammy Scaff, a recreation, parks and tourism adminstration sophomore, weighed in on her experiences at the phone free concert.
“I feel like the phone free concert will put a lot more attention on the band itself,” she said. “Whenever I go to shows, there’s a ton of people videotaping, and that gets in the way of my view…I think without the phones it’s going to enhance the experience overall and make it a lot more personal.”
Renée Reed had no trouble filling the room with just her guitar and silky voice. The Louisiana-born singer-songwriter emphasized her dreamy skills in guitar plucking and sang songs in both English and French. The spotlight beamed down on her in an angelic manner, and she provided the perfect accompaniment to the beginning of the evening’s atmosphere as people settled into the crowd, laughed, and celebrated with friends.
Whitney’s four-piece was comfortable on stage. They appeared casual to the eye, dressed in hoodies and jeans, yet their performance reflected seasoned, accomplished musicianship. The lead singer wore headphones, presumably to hear the looping effects he was placing on the track behind him clearly.
The crowd got closer as Whitney began their set, which leaned heavy on the unreleased songs of their catalog, leaving the crowd with a special, intimate feeling. Whitney’s music is genre-defying overall, but the themes between songs can be picked up on as indie pop with an influx of inspiration from R&B, soul, folk, and country.
The sound was mixed with audibly captivating clarity, and the backdrop behind the band was a live-tracking video footage of the band on stage, filmed from the back of the venue, with a black and white filter and slow-motion effect placed over it. Combined with the blue and purple stage lights, this led to a complete sensory-immersive experience.
It’s a rare experience to be able to enjoy a show without the digital spaces phones take up distracting from the experience of a concert, and Whitney’s show provided this unique and captivating environment.