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gleefully embrace an it’s-not-real-ifit’s-not-on-social-media credo. The New Normal: Stars vs. Smartphone -toting Fans During my decades as a music writer at various newspapers, I interviewed a number of country musicians who talked about performing behind a screen of chicken wire at some honky-tonk dive. They swore such wire fencing saved their ass: A boozy patron would get pissed because, say, he decided the singer was eyeing his gal, and so the irate dude would begin chunking Bud bottles at the band. I heard so many variations on the chicken-wire thing that to this day I’m too chickenshit to step foot in any honky-tonk except those fake ones at Disney World. So, I had to laugh when I read about a recent classical music concert in Cincinnati where German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter became rattled because a front-row audience member was using her smartphone to film the performance. Mutter stopped in the middle of a Beethoven piece and, according to a press report, said, “Either I will leave, or you will put away your phone and recording device.” A kerfuffle ensued, and the patron was escorted out of the performance hall. 8 by Rick de Yampert A recent New York Times article detailed an incident at a performance of the Off-Broadway musical “The Wrong Man.” The play featured onstage seating, and when star Joshua Henry noticed one of those patrons was using his smartphone to record the show, Henry snatched the phone and tossed it under a riser – and did so while still singing and staying in character! Sweet! Yeah, I know: You can say performing Beethoven or Broadway requires a bit more concentration and skill than playing a piece of shit-kicking hillbilly rock like Hank Jr.’s “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight.” But these days, when guys are recording their piss streaming into a public toilet because they think it looks like some Salvador Dali-meets- Marcel Duchamp artwork . . . well, digital intrusions in our lives are just the new normal. And this new normal is infiltrating the performing arts. Effete classical musicians are just going to have to deal with it and get some advice from the honky-tonkers about how to deal with distractions. I’m guessing there’s a generational divide about the desirability of Instagramming EVERY FUCKING MOMENT of one’s life, with most Boomers (full disclosure – I’m one) believing such practice is only slightly less appealing than eating Satan’s turds, while Millennials As a sitar player who performs throughout Central Florida, I am always happy to have listeners record and then Instagram and Facebook me – hey, free publicity! The downside, as musician friends have commented to me, is when a fan happens to capture a performance you don’t feel is your best, and you the artist have no control as it worms its way into the digital landscape. Just to be clear: If you catch me performing on sitar somewhere, I will be bummed if you think my music is NOT worth recording. So, please, Facebook the fuck out of me. As a Boomer-aged consumer of entertainment, I’m not so big on digitally documenting the concerts and shows I attend. Having reviewed some 1,200 performances during my 30-year journalism career, I’ve had enough of having my attention diverted away from the star on stage – which in my case meant taking notes and instantly analyzing the performance for the review I’d be writing on a 40-minute deadline when I got back to the newspaper office an hour later. For me, it’s a luxury to just sit and EXPERIENCE a performance without note-taking and without smartphoning it. Still, I love that performers such as Mutter and Henry are fighting back. The potential for such performer ire introduces an edginess to modern live entertainment. Back in my reviewing days, I frequently had to dodge the vomit spews of drunk fans near my seat. Now I have to be wary of the star tossing a fan’s iPhone into the crowd. I look forward to the day when the Grammys give an award for Best Performance by a Classical Artist Shoving a Smartphone Up a Fan’s Ass. And the Grammys will surely give a companion award for Best Fan Video of a Classical Artist Shoving a Smartphone Up Another Fan’s Ass.