In the sea of sun-baked flesh pressed against Coachella’s main stage, raised cell phones and digital cameras overwhelmed the once ubiquitous symbol of unabashed rocking out: metal horns.
Formed by outstretching one’s index and pinky fingers while curling the other three, metal horns – also referred to by your God-fearing grandmother as “devil horns” – used to symbolize a concertgoer’s enthusiasm for a particularly vehement moment of rocking. Where have all the horns gone?
While music critics made much of this year’s warm embrace of Madonna and Kayne West, two of the most commercially successful acts booked in Coachella’s seven-year history, they failed to notice a phenomenon present this year of far wider significance. In general, rocking out, par excellence, is on the way out.
Now, this is not to say that bands no longer rock. They clearly do, just listen and watch. But therein lies the problem: We’re too busy holding up our cell phones so our friends can hear – which they can’t – and trying to take pictures from afar at night – that won’t come out – to rock out ourselves. Our pinky is speed dialing and our index finger is on the shutter.
Rocking out – the general term for not caring about how ridiculous you look, jumping up and down with a raised fist thrusting to the beat – is an intensely personal, transcendent experience. It’s relative to personal taste in music and the live experience. Metallica fans bang their heads while Dashboard Confessional fans sing along at the top of their lungs. Both are rocking out, but neither can rock out as hard with a digital camera in his or her hand.
Say what you will about Coachella getting too commercial, but look closer, and you’ll see that many fans are getting too commercial for Coachella. They’ve lost focus on enjoying those unique, personal moments that festivals and concerts provide, in favor of trying to cage those moments on two-inch LCD screens or voicemail messages for repeated consumption.
Ensuring you remember those metal horn moments is one thing, but missing them as you attempt to record them is another. Rocking out, like most memorable moments, is worth remembering precisely because it’s not easy to replicate.