The screaming guitars, the walloping bass, the enigmatic frontman prowling the stage like a caged beast — it all feels like a normal concert. But there’s something… different. The sight lines to the front are blissfully unobscured this evening at the Rave / Eagles Club in Milwaukee. Jack White’s ban on cell phones for the second date of his current tour means everyone is focused totally on the man of the hour. No one is here for the ‘Gram — though there is a selfie booth set up near the bar — and the energy in the room is blistering.
As a millennial, I’ve never attended a concert in my life where cell phones weren’t an omnipresent distraction, and I was intensely curious to see what it would be like to experience a show in much the same way that older generations in the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s had. After getting my ticket scanned, a helpful usher slid my phone into a Yondr pouch and I bid a silent adieu to the 21st century. The first thing I noticed as I entered the massive and ornate ballroom was the volume of the crowd chatter. With people presumably unable to check their Twitter feeds or text messages, the 3,000 or so people gather here ostensibly turned to one another to fill the time before Jack made it out onstage. It was louder even than any arena show I’ve ever been to.
Over the course of the night, I found myself reaching for my phone a couple times, seemingly out of habit, but never with the urge to engage with the outside world. I mostly wanted to check to see what time it was. I’d actually forgotten to wear a watch to the show, so my entire sense of time was thrown completely off throughout the show, adding in an extra layer of sensory confusion.