Used to be there were iPhone music videos. Then there were GoPro music videos. Now we are entering the age of the Google Glass music video, where performers shoot from their own perspective while wearing the G company's infamous nerd goggles.
Oakland's own Wallpaper was the first to do it back in July, with a Google Glass-enabled live video for "Last Call" taken at Warped tour in Phoenix. The clip has an amazing immediacy to it -- you see Ricky Reed's arms waving in front of the shot, and can hear when he sings and when he doesn't. You feel like you're onstage with him, which is thrilling.
But Wallpaper's Google Glass video also gives us non-performers a new perspective on live shows, one that feels unglamorous and a little sad. In these videos, the crowd, not the performer, becomes the subject -- and the trade isn't necessarily a good one. Seen through the lens of Ricky Reed's glasses, Wallpaper's Warped Tour crowd seems small and distant. Undoubtedly some of that is due to the wide-angle perspective of the Glass's camera itself, as well as the actual, significant gap at that particular venue between the audience-barrier and the stage. But it still was jarring to realize how, well, pathetic even an enthusiastic audience looks from onstage. Many of Wallpaper's fans here are dancing and waving their arms, but the video still makes the audience look exactly and unromantically like what it is: a throng of people who are waiting to be amused. The view affords none of the idolization of the performer, or fantasy of being in a crowd, of feeling like a small part of something big, of believing, however irrationally, that what's happening up there onstage has some slice of the world's attention. Behind the dancers are dozens of people walking by, who couldn't care less what Ricky Reed is doing onstage.
We felt this again watching this Google Glass-shot video from DJ and wub/oonce dealer Nicky Romero, which was shot at a giant Southern festival called Tomorrowland. Romero takes the DJ table in front of a vast crowd, yet despite the serrated neon of his music, his attempts to raise the energy level by clapping, and the blasts of fog and flame from the massive stage, the audience is unmoved. For most of the two-and-a-half-minute clip, the bodies out there seem to be standing dead still, and the faces don't appear to care one blink that Romero is up there twisting knobs and dancing for them. The crowd is simply one big blob of humanity, half of which is looking at its phone and the other half of which is looking bored.
So this Google Glass music video business is a little jarring. Not because we previously lived under some illusion that all crowds are massive and attentive, but because we used only think abstractly about the fact that they were actually pathetic and indifferent. If we saw boredom, we saw it in small, person-sized bits. Now we get to see it all -- and from the anxious perspective of the person whose job it is to fix it.