"I know some people have some problems with the yondr cell phone bags ... but it really does make for a better show," Joe Rogan said on Instagram in January. He'll perform two shows at Ovens Auditorium on Saturday night. livenation.com
"I know some people have some problems with the yondr cell phone bags ... but it really does make for a better show," Joe Rogan said on Instagram in January. He'll perform two shows at Ovens Auditorium on Saturday night. livenation.com

Entertainment

Comedian Joe Rogan wants you to leave your phone at home. He’s not the only entertainer to go phone-free.

By David Menconi

dmenconi@newsobserver.com

January 26, 2018 11:03 AM

If you’re going to comic Joe Rogan’s Saturday night shows in Durham, don’t count on taking any selfies or photos of your night out – at least not in the venue.

Rogan’s shows at the Durham Performing Arts Center have been designated as phone-free, and management is encouraging attendees to leave their phones and smart watches in the car. If not, you’ll have to place it in a locked Yondr pouch that can only be opened at designated spots in the lobby.

Anybody who smuggles a phone into the seating area will be escorted out – no refunds given or questions asked. This is the second time DPAC has used the Yondr system.

Phone-free events, though not yet a widespread trend, are becoming more common with musicians with the Lumineers and Alicia Keys also using the Yondr system. Rocker Jack White’s next tour also will use Yondr to create what he called in a statement “a phone-free, 100% human experience.”

Keeping out phones is especially prevalent with high-profile comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. Last year, Rock was the first act to use Yondr at 2,700-seat DPAC.

“For comics, I think the primary driver is not wanting their jokes recorded in public,” said Jenny Fornoff, DPAC’s director of audience and event services. “It’s common for our other shows to also have a very strict no-photo or recording policy, and this is just taking it one step further.”

Others prefer the phone-free experience so audience members can be in the moment, rather than jostle to take a photo of a musical act or entertainer on stage.

Because phones aren’t allowed, attendees to Rogan’s two shows will use paper rather than digital tickets. At the venue, everyone will be subject to search, including with metal detectors.

Because of increased entry time, DPAC management advises arriving up to an hour ahead of the 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. start times.

Audience members who bring phones or wear smart watches receive a lockable Yondr pouch to lock up their devices. They’ll remain locked until the end of the show. The neoprene pouches stay with audience members, and if needed, they can unlock the pouches at designated stations in the lobby.
Yondr

As for the Yondr system itself, Fornoff describes it as “stunningly low-tech.”

Those who do bring phones or wear smart watches will receive a lockable Yondr pouch to lock up their devices. They’ll remain locked until the end of the show. The neoprene pouches stay with audience members, and if needed, they can unlock the pouches at designated stations in the lobby.

“You’d think it’s a complicated system, but the pouch has the same sort of security clips you find on clothes at the mall,” she said.

To cut down on wait times before and after the event to unlock all the pouches, it’s better to leave the devices out of the building altogether, DPAC advises.

But Yondr worked well the first time DPAC used it, for Rock’s shows there in February 2017. Audience compliance with the phone-free directive was almost, but not quite, universal.

“There’s always gonna be that one person for anything,” Fornoff said. “But what was really nice from an event-manager perspective is that it made the whole experience for the audience really lovely. It was very easy to see if anyone had managed to get a phone or device in because it sticks out. We really didn’t have any problems.”

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi