It's called a Yondr pouch, and the idea is simple: Upon arrival, audience members will be instructed to slide their cellphones into the pouches, which then will be locked. The only way to unlock them is by tapping the pouches on a Yondr base station in the lobby of the venue.
And if that doesn't keep you from using your phone during the 8 and 10:30 p.m. performances, security will be happy to escort you to the exit. That's how serious Rogan is about keeping his fans' focus on the show.
So, like it or not, it'll be a hard and fast rule on Saturday night. This, meanwhile, is merely a strong suggestion: Get there early. As you might be able to guess, the process of checking people into the venue will take longer than usual; and since the 8 p.m. show is sold out and the 10:30 show might go that way, too, the lines at the door likely will be long and slow.
In a statement about Rogan's decision to use Yondr, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority (which manages operations at Ovens) said: "We realize Yondr adds an extra step that our guests may be unfamiliar with while attending Joe Rogan, but we are working hard to ensure they’re communicated with so they’re aware of this process and can allow for extra time getting to the show."
(The CRVA has indeed taken great pains to do that. If you go to the event page on the Ovens website, there is zero information describing what Rogan's "Strange Times Tour" is about, but several paragraphs explaining Yondr.)
The 50-year-old Rogan — who in addition to being a touring stand-up also hosts a popular podcast ("The Joe Rogan Experience") and does color commentary for televised UFC events — just started implementing Yondr this year, for his January shows at Durham Performing Arts Center.
"My decision to use them came from the raving reviews that some of my comic friends have reported from their use of them at their shows, and I have to say they're right," the comedian said in an Instagram post the night of the Durham shows. "I've seen so many people at shows taking and making phone calls during a show, making Instagram pics, etc, that it’s really refreshing to see a whole audience completely in the moment for a show."
Fans of live music and comedy might want to start getting used to the idea of not being able to take photos and videos during shows.
In February, for instance, opera singer Andrea Bocelli announced prior to his concert at Charlotte's Spectrum Center that photography of any kind was prohibited. But that didn't stop various audience members from snapping and shooting away before security rushed over to remind them of the rule (and there were no reports of anyone actually getting ejected from the venue).
Yondr, meanwhile, eliminates the temptation and truly makes a concert experience phone-free. Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan are among the comedians who have used the technology to reduce distractions — and the likelihood that their jokes will wind up on YouTube. It's also come in handy at private events: Justin Timberlake employed Yondr at a listening party, and Serena Williams used it at her wedding. And this spring, rocker Jack White will become the first musician to use Yondr for his entire tour.
"The reason people go (to a concert) is because there's an exchange between the artists and the fans," Yondr founder Graham Dugoni told Billboard.com in a recent interview. "And there's a feeling at a good show that builds on itself. What the phone represents is if someone takes a picture of texts in the moment, it cuts into that experience and bleeds it out. Most artists see the difference. Specifically for comedy and even music, it gives the artist space to be free and uninhibited. They can experiment with new material. They feel free to express themselves. In my opinion, if we aren't creating spaces for artists to express themselves freely, what are we doing?"
Oh, and to Rogan fans who are worried about, say, missing an important call or text from or about their kids — rest assured that you'll be able to feel the phone vibrate inside the Yondr pouch. If you absolutely must find out who's trying to reach you, you can head for a base station in the lobby.
Of course, this creates another type of annoying distraction: A row of people standing up so that someone can make their way to the aisle. Can someone invent something to stop that?