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The long story from yesterday

I got to the venue last night at around 7, figuring I'd need time to make sure the sound system was set up properly for the open mic. The closer I got to the door, the louder the noise was -- rock and roll noise, kind of a punk/metal/skiffle vibe. I encountered the owner on the back patio, along with his brother who is the cook. Come to find out that the musicians inside are from out of town, and had booked their show about a month ago. The intention was that it would start early and finish in time to have at least most of the open mic. But no one had been warned about it; it wasn't on any public calendar, and John hadn't been told. Meanwhile, the owner said he hadn't been told that I was for sure going to fill in as host for the open mic.

I got a coffee (free, actually) and stuck my head in where the band was playing. They had a pretty good turnout, but they were so loud that I couldn't possibly stay. It's too small a place for sound that big. So I retired to the back patio to wait and try to pull myself together, because by now I was pretty rattled. It did not help that a group of women was also gathering there and started a drum circle. (There's almost nothing I like less than a drum circle as far as music goes, though I'm willing to admit that it's probably a lot more fun to be in one than to hear one.)

After a half-hour, I realized that I wasn't going to calm down enough to host, even if it would be possible to have an open mic. There's no way the people in there at the moment were going to disperse quickly as scheduled, nor really should they have. So I went in, apologized, had a short discussion of an amicable nature with the owner, and left.

I ended up mowing the grass back home. Well, it needed doing, that's for sure, and it was quieter than the band was.

Here's my thing, ultimately: I've suffered with that venue, for maybe the last five years, through two owners, for both open mics and regular shows, and... I'm just fed up. It's been nothing but frustration for me. Double bookings, goofy events, no promotion of the regular shows there, open mics where god-knows-what shows up... many nights, I've gone home and spent half an IRC chat with Dave complaining about the evening there. The focus has been on such a diverse range of entertainment and community events, which a lot of people have celebrated the venue for, but it has come at the expense of what I value, which is acoustic singer/songwriter music. And communication flakiness is bad no matter what you're trying to do.

Add to that the fact that most of the friends I used to see there, musician and audience, don't go there much anymore. It just isn't fun for me to be there anymore.

Maybe they can make a great success out of doing what they're doing. It's not as if I want the venue to fail. But it doesn't mean I have to keep banging my head against the wall. I'm getting too old for that. I'm better off going someplace else or staying home and getting stuff done than having anxiety attacks and frustration over someplace that doesn't seem to care if I'm there or not.



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 8th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
I think you're absolutely correct on all counts here.

Mixing the character of events is fine, but they definitely shouldn't run back to back like that when the audience for one is going to be so utterly contrary to the likely audience for the other. If they want to have "acoustic Thursday" and "metal Tuesday" that's more practical for everyone involved.

"Loud" and this pony have never been compatible, ever. It would only take one experience like that for me to cross the place off the list of possibility.
Jul. 8th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
This set the record for loud in that venue, as far as I can remember. The only other times I've been to concerts that loud, they were in fieldhouses or concert halls, where the noise had room. I almost felt as if the decibels were pushing me out of the place.

I just wish they'd said something last week. We could've even said "Hey, the regular host is going to be out of town, anyway, so let them have the whole night."
Jul. 8th, 2009 06:11 pm (UTC)
You may remember my post about that college jazz ensemble that performed here at the library. The first time was on my shift, and I knew it meant trouble when they started wheeling in the speaker stacks and sound equipment. Since when does a saxophone or a trumpet need amplification?

It was very, very bad. I don't mind jazz, but have no tolerance for anything at jet engine noise levels. They came back the next year and I demanded (and got) the night off.
Jul. 8th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
That was nuts. I've never heard a sax or trombone that needed amplification. Come to think of it, the act last night had trumpets and saxes, all playing into microphones.... along with a big drum kit and electric guitars. No way was anyone going to hear vocals in that mess.
Jul. 8th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
No wonder deafness is becoming endemic in the US, along with diabetes from all the high fructose corn sweeteners. I don't get it.

I suspect it's an escalating problem, too. As people lose their hearing from overexposure to these sound levels, it only makes them want it cranked higher and higher. I include the musicians and sound tech guys in that, too.

I feel that kind of sound as pressure, literally, on my ears and head and chest. I've learned to get away from it ASAP. I can't imagine how anyone tolerates it.
Jul. 9th, 2009 01:31 pm (UTC)
What's worse is, people don't always realize when they have hearing loss, so they wouldn't get it if you tried to tell them it's too loud. (I wonder if a decibel meter would help, but I'm sure they're not cheap.) Plus, hearing loss isn't necessarily even across the audible spectrum; some will suffer high end hearing loss, and if they're sound techs, they'll mix the sound so that the high end is boosted -- because they can't hear it, of course -- and it sounds bad and is too loud.
Jul. 9th, 2009 01:38 pm (UTC)
When my mother has the TV on too loud, I remind her to put it down to 25 - which is a level I've found is comfortable and not too audible to people in other rooms. It's much easier if you memorise a level like that and just set it to that.
Jul. 9th, 2009 04:53 pm (UTC)
Yep. It's a positive feedback loop that's hard to break out of.

Never as simple as telling Romana to "wiggle his tail." ;p

There appears to be an actual addiction to those volume levels for some people. I used to think it was just a matter of being deliberately offensive and obnoxious, but there really is more to it than that. I suppose it's one of those endorphin things, similar to folks who get off on cutting or biting themselves. To me it's just weirdness.

Other than the jazz band encounter, I haven't been exposed to this stuff since moving to the country. The year before we moved though, I was still providing instrumentals for Gary's Morris dance troop. They had a gig at some kind of microbrewery festival in the SW suburbs, and when we got out there the place turned out to be one huge pole barn, like a metal factory building. Talk about bad acoustics, this was like a cave. Then put a thousand or more people in it running around sampling beers and getting somewhat less than sober, so they kept talking louder and louder to hear themselves. I was playing an accordion (yes, I don't talk about it much, but I can do that) and I could not hear myself. Not one note, even with that huge box hugged right against my chest. It was terrifying. My ears rang for hours after I got out of there, and I refused to go back the next day.
Jul. 9th, 2009 10:23 am (UTC)
Eew; one thing I hate almost as much as overall too-loudness is "vocals mixed too low".
Jul. 9th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah, especially if the lyrics are any more complicated than "Louie Louie, woah-oh, we gotta go."

It's just that the band has to realize what is the most important thing to hear at any moment in a song, and then commit to making that heard. The sound tech needs to facilitate that with competent mixing, too, but there's nothing s/he can do if each member of the band insists on playing as loud as s/he wants.
Jul. 9th, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
There's a little wisdom/humour/top tip in Guitar Hero that says "Never put the vocalist in control of the sound mixing."

My brother, a stunt lead guitarist, laughs at that one. I, being someone who actually likes to be able to hear the words, always think "Well, actually..."
Jul. 9th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
Well naturally. You have to buy Vocal Hero to get the words out front of the mix. :)
Jul. 9th, 2009 10:24 am (UTC)
What a bummer. Sounds like finding a new venue would be good. Of the musicians who don't go there any more, could you ask around and see where they do go these days?
Jul. 9th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
I could, yes. I've been trying to guess, and I'm thinking there's almost been a scattering to the winds; there's not one place that I can think of where a concentration of them have landed. Tuesday night has been inundated with open mics. It's as if venue owners don't think there are six other nights in a week. It also seems that some performers are taking their careers in different directions and not going to open mics much.
Jul. 9th, 2009 04:30 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry you had to go through all that bullshit. Please know that you're not the only one fed up with said venue.

Between all the issues above that you mentioned, plus the increasingly ill will regarding Assembly Line Concert and it's finances and recording issues, I'm getting weary of trying to get folks to come out on a Tuesday, when the owner and staff don't GET what made the venue special in the first place.

Unless the owner really has a good and honest explanation (and some offer of compensation for your showing up in the first place), it is likely that this coming Tuesday will be my last night as host of their open mic. And I have no qualms about burning bridges, if it gets through to him that something is WAY wrong there.

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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