…A continuation of my “concert audio” rant in
The day after our concert ”disaster” at the Wells Fargo Center, my wife and I were still “steaming” about the experience. We had dropped a hundred dollars for tickets plus dinner to attend a concert we had every expectation (based on experience) we would enjoy.
But, as with most things in life, S..t finally happened.
This time we decided to register a complaint—no more walking away without saying something to someone.
My wife called the Wells Fargo Center and asked to speak with someone in administration. She was told that they never had a complaint (ours was the first) about the sound level or the audio mix at any performance. In addition, she was advised that the performers are in control of the audio.
The Wells Fargo representative said she would check with “others” and get back to us. My wife suggested that she also check with some of the ushers.
The following day we received a call from the Well Fargo Center representative. She advised that she checked with six other people (no mention of the ushers) and “…no one had an issue with the sound level.”
Now there is no way to argue with this response–except it is extremely difficult to reconcile it with these facts:
Ushers were willing to make earplugs available.
We were not the only ones who walked out at various stages of the first half of the concert.
So, What Most Likely Happened?
Given our past good experiences at Wells Fargo, the acoustics of the hall were not the problem. That leaves only one culprit–the person in charge of the sound. This person may have been the performer, a member of the band, or a support member.
Possible reasons for loud and/or poorly mixed concert audio…
In a conversation with a well-known singer a few years ago, I learned that many performers and musicians are “pretty hard of hearing” from too many years of being on stage. Consequently, they “tune” the audio so they can hear it. I suppose that one could assess the degree of deafness of the “soundman” or the performer by the sound level of the concert.
Others in the “music business” have suggested that some performers are on an ”ego trip”– louder is better.
Another explanation is that performers who use sound monitors (monitor speakers or earpieces) do not “hear” what the audience hears. The monitor mix may sound good to them and they think the audience is getting the same sound.
So, What’s A Music Fan To Do?
There seems to be a conspiracy of silence (perhaps even ”deafness”) on this subject. Frank Hayhurst comments on this in his recent post, Secret Agent Man :
“Rather than open and frank dialogue, which is what Frank Simpson , and I prefer and want to encourage, I’ve been getting private emails from sound guys, roadies, artists and even one club owner, all asking NOT to be identified, or to have their comments attributed to them. What?”
I’m afraid the options are few for those who want to enjoy a sanely mixed live performance…
- One could take the risk and yell “Turn it down!” or “I can’t hear the singer!” However, such outbursts run the risk of assault or arrest for disturbing the peace. If you think about it, there is more than a little irony in that prospect.
- The second option–Simply leave.
We have decided upon a third option, which is– and will forever be–avoidance.
- We will not attend any more concerts, regardless of the performer or the location.
- We will be content with recordings or videos.
Granted, in taking this approach, we will miss the excitement and potential surprises of a live performance–e.g., when David Grisman walked on stage as an unannounced guest performer at a Mark O’Connor concert. On the other hand, we will avoid the risk of having to walk out of a performance we paid good money to attend.
As a postscript: People who regularly attend loud concerts are subject to serious hearing loss. Run a Google Search– ”loud concert ringing in ears” or “loud concerts”
This article was also published on Petaluma 360 as Part II–TURN IT DOWN!!