Monday, April 28, 2008

We Must Be Too Old...  

… because it was too loud.

Music: The wife and I went to go see Ben Folds tonight. Playing a small venue down south in Tacoma, we traveled outside our usual stomping grounds to see the witty piano man as he set up shop at a local college campus.

It's been a while since the last time we went to a concert -- Cake playing Portland, I think.

At the time, we were struck by the fact that although we were definitely not the oldest people in attendance, we were in the upper age bracket. At that concert, we hung out in the back and stayed out of the way of all the schmucks getting drunk and making asses of themselves while feeling out the notion that perhaps we had ‘grown out’ of going to small clubs and up-close performances. The appeal of standing-room only and hanging out in a crowd of people who smelled like patchouli was already starting to lose its appeal, and after tonight, that feeling was only reinforced.

For starters, there was no assigned seating at tonight’s Folds show, so we ended up standing in line for about 45 minutes in the rain before the doors opened. Once inside, we were a little dismayed to see that the place was basically a big gymnasium with a stage set up at one end. On the plus side, there did end up being seats on an upper level. On the downside, they were rock-hard bleachers perpendicular to where the music was happening, so not only were our butts sore, our necks were stiff.

We sort of expected the conditions before we got there, but what drove home the fact that perhaps we were no longer cut out for the concert scene was that the music was just TOO DAMN LOUD. And really, this was nothing particular to this specific concert… I've been thinking the music's been consistently too loud at every show I’ve been to for the last couple years. I mean, it's usually loud to the point that the music becomes massively distorted as the speakers strain to put out the amount of wattage being cranked through them, losing all nuance and notework in an overwhelming wave of ear-ringing noise.

As we sat on our bench trying to enjoy the show, we both looked over at each other at about the same time and remarked that the sound quality was shit – and it was. Folds plays a mean piano, yet all we could hear was the drum kit and a pounding bass guitar. We could forget about enjoying his quirky singing, too… we were catching about every fifth word, and that was on the songs that we already knew.

I'm starting to wonder if the sound guys who arrange the tech side of concerts fix things so that the music sounds good to the performers on stage instead of the people who are in the audience. I mean, we see the roadies up there doing endless sound checks on all the instruments and speakers, yet when the music starts going, it always sounds atrocious.

We ended up leaving a few minutes before the show was over so we could get out of the parking lot before the rush started, and as we drove home it seemed to me that we would have been better off buying a couple of Folds’ CDs and a few bottles of sparkling cider… we would have been a lot more comfortable at home, and we would have been able to actually hear the music that we paid for.

What next?

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