Posts Tagged ‘earplugs’

Mogwai and decibel levels

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

ChrisX’s comment on my previous post, urging me to invest in some earplugs because I seem to go to a lot of loud shows, is excellent and timely. Last night I saw Mogwai, a band renowned for their crushingly loud shows, at the 9:30 Club. I saw them a couple years ago at the same venue and they didn’t quite live up to that rep, but this time they were plenty loud. It was a more controlled loud than last Sunday’s show, though, which just suffered from idiotic mixing, but it still left my ears ringing. Today, however, I received a pair of Etymotic earplugs, just in time for tonight’s Mono/Pelican show which also promises to feature massive volume levels. I’ve had my eye on the Etymotics for some time — a few years ago I invested in a pair of their ER-6 isolating headphones, which are excellent, so I know they make a good product. Thanks Chris for giving me the little nudge I needed to finally go ahead and order those earplugs…

As for the Mogwai show, it was pretty good. The thing about this band’s recent output is that while it’s all very good, it’s also sort of anonymous. Most of their newer songs just aren’t as memorable as a lot of their older material — it’s still just as exciting and beautiful (and predictable), but it just doesn’t linger quite as long. So I couldn’t identify a lot of the songs the band played, which hurt my enjoyment a bit, but not much. The highlights were “Friend of the Night” — easily my favorite track from the new Mr. Beast — and the surprising selections of “Yes! I am a long way from home” from Young Team and “Christmas Steps” from Come On Die Young. The latter was an absolute killer and the high point of the show. Now, if only they would go back to playing “Mogwai Fear Satan” regularly at their shows…

Isis, Dälek & Zombi: too damn loud

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

On Sunday night I saw what should have been an absolutely astonishingly good show: Isis, Dälek, and Zombi. This unlikely but inspired combination of bands — a metal band, a hip-hop group, and a soundtracky electronic music duo — was the one single show lineup I have been most excited about seeing all year. Isis in particular is one of my absolute favorite modern bands, and I think Dälek’s Absence is one of the best hip-hop albums in recent years. Zombi I had heard compared to the likes of Goblin, and the clips I heard sounded promising.

The bands themselves didn’t really disappoint. I missed some of Zombi’s set, but what I heard sounded interesting — throbbing laptop beats with killer live drumming and the occasional blistering live bass. Definitely less soundtracky and more heavy electronica than I expected, but very cool. Dälek was absolutely killer; the dense, brutal industrial soundscapes that are so abrasive on record are absolutely crushing live. And Dälek (the MC) has an interesting stage presence, all anger and contempt and vitriol, glaring at everything and everyone while spitting his raps into the microphone or nodding his head to the beat. The producer’s rig went out on him at one point, forcing Dälek to freestyle for a bit; he was less than convincing in this respect, but every other part of his set was killer.

Finally, Isis was… pretty much exactly what I expected them to be. They didn’t deviate much from their studio compositions, but they didn’t need to. Their abrupt jumps from headbanging extreme metal to evocative soundscaping were so effective live that audience members were actually laughing in gleeful delight at some of their more powerful transitions. These guys take what Mogwai does best and one-ups them in a big way. Absolutely awesome.

So what went wrong? First, the sound in the club was just stupid loud. My ears were still ringing this morning, some 36 hours after the end of the show. You know how sometimes at shows you can feel the sound making the bottoms of the legs of your pants vibrate a little? Well, at this show all my clothing was vibrating noticeably, all the time. This was definitely the fault of the club and not the bands, as even the filler music player between sets was ridiculously loud, almost at the volume level of what a band at a normal show would be playing at. The end result was that, for Zombi, the live bass lines were so distorted as to be imperceptible; for Dälek, the electronics made Dälek’s rapping all but inaudible; and for Isis, the quieter moments were nearly overcome by what should have been subtle feedback and effects but ended up being overbearingly loud.

Second, I was just too tired. This is the first time that this has happened to me since NEARfest 2000 — I was so tired that it actually affected my enjoyment of the bands. Too bad.

Nevertheless, despite these drawbacks, I have ridiculously fond memories of the show (once my ears recovered). Isis and Dälek were both, despite the volume issues, pretty unforgettably powerful. I can’t wait until these guys come around here again.

Where to start?

Thursday, February 24th, 2000

What is the best way to approach an old (or prolific) band that one has never heard before? I think most people start with the best albums and work their way down to the not-so-great ones, and if they really love the band then they get the weaker ones “for completists only”. But I think it would be kind of neat, if one had plenty of time and money to spare, to do it the other way around, and save the best for last. I suppose some people do it chronologically, which is also kind of neat. Myself, I’m too impatient to get to the good stuff, so I always start with the most generally praised selections.

I am going to purchase a set of earplugs. Why are rock concerts almost always too goddamn loud? Loud is fine, but there’s a limit, guys. The Ozric Tentacles about killed me last July through sheer sonic firepower, and Dream Theater last night almost reached an equivalent decibel level. Yikes.