Tuesday, November 26, 2013

If it's too loud, you're too dumb

One of my favorite concerts of my show attending career was the Cut Copy Lollapalooza Aftershow at Metro on August 6, 2010. Dragonette had a killer opening set and during the encore I literally danced out of my shoe when the Aussie group played “Sands of Time” (my “totally obscure favorite song never expected to be heard live” track). It was also recorded in my personal history as my last concert without ear protection.

Not gonna lie: the decision did not come easy. Not just due to the realization of my mortality or maturity, but also because I previously scoffed at the idea. I once held the close-minded opinion of equating the practice with wearing a blindfold to a movie. I thought people would also tease in a “look at Old Man McGrampa / Go back to The Home and save up for Miracle Ear” way. I realized that for what I wanted in my life, I had to preserve my ears for a marathon instead of a sprint.

“If it’s too loud, you’re too young" – an insult from the young
“Get off my lawn” – a reply from the old

I’m not the only one realizing that it’s getting louder out there. Over half of the responders to the All Songs Considered poll wear ear plugs (Question of the Week: Are Concerts Too Loud? - NPR Music's All Songs Considered Blog).

As a fan of music, hearing loss scares the soul out of me. Aren’t the ones most passionate about star gazing the ones convincing us to view eclipses through a hole in a box? The popular opinion among music aficionados should be pro-plug, but it's not and that's wrong. Anybody wanting to hear more music should be aware they may be robbing themselves of future experiences, but careful foresight isn’t exactly punk rock.

I met Patrick that night at the show
I’ve had a few people look down at me when I say I now bring ear plugs to every show. But nobody cares when I’m at the venue – because nobody notices. What is noticeable, however, were the multiple people visibly plugging their ears with their fingers (while still dancing) to Fuck Buttons at Chicago’s Subterranean this past October. In what was by far the loudest show I have ever attended, I was never more appreciate of Etymotic plugs.

There are exceptions of course: it makes sense when at a small venue that barely fit the over sized speakers plugged into an EDM act named Fuck Buttons, but not to hear Night Beds play their debut album Country Sleep at a venue named S.P.A.C.E. (Society for Preservation of Arts and Culture in Evanston).

Every passionate fan of live music should invest in high quality ear protection. Trust the technology – the best products reduce, not suffocate, sound. Don’t bother with anything made out of foam or sold in packs of 10+ pairs at Walgreens. I recommend the ones I use and have also heard great EarPeace reviews.

Let’s make “Have them in case there is a ton of bass” be the new “no glove / no love.”