bass in your face


Okay, time to swap out some parts for new ones. If I can replace the oil filter on the car and renovate our farm’s heating system, I see no reason why I can’t ask for the following:

1. I would like a new set of sinuses. These old ones get infected all the time, and because of a stupid accident with a trashcan in 1999, the septum on the right side is slightly deviated. This means I have to sleep on my left side all night, which is KILLING THE LEFT SIDE OF MY BACK after all these years. I want a brand new silicone sinus replacement with a WARRANTY.

2. I would like wireless electricity. Really, that says it all. How come we have wireless everything else, but not electricity? Yes, smartass, I know “the Sun” counts, but I mean powering your shit without cords. There should be an electricity transmitter built into the wall that transmits power to your TV and laptop THROUGH THE MAGICAL AIR.

3. I would like the hour from 9pm to 10pm to last longer than an hour. Because when you have a toddler who goes to bed at 7:30-8pm, that’s the hour when you feel like you can do all sorts of stuff. But then 10pm comes around, with its double-digits and feeling of “night” and it seems impossible to start anything without the spectre of the early morning. Can we agree to stretch it out, please?

4. I would like to create a Rock N Roll Noise Reduction Agreement. Seriously, I still rock. And I have gone to shows in the recent past. And yes, I have not told many people this yet, but I am the bassist in a new band. But here’s the thing: everyone at a rock show wears earplugs. The band wears earplugs. When we practice, we wear earplugs. The sound guy wears earplugs and the bartender at the Cradle wears earplugs. Can’t we all just agree to turn it down twenty decibels? That way, none of us, both artists and consumers, will have to wear those goddamn things. It just takes someone with the balls to go first. I volunteer; I am turning my bass amp down to NINE.


19 thoughts on “bass in your face

  1. Sean

    If I may address that last one… your drummer has only one knob, and it’s in his or her pants. If everyone else turns their instruments down to 9, you may as well call yourselves “Larry and the Ronettes” provided your drummer’s name is Larry.
    As for the others, I want to relive my 20s knowing what I know now. I know I’m only 36, but I’m one of those burning twice as bright types, like Jesus and Mozart.

  2. John Schultz

    Turning down assumes one very important thing…that your band DOESN’T have the proverbial “Ball Hog” that graces each and every unknown band ever formed. I hope your band doesn’t have a ball hog- otherwise keep the plugs!

  3. Claudia

    1. Have you tried Breathe Right strips? They were the first thing I packed in my hospital-overnight-for-labor bag. They are amazing, provided you don’t mind looking a tad bit like Porky Pig while you wear one.
    2. I think the main character’s father in Judy Blume’s _Then Again, Maybe I Won’t_ made significant cash off inventing a card that provides wireless electricity.
    3. Agreed, but ditto 11 pm to 12 am.
    4. AGREED.

  4. Joe

    Hey, Ian, hope to run into you while you’re in town; drop a line, maybe we can catch up.
    I can only address number four (although I’d love new sinuses and wireless electricity when those become an option).
    I’m temporarily offline insofar as music is concerned, but when I do play I try to keep it down.
    Luckily for me, [geek talk warning] digital modeling has allowed amplifiers to replicate the gain stage of tube amps at a much lower volume; I can sound like Townsend but at about a quarter of the volume. I’m fine with that; no need to drown out everything else in the room.
    As for drummers, one of the guys I occasionally play with uses an acoustic kit live but an electronic set at home (blasphemy, I know, much like my digital amp is to my vacuum tube purist friends). That makes it easier for all of us to hear our potential grandkids.
    The ‘ball hog’ problem is still the issue, though. In the same group, the singer believes that his Tele should remain in the bridge position and that his amp should have the bass rolled off and the treble at 11.
    I’m about to bail on this outfit (along with the bassist) for a variety of reasons; one of them is listed in the preceding paragraph.

  5. kent

    I’m with you on the ‘turn it down’ thing. I wear plugs at any loud show now, and it’s annoying to have to.
    The real reason it’s so damn loud is so you can feel it physically, and so a single point source — the stage — can generate enough sound to reach people 100 feet away. To keep things at a comfortable 90 decibels, you’d have to have speaker towers ever 50 feet, running on a delay from the stage sound.
    And the _real_ real reason it’s so loud is because the soundman is deaf and dials in too much mids and highs, and that harshness makes it sound louder. It is possible to tune a system very loud but not so LOUD LOUD. I worked a Richie Hawtin show where the guy brought in his own phased-array system and we measured the SPL at 125 decibels down front and we could still hear each other talk. It sounded that sweet.

  6. Anne D.

    Re: last item — What? Did you say something? Speak up!
    I am ashamed at how cavalierly I have toasted my ears at concerts in recent years. I saw the Raconteurs in September and wasn’t even all that close to the stage, maybe 40 feet, but the sound nearly blew me out the back door. My ears hummed for days afterward. At a Los Lonely Boys concert in November, I got pushed up front right near the left amp. My left ear will never be the same. Pass the earplugs please. And soon … dare I say it… the hearing aids. :-(

  7. Anne D.

    PS: Both concert experiences I refer to above were in clubs, not arenas. The loudness is, IMO, most noticeable and painful in smaller venues, although of course I’d much rather see a band in a cozy club than in a stadium.

  8. monheric

    I’ve told quite a few people my answer to your number 1:
    – Web search on “neti pot”. It’s pouring warm water through the nose. Sounds awful, works great.
    – (This is the hardest part) Snag somebody who knows how to use one to show you (I don’t know, find someone from India or ask your friendly neighborhood yoga person or something). It’s not that big a deal (my 12-year old did it) but a teacher helps.
    – Do it once or twice a day when needed.
    My score: before – several years of antibiotics, then Sudafed every night for ten years, sleep on my right side every night; after – no drugs and 95% improvement in symptoms and more freedom in sleeping!
    For those of us who really need it, it changes everything.
    Oh, and keep the earplugs. Volume is great for shaking the whole body, especially bass! But after hundreds of concerts without protection I have multiple ringings in my ears …

  9. grumphreys

    Re: Volume – escaping damaging volume levels is a big reason I left Alt-Rock behind for the less volume-driven world of Funk’n’Soul. No matter how you cut it though, if you’re standing a few feet away from a drummer and you’re in front of an amp, it can get plenty loud enough to damage your hearing. Especially in a small room.
    Wear the earplugs or play quiet, because prolonged exposure to loud noise will cause tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. Many musicians I know from rock bands have some level of tinnitus in one or both ears, ranging from an annoying ring of around 10 – 20k in a very quiet room, to an unbearable constant roar. And there’s no cure.
    Yay! Folk music is sounding better all the time!

  10. xuxE

    i second the motion in favor of neti pots! they are AMAZING for such a simple little thing.
    in fact, you could even name your band the neti pots!
    i say turn everything down except for the bass and drums. i prefer to play my bass loud enough to make the women in the audience ovulate. and i want the drums cracking loud enough to hear over the bass ovulator.
    it’s the guitars that need to turn down…
    i bet even if you do get all the band members to turn down, the guitars will keep turning up gradually and you will have to keep turning up to be heard over the guitar and the drums will get louder during the parts where you need to really rock out, so you’ll all end up playing full volume in the end anyway.

  11. Neva

    You guys beat me to the neti pot suggestion!
    I first heard about it a couple years ago from a pharmacist and now I have been recommending it to patients for a while – most people are very pleased with it. Sounds kinda gross to me but if it works it’s worth it!

  12. Amy

    Seriously. I went to see the Lemonheads at Cat’s Cradle last week. The show was incredible, but I kept blotting my ears with my sleeves to make sure blood wasn’t trickling out.

  13. kent

    I don’t understand why anyone doesn’t have plugs when they go to shows. It’s really necessary, and once you have them in you can enjoy the show. Things may sound a bit muffled in the beginning but after 10 minutes your brain adjusts, and it’s just like they’re not there.
    For the occasional show-goer, get the foam plugs at the drugstore. If you go to a lot of shows check this webpage:

  14. Rich

    Well, being both an actor and jazz musician/singer, I don’t ever have to wear earplugs (although there have been shows in which I would have paid dearly for earplugs, but only to block out the sound of certain fellow performers). My sister’s fiancee plays guitar in a band in Columbus, OH (Junior High Mustache) and they just like to play good and loud, and they all wear plugs, as do any of the wiser audience members. We all wanna enjoy the noise while preserving any chance of hearing by the time we’re 50.
    As for the sinuses – there are simple procedures that correct that stuff. I have a good friend & business partner who ust had some sinus surgery and she’s getting so much better. On the cheap side, Breathe-Right strips do indeed help. No nasal/sinus-related situation should ever dictate how one should position themselves for sleep.

  15. Neva

    Just a word of warning – although I do hear some good results from sinus surgery once in a while – the evidence doesn’t support it and many insurance companies don’t pay for it. I do think fixing a deviated septum can be helpful but the “sinus” surgeries that were done all the time long ago are much less frequently done now because they seem to do nothing (except maybe harm?). Just my two cents..

  16. yaytee

    Re: #4
    Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…
    Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
    Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
    Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it’s louder? Is it any louder?
    Nigel Tufnel: Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
    Marty DiBergi: I don’t know.
    Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
    Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
    Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
    Marty DiBergi: Why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
    Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.


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