I recently read a great article in the Guardian about increasing noise levels at gigs, with particular reference to recent My Bloody Valentine gigs.
Shortly afterwords, on Facebook and elsewhere, I saw various people are drawing attention to a petition to try and stop the government making ‘noise control devices’ mandatory for anywhere with an entertainment license.
The Guardian article doesn’t mention either the petition or any forthcoming change in the law. The petition page and the other information I’ve seen so far is woefully short on any facts about what exactly is proposed.
I started going to gigs when I was 15. The first gig I saw (Milltown Brothers at the inappropriately-named Caesar’s Palace in Aberdeen) left me with tinnitus for three days. A few other gigs not long after that gave me tinnitus for perhaps a day afterwards. Between the ages of 16 – 19 I averaged a gig a week, and often had tinnitus for a few hours afterwards. The loudest gig I remember was Madder Rose at the Arches in Glasgow. I was standing directly in front of one of the speakers (although some distance away from it) and could feel it. Another memorable one was My Bloody Valentine at the Barrowlands, where they did their twenty minute crescendo of noise. Some people were walking out, but I thought it was one of the greatest moments I’d seen, heard and felt at a gig. That was I think 1992; 17 years later they’re still doing the same thing…
So, I’m sort of undecided on this issue. I recognise tinnitus as a very real risk for regular gig and club goers. I wouldn’t be surprised if I experience some level of deafness in later years as a result of going to noisy gigs as a teenager. I’m no longer a big fan of very loud music; I’d rather sit in a pub where I might have a chance of hearing a conversation without having to have the person next to me shout directly into my ear to be heard over the music. I quite like it in European cities like Barcelona where the pubs don’t set the sound all the way up to 11 once it gets to 9pm (at least not the ones I was in).
However I also appreciate having the personal freedom to go out and destroy my eardrums, if I want to. I think noise limiters are a good idea in theory, but I’d like to know more about how they work and what the limits would be.