The loudest show I ever attended was an Anvil gig at a place called the Norlander back in the early 80s. The PA was turned up so high that dust fell from the ceiling like snow throughout the set and everyone’s internal organs were pushed several centimetres closer to their spinal columns. People watch their sets with their fingers in their ears. Others had to leave because the constant pummeling by low frequencies were making them physically ill.
Like everyone else back then, I didn’t give any thought to protecting my hearing. Suffering from that muted underwater sensation for a few days after a show was considered to be a badge of honour. “Dude, it was SO loud! But I could take it. You know what they say, man: if it’s too loud, you’re too old!”
I was an idiot.
The older I got, though, the more aware I became of the dangers of excessive volume. What was the point of turning up the PA that loud? It didn’t improve sound. It made the audience uncomfortable. And it diminished everyone’s enjoyment of the show.
Today, I won’t go to a show without ear protection. I somehow managed to weather the abuse and have maintained very good hearing–although when the room is quiet, the tinnitus is there. I pray it doesn’t get worse. (My mother has it and can’t fall asleep without the radio playing. This means she spends way too much time listening to Coast to Coast. But that’s another issue entirely.)
Pitchfork has this excellent article entitled “How Loud Is Too Loud?” Thank God people are finally talking about the health issues that result from turning it up to 11. Please read it.
And before you go to your next show, stop at Shopper’s Drug Mart and get yourself some of those foam earplugs. They’re not perfect, but you’ll be amazed at the difference they make.