An old woman yells at the singer to turn down their treble and that the band is playing too loud to properly hear the vocals. The old woman is subsequently bounced for harassing the performer, but did she have a point?
So this happened at a recent concert I went to. Funnily enough I actually briefly interacted with the old lady in question who would help me light a cigarette (I only smoke at indie concerts and there is no correlation between smoking cigs at indie concert and lung cancer) while we were standing outside waiting for the main act to come on.
After the first song, the old woman loudly proclaimed "turn down your treble, we cant hear your voice", which she made sure to vocalize no less than 3x. The band, for their part, ignored her, while someone told her to "Shut the f**k up", which while I understand the sentiment I disagree that you should so quickly resort to superlative likes "f**K" which only adds hostility to the atmosphere. Regardless of how annoying an old lady is, we dont need to be overly aggressive towards her. I am sure whoever shouted that would be a poor lyricist.
This wasn't the incident that got the woman 86ed though.
It was 4 songs later after I went outside for a "special" smoke break (no light required), then came back inside to see the band finishing up their current track. The old woman then approached the singer, and got into a verbal altercation where the singer was forced to engage until the bouncer could be brought in to ask her to leave. I am not exactly sure what the old lady said, but it sounded like she was implying the treble was too high, the vocals could not be heard, and that the band was also contributing by playing their instruments too loudly. After a few retorts from the singer, the old woman sat back down only to have the bouncer come over and treated her as Hank Hill would someone who asked for a well done steak at a barbecue.
The woman left without incident accompanied by a resigned partner who seemed used to this kind of behavior.
The show went on.
But channeling my inner Carrie, I couldn't help but wonder did she actually have a point? Was the music drowning out the vocals to the point where they were difficult to hear?
I actually had noticed this problem at several concerts I had attended this summer where despite thoroughly enjoying the music and overall vibrations, I found myself slightly miffed I could not make out the words of the singer in any of their songs. The thing is I find lyrics to be extremely important to the overall rendition of a song, and not being able to hear any lyrics does make me feel a little cheated. Sure I like the energy of the instrumentation mixed in with the emotive resonance of the vocals, but it would seem a good percentage of the time the band is simply drowning itself out because it can.
This is not venue or genre specific (or at the very least not indie venue or indie genre specific) in my experience, nor can it be explained by positioning. It instead appears that musicians have for some reason decided that hearing the lyrics during live performance is not tangent to the peak experience. It's as if concert are supposed to be about working the crowd into a disoriented frenzy with no verbal crowding besides a few comments between sets.
Yet, that is exactly what could contribute to the multiety of the concert experience by ensuring there are several tracks with particular strong vocals or lyrics where the instruments can be turned down ensuring the audience is privy to a few moment of poetic rawness among the hyper-paroxysm generated by the more instrument heavy songs.
I will continue to monitor for this issue in subsequent concerts (starting tonight with Yucky Duster), but if I dont notice any correction soon I will be taking the mantle to head the anti treble movement, getting into disputes with bands and audio engineers to fight, for the right, to hear the lyrics.
*Edit: just went to a Yucky Duster concert, and definitely had trouble discerning vocals, but some of the vocalizations were clear.