Earplugs are the new con­doms for the con­cert-go­ing set

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

The door staff hand­ing out free pairs of earplugs to peo­ple at­tend­ing the My Bloody Valen­tine con­cert in Lon­don’s Round­house were hav­ing mixed for­tunes. The free-earplugs ini­tia­tive is the band’s own; they all wear earplugs on stage and don’t want to ap­pear hyp­o­crit­i­cal in ask­ing their au­di­ence to lis­ten to their trade­mark sonic as­sault with­out any form of pro­tec­tion.

A few years back, I had been to a gig by A Place to Bury Strangers, one of the nois­i­est rock bands in the world, and felt per­son­ally vi­o­lated by the ex­pe­ri­ence. I asked for two pairs of earplugs for My Bloody Valen­tine. Many pun­ters, though, laughed out loud at the idea of wear­ing earplugs at a rock gig.

At the end of an un­be­liev­ably son­i­cally sculp­tured set, the band launched them­selves into a 25minute ver­sion of You Made Me Re­alise.

Let’s just say I’ve stood be­side qui­eter earth­quakes. Un­less some­body had slipped some mesca­line into my drink, it seemed, to­wards the end of the song, that the whole venue was lev­i­tat-

ing a few feet above the ground and the walls seemed to be bend­ing.

Fun­nily enough, a lot of the “cooler” kids down the front who had sneered at the of­fer of free earplugs sud­denly seemed to have ur­gent and press­ing en­gage­ments else­where and they walked/ran to the ex­its with what could well have been part of their brain fluid com­ing out of their ears.

I don’t know if My Bloody Valen­tine will be giv­ing out free earplugs for their Elec­tric Pic­nic ap­pear­ance in Au­gust but, if they do, try and get over the un­cool­ness fac­tor of wear­ing earplugs at a rock gig and be sure to af­fix them firmly.

With­out stray­ing into a public­ser­vice an­nounce­ment area, sur­vey af­ter sur­vey (never pub­lished in the mu­sic press) shows that 90 per cent of peo­ple who at­tend a dance club, rock gig or even a par­tic­u­larly loud bar show some level of hear­ing dam­age. In most cases, this is just a dull or fuzzy sen­sa­tion in your ear the next day, but af­ter re­peated ex­po­sure, you’re look­ing at the very real prospect of full-blown tin­ni­tus or hy­per­a­cu­sis (over-sen­si­tiv­ity to cer­tain sounds).

In the UK, the Royal Na­tional In­sti­tute for Deaf Peo­ple has teamed up with the su­per-club Min­istry of Dance to pro­mote the use of earplugs at live events. The char­ity has long found that young peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar, are re­luc­tant to wear earplugs be­cause of their “medic­i­nal”

ap­pear­ance and also be­cause they er­ro­neously be­lieve that the plugs will drown out the sound or some­how di­min­ish the over­all mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

The re­al­ity of earplugs is that in­stead of block­ing out the sound, they at­ten­u­ate it – the deci­bel level reach­ing your ear is re­duced with­out dis­tort­ing the sound.

At the mo­ment, only about 3 per cent of peo­ple wear earplugs at live events, but the char­ity hopes that the “trendier” de­sign, cou­pled with tes­ti­mo­ni­als from Min­istry of Sound DJs (who speak about how they all reg­u­larly wear them) will ed­u­cate peo­ple about the need to pro­tect their hear­ing.

A My Bloody Valen­tine in­door gig can get se­ri­ously loud. If you work in an en­vi­ron­ment where noise lev­els ex­ceed that of 85 deci­bels, your em­ployer has to pro­vide you with ear pro­tec­tion (and there is a le­gal re­quire­ment to wear it). There have been times at MBV gigs where the sound mon­i­tor shows 120 deci­bels. To put that in con­text, 110 deci­bels is the sound of a plane tak­ing off be­side you.

Could it be that with the ar­rival of the new noise band on the block, the above men­tioned A Place to Bury Strangers, there is a bloody sonic bat­tle to claim the ti­tle of the “world’s loud­est rock band”?

A Place to Bury Strangers are fan­tas­tic, psy­che­delic New York­ers who sound like they have Joy Di­vi­sion’s rhythm sec­tion be­hind a Je­sus and Mary Chain gui­tar as­sault. If they and MBV con­tinue to duke it out in the “loud, louder, loud­est” stakes, there will be blood – and it will be stream­ing out of your nose if you’re any­where near the front row. Pro­tect your­self – earplugs are the new

con­doms.

My bloody eardrums: Kevin Shields of MBV pre­pares to let loose bboyd@ir­ish-

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