Earplugs are the new condoms for the concert-going set
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
My bloody eardrums: Kevin Shields of MBV prepares to let loose bboyd@irish-