Friday, November 20, 2015

What if I asked you to look straight into the sun?  Maybe you would, for a second or two, until the brightness overwhelmed you and you just had to close your eyes. But what if I insisted that you keep looking straight into the sun, no blinking? Would you do it?  You would not. Because you have no desire to damage your vision, and you are not crazy, and if I asked you to do such a thing, I would be the crazy one.

Which brings me to the show I attended the other night at Oakland's historic Fox Theater, a striking art deco former movie theater- turned concert venue that dates back to 1928.  My husband and I had tickets to see Railroad Earth, a country-rock jam band. Being non-boogying boomers with bad knees, we had seats in the mezzanine. The theater customarily takes out the orchestra seats for any act whose music is vaguely danceable so people can smoke pot, crowd each other and jump up and down. Which is fine by me. To everything yada yada.

Anyway, the opening act was pretty loud, but when the main event came out on stage, the sound became unbearable. My husband was covering his ears. You could feel your chair vibrate. Also, your feet, your head and your thyroid. I thought I could recognize a song I knew but it was too loud to know for sure. My spouse, whose hearing is already damaged from attending too many concerts in his reckless hippy days, couldn't take it anymore and moved to the last row of the third tier balcony. I went downstairs to complain. Apparently I was not the first person to do so. The usher directed me to the first aid room where a volunteer was handing out ear plugs.  I grabbed a pair for me and a pair for my spouse.

It was a very long concert, a fact which at a decibel level safe for human existence, we would have appreciated. It's no secret that old rockers get tinnitus and hearing loss. When I've had seats in the orchestra, I have brought ear plugs to concerts - your ears don't ring the next day and you can actually understand the lyrics.  But when it's so loud, you need to protect your ears in the back of the mezzanine, I have to wonder who benefits. Not the band, who are all going to end up deaf as Keith Moon. Nor will they sell a lot of CDs after the show, because who can actually listen to any of the songs at a decibel level loud enough to deafen the nearest dolphin pod?  And not the poor kids in the orchestra, who will end up with hearing damage just like their boomer parents.

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