Stop Pretending You're Having Fun at These Outdoor Concerts and Music Festivals

Vistalite Black

Ludwigs in the Basement
Joined
Feb 17, 2015
Messages
3,090
Reaction score
888
Location
North Carolina
Food for thought, even if I disagree. I think the notions here about live concert sound are rooted in 1994. These days, in my opinion, live sound is typically far better at amphitheaters than in basketball arenas -- where the upper level seats, IMHO, almost always have terrible sound.

The author writing in The Washington Post disagrees:

Stop pretending you're having fun at these outdoor concerts and music festivals


We started drinking white wine in the car, my then-girlfriend and I, stuck as we were in the parking lot while rain thundered down in sheets. Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Maryland amphitheater where the National and the Dirty Projectors would play that night, sat only a few feet away, but dashing to our seats would have been like hopping into a pool.

But there we were. So we decided to chance it.

Fast-forward an hour. Our clothes were drenched to the point that obscenity charges could be levied. The place was nearly empty, and yet the grass had already transformed to mud, well before the National took the stage. A miserable-looking dad marched his rain-weary toddler through the downpour toward the exit. ...

Uhh, what? A small child at a rock show? Yeah, because that's another absurdity of our supposedly beloved summer tradition of enjoying live music in the great outdoors. Fans suddenly throw all concertgoing norms out the window, just because they're listening to a band while standing on grass.

Outdoor concerts are garbage, and not only because they smell like it. Don't take my word for it. "I don't even understand them in theory," Lexington, Kentucky-based freelance journalist Sarah Baird, 31, said, calling them "antithetical to enjoying music."

The very nature of what makes an outdoor concert special - specifically, inviting nature into a concert - is what turns off so many. "It's like going camping with 20,000 drunk strangers, in a place that smells like beer, B.O., vomit and urine. It's a hassle to get there, and it's expensive," said Carol Blymire, a 50-year-old consultant who lives in Washington, D.C.

Most outdoor concert venues sit well outside a city center, given that their supposed appeal rests upon seeing a band from a green space. Jim Murray, a 42-year-old Boston radio host, recalls spending more than three hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic when an outdoor Radiohead gig coincided with a Patriots preseason game.

When you finally get to the remote outpost of an outdoor venue, you have to battle its natural inhabitants: insects, namely mosquitoes. But if the cavalcade of winged bloodsuckers doesn't turn your stomach, you've still got to deal with the climate. Let's just skip over the obvious issues of sunburn and heat exhaustion. The more insidious one might involve all the cold beer fans are downing.

"With the heat comes more people drinking. You're dealing with a lot of bros who have been drinking and tailgating for hours on end. . . . They're looking for trouble, or they're just sloppy," Murray said.

What's likely occurring, according to Joseph Palamar, an associate professor with New York University's Department of Population Health who studies drug and alcohol misuse and addiction, is that "a lot of people seem to forget to drink water while they're at these concerts."

"Exhaustion and dehydration are much more likely to occur when people are drinking alcohol or using drugs at outdoor shows, particularly when it's hot out," he said. Multiday music festivals, during which some fans simply choose not to sleep, exacerbate these conditions.

Risks can include injury or death. Or, more typically, the general unpleasantness of putting up with obnoxious drunks. Who may well be the friends you came with. Just ask Murray.

The year: 1994. The show: a disappointing Roger Waters-less Pink Floyd lineup at Foxboro Stadium, where Murray and his buddies sat in the nosebleeds. The crime: One of his ("really big") friends drank multiple ("like five") 40-ounce beers ("enough to kill an elephant") and began urinating on the fans in front of him. "He just didn't know what the hell was happening," Murray said. "He wasn't trying to be malicious about it. He was just in outer space."

Stephanie Farfan has come around to the thinking that she might just as well sit at home and blast her stereo as make the trek out to some amphitheater.

"I have dwarfism, so I'm only about four feet tall," said the 26-year-old Washington, D.C., graduate student "Any time I am invited to something outdoors, especially outdoors concerts, I can't see anything. So I don't see the point of them. But second of all, the amount of drunk people there are at outdoor concerts is ridiculous, and I'm always afraid someone is going to fall on top of me - because it's happened before."

She added that outdoor concerts often don't have any seating, at least not any from a higher vantage point, which is critical to helping her safely enjoy the show.

"I hate them, mostly because I feel excluded from enjoying them," she said.

Then there's the actual concert itself, which often features atrociously muddled sound.

"I don't think people go to outdoor concerts because they're actually interested in enjoying music. There's a quality issue," Baird said. And because the audio is so wretched, Blymire noted, "people feel more comfortable talking loudly about what doctors' appointment they had and whose husband they hate."

Dave Swallow, a U.K.-based sound engineer who has worked with artists such as Amy Winehouse, Billy Ocean and Basement Jaxx, said sound mixing is far more challenging outdoors.

"Going from a stage, which is normally quite tall and wide, you've got to cover all the audience down the front and all the way back," a distance that can vary dramatically from venue to venue. Weather patterns can get in the way, he said. "When you start getting the wind blowing across the arena floor, the sound becomes wavy, the vocals might come in and out or the guitar might be loud and then quiet," he said.

The audio can project one way by day, a completely different way by night. Temperature plays a role, as well. "The hotter the air, the slower the sound moves. But when it's colder, the molecules are closer together, so the sound moves through the air faster." That means sound engineers such as Swallow must constantly adjust the mix. That becomes even more difficult if the show is in a stadium, which can be half-shaded.

Plus, they must do all this without sound checks and while generally adhering to noise restrictions, since sound travels so much farther when it's not trapped by the ceiling and walls of a rock club.

But at least it's easier on your ears, listening to tunes outside. Right? Right? Wrong!

"Once sounds get above 85 decibels, you have to start worrying about how long you're exposed to it," said Jonathon Whitton, director of drug discovery for Decibel Therapeutics, a biotechnology company focused on developing treatments for hearing loss. Concerts - yes, even outdoor shows - tend to be around 110 decibels, at which point, "you're getting down into ranges where your recommended exposure time is down around 15 minutes."

Yet people often think they're safer while outdoors and forgo earplugs. And the longer one is exposed to loud sounds, the more it begins to feel normal. And some outdoor shows go on for days.

Rising above the din of these supposedly fun things we never want to do again? "There's always someone yelling 'Freebird,' " said Blymire. "And only at outdoor concerts!"
 

Mongrel

DFO Veteran
Joined
Oct 3, 2016
Messages
2,222
Reaction score
1,146
Location
South Jersey, USA
Man that was a lonnngggg article to make such a simple point.

I bagged out less than halfway through...

What next-"Why pouring sand in your swim trunks leads to chafing of your privates"?

Glad I don't need to consult the Washingotn Post for help with these "big" life decisions.
 

REF

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2014
Messages
282
Reaction score
162
Location
VA
If nothing else, makes me happy I'll be playing an indoor festival next Spring.

I have to admit, the entire notion of standing up in a crowd for hours in the summer sun, or any other type of day, for that matter, and have one's senses invaded with foul odors, let alone body aches, seems antithetical to actually enjoying music.
 

RIDDIM

DFO Master
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Messages
3,605
Reaction score
475
Location
MD
I'd say it depends on who you go to see, where and when.

I've been to Merriweather Post a few times - but the artists I've seen, e.g. RTF, don't bring out the same kind of crowd as say, Motley Crew. Sound, I found, is a function of where I position myself ( I tend to wander), as is visibility (binoculars help).

Most of the artists I'd pay to see (e.g., Kneebody, Dan Weiss, David Binney, Chris Dave, Mark Guiliana, Ralph Peterson, Mike Stern, Lenny White, etc.) do or have done shows in smaller, indoor venues, where sound quality and sight lines are good, or they are well represented on YT or FB.

I'm much pickier now than in my youth; I've seen most of the folks I admire up close, so I'm less willing to put up with long periods of discomfort or possible health hazards from too much sun (skin cancer, anyone?) or overheating (heat stroke can kill).
 

Nacci

DFO Veteran
Joined
Jul 25, 2015
Messages
2,895
Reaction score
1,537
Location
Roxbury, NH.
I stopped going to outdoor music festivals in my mid twenties which, looking back on it, sounds about right to me.

That astro turf of degeneracy and hippie hygiene that it is.
 
Last edited:

Ghostin one

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
86
Reaction score
56
Location
Eastern PA
I grew up in that general area, and remember vividly a couple outdoor concerts that bordered on disaster.

Lollapalooza II was somewhere in northern Va. You had to walk quite a distance to get to the concert, where bottled water and liquids of any kind were seized at the gate. Bottled water was being sold for $2. They ran out early in the day.

So there were 100,000 plus people on a hot summer day with no water. As new bottled water trucks arrived, the drivers were yanked out of the trucks and "volunteers" started distributing the water for free. There was a steady stream of ambulances, taking people who had succumbed to the heat to a hospital that wasn't ready for hundreds of dehydrated concert-goers.

Eventually, water trucks showed up to hose down the audience. I imagine there were a lot of lawsuits, but there should have been a criminal prosecution as far as I was concerned.

I saw SRV at Merriwether Post pavilion. If you were on the upper lawn, the show was dominated by "security" personnel screaming "move back" and pushing people the entire show. What fun!
 

Ghostin one

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2019
Messages
86
Reaction score
56
Location
Eastern PA
Do the modern festivals allow water, or provide it for free?

There's a big difference between an "anecdote" and an eyewitness account.
 

cplueard

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2015
Messages
456
Reaction score
93
Location
AZ
Maybe it's the venue too. Ak-Chin pavillion down here in AZ always has okay to fantastic sound depending on the show. Covered seating and an inclined lawn behind that so people can see. You can take in up to a gallon of water and there are drinking fountains as well. I've seen at least a dozen shows and festivals there. Done everything from sit and enjoy the show to moshing around a bonfire.
 

Vistalite Black

Ludwigs in the Basement
Joined
Feb 17, 2015
Messages
3,090
Reaction score
888
Location
North Carolina
When I was at Epicenter in May, you were allowed to bring in a single small sealed water bottle and there was an inconveniently located water refill station.

Interesting that this contributor to Favoriteconcert.com has only fond memories of beautiful weather at the 1992 Lollapalooza stop in Reston, Va. http://favoriteconcert.com/lollapalooza-081492/

Also, an anecdote can be a first-hand account.

noun, plural an·ec·dotes or for 2, an·ec·do·ta [an-ik-doh-tuh] .
1. a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature.
2. a short, obscure historical or biographical account.
 

REF

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2014
Messages
282
Reaction score
162
Location
VA
I love WAPO, but I disagree with this article. Going to a festival can be a blast, depending on the venue, artists, etc... I have been in many, many music clubs that were absolutely awful. They had/have awful sound, disgusting bathrooms, etc... Concerts are about the music and the live experience. Don't like it? Stay home and listen to the record.

*** Good times.
Modern society and times? Let us not forget Woodstock and the other original outdoor festivals back then. Or the Newport Jazz Festival, 1954 >, and others, like the Denton Texas Jazz festival, 1980 >, which can generally be counted on to be a muddy mess at some point. Outdoor festivals have been around a long time, since John Philip Sousa's huge outdoor concerts, and always had to work with whatever mother nature throws at them. While some clubs certainly could have better acoustics and sound, most indoor festivals are in venues larger than clubs; pretty well set-up for sound, especially when it is staffed and performed and attended by more discerning ears.

If you're saying "modern society" has more of an affinity for mud, stench, and inebriated audiences ... so be it.

I have to agree, though, indoor music events can have some pretty disgusting bathrooms.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Topsy Turvy

Very well Known Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
583
Reaction score
112
Location
United States
Modern society and times? Let us not forget Woodstock and the other original outdoor festivals back then. Or the Newport Jazz Festival, 1954 >, and others, like the Denton Texas Jazz festival, 1980 >, which can generally be counted on to be a muddy mess at some point. Outdoor festivals have been around a long time, since John Philip Sousa's huge outdoor concerts, and always had to work with whatever mother nature throws at them. While some clubs certainly could have better acoustics and sound, most indoor festivals are in venues larger than clubs; pretty well set-up for sound, especially when it is staffed and performed and attended by more discerning ears.

If you're saying "modern society" has more of an affinity for mud, stench, and inebriated audiences ... so be it.

I have to agree, though, indoor music events can have some pretty disgusting bathrooms.
Check the guy’s post before me. That’s what I’m talking about.
 

BennyK

DFO Master
Joined
Aug 6, 2008
Messages
14,369
Reaction score
1,313
Last one I attended had The Faces and Buddy Miles . Lotsa chicks taking off their tops, lotsa good MDA - a deadly combination . Stewart kicked soccer balls into the audience and knocked some hiippy out . I woke up in Green Bay Wisconsin days later .

That's the kind of fun we used to have ... this guy must be joking .
 

Johnny K

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2018
Messages
492
Reaction score
377
Location
Mid Atlantic, USA
I love WAPO, but I disagree with this article. Going to a festival can be a blast, depending on the venue, artists, etc... I have been in many, many music clubs that were absolutely awful. They had/have awful sound, disgusting bathrooms, etc... Concerts are about the music and the live experience. Don't like it? Stay home and listen to the record.

***. Good times.
Good times indeed. I am an old (56) right of center dood and I am having a great time playing my drums while Rome (today's social media) burns. I also enjoy a good outdoor show. Last one I went to was Gov't Mule & Primus in 2013 in Charlottesville, VA. It was hotter than the sun that day, but it was great show and I had a blast in the mosh pit with the yout's
 
Last edited by a moderator:

shuffle

DFO Master
Joined
Aug 31, 2009
Messages
6,080
Reaction score
521
Location
Reno/Tahoe
For me,i have no real desire to see Dinosaur bands or even hang in large groups of people, someone gets killed nowadays it seems.
Watch vids works for me.
Yeah,im a stick in the mud!
 

Latest posts



Top