Why buy a ticket to the Bluesfest?

Melvyn Magree

You can hear the Bluesfest and many other Bayfront programs over two miles away, even with all the windows closed.  Why spend money on a ticket, find a parking place, be jostled by the crowds, and have your ears in pain, when you can listen in the comfort of your home?

Or you could find a spot on the Lakewalk or in Canal Park and hear the music just fine.  I bet you could even hear all the words sitting in Amazing Grace.

On the other hand, you won’t see the performers and you won’t enjoy sharing the music with hundreds or thousands of other fans.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve listened to music of many genres willingly at a wide range of volume.  I prefer to decide for myself when I will subject my ears to loud music.
I’ve listened to Mu Daiko at Hamline’s Sundin Hall.  I described listening to the pounding of the Japanese drums as fun way to go deaf.  I’ve enjoyed listening to Max Dakota and his group blast forth in Beaner’s.  And I’ve gone to several concerts at Bayfront.  But as I’ve grown older, much of the over-amped music is painful to my ears.

We used to go to the Chester Bowl concerts, enjoying Willowgreen, the Upbeats, and many other groups.  We would sit in the middle rows without much discomfort to our ears.  But over the years these concerts have gotten much louder.  We can often hear some of the words about a half-mile away.  A few years ago we decided to go to a Chester Bowl concert.  When we got to the entrance to the park, the music was so loud that my ears hurt.  We turned around to go home and never went to another concert there.
I actually wonder why small spaces need microphones other than to make conversation difficult.  I’ve sung at Beaner’s and feel that I could project my voice without a mike all the way to the front alcove.  But do any of the people sitting in the front alcove really want music?  Maybe they are there to read a book or have conversation with a friend.

Even as a so-so singer I’ve been able to project my voice quite well.  I remember once practicing in the farthest corner of the social hall at the UU Church on College Street and having somebody in the garage tell me they could hear my voice.

How did the Greek actors project their voices in the amphitheaters without mikes?  How did the great orators of the 19th century project their voices without mikes?  How many operas and plays have been performed in all kinds of spaces without mikes?  At one of the school plays I remember, the teen-age actors projected their voices to back rows of an auditorium about the size of many theaters in Duluth.

Now actors have funny-looking gadgets by their cheeks.  When the UMD Theatre first used mikes I remember my disorientation of hearing their voices from the center of the ceiling.  Now it seems the speaker placement has improved so that it seems the voices are coming from where the actors are standing.

It seems that many people can’t have a moment of silence.  There has to be music on all the time, even if nobody else is interested.  Sometimes I don’t mind, especially those Essentia Health departments that play Vivaldi while you are on hold.  I just wish the playback wasn’t so erratic.  And I appreciate the sometimes piano playing in St. Mary’s Hospital lobby and the classical music that is played in the lobby of the Essentia Second Street building.  But I do mind that music that is played in the Essentia Fitness Center.  In certain places it can make conversation difficult.

Years ago I bought an iPod to drown out the Fitness Center music.  Since then I’ve moved up to an iPhone and prefer listening to podcasts.  Even then, if I stand in the “wrong” place, the ceiling speakers make it hard for me to hear the voices on the podcasts.  Besides the audio distraction, the Fitness Center has added the visual distraction of flat screen TVs, generally tuned to Sports Central or whatever SC means.  How many times do I have to watch the same touchdown?

But worse are the people that crank up their earbuds so loud that they drown out earbuds of people on neighboring machines. I haven’t done this to these “deaf” people, but I’ve pulled out my own earbuds and asked friends if they can hear them.  The answer is always “No.”  I’ve sort of learned not to call people on their loud music impinging on others; too often they get mad rather than apologetic.

My final gripe is about drivers who have their car radios so loud that one can hear them two blocks away.  And of course, very heavy on the bass.  Boom! Boom! Boom!  I have cranked up MPR when waiting at a light next to one of these people, but I can’t match them and they don’t even seem to notice.   I wonder what would happen if I cranked up the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s Magic Flute. It can be screechy.  Listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2ODfuMMyss.  Actually Diane Damrau’s voice is pleasant (if you can say an evil character has a pleasant voice) and she has none of the screeching that I’ve heard from other sopranos in this role.  Another good performance is by Robin Schlotz, a 14-year-old boy soprano.  Not a single screech!  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9ijwfRTv0o.

Enjoy whatever you like, but consider that those around you may have different tastes or just want quiet, say for sleeping.