It’s my very good fortune to know lots and lots of remarkably diverse, interesting, erudite, opinionated, amusing people. My very good fortune, indeed. So, why not share the wealth? I sent out a request and many responded in kind (and if I haven’t hit you up for the favor yet, it doesn’t mean I won’t). Writing isn’t for everyone. Putting thoughts down on paper isn’t for everyone. But for some people, it is and we’re all the better for it. Each month, a new voice will be heard from. Welcome to The Guest Blog.

The Guest Blog

| September 9, 2016

Number 8

Loud

by Phil Ames

so Bill sent me a lovely message, asking me to guest blog for him. of course, i said, i’d be honored.

and then promptly forgot about it.

perhaps, though, it wasn’t that i forgot. maybe i just blocked it out because i was scared of having a spotlight. but that’s a whole different set of mental gymnastics for a blog that i keep thinking i’ll one day write but secretly know that i never will.

and then came a reminder, a gentle nudging, which just so happened to coincide with one of my old charges being in NYC for a show. and i figured i’d take my lad to meet them at soundcheck (i couldn’t take him to the show as he’s not all ages and neither was the venue) and introduce him to them. i warned him that they were loud. and then it occurred to me that loud could be my subject…

i came to a point where i’d realized that i had become – or perhaps i had always been, but never come up with a catchy enough phrase for it – noise claustrophobic. not a phobia. i’ve never been afraid of noise. phobic – closed in, oppressed by volume, where too many audial stimuli made it impossible for me to focus on any one of them and where i’d shut down and just stare off into the distance. as Vivian Stanshall expressed it, “him just sittin’ there wi’ ‘is gob wide open, catchin’ flies and playin’ wi’ rats.”

loud? at the Detroit State Fairgrounds, on a particularly dank, coldly humid day, the on-stage monitor engineer for the band we were opening up for had just taken delivery of a decibel meter. he was trying it out while his band were sound checking. with the house sound off, with the on-stage monitors off, with just amps and drums blazing, they registered an average of 119dB. loud. my lot managed an average of 123dB.

there’s huge difference between 119 and 123 in decibels. that 4 decibels is a much larger volume range than the 4 decibels between, say, 84 and 88. it’s a math and physics thing, a ratio thing, a logarithmic thing. someone smart could explain it to you…

a favorite band were due to play the venue i was working in. they sent their rider – the technical and hospitality needs – that contained the requirement of a sound system capable of 125dB of clear, uninterrupted sound. the speakers may have been capable, but the amps weren’t. they overheated and shut themselves off. so, instead of concentrating on mixing the stage sound – mixing a band i idolized – i had to focus on the fuse box and flipping the breakers back on when the amps shut down. kinda ruined the experience of seeing a favorite band for the first time.

i don’t like ruined experiences. Still…”Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”, quoth Dan Stanford.

the singer of that band asked me to tour with him a couple of times. while enormously flattered, i politely declined, telling him i’d quit touring. he understood. “if i didn’t need the money, i’d be staying home,” he told me at that time.

i saw him play a solo acoustic show once… the next couple of days, i couldn’t get rid of whoever was following me around scrunching fresh carbon paper in my ears. whenever i turned around, there was no one there, but the carbon paper was still being crinkled.

in october, rumours stared circulating that this band might be reuniting. excitement rose, links were exchanged and stories flowed. one acquaintance even said they were willing to pay $15,000 for a ticket. the next day, the bass player quashed those rumours.

bah humbug

back at the Bowery Ballroom, on a glorious late summer saturday afternoon, the band finished a song and the kid hauled me back from the volume induced shutdown i was in. the venue hushed. he looked at me quizzically and asked, “are you ok?


Mr. Ames. He's my Mr. Ames. And he's wonderful and charming and unique and kind and a fine gentleman who's a nasty good time and he has a past, this man, a curious past, filled with music and energy and personalities and situations. Learn more about Phil at http://www.thisworldover.com

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