rock and roll
so it is that i find it extremely hard to articulate how i feel about this past weekend's shit show at gemstones without resorting to comments interspersed with both profanties as well as geezer terms like "whippersnapper". but, yeah, that sums it up: shit show.
on the surface, the fact that the first two womens room stalls were de facto superfund toxic waste dumps, (no pun intended), and the bar didn't even have beer for its first hour, would normally be just more of those stories you tell when you try to tell someone how great the show was when you where there when. (though, if you're hoping to think either of those things would even rate an asterisk in the storied lore of the rat and other *real* clubs, you're sadly mistaken). but, no, that's not even the first whiff of all that was so very wrong at gemstones this past weekend.
i was only turning 9 years old in '69 when zep played for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS on a single album's worth of material at the boston tea party, and kids were LITERALLY banging their heads against the stage. (read about it--it's where and when the term was born, and i am quite satisfied that there's never been a club show like that ever before or ever since). no, i was never there. but by the time i got to the rat years later, and even though willie alexander was no longer part of andy warhol's velvet underground (the way they were billed at the tea party back in the proverbial day) and was just another guy fronting an outfit quite aptly named "the boom boom band", i did catch the fever live and in person in plenty of time to know from which i speak, and i am quite pleased to say i've had it ever since and know a thing or two from the experience. (that guy up in the rafters at the last rancid show at the house of blues yelling down at the candy-asses on the floor along with elvis (costello, because there is no other) that they sucked because they weren't singing along to "radio radio"? yeah, that was me).
so when i tell you that the sound sucked at gemstones, i'm not some middle-aged geezer who doesn't like to have to turn down his hearing aid. i don't care that my cred isn't served well by it, but the loudest show i ever heard was rick derringer at knight auditorium at babson college back in 1979, but i'll put it out there just so you can think about yours. (rick's marshalls were literally stacked 12 feet high on either side of the stage, and it was not that big an auditorium--maybe 25 rows to the back--and, yes, we did check, and, no, the guy who also brought you "hang on sloopy" wasn't staging any empty cabinets to fake things, and when you stack 4 marshall 4x12's and put a head on top of each stack, the stacks do reach just about 12 feet, and you can look that up if you weren't there and don't believe me). honorable mention goes to rancid at the roseland ballroom circa 1999, as well as rancid at the palladium in worcester in '08, (but not to rancid at the house of blues in boston this time around, cuz i think the punks these days are gettin' soft), and i've only once resorted to earplugs and that was at a shit show at the paradise recently that's only going to prove the rest of my point.
any moron can twist a volume knob. all sorts of morons do it every day. (yes, nigel, they go up to eleven). and when the volume gets to where all you can hear is one range of tone and hardly any of the others, you know the sound sucks, and everyone else associated with the room and the show does too for not knowing any better to do anything about it. (seriously, if you're in the business and you can't hear it when it gets that bad, it really calls into question whether or not you ought to be in the business). and, i'm telling you, this is about as ridiculously low a bar as there is, when you're talking about a rock and roll club, because toxic waste site bathrooms and virtually non-existent bar service are just amusing anecdotes in places like that, and good sound is always an extremely subjective and fleeting goal in any rock and roll room. but it still remains the goal, and it's inexcusable when its missed to this extreme degree.
yes, i'm here to tell you, from first hand experience and an almost fifty-year's lifetime's worth of background to know from whence i speak, the sound at gemstones sucked even worse than the sound at the paradise that drove me to earplugs for the first and only time in my life, and the worst thing i can say about it is that it was able to suck that bad without even being painfully loud to the point of requiring earplugs, which, i swear, takes real trying. (to suck that bad--not being painfully loud to the point of requiring earplugs--since the rigs these days can out-blast almost everything they had at their disposal back when they used to know how to rock and roll and properly require earplugs, and getting loud now is just a matter of cash and any idiot can do it, and, here we are back at the beginning of this endlessly circular and pointless argument).
truly disappointing. but, at least, if you're lucky, you'll read this and save yourself the disappointment next time, and choose to see your favorite band(s) in a room where you can actually hear your favorite band(s), (not to mention go to the bathroom and find refreshment at the bar), and consider yourself lucky not to have wasted your time or your money at that sorry place that i can no longer even mention without feeling violated.