Friday, August 29, 2008

Music, Sound and Crap Beer

I was pleasantly surprised at the sound quality of the Les Schwab Amphitheater at last night's Sheryl Crow concert. More like very surprised. This is the first rock music performance venue where I could hear what the musicians were playing. Take the bass player, for example. Nine times out of 10, one can see the bass player's fingers moving, but with eyes closed, all that can be heard is a vague rumble that sounds like cannons are going off backstage. When players take solos, you know they are taking a solo because they will often be spotlighted and the other players will be watching them, but again, all that is usually heard is a blur of sound. I've rarely attended a concert where the singer's words were understandable.

But it was different last night and kudos to the sound designer and the folk doing the sound. I could hear every note the bass players were playing (kind of important to me because I play bass)--including the slap when the woofers in Reed Thomas Lawrence's bassist's amp hit bottom; the drummers were well-mic'd with clean kick drum punch, although a little more crispness on the high-hat would have been nice; and solos were articulate and clear. Vocals were well-done, too, although I must say that there was a sharp transistory edge to the sound in the lower treble which was a little fatiguing.

But all in all, I'd have to give the sound a 9 out of 10. Not bad when most venues provide a miserable 3 or 4. I look forward to the Mingo Fishtrap concert this Sunday: they are a tight band with a full horn section. Their arrangements are complex and without good sound the result could be a muddled mess. My fingers are crossed that last night's sound quality was not a fluke.

I'll leave reviewing the performances to others, all I can say is that Reed Thomas Lawrence and band were a perfect find to fill in time before the delayed main act could arrive, Brandi Carlile and her band were fun (excellent drummer), and Sheryl Crow's bank kicked ass. Great keyboardist. Tight band.

But what's with the shitty beer? I mean, holy crap! This town has--what? Five, six breweries? This is a town that knows from beer. Who did the Coors distributor blow to land the concession there? Coors Light and something called Blonde Bombshell were the only two offerings. Dreadful, miserable pisswater beers. They charge for this stuff? I pee this stuff out after drinking real beers. I had to dump my $5 cup after only two sips.

There must be a solution to the crap beer problem at the Schwab. If anyone knows how to get a decent beer into the place, please send me a comment. I won't publish it if you request me not to (in case you don't want your method public). Fortunately, the Bend Brewing Company will be providing refreshments for the Mingo Fishtrap concert.

But still -- when the big acts come into town, the food and beverage should be top-notch.

Loved the nearly naked girl making pizzas. I had a very nice cheese plate with crusty bread, olives, and grapes.


  1. Funny, my wife Sommer and I both commented on how clear the concert was--from our house. You could hear the snap of the kick, great vocals, distinguishable bass tone instead of muddy rumble. It seemed like one of the loudest shows we've heard form the house, maybe atmospheric conditions were just right. Another Vanagon driving bass player? Whoa. I haven't played out in a while, my oldest, Boston, is taking over the low frequencies on my old Kawai at his school. The school's Roots Music band is playing, appropriately, the Bend Roots Music festival at the end of September.

  2. Somebody tell Brendin that there are lots of us Vanagon-driving bass players.
    I was at Lollapalooza in '96 (Devo kicked ass, The Ramones were... The Ramones (1234!), but they were fun as well.
    The bass was cranked so hard during the 'main' acts (Soundgarden and Metallica) it was like taking a physical beating from a really energetic dude with big puffy mittens. Up to that point it had never occurred to me that I would ever want them to cut back on the bass in a live show, much less be yelling at the sound geek to do it.
    It was brutal.

  3. Ha! My emphasis should've been on then ANOTHER. As in "there are so many already, could there be another?!" The Mingo show today was pretty good, we didn't stay long for Eliot wasn't really in a stay-near-daddy-and-mama mood. The sound was ok, zero definition in the bass tone, sad for that style of soul/funk. I needed some good midrange growl in that Fender.

  4. I agree -- the bass player's tone was more muddy than I wished it had been. However, sitting on the lawn and watching his fingers through my image-stabilized binoculars thoroughly shamed me. Amazing technique and precision. Their drummer . . . sigh . . . if only I could work with someone like that. Always in the pocket, great drive, and sings, too.

    I had a great time. Even my 20 year old son, who is fairly picky about music, thought the band was awesome. I'm thrilled that I had a chance to hear them, and enjoy the scene at a free concert here in Bend. Great fun.


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