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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
reggie miles NW Folklife threatens street performers (Seattle) (162* d) RE: NW Folklife threatens street performers 11 May 10

I made a perfectly logical suggestion regarding the many drum acts that frequent this event. I suggested giving them an indoor location in which to perform. Taking that one faction out of the equation would dramatically reduce the overall din in the available listening environment on the grounds.

By an indoor location, I didn't mean an inadequate tiny room, with too few seats, or one that was tucked so far back into the corner of the basement of one of the buildings that it would be hard to even locate. I meant a nice indoor space with ample seating and dancing room, for those who enjoyed moving to the beats, with a nice stage, lights and even a PA, not that most drummers need a PA to be heard. Give them a worthy environment to consider performing in and they may just wish to happily play there. Call it, Drum Central or some such colorful name/title. Make it the place to go to hear such talents on display.

Of course, you could also do likewise for every loud combo that might wish to perform at the event. There are enough indoor locations that could accommodate them too. If listeners wanted to hear loud music they could go indoors to enjoy it. By removing the loudest volume makers from the outdoor stages, you lower the volume over the entire area across the grounds and eliminate the bleed of one loud stage performance onto another.

That move, to eliminate loud acts from outdoor stages, would make it much easier for those playing acoustic instruments in the same environment. More acoustic players could find places outdoors to offer their music casually to listeners on the grounds, like Bluegrass Hill. Those listeners who detest the loud volume levels outdoors would smile because their ears would not be assaulted by the harsh volume levels. Loud acts would smile because they would be featured in pleasant indoor environments, immune to the changing weather patterns.

Somehow, this perfectly workable suggestion/solution to reduce the overall volume levels outdoors at this event has escaped the notice of those organizing this event. Instead, they have given free reign to any acts drumming on the grounds, without showing the least concern about the volume levels of their instruments.

It's this same lack of concern that shut down a quiet acoustic jam that several old friends and I were having on the grounds. A drum group set up right next to us and drown us out via the sheer volume of their multiple drums. That group got away with playing what was perhaps the loudest African style drumming that I have ever witnessed. It hurt my ears to be in the same area. I understand that this (playing loudly) is perhaps the nature of their art form.

We were standing in plain view of them and they had no qualms about playing their much louder drums in the same area and effectively shutting us down via their volume. They used the volume of their drums, essentially, as weapons against us. They forced us to stop playing by playing so loudly that we could hear ourselves. Nor could anyone else hear us. We had to stop playing at that point. We could neither play or sing as loudly or louder than multiple drums being beaten with sticks.

I am also aware that perhaps this too is the very nature of their particular art. Drums have long been used in the art of war and establishing dominance. They knew, that because of the volume they could create with their drums, challenging us in that area would mean that they would win and we would lose. This was not a pleasant lesson to learn.

I didn't enjoy being forced out of the area because they were not willing not share the space. We tried waiting until they had finished displaying their talents and seemed to be taking a break, to once again offer our more quiet acoustic entertainment. Unfortunately, as soon as we started to try to play again, they started right up once more.

Sadly, this is not the first time that my attempts at performing casually in a public environment have been shut down due to the volume of those who played louder instruments. Most of those encounters with other performance folks were with those playing drums but there have also been those playing amplified instruments and horns too.

Usually, they have more than one person in their combo, but even one drummer can out volume an acoustic guitar. I've tried, to no avail, reasoning with almost everyone of them. In each case the parties with the louder instruments set up far too near to where I was already playing and began to dominate the same space via their volume, until I was no longer able to compete. Asking them to move to an area to where their volume wouldn't have a negative impact on what I was doing didn't seem to interest them. They've all responded the very same way. They knew what they were doing by interrupting me in the area and could care less that they were being rude and insensitive. There was absolutely no compassion expressed by any of them. Nor any willingness to cooperate in any fashion. That's been the same reaction that I've received over and over again by those who play instruments that have more acoustic volume. They've all acted as though they don't care and they don't have to care.

I'm guessin' that my only recourse is to just do likewise and make even more noise than they can create. I'll set up close to them and play a bigger drum. I do own a couple of big drums and I've been meaning to teach some lessons to those who see themselves as owning any situation simply because of the volume they can produce via their instruments. I see nothing wrong with fighting fire with fire if that's their game. Plus, I can be a really bad drummer too and I don't mean bad in a a good way either. ;o)

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