Bad sound at gigs

It is sad how many comments there are on the Last Night’s Gig thread and also on Twitter about bad sound quality.

This is something that has definitely contributed to a reduction in the number of gigs I go to**. There are also certain venues I now avoid.

So what’s behind it? Is it because there are more venues that just aren’t designed for concerts? Are gig schedules too rushed so bands don’t have time to set up and soundcheck properly? Are there too many under qualified people involved? Or do promoters just not care?

It seems very strange. Technology has moved on so much you’d expect sound quality to be perfect. And with live shows so important to an artist you’d think they’d want to get it right.

Finally, what venues tend to be best and worst?

**that and the number of people who either just want to talk through the whole show or watch it through their phone screen.

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Loads of FOH engineers retrained during lockdown because they had no work. Now there’s a massive shortage, meaning that many bands are relying on in-house venue FOH engineers where they would have had their own before. The in-house guys do their best but they only have an hour or so with the band at soundcheck, and obviously won’t get it as good as someone that’s been touring with the band for weeks or months.

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House sound has to he one of the hardest, most thankless, annoying, unsociable, underpaid jobs in music!

Imagine doing three bands a night, many of whom you’ve never heard before, never mind ‘enjoy’, so you have no idea what their ideal balance is ref guitars/drums/vox. Are they Oasis or JAMC or Belle and Sebastian? Who knows?

Turn your guitar amp down mate (“I’ll turn it back up when we go on stage”).

We can’t hear the thunderous Melvins style bass from Nigel’s 75w Peavey!!

Must be an absolute guaranteed route to musician hatred.

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Conversely, those in house engineers know the room and the PA inside out, whereas the touring engineer has never been to the venue before and might be using a desk he/she is unfamiliar with.

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I stopped getting tickets for gigs if they were at The Roundhouse in London, because I found the acoustics there really bad (with the exception of My Bloody Valentine, whose sound worked quite well in that space).

I’ve always avoided the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester as it’s just one giant concrete tomb, the one time I went the sound was abysmal. Thankfully the Apollo seems to be taking it’s rightful place again with fewer gigs at the Victoria

The main issue seems to be buried vocals. You can have clarity on the guitar, bass and drums then just a mumble from the singer, even if it is a genre where it is screamed. When I saw Pigsx7 in Motion in Bristol I ended up wondering why he even bothered trying at times.

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4x12s set to stun sydrome.

Acoustics and sound quality at Plymouth Pavilions is awful

Yeah, they put the stage in the wrong end (true story!)

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Never knew that!

Yeah, so the room was designed properly, but when it came to installing the stage the owners over-ruled the architect to make the stage closer to the road/carpark for quicker/easier load-in I think. So, effectively, rather than it being shaped outwards like a speaker cone, it’s the opposite with sound hitting the walls more and more the further back you are. I read that somewhere, but a quick Google isn’t bringing anything up annoyingly.

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don’t think I’ll ever go to Brixton Academy again

sound is always dogshit and they have no reason to fix it cos there’s very few venues that are that size

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I avoid Southampton Guildhall even though it is convenient. Been to three very different concerts there and the sound was bad for all.

I think it is an O2 venue and from what I’ve seen I’m not sure O2 particularly care about the experience of their customers.

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Sort of- it’s because many venues haven’t been sufficiently remodeled for gigs.

London has countless beautiful old venues like Brixton Academy which have ornate decorations and atmosphere in spades, but high ceilings and no accommodation made for live music; combine this with the wildly variable PA equipment that touring bands bring (or don’t!) and it’s a recipe for muffled garbage. Comparable venues here in Amsterdam like Paradiso and Melkweg have been comprehensively adapted for live music and the difference is night and day.

I saw Manchester Orchestra at Kentish Town Forum last month and they had the best sound I’ve ever heard there, except perhaps Limp Bizkit in 2009 (don’t laugh - say what you will about that band but they do not fuck around when it comes to the technical side of things). I believe both bands have touring sound engineers and the difference it makes can’t be overstated.

One of the reasons Less Than Jake always sound great live is because they bring a guy who’s been doing sound almost exclusively for ska-punk bands for 20+ years. It makes a huge difference.

So yeah, basically a combination of bad spaces and money-saving on the sound engineer/gear front imo.

@Spec @iamwiggy - Brixton and So’ton Guildhall are the two worst venues I have ever been to in my life and have ruined countless bands for me. I’d rather miss a tour than go to either of those venues nowadays.

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that’s bizarre, I have found the roundhouse to be the best-sounding club-size venue in London and am really happy to see so many tours going there instead of the Forum. I guess it’s the touring engineer thing again.

I’ve seen Jon Hopkins at Brixton Academy twice.

I’ve also seen him play at Royal Festival Hall, Royal Albert Hall and Village Underground - all three had impeccable sound, which makes the Brixton experiences even worse.

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Victoria Warehouse in Manchester needs to be turned into flats, honestly. Awful sound, awful sightlines.

Glad to see a lot of Brixton Academy hate in here too. I’ve left multiple gigs there early because the sound was was all over the place. Dunno if it depends on where you’re located though, I generally stick to the sides.

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Upstairs, downstairs, sides, middle, back. Everyone from Death Cab to KoRN. Awful.

I’m sure I’ve read a few times that Brixton doesn’t have it’s own PA system so promoters / bands have to hire one in, which would explain why the sound can be absolute shite.