Noise abortion: UW Memorial Union Rathskeller

USoT @ Memorial Union, photo by Michelle Damitz

We were asked to play a local band showcase series outside at the UW Student Union. We arrived to threatening skies and were informed that show would be inside. So we humped our gear from the outdoor stage to the indoor one.  Sound check was basically a half an hour of the kid behind the sound board telling us to turn down. After we agreed to turn down three or four times, he seemed satisfied. After our first song, the building manager told us to turn down again. We did. After our second song, the student promoter asked us to turn down again. We did. After our third song, management again asked us to turn down. We did.

At this point, I told the crowd that we would just be turning down after every song until no one could hear us. Things started getting blurry after that. At some point I thought the soundman said we were “fine.” At one point I responded that all we could hear was drums and that we couldn’t turn THOSE down. “Why not?” was the reply. “Because they are acoustic instruments,” I answered. “I’m not a musician. I don’t know what that means.”

We played a few more songs and several management personnel confronted us and told us to turn down again or they would shut down the show. I dutifully started to turn down, even though all I could hear at this point was drums, but Bill, who had been crouching close to his amp and the monitors to hear something/anything, astutely pointed out that he couldn’t even tell his amp was on. “I’m done,” he told me and walked off stage. I addressed the crowd: “Fuck you. We’re done.”

Later I pointed out to the promoter that we had, in fact, not been shut down and that we had finished our set (albeit a truncated six-song set) and as such we expected to be paid. She reminded us that we had signed a contract stating that we would not exceed 104 dB. Not owning a dB meter or really knowing how loud that was, I pointed out that it was a rather artificial condition. She told me that “once you play a few more shows, you’ll understand…” I was remarkably civil as I pointed out that between the three of us, we had probably played more than 1000 shows. That shut her up. We’re still waiting to get paid.