I was playing guitar, in an old country bar, in Occidental…
(sounds like the intro to the Stone’s “Honky Tonk Women” doesn’t it?!)
But it’s true — I was the lead guitarist in a country rock band called “Big Wheels” that played weekends at the bar at Negri’s Italian Restaurant — it had a nice dance floor, and in that era, bars were hard livin’ hard lovin’ smoky dives. Oh yeah.
But there was a problem — the band was a big country rock dance band, with a big swing beat — and the first set always started before the dinner crowd had finished in the restaurant, which was connected to the bar through a couple of big open doors.
This caused the owner, Joe Negri, to come steaming and screaming thru the doors “YOU GUYS HAVE GOT TO TURN DOWN – DAMMIT!”
Joe had blown his vocal chords out as a young man, so his “scream” was a hoarse shout, which, blended with his Italian accent, made it sound like the Godfather was about to take you out.
It didn’t take long before Joe began to single ME out as the volume culprit — after all, long hair, strange looking, electric guitar… I can see his point. That and the fact that the bandleader, Chris P., was engaged to his daughter, so he couldn’t really blast HIM. You can bet that it pissed Joe off at me even more.
Being young, and relatively insensitive, I didn’t consider Joe’s point of view for even a second. But I did get tired of the constant hassle, week after week after week. One Friday night, I decided I had had enough, and not only did I not turn my amp on, but I didn’t even bother to plug my guitar in for the first set.
Joe burst into the room with his usual ‘YOU GUYS HAVE GOT TO TURN DOWN, THE GUITAR PLAYER IS TOO DAMN LOUD!!!!”
Chris replied, “Joe, he isn’t even plugged in. His amp isn’t even on.”
Joe, even more furious, said, “I don’t give a DAMN, he LOOKS TOO LOUD!”
Now, of course, I can see Joe’s point. Because there have been a number of shows that I have bought tickets for, at major local North Bay Area venues – shows that I’ve really wanted to see — shows that I’ve had to LEAVE, because I couldn’t take the absolutely insanely excessive volume. We’re not talking “a little too loud” here, we’re talking insanity. I am a certified loud rock&roller, and I’m telling you, the volumes and overdriven systems I’ve experienced have been totally NUTS!
A reader and all around contemporary Petaluma guy, Frank Simpson, posed some questions to me that I’d like YOU to take a crack at. Really. Give me your opinion, and we’ll see what’s up with this volume thing. Here are his questions:

1. Since when is LOUD the norm?
2. What happened to “dynamics” in music?
3. Why do people sit and take that kind of punishment?
4. Don’t the artists give a damn?

These are excellent questions. What has your experience been? And don’t give me that “WHAT?”
You can hear me.