The Church @ The Grey Eagle 9-25-17

Second time unlucky with The Church [photo Ms. Monk]

I like The Church. I first heard them back around the era of “Remote Luxury.” When they had some success around the time of “Starfish” [a fine album that I own on CD] it was two thumbs up. I saw them on the “Starfish” tour as they were on a bill with Tom Verlaine [acoustic] and Peter Murphy. I can’t remember which act was headlining without having the ticket stub at hand. It seems to me that The Church were since they had the top 40 hit at the time. It was a fantastic show. Their subsequent “Gold Afternoon Fix” album also troubled the charts [“Metropolis”] but after that I had not heard a note from these talented Aussies. That didn’t mean that they had stood still for 29 years, though. They have averaged an album every two years or so! They were playing my city and it was the only date in NC so it was a “let’s go” moment.

My friend Tom had liked The Church from day one, and he had even bought the LPs in the pre-CD era. I told him about the show and he and his wife zipped into town for the show. They got in town on Sunday night and the show Monday was duly attended. We managed to find seats in the SRO club [Tom’s wife had foot injuries that made standing all night a no-go] and there was a friendly lady seated adjacent to us who used to live in the Tampa Bay area chatted amiably. Like me, she had last seen The Church on their 1987 tour and she asked us if we had been to old school Tampa clubs once she heard we were also ex-Floridians. Tom’s wife had also live in Tampa and I had attended lots of shows there when Orlando didn’t deliver. A small world moment.

The opening act was Helio Sequence and I kind of liked the Seattle duo. They sort of had a “two man Ocean Blue” vibe. Poppy, and with a geeky drummer who was moving around a lot as he played. Almost to his detriment as the best drummers are stone cold and don’t waste the energy, but let the kid have fun. So it was just drums and guitar but it was getting loud, and the bass frequencies [even thought there was no bass there on stage] was starting to make our esophagus vibrate. In other words, the dreaded bass fracking.

I don’t know about you, but when my esophagus was vibrating due to the bass being too loud at a show, it fells an awful lot like I was about to be nauseous. Usually that’s the only time I feel what seems to be reverse peristalsis. Do kids today find this pleasurable? Because it seems to be happening an awful lot. Helio Sequence seemed to win me, Tom, and his wife over, but my wife remained unconvinced. After their 40 minutes, the road crew got busy and The Church started their set not too much after 9:00 o’clock, as I recall. They opened with “Priest = Aura,” the title track of an album that followed “Gold Afternoon Fix” and as it began on an ambient note, the sound was fine. Then the intensity of the song built up to the point where the sound was once again starting to rattle our hollows.

My wife pulled her “give note to sound man” routine. The band had their own board, in front of the club’s mixing desk where their sound man was mixing. She handed him the note saying that it was “too loud” and as often happens, he moderated the volume back to passable levels. The band played another several songs and then pulled “Metropolis” out of their set bag. This was the only song that I had previously heard yet but as the concert continued, the bass levels were getting louder again. I don’t know if Tom was using earplugs [I have worn them at 99% of all shows for the last 27 years] or not, but he won’t put up with concerts that are too loud, and he left the room. My wife followed suit soon afterward as I was left there with Tom’s wife Elisa and I was not feeling the love. I went outside the club to see Tom and my wife chatting outside of the club entrance. Elisa soon followed suit and that was it about an hour into the show.

If a band sounds too loud, you should complain to the sound mixer. If the sound doesn’t get better, then we support leaving. We’ve done it for shows we’ve bought festival passes for and althought this was only a $20 investment, we had no trouble doing it. Maybe The Church had difficulty scaling their dreamy, guitar psychedelia sound into the small club, but the aggressive bass did their vibe no favors. Life’s too short to put up with this sort of hassle.

– 30 –

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8 Responses to The Church @ The Grey Eagle 9-25-17

  1. SimonH says:

    Shame! Am a big fan and was looking forward to a full report. I use earplugs for most gigs but have had a few recently where the sound was so good I took them out, Nick Cave in particular springs to mind.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – My wife and I skipped plugs [though we were carrying them – we always carry] for Cave. But my friend Tom was also at the Cave show and had to leave the hall due to discomfort. Maybe he has some long term hearing damage? At shows he complains about “rattling sounds” in his head.

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  2. Shelf says:

    I also caught that 1988 tour with The Church (headliners), Peter Murphy, and Tom Verlaine. Never much cared for The Church, though – went for Murphy (who gets progressively worse with every tour). I recall The Church being pretty loud during that concert, too.

    So sorry that the recent show was ruined by unabated volume – I don’t understand how so many sound mixers are incapable of properly judging appropriate levels based on the dimensions of the venue and its sound system. I had a similar, near-nauseating experience with Howard Jones (but the volume wasn’t the only problem there). Like you and Simon, I can’t attend any live performance without earplugs; unfortunately, they can’t compensate for ‘bass in your face.’

    Quite interestingly, a friend of mine has been romantically involved with Steve Kilbey for the past three months – she spent two weeks down under on his dime back in August (she lives near me outside Philadelphia, so that’s some long-distance relationship!). I shared your gripe about the Asheville date with her – for what it’s worth, she said that Kilbey expressed similar complaints about several venues on the tour. She gave great reviews of the NY and Philly shows, though.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Shelf – I only caught one and a half songs from Howard Jones last year in spite of my intention to give him a shot on the OMD/BNL tour and was glad we arrived as late as we did. The EDM version of one of his old hits [was it “Things Can Only Get Better?”] was revoltingly awful and sad.

      You make a heartbreaking point that bass fracking means nothing even with the best of earplugs installed in your canals. When sound is affecting my internal organs, there’s a big problem. The worst for me was John Cale at the Hopscotch Festival in 2013. We paid $150 for passes; basically to see Cale only – his last concert was that spellbinding, and walked out in disgust as my diaphragm was twitching with every kick drum beat, which sounded like gunshots. Modern sound is a terrifying thing; the potential is so much worse than what we had grown up with, when the worst thing was The Who reaching 126 Db with their Marshall Stacks.

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      • Shelf says:

        Ugh! What a horrible experience with Cale – that is disappointing on many levels.

        Yeah, Jones is washed up now – he’s tried too hard to sound contemporary and consequently lost the plot.

        Since suffering some minor hearing loss from the old clubbing days, I’m extremely protective of my ears. But as you said – sound has evolved into a dangerous force.

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  3. I’m a witness to this as well, Saw TMBG at three different venues on their last tour two years ago. The Baltimore one had GREAT sound, and although loud I found I didn’t need my earplugs until I got up close. The St. Pete one had worse quality of sound (muddier), but wasn’t any louder, so I kept the plugs in and enjoyed the show reasonably close (our mutual friend The Infinite Void accompanied me to that one, incidentally).

    THEN CAME ORLANDO. Playing the Beacham is always a bad idea as the sound there is terrible, but AY DIOS MIO, Clem!! Bass fracking and mud to the point that I worried about the structural integrity of the old theatre! Earplugs didn’t really help much against that, as you say. I *literally* found that the best sound mix was outside the venue on the sidewalk! The band attempted a few times to get the soundperson to clean it up and lower it a notch, but NO GO.

    I’m convinced that bands no longer (or rarely) hire actual sound engineers, and instead just recruit the most-baked of the roadies to handle the job these days, since they can no longer trust them with hoisting lights or anything that takes coordination. And those techs in turn appear to believe that if you’re not feeling it in your gut “it ain’t RAWK, maaaaan!” so weapons treaties against sonic attacks be damned!

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  4. James Pagan says:

    Sorry to hear about the sonic assault at the Grey Eagle. I’ve seen the Church only once, when they played Chapel Hill in September 1988. They were excellent, and the sound was very good. Tom Verlaine was the opening act, but I sensed–alas–that many people in the audience had no idea who in the Sam Hill he was. I was delighted to see him, at any rate. If memory serves (this was a long time ago!), the Church played “Under the Milky Way” around thirty minutes or so into their set. After they finished the number, several audience members departed the concert hall, prompting Steve Kilbey to point at them and angrily announce, “Anyone who’d leave after that song is a[n expletive deleted] yuppie!” Also, at the end of the show, Marty Willson-Piper theatrically tossed his guitar offstage, where someone else caught the instrument. When Kilbey followed suit with his guitar, there was the sound of a loud crash. Perhaps the incident was staged, but it was certainly an amusing end to the concert, and worthy of Spinal Tap.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      James Pagan – It’s so dispiriting when “audience exodus” happens after “the hit” is played. The worst instance of that happening was the time I saw The Bangles with some friends. It was at Daytona Beach during spring break, so caveat emptor! About a half hour into the show, they played “Manic Monday,” their then first hit single and after that about a third of the [not insubstantial] crowd of about 1500 at least left! We moved closer. Of course, that was back when The Bangles still had some currency with me. My, how things change sometimes. Of course, the backstory to that concert, which I won’t go into here, was quite the experience that I would not have traded for anything in the world… in retrospect. At the time it felt like we had been dropped into an episode of Scooby Doo!

      That ending to The Church concert sounded hilarious. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that Kilbey was shocked at the outcome. No musician would casually throw a guitar offstage unless they were anticipating a catch. Unless they were made of money and could care less, but somehow I don’t think The Church fit those criteria.

      I liked Verlaine solo that night, but he was just playing acoustic guitar so it was nothing like Television. Good lord, when we saw Television in ’13 it was astounding! Some incredible playing that night as the review will attest to.

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