What’s The Loudest Concert You Ever Attended?

My Bloody Valentine // photo by Jim Bennett

Today is International Noise Awareness Day — no, that’s not the name of some cool band, it’s a global campaign initiated in 1995 to spread awareness of the issue of noise and the risks it poses.

Most of the staff at KEXP walks around with varying degrees of tinnitus. We asked KEXP DJs and staff to point the finger at the concerts that ruined their hearing forever, and we invite you to share yours in the comments below!

Jim Beckmann, Online Content Manager:

I have two: One was pleasurable and one was not. Mogwai at Showbox in 2001 was exquisitely loud, as the dynamics in their songs allowed you to be enveloped in this crazy amount of sound. The worst was Spiritualized at Neumos. I had seen them less than a year before at Showbox, and it was amazing. But at Neumos, Jason insisted on bringing supplemental sound to Neumos’ already robust system. It was horribly painful. My ears also bled at a screening of Animal Collective of ODDSAC, but for a totally different reason.

Tom Mara, Executive Director:

Undoubtedly, Godflesh.

OK Hotel — at a benefit I produced for KCMU. 1992, I think it was.

Indeed, undoubtedly.

Kevin Suggs, Live Music Engineer:

The Ramones

Kevin Cole, Senior Director of Programming/host of The Afternoon Show:

Say what? My ears are still ringing from having worked at First Avenue/7th Street Entry for over a decade, but a few exceptional volume punishing shows come to mind. One was Motorhead in a small venue in Liverpool, 1983. It was a really small place. I was in the first row of the balcony, but only about 20 feet from a wall of Marshall stacks. The seats were comfortable, and I was drinking pints of Guinness — my bad, because I could have gotten up and moved, but, at a certain point, couldn’t. It was a wall of sound beyond Phil Spector’s worst nightmare. Between the volume, and the volume of Guinness pints, I couldn’t get up from my hostel bed for two days.

I saw a lot of crazy shit at First Avenue, like Einstürzende Neubauten taking power drills and sledge hammers to mic’d airplane fuselages and SKP (Surgical Penis Klinik) taking a chainsaw to a cow carcass and throwing the eyeball into the audience (yes, it hit me in the chest), but seeing people running toward the exits with their hands over their ears only happened twice, once during a My Bloody Valentine show in the early nineties. The treble was brain shredding. The other time was pretty much every week during House Nation Under A Groove or Depth Probe in the Entry, which was like ritualistically having your chakras realigned.

Protect your ears. Get good earplugs. If it is too late, consider taking gingko for tinnitus. It helps…

Scott Bell, General Manager, Online Service:

Hum, at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver, which I attended with my brother, who was a sleep-deprived medical resident and who fell asleep in his broken seat while my ears were bleeding, and who was hauled out by security, who called an ambulance because they were convinced he’d overdosed during the show…

Kid Hops, host of Positive Vibrations and co-host of Expansions:

1. Mogwai at The Showbox Market, on the Rock Action album tour 2001. Stellar.
2. Green Velvet at Melkweg Amsterdam, at the Dave Clarke presents… ADE party, Oct 2012. Wicked night.

Tom Smith, Senior Account Executive, Underwriting and Business Support:

1. Ted Nugent at the Paramount, with original singer Derek St. Holmes. There I said it. That’s right, I saw The Nuge. “Stranglehold”, baby …and “Free For All”. (I did have free tix!!)

2. Cheap Trick – 3 night stand at the Crocodile. I was standing right in from of the PA – FOR THREE NIGHTS. I now have fancy-ass earplugs because of these shows.

3. Sunn O))) at Neumos. Only the low frequencies were loud. But they were sooooooooo loud!! The earplugs did not help.

Quilty 3000, on-air host, Sundays 3 to 6 PM:

The Replacements in 1987 (or maybe ’86) at Mabel’s in Champaign-Urbana, IL. Stood in front of the left speaker. Couldn’t hear for the next week. Since that show, there have only been a handful of times that I haven’t used ear protection when seeing live music.

Japandroids // photo by Brittany Brassell

Morgan Chosnyk, on-air host, Saturdays 3 to 6 PM:

Japandroids at Neumo’s. The sound guy kept asking them to turn their amps down so I yelled, “Make my ears bleed!” And the drummer said, “Give the people what they want!” And turned up louder. It was awesome.

Lizzy Flores, Traffic Assistant:

#1. I actually did a little damage to my right ear during a back-to-back set by Big Black and Shellac at the Touch and Go 25th Anniversary in 2006. Wanting to be close to the stage to see this historical moment in the making, I could not avoid the loud sounds of awesomeness! I do not regret this moment at all.

#2. Sunn O))) @ El Corazon (& every show). Indeed they were sooooooooo loud, I had to leave the tiny room full of big sound. I’m surprised they didn’t crumble that old building with their vibrations.

#3. …and Melvins… always Melvins.

Kerri Harrop, Music Community Fundraising Manager:

Every Karp, Melvins, and Soundgarden show I ever saw, but particularly in rooms with a 150 or less cap. Bonus point to Queens of the Stone Age at Showbox last year.

Conversely, quietest ever was Paul Simon at Showbox, due to crowd reverence and awe. Could honestly have heard a pin drop during “Sound of Silence.” Magic!

Janice Headley, Online Content Producer/Social Media Coordinator:

I never imagined I’d get to see My Bloody Valentine in concert, so when they reunited and hit the road again in 2009, it was a religious experience for me. Even though they were handing out earplugs at the door, I waved them away and stomped purposely towards the front of the stage. In a perverse way, I kind-of wanted the hearing damage. I thought it would be romantic, like a tattoo, but instead of ink and skin, it would be ringing, uh, and my ears. I stood second row the whole night, no earplugs, soaking in every soundwave. Sometimes it was so intense, I had to close my eyes, just to remain standing. And, duh, my wish came true. The ringing was intense for about a week afterwards. Nowadays, it’s just the steady, unescapable hum of tinnitus. But it’s like Kevin and Bilinda’s guitars never stopped.

Sharlese Metcalf, Music Community Events Coordinator and Audioasis host:

Mine is My Bloody Valentine, too. I thought I was in a vortex and dead.

Mudhoney // photo by Ronald Dean

Larry Mizell Jr., host of Street Sounds:

Mudhoney and No Age in the KEXP parking lot!

Jeff Vetting, Events and Outreach Manager:

John Entwistle solo. I know that it was over 120db, as I was trying to get his management and engineers to turn it down for fear that the windows were going to shatter from the vibration.

Rischel Granquist, Manager of Administrative Services:

It had to be Flaming Lips at the Showbox (1999), which featured headphones picking up a shortwave radio signal but it was so loud, I don’t know that I could hear anything in the headphones. This was only slightly louder than Flaming Lips with Redd Kross at RKCNDY (1993), which I felt as much as heard. Also Flaming Lips with Nirvana at the Vogue (1989) left me with a pounding headache.

DJ Chilly, host of El Sonido:

Supersuckers at I-Spy 2002.

Darek Mazzone, host of Wo’Pop:

The Fall
The Swans

Kelly Riutta, Capital Campaign Manager:

Melvins/Enemymine at the Breakroom

Hannah Levin, co-host of Seek & Destroy:

Another vote for My Bloody Valentine. I saw them at All Tomorrow’s Parties in upstate New York. It was their very first stateside show when they reunited and it took place in a tiny room that held less than 600 people. Felt like a jet was landing on my head (in a good way).

Swans at Neumos last year was deafening, but I remember being amazed at how beautifully separated and clear the sound was.

Kurt Reighley, Development Communications Manager, and on-air host, Wednesdays 1 to 6 AM:

Depeche Mode at the Warner Theater in Washington DC on March 14, 1985. First show that ever triggered ringing in my ears. But also the first time I saw Book of Love live, so I hold no grudge.

Doug Haire, host of Sonarchy:

Come on come on, My Bloody Valentine, the first time through Seattle at The Moore.

Graham Amsden, Financial Assistant:

I think the loudest show I ever saw was probably Sonic Youth at The Paramount on the Washing Machine tour. It was a great show! The Amps opened and Kim Deal, who I had a huge crush on, came out and sang “Little Trouble Girl” with Sonic Youth! I still even have my Washing Machine shirt.

Brian Foss, co-host of Sonic Reducer:

I had a friend in from Germany around 1994 and took him to a show. Jack Endino’s Earthworm was playing the old Vogue that use to be on 1st Ave downtown. Jack BLASTED us out of the room. I’ve seen him play before & after, and this has been the ONLY show I ever left because it was too loud.

Amon Tobin // photo by Dave Lichterman

Abe Beeson, fill-in host:

Amon Tobin’s ISAM at the Paramount 9/29/11. You could hear people moaning when that sub bass kicked in. Seriously bowel rattling. (sorry)

Masa, co-host of Expansions:

Ted Nugent, live gonzo tour in Osaka late ’70s, was very loud with a wall of Marshall speakers with me and 8 other audiences. He played entire set as if it was a sold out show.

Throbbing Gristle in LA 1981 was really loud, while young stars running out of the room, a group of well-mannered eccentric looking elders sat through the entire show.

Sonic Youth in late ’80s played at METRO, was so fucking loud shortly after the show they lost the lease due to a regal action filed by Camlin Hotel.

My Bloody Valentine, 1991 Soon tour at Moore Theater was insanely loud. I walked in, tried to figure out what song was playing, but I could not. It was so loud I could feel the wall of sound as I walked toward to the stage. People were constantly walking out with hands over their ears. I was very much in pain after 10 min and start feeling sick after 30 min, so I left…

Sara Green Williams, Manager of Finance & Human Resources:

Every show I worked at or went to at RKCNDY.

Leon Berman, host of Shake the Shack:

The Blasters at the Crocodile
Ted Nugent 1977 at the Paramount in Portland, OR

Both shows made my ears bleed.

Carol DuPuis, Account Executive Underwriting and Business Support:

Oh my, it had to be Pavement at the Paramount back in 2012! So freakin’ loud!

Brian Hill, Music Underwriting & Business Support:

Nick Cave last year at the Paramount was even louder than My Bloody Valentine at SoDo!

Andrew Corey, General Manager, KEXP Broadcast Service:

Mudhoney at Neumos.

James Nixon, In-studio Mix Engineer:

Dinosaur Jr at The Middle East (downstairs) in Boston.

Cheryl Waters, host of The Midday Show:

Yo La Tengo September 1993 opening for The Breeders at the Off-Ramp (now El Corazon)!

Michele Myers, on-air host, Fridays 9 PM to 1 AM:

Ministry at the I-Beam in San Francisco 1988. So loud our ears rang for 24 hours. Close second would be Mudhoney at Bumbershoot 2005.

M83 // photo by Dave Lichterman

Tyson Lynn, Board-Op:

M83 (with Ulrich Schnauss) at Neumo’s. So good, it rattled the body.

Deane Sienga, Sponsorship and Business Support:

AC/DC at Arco Arena in Sacramento, circa 1991-ish?

Tilly Rodina, Annual Giving & Events Coordinator:

My Bloody Valentine at WaMu and Explosions in the Sky at Neumos a couple years back.

Chris Kellogg, Operations Manager, Programming and Production:

Mudhoney at the Sunset! Though it could have been because I stood right in front of one of the mains…

My Bloody Valentine // photo by Jim Bennett

Sadly, hearing loss cannot be reversed — once the cells have been damaged, they can no longer transmit any impulses to the auditory nerve and to the brain. But there are things we can do to prevent further damage, such as using ear protection at concerts, and giving our ears “acoustic breaks” (at least ten hours of minimal noise) after loud events.

For more information about hearing loss and taking care of your ears, visit hear-the-world.com.

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  1. Todd
    Posted November 23, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    loudest show (and most recent loudest) helms alee at Neumo’s. i packed as much toilet paper in me ears as i could but it didn’t help. my ears didn’t feel better for at least a couple days. fugazi- saw them do a show at some place in bellevue in mid ’90’s. they said they were testing out a new PA system. so rockin’ i thought the ceiling would fall in on us.
    ted nugent- during my high school years about 1980 or 1981. saw them in ellensburg. i still remember sammy hagar opened the show.
    no means no- a few years ago they played inside at bumbershoot. i gave my earplugs to a friend that said he forgot his. then i sorely regretted not having them later. the drummer was wearing earplugs. this is usually a good sign that it’s fairly loud.

  2. Steven Lizarr
    Posted July 29, 2016 at 2:28 am | Permalink

    The loudest goes to Journey raised on radio tour 1986, second was Metallica 1987,
    third was Korn in 1996, and fourth was Beastie Boys 1987
    I have been to many concerts but none can compare to the huge speakers of the 1980’s sounded so crisp and clear and OMG that BASS! Today’s kind of sucks just loud with minimal bass. The next day all I could hear is ringing it was the only thing that I didn’t like.

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