SEAcompression, Acoustics 101 and “Totally Closed for the Night”

SEAcomp, as a whole was pretty neat – a serious turnout of flair and burner spirit, for sure: plenty of busses, camps, food gifters, artwork, music, etc., and of course a phalanx of lovely freaks to feast your eyes on.  So on the whole, the event was well intended and enjoyed by many.  However…
[sound snob rant mode: ON]
For some reason, Seattle cannot seem to learn the very obvious and easy lesson of acoustics 101: dance music, or anything with loud volume, put in a large concrete hangar, SOUNDS LIKE ASS!!  Yes, once again it was at Magnuson Park, which used to be a military base, and they rent the hangars out to willing people like burners.  I mean, the rooms have up to a seven second reverb tail!  Clap your hands in the hangar, and you are still hearing it seven seconds later!  Now imagine 120 dB SPL dance music in there…. sounds like slush, unless you are prepared to do some very elaborate (and expensive) sound dampening. 
And this year, due to some unforeseen circumstances that I could discern from any of the throwers I talked to, the “main stage got canceled” a few days before the event, which probably means they lost one of the rooms space due to (lack of money / canceled acts / someone screwed up / poor communication / fill in the blank).  And so, as a result, someone thought it would be a good idea to just put TWO SOUND SYSTEMS in ONE HANGAR, back to back, with a CURTAIN between them, as if the curtain would somehow magically “keep the trance in here, and the drum and bass in there”!  Ugh.  You’ve just compounded the problem by a factor of five.  Trying to dance to two sound systems at once is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy.
So in short, both the DJ rooms sounded horrible.  When I went down to soundcheck before my DJ set, it sounded so bad that I gave my early set time up to someone who didn’t seem to care what it sounded like, and went back home to pre-funk with our peeps instead.  Best choice of the evening.
And then, we were supposed to do our “Totally Closed for the Night” karaoke bit on the “Fire Stage” at midnight, which was in an even BIGGER room with multiple smaller sound systems… so it was clearly a non-starter.  I made the decision to scrap it.  The mics would have been feeding back all over the place, and it’s kind of a quiet song to be performing in a cacophony of that magnitude…. wouldn’t have worked.  
Maybe it is the only space they could get again – I accept that.  Having thrown some large events in Seattle, I know the serious lack of spaces willing to host something of this magnitude.  But c’mon: this is Decompression!  Is there no one in our community who could find / borrow / lend / create a space for this to happen where it would live / sound better?  We’re supposed to be the best of the best at this, Burningman!!  Anyway, that will be my last music event at Magnuson hangars, it’s just not worth it… unless it is an ambient music festival, which would sound lovely in there!
[sound snob rant mode: OFF]
So instead, we decided to give TCFTN a go for our own Ice Peeps at Buttercup’s prefunk extravaganza in her apartment!  Just dropped the cd in the boom box and rocked out acoustic style!  About half the party performing for the other half!  Awesome.  Totally fun.  The neighbors must think we’re nuts.  I’ll have to make a recording and put it up for y’all.  And even better, there was talk of us bringing the backing track to Burningman next year and performing it every day at 6pm at Ice Cubed for the burners who forgot to check the clock and will have to drink warm margaritas all night!  A daily closing floor show!  Hell Yeah!
How’s that for making lemonade?

2 Comments

  1. an ambient music festival sounds like a great idea for that space, but i don’t think Seattle even knows what ambient music is.

    and i guess i won’t try draping a curtain on my ceiling to prevent the sound from going upstairs at my house.

    • That might help, actually. Still pockets of air are the best dampener. So heavy curtain a few inches from the ceiling would work. Put a layer of rug or foam behind the curtain and that would help more. A layer of greenboard behind that…. Different materials absorb / reflect different frequencies, and the more layers the better.


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