Monday, August 23 2004

House of Blues, Pile of Shit

Back from another quick road trip to Vegas, and I regret to report that the Las Vegas House of Blues is a terrible concert venue. Ten minutes into Liz Phair’s set, we walked out, and vainly attempted to find someone in a position of authority to complain to.

We weren’t the only ones. From my position on the side of the room (where I was trying to escape the sonic assault), I’d say that at least 10% of the crowd walked out before we did, after struggling through the relentlessly terrible sound of the previous acts (Charlotte Martin, Katy Rose, and The Cardigans). There was nothing wrong with any of the performances; it was all the result of the morons in charge of the sound, whose work would have been a disgrace in a high-school gymnasium.

Charlotte Martin was accompanying herself on the piano, with no one else on stage. Her music was, in theory, softer and quieter than the other acts, which explains why she occasionally had to ask the drunks at the bar to shut up. I say “in theory” because there were at least four distinct echoes on her vocals (along with an occasional vicious feedback squeal), the piano was amped so loud that you couldn’t tell what chords she was playing with her left hand, and the many out-of-tune high notes were loud enough to draw blood. I have no idea what the lyrics to most of her songs were; she sang clearly, but never had a chance.

Someone apparently persuaded them to turn the bass down from 11 to 10.5 for Katy Rose’s set, which was actually tolerable (if not by any stretch of the imagination good) if you left your seat and hid behind a column, watching her on the monitor. I’d like to hear her in a decent club, to find out what she really sounds like.

The Cardigans did their own sound check before coming on stage, but while this ensured that the inputs were working, the clown running the board apparently thought they weren’t loud enough, so he cranked it back up to 11.

There was a long delay before Liz Phair took the stage, with much rearranging of equipment and another sound check, but nobody tested Liz’s mike, so her voice was completely buried by the bass (now set to 11.5, if not higher). I gave up after the third song. I knew the words, and I couldn’t understand a thing she said. I risked a quick trip back to my seat to retrieve my friend (who was looking longingly at his bottle of ibuprofen), and we left.

Nobody was around who had even the vaguest hint of authority. They don’t have any form of comment card, either, so we were reduced to a quickly-scrawled letter of complaint and a promise to never return. I wouldn’t go back to that pit if Jesus were playing.

And that’s without even discussing the smell and the awful, cramped seating.