The Glass is Half-full 5.10.18, By Kian / by Kian West

Sound pollution.

Last weekend a mate said to me “can you have a rant about the state of the Newcastle music scene?” First this puzzled me, what did he mean by this statement, then on further questioning what he really meant it had me thinking.

Largely sat with me the idea that this is who I am to the world, selfishly I first reflected that he asked me because he figured that is what I could do. If that is who I am maybe I need to own it.
Now to the music part of this story.

The gentleman in question was associated with the new Newcastle Station building and they had been delivering the first musical experiences in the space over the long weekend, this meant they experienced their first noise complaints.
I am the first to agree that anyone that moves in near a venue needs to be prepared for what happens around these kinds of spaces, most notably loud sound at evening times usually.
What I didn’t necessarily agree on was this particular argument that the residents opposite the Station now needed to “suck it up” so to speak. I am not saying either party is wrong on this particular occasion, currently I’m still pondering where I sit on this example. I do still think that in a city environment (which this clearly is) there should be an expectation that the city is loud most of the time. I guess I’d expect that sounds would get gradually quieter from midnight till around 3am and almost silent through till 6am when cleaning, early rising sports people and the coffee fanatics start to rise and noise rises.

Plenty of more intelligent people than me have already weighed in on this debate.
Currently it is a massive political point in our local electorate at the same time as it is happening at a national scale. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was happening in culturally similar locations globally, although my impression based on the places I have seen, is that we seem to be less tolerant of others having fun and disturbing our own peace than many other places around the world.

One idea I have heard floated around a few times is this ‘Music Precinct’ destination. I’m not really sure where you would set it in Newcastle and what implication this would have on the other venues outside of the area. Personally, I see musical culture as an evolution and as such it moves around. Different types of scenes take on different spaces at different times and generally grow out of that space or fizzle out. Always making way for the next things.
The reality to me is that when we talk about the inner-city and these clashes it is more often we are also talking about a generational clash. To make a broad sweeping claim, Baby Boomers appear to be moving back into the city taking up the apartment spaces rapidly filling the skies and then wanting the city to go to bed at the same time as they do. I may be way off, but I’d love some statistics about the people making the complaints and shutting these things down. Anonymous letters to other location residents asking them to make a complaint as well, when do people need to put their name against a complaint and give venues a right to reply? You are potentially shutting their business and making many people unemployed through a process.

I also think there is a flip-side to all of this.
The greatest creativity often comes through times of massive cultural change.
Right now is a prime opportunity for locations outside of the CBD to fire up the juices and move a culture. I’ve said it before, but there are several industrial estates scattered around that could be suitable for loud music, one of my favourite memories in London was a nightclub opposite a meat packing warehouse and a cocktail bar that was hiding underneath it. No sleeping residents to consider.
The University with the Bar on the Hill (BOTH) should be primed to educate new students to stay on campus like generations before them have done. In the 90’s and 00’s BOTH had a thriving band culture with touring acts generally Tuesday-Saturday and an epic band competition. I’m not saying it is shit now, but I’m currently out of the loop on what happens there. But we also need to consider with this that times have changed. The environment that assisted the Uni to provide things like this have changed dramatically, funding alone just doesn’t exist like it did and every element of them is now a revenue stream. Plus the venues are now contracted and that means the businesses running them definitely want to make money from what they are doing.

My question to live music fans is this: Does live music need to be loud?
IS part of the shared experience we crave the loud decibels pushing into our ears at the same time or is it simply watching a performer at the same time and appreciating their craft. If it is the later then maybe technology has a place to play in all of this. Anyone that has experienced a Silent Disco can relate to the idea of audio broadcast to everyone in a room.