At least three people have asked me what gig was I going to see and misheard my reply. I told them I was going to see ‘Wolf Alice’ and one said “Oh, wonder if he will play his didgeridoo?” and another said “Isn’t he in prison for being a dirty old man?”. “No, no, no, I am going to see Wolf Alice NOT Rolf Harris!” I think the number of hard of hearing people will be increasing soon.
I also constantly get asked how can I enjoy gigs as a profound deaf person with severe sight loss. Easy answer is I accept that I cannot hear or see the same as others do but if I prepare properly I will get some enjoyment from
a. Being out of the house
b. Being in a gig atmosphere watching crazy gig neighbours singing and dancing
c. Enjoying what I can hear or see and not stressing about my sensory losses.
My preparation for ‘From the Jam‘ at Barry Memo Arts on 26th March 2016 started with contacting the band via their Facebook page and asking for a setlist. They duly obliged with a warning that on the night there may be late changes. They did appear to drop two songs but lesser known ones. This threw me a little but knowing the songs expected next helps me tune into the song via memory and what my hearing aids pick up.
Tip – if contacting bands via social media it is usually better to contact direct via private message as many bands are not keen to share setlists unless there is good reason.
Often I will search sites like Setlist FM ‘www.setlist.fm‘ for setlists from the latest tour of the band I am going to see. These lists are fan generated and accuracy can vary although I generally find them to be reliable.
Next step is to listen to the tracks via direct audio input to relearn the songs and also checking lyric sites and apps. This can help although often bands rearrange popular songs or do medleys which can be challenging.
Using apps like Soundhound and Musixmatch can help with identifying songs and discovering lyrics often in real-time. The apps may be more successful in linking with pre-recorded music. Live music tends to come with audience generated noises that confuse the apps.
Preparation done so now time to get the ticket and head to the gig. I hope for the best but still look to using my experience to increase the odds of a successful gig. I discovered that in small venues you often can put your hands on speaker stacks and pick up additional information through vibrations. Dont stand in front of the stacks as you may lose the little hearing you have left. I often stand to the side with arm outstretched to feel the music and I hear better.
It is also wise to play with hearing aid settings too. I often find having one hearing aid on the omnidirectional microphone setting and the other on unidirectional works best for me. At one gig someone threw liquid and I took the wet aid out and discovered having one aid out helped me pick up bass notes more easily. Different gigs and venues may require different combinations of hearing aid settings.
I never hear the banter between songs and often fail to hear a familiar song.Time to stay positive and pluck up courage to ask a neighbour what that song is!
Often I have to move about to find best sound spot and it helps to be close and get visual clues. I guessed we were starting Pretty Green just by watching the rhythm of the guitars and drums. I was in the front row so had some visual stimulus.
If I did not know the songs I may still enjoy the broad sound and guess what they might be singing. I know Eton Rifles very well but if I did not I might look at people singing along and think its Eating Trifles!
I tend not to sing along as for some reason doing this reduces what I can hear. I need to concentrate.
It’s not easy but I have to be positive. I sometimes have a beer and take part in some crazy ‘dancing’ but if I do I will lose some of the already reduced quality.
Gotta keep getting whatever enjoyment I can when I can. My sight and hearing reduce each year so there is no time to waste.
By Martin Griffiths.