January 27, 2004

Shoreland ballroom an imperfect setting for Hyde Park line up

I cup my hands over my ringing ears and, cringing, curl my body against the wall. Spotting a fellow audience member wearing earplugs, I wish I'd had the foresight to buy some. The vibrations of the music, the pulsing, pounding beat, resonate through the room and through my body. Though it is a little after eight on a Friday night, and I feel more than ready to forget for a few hours that I have any obligations, I find myself wondering if homework would have been a preferable alternative to the first Shoreland rock show of 2004.

The show, featuring two Hyde Park bands, the Emily Shrine and the Sixtyeights, took place in the Shoreland ballroom last Friday, January 23. Perhaps the location was the first strike against the show. The ballroom had terrible acoustics, creating an undesirable echo that muffled the lead singer in each band. In the case of the Emily Shrine, a band with a heavy sound, I could hear little from the singer, aside from an occasional scream or an attempted high note that went flat. I suppose that the vocals were secondary in importance to the background accompaniment, but I found consistently being unable to understand the lyrics irritating. The formal atmosphere of a room with a high ceiling and chandeliers also seemed incongruous with the rock music the bands were playing. The low turnout didn't help matters. A small core group of people gathered near the stage, standing because there were no chairs. Others drifted in and out of the room, sometimes, it seemed, for the sole purpose of grabbing the free refreshments. Add to that my musical preferences, though I often claim to like all music—a distaste for loud music, an inclination toward music that is easy to listen to, a hankering for good lyrics—and it is easy to see why I didn't enjoy the show.

Nevertheless, the show had good aspects. Both the Emily Shrine, the opening act, and the Sixtyeights had enthusiasm and energy, and both bands' members worked well together, displaying a comfortable rapport. The music paused occasionally, deliberately punctuating the piece with rests, like periods punctuating a paragraph. I often tapped my foot along with the beat and occasionally soaked in the sound with pleasure. The Emily Shrine's music had some piercing chords, interesting chord progressions that my ear followed up and down with enjoyment, and several decent guitar solos served as interludes that added contrast to their respective songs by way of being discordant or different in tempo. The Sixtyeights, whose sound was lighter and less intense than the Emily Shrine's, were upbeat and catchy, with a rollicking style sometimes reminiscent of swing. It also made good use of changes in key and dynamics.

Despite the occasional flashes of enjoyment, however, my attention frequently wandered in the face of the often deafening, indistinguishable noise. The bands were, in short, unremarkable. I was glad to leave the ballroom and let my ears recover before heading off to The Animation Show at Doc.