Hoo boy. On Wednesday night, during a set performed by Alabama's Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires at the Live Oak Music Hall and Lounge in Fort Worth, the management of the venue felt compelled to close the curtains and then switch off the power completely on the rowdy R&B garage-rock outfit as they opened for country-roots artist Austin Lucas.
Things got so out of whack that Lucas ended up playing solo on the venue's outdoor patio, though he had a full band ready to play. According to Abbey Alexander of the Live Oak, the decision for Lucas to play solo and outside was a joint one between Spune, who originally booked the show, and Lucas' management.
On Wednesday, around 9:40 p.m., tweets started popping up claiming that Bains' band had been shut down for playing too loud -- plain and simple. Tweets that either came from both the Live Oak itself and from other patrons claimed that the band's cranked-up amps emptied out the dining room of the multi-purpose venue.
Either way, Live Oak sound engineer Cal Quinn found himself trying to please both a rocker and his boss, the venue's owner, Bill Smith. Quinn said that Bains was asked 10 times during the set (which he says was attended by a dozen people) to turn his amp down and/or replace the baffle used to muffle the amp that had been placed there before the show, per an agreement made during soundcheck. (In an interview with AL.com posted Thursday, Bains says he agreed to put the baffle on his amp, but changed his mind later.) When reached via email last night before his show in Austin, Bains told DC9 at Night that Quinn did not, in fact, tell him to turn down 10 times. "False!" he says. "I turned my amp down to an agreed level in sound check and left it there, though I did take the baffle he [Quinn] put up at the end of sound check."
Bains and Quinn agree that both Quinn and Smith made repeated trips up to and actually onto the stage in order to get the band to bring things down a notch.
While bloggers and other artists (the band American Aquarium and Chris Porter of Some Dark Holler are a couple of more expressive examples) have been critical of the Live Oak for shutting down a rock band for being too loud, the Live Oak maintains that it was more than mere over-amplification that led to this mess. Citing non-compliance and disrespect as some of the reasons the show was curtailed does seem odd, and is highly unusual, regardless of who cussed or which direction the volume knob was being turned.
More than anything, this whole thing raises all sorts of questions, less about the particulars of the events of Wednesday night, and more about concert etiquette in general, and what to do when egos, musical expression and customer service come crashing together.