Friday, September 10, 2010

Dial it down a little

As my pal Ruby observed a while ago (yes, she's now a regular stringer for the DazeMedia Inc. empire), our favourite little hutong music bar Jianghu has been having a lot of bother with complaints from the neighbours recently.  Two or three gigs in quick succession got shut down.

This might have been because they'd only fairly recently got around to removing the plastic roof over their courtyard (it is nice to be able to look up at the stars on a clear summer's night; but being open to the sky does let a lot more noise leak out towards the apartment buildings nearby).  It might have been because Tianxiao the laoban had been on holiday, and hadn't been around to do his customary smoothing of ruffled feathers (or greasing of local policemen's palms?).  Or it might just be that one or two new people had moved into the 'hood and been unpleasantly surprised to find that they were living next to a live music venue (you'd think that, after nearly 4 years in operation, everyone would have adapted to the situation, achieved a modus vivendi).

Then again, it could be to do with that swank new mixing desk they've got - and the young dude who mans it, and invariably likes to set all the knobs to 11.  Really.  The last few times I've been there, the volume settings have been ridiculously loud - almost uncomfortably so if you're inside the main room, far louder than they need to be for those listening from the courtyard, loud enough to be heard quite some way away down the street.

Come on, chaps, if you're having (potentially venue-threatening!) neighbour relations issues, the least you can do is turn things down a little.  Not UP.

Salud is often guilty of the same insanity.  Almost every week their Wednesday live show gets shut down by the police.  Almost every Wednesday they cheerfully start up again when the police move on after 15 or 20 minutes.  But, rather than moderate the sound levels a little (or try to keep the door closed!), they actually seem to have been cranking things up over the past few weeks.  The Mama Funker gig this week was just RIDICULOUS: really painfully loud.  I had to quit after about a quarter of an hour, and my ears were still hurting for most of the following day.  I noticed - and subsequently was told about - several other people leaving, or choosing to listen from outside on the street, because the noise level inside the bar was intolerable.

In general, I love my music bars, and I'm intolerant of cranky neighbours.  People ought to accept that this is the kind of neighbourhood they live in; if the regular noise levels are becoming too annoying for them, they can either buy some double-glazing (does this exist in China yet? surely there's got to be an opportunity there?) or move out.  But if music bar owners are going to be so perversely, recklessly insensitive about HOW LOUD they play their music, my sympathies will switch.  In particular, both Jianghu and Salud have lately been playing their piped music as loud or louder than their live bands.  That's just dumb, and antisocial; there's no need for it at all.

What pisses me off even more than over-sensitive neighbours or over-loud music, though, is the haphazard and ineffectual 'enforcement' we see from the local police.  They never seem to do anything about piped music, although, as I just said, this is often louder than live music (and, even if not, tends to have heavier bass, so can be even more of a noise pollutant).  And they're always picking on Salud, while conspicuously ignoring the (almost) equally loud Chinese venues that have recently opened either side of it (well, OK, they're not nearly as loud as Salud has been recently; but they are fairly loud - and, during the summer, their frontage has been entiirely open to the street, so their noise carries more easily); nor do they ever seem to do anything about the nauseating 'elevator music' blasted out into the street from Guitar Bar a little further up the road.... or the occasionally raucous piano singalongs at Backwards.... or that guy with the enormous ghetto-blaster who sells hip-hop and techno CDs on the corner of Gulou Dongdajie, who's surely the worst offender of the lot (hideous 'music', VERY loud, and in the open air... and obstructing the highway), but has presumably paid up the requisite bribes (sorry, 'licence fees') to be allowed to set up his stall there.  This does suggest a racist bias in the policing approach, as Salud is the only large 'foreigner bar' on the street.  (Or perhaps it's just that Nico declines to make the suggested contributions to the Policemen's Welfare Fund....)

What we need here is a bit more self-awareness and sensible self-restraint from music bar owners.  And a credible and consistent policy from the authorities: clear guidelines on acceptable volumes for music (live and recorded), and on times when it can be played, and a fixed range of penalties for breaching these (rather than the present impotent huffing and puffing interspersed with occasional random closedowns).

[That reminds me..... I must take my earplugs to Kolegas tonight.]

1 comment:

Froog said...

They were doing it at Salud AGAIN this week! There was a crowd of people listening outside on the street - even though the bar wasn't very full, and it was quite a cool, but rather humid, evening. They seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot over this. They really do deserve to get closed down if they carry on like this.

(And it was Mama Funker again, for the second week in succession! Have they become the sole 'house band' now?? Do they insist on cranking the volume levels up as high as they will go??)