Back in March I was starting to worry about my hearing. A couple of weeks before lockdown, following on from a Friday night watching south London post-punks Dry Cleaning at The Shipping Forecast, I was at the Invisible Wind Factory to watch emo shoegazers DIIV. From the moment the band’s two guitarists stomped down on their plethora of pedals, I knew it was going to be a tough night on my ears.
It’s hard to pinpoint when I first started to suffer from tinnitus. It was perhaps watching post-hardcore outfit Title Fight at Manchester’s Star & Garter in 2011. It was there where I got my first taste of ringing ears that lasted days after the event. Since then, the level it’s affected me has fluctuated. Often, it’s dictated by where I stand on the night, the type of music, whether I remembered to wear ear plugs and also my levels of stress. These days, it continually plays as the dull soundtrack to silence – until further provoked.
Of those back-to-back gigs just before lockdown, I was pretty untroubled by the angular riffs of Dry Cleaning. The ceiling in The Shipping Forecast is low. If you stand to the back, there’s a healthy meat blanket of audience packed between two pillars which help soak up the noise. For DIIV it was the polar opposite. Stood midway towards the front, wave after wave of distortion barrelled from the stage into the cavernous space, which was healthily populated, but far from tightly packed. Opener Horsehead was transfixing, with its lugubrious, clench-fisted angst lurching forward from each guitar, but I could already hear the raised tinnitus that I was going to wake up to. I watched on for the rest of the set knowing most of the damage was already done.
That show was the last I went to. Perhaps out of fear over hearing damage, it may have been wise to take a break from watching live music for a little while. But there was never an intention to sit out for what has now been seven months. What’s transpired in that time has sadly removed the option of watching live music, as we know it, from everyone’s lives. Not just those in need of a short break.
The ringing in my ears is still there. It rarely subsides beyond a monotonous hum, as though my ears are clinging to memories of the drones swirling around the Invisible Wind Factory. But that memory is being stretched out far longer than was expected of it. It remains difficult to know when it’ll be replaced, which gig can then be to blame for a new incessant ringing days after. Right now, I’d take pretty much anything. That’s if it meant being able to watch live music with a healthy blanket of audience to soak up the noise, the memories. But that incarnation of live music is still some way off. I’ll take solace, for now, in resting my ears and investing in a better pair of earplugs.
Now that it’s up and running, Future Yard might very well be where I can put those very earplugs through their paces. Massive congratulations to Craig, Chris, Cath and Hoggy for getting it up and off the ground in the middle of a global pandemic. Judging by the fullness of Craig’s stupendous perm currently, it hasn’t been too stressful.
But with this good news comes an all too familiar tale. At the time of going to print the sad news came through that Constellations will be closing permanently. From hosting our Liverpool Music City? event to Christmas quizzes and last year’s Bido100 celebrations, the Baltic Triangle hub has been a vital venue to Bido Lito! and Liverpool’s wider creative community. Becky and the team have been passionate activists in protecting the city’s creative nightlight culture in the face of accelerating development. The venue will be a sad loss, but we wish the team all the best for future endeavours.