Pickathon 2017

Pickathon 2017

Here’s my note to Pickathon: (General Questions info@pickathon.com) – regarding the noise levels at this past weekend’s festival – and some commentary from friends on FB. FYI – Trade Up Music in Portland sells a variety of earplugs.

“Hey there, I had some great moments this year at Pickathon. I go to a lot of festivals – and I often write about them. Unfortunately, I am really upset about the sound level for most of the music this weekend.

I had to leave the venue early each evening and seek refuge somewhere else because things just got too loud. As someone who has attended a lot of festivals – I get it – loud music = fun, and freedom. But the incessant level of 11 at Pickathon was not fun for me. I’m 56, I’m getting tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and I’m also a big fan of great, live music. I think you probably had some really good acts this weekend, and I certainly got my fill of some of them at the Woods stage. But once the levels went up there, I was out of luck.

Here’s an article I wrote on the topic a few years back. If I’m to return to Pickathon, I’ll need some reassurance that the head cheeses have thought this through and make an effort to change things.

This was my first time back to Pickathon in 10 years (or so) – I think I was there for the first one at Pendarvis Farm. I really enjoyed so much about the festival – I’ll be writing a review which I will share with you if you’re interested. But the noise level made my appreciation sort of moot, because I couldn’t stay around. Thanks for listening. Please include a question about sound volume level when you ask people about their experience.

Mine – overall was awesome, except for the sound level. (fyi, think of the children – the levels they’re being exposed to is not safe…)


Jaci LaVon Roe My mama has some hearing loss. She just went to some live music she was looking forward to and it was blasted too loud. She couldn’t even make out the words of the singer. It does not need to be so loud and for me it’s not fun and free when it’s like that, it hurts the senses. People need to give feedback about this because it’s a common complaint.

Albert Kaufman Thank you. It’s like they take a delicious ice cream cone and pour dirt on it.

Jaci LaVon Roe Yep. I’ve had that experience too, but certainly for people who already have some damage or loss, they/we still deserve to actually Hear and Enjoy the artists performance, especially paying good money for it. Mutual support needed.

Kristi Hart Excellent point, Albert. I notice this every time I go to a movie theater… as soon as it starts, I wish I’d rented a movie at home instead. Thanks for speaking up! I will join you in adding my comments on this topic to event feedback.

Albert Kaufman sadly, I think Eclipse will be more of the same and I think I’m going to sell my ticket.

Kristi Hart Albert Kaufman  you’re probably right. Maybe worth mentioning to the organizers/Symbiosis, to ask if they’ve considered volume levels in their planning?

James Hanley I have to wear earplugs at shows these days.

Eileen Snow Not to oversimplify the issue or problem….. What about using some earplugs that take the sound level to a level that works for you? I see a ton of live music, and various friends use them and tell me they come in all configurations to make one comfortable and able to fully enjoy. Highly recommend keeping a pair that works for you tucked I to your pocket! It’s a good way to be sure you don’t have to leave if things get too loud….

Albert Kaufman Yes. for me – great solution. For the slew of kids/teenagers/people with no clue… it’s not a great solution. And, we’d just all do a lot better to actually hear the music with the right volume.

Eileen Snow I hear you (figuratively)— but also want to impress that sometimes, I want to feel the power in really loud acoustics. Maybe the solution is some sort of warning about the dcb level to be expected at certain shows (fair warning), so that we can all be informed and choose to participate or not (or use earplugs or not)? Not sure that would take care of the younger set who think their hearing is invincible…..

Erin Townsend The problem there is that when you’re up the hill camping above Woods Stage, it’s still too loud at your campground, or when you’re eating at the wonderful food court, it’s still too loud there from Main Stage. No escape. You can’t just choose not to attend the show.

Erin Townsend Great suggestion, nonetheless, it just may not apply in this case.

Albert Kaufman Erin: General Questions info@pickathon.com When emailing “info” please be patient with a reply. We’re a small staff and we receive a high volume of email every day.

Mike Meyer Cranking up old time music in the wilderness makes no sense to me. Alot of other Pickathon things don’t resonate with me either. I find way better acts, more of a community ethos, all for less $ at other events throughout the summer…

Albert Kaufman wow, if you’re saying that then … I’m really worried. And, add me to your newsletter, please.

Albert Kaufman And, any ideas on how to get these festival organizers to listen on this issue would be appreciated. I wish they’d all travel to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival to see how it can be done.

Marian Spadone Thanks, Albert. This is important and it’s kind of stunning to me how sound pollution and subsequent hearing loss aren’t more of a topic of awareness. I use earplugs at the movies these days almost all the time, and haven’t been to a concert in a while, partly because of this. (though I do use earplugs when hearing music too…) Even concerts billed as ‘acoustic’ are amplified. weird…

Megan Ruby Richards I was just researching a good pair of acoustic ear plugs to bring to symbiosis eclipse 
currently hear ringing in my ears, I can’t remember when that started! 

Albert Kaufman oh, I’m so sorry. I’m 56! I know it’s probably not age dependent, but tinnitus so far sucks sucks sucks. take care of those ears, dear. Sanderson Safety Supply Co is a good place to go for ear protection.

Mike Oxborrow Albert Kaufman Music stores stock them!

Aaron Overstreet I bring Isolator brand earplugs with me everywhere. They retain the quality of the music and don’t make it muddy like foam plugs.

Albert Kaufman cool. Thank you. I suspect I need to get some of these quick.

Matthew Mathis “Thanks for listening”! 
Anne Jones Sorry pickathon sounds like a yawn o Rama to me. 
Albert Kaufman It could have been a lot better (for me, at least) if the sound had been less oppressive. And, there’s lots of variety out here…

Dandelion Mae I agree with you Albert! I have hearing loss and struggle with the same issues. It’s just not enjoyable. The thing that gets me about it though is that even if you don’t have hearing issues, noise at that volume isn’t good for your ears; it’s just not.

Carolyn Stuart let’s include ALL amplified music events!!( if you need the vibration just ask someone to shake you?)
Hank Payne I’m sharing this because it is something that is affecting many of us. Its not just the “super bass car audio” any more. Audio intrusions and pollution comes from everywhere these days.

Howard Patterson My theory is that the music is so loud because the sound engineers have been turning it up to eleven for so long that they are significantly hearing impaired, and don’t understand how loud it actually is.

Albert Kaufman you’re onto something. that’s why I love me a live marching band!

Eric Fair-Layman I think it’s peer pressure

Lisa Wittenberg Hillyard Sound meters are now available for free on our phones. The decibel number of 85 is the level where professional conversations can happen about turning down the volume.

Noise cancelling headphones are available now. I am waiting for noise cancelling ear buds.

Albert Kaufman yeah – all well and good for the informed, but kids, teens, and most adults aren’t going to know what to do about this issue – at least I’m not seeing a huge awareness around it…

Albert Kaufman hello festival producers!!!

Albert Kaufman General Questions info@pickathon.com When emailing “info” please be patient with a reply. We’re a small staff and we receive a high volume of email every day.

Diyo McIlhatton A friend saw Ed Sheeran at Moda center the other night. He said it was very loud too.

Jack Baikoff I got myself a pair of special earplugs that are designed to not distort the music. They are somewhat pricey but are well worth it.

Eric Fair-Layman What kind?

Eric Fair-Layman I agree Albert although I am so used to it I didn’t think about it. Thanks for bringing this up. I also agree that it is a great festival otherwise.

Erin Townsend Thank you, Albert– i didnt go this year after volunteering the last 6. last year i left in a terrible mood Sunday night from anxiety caused by over stumilation that afternoon. There is now nowhere to get away to for a moment and escape the noise. when Ty Segall played mainstage last year on Sunday afternoon it was so loud i could still hear it from the Galaxy Barn beer garden. i could hear both bands at once and couldn’t focus on anything. people kept looking at me like i was crazy but it was TOO LOUD.

Albert Kaufman Agreed. General Questions info@pickathon.com When emailing “info” please be patient with a reply. We’re a small staff and we receive a high volume of email every day.


8.24.17 – I’ve shared my concerns with Pickathon and they seem to have heard me. I’ve also picked up some ear protection at Trade Up Music which I brought to the Beloved Festival and that seemed to make a difference.
8.23.19 – I learned about Hearrings – example below and they have a lot of kinds.


Speak Up About Hearing Loss

From the Beloved Music and Art Festival - Teaching the next generation :)

From the Beloved Music and Art Festival – Teaching the next generation 🙂

Hearing Loss

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of sound. I grew up in a musical household – one that featured many instruments and much music making. We’d often have people pass through offering house concerts – something I continue to promote and host as an adult. And, if we weren’t playing music ourselves my home had a huge record collection that I listened to as a young person, teenager, and then young adult. The music was mostly folk music but there was some Allman Brothers and blues in there, too. At 15 I started playing the guitar, continued listening to recorded music and eventually found my way to large-scale concerts featuring people like Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead, and others.  These were some mighty large and LOUD shows and after the music ended my ears would continue to ring long into the night. At around this age, I first became aware of the issue of people losing their hearing.

This attraction to large-scale concerts, music festivals, and music, in general, eventually led me to Burning Man where the music is pretty much non-stop – comes from stationary “sound camps” and roams the playa (as the Black Rock Desert is known) via art cars pretty much 24-7.  I’ve been to Burning Man 12 times – and each time the “music” seems to get a little louder – sometimes to the point of shaking the ground even when it’s happening a mile away. Though the Burning Man organization has created some rules to limit the deafening levels of sound at the event, it still seems that the experience is marred by the abundance of loud music – usually playing over other loud music – repeat and stir.

Now I love attending Burning Man and other events. But when there is so little attempt to treat sound like a possibly harmful element, one has to wonder whether a safe environment is being created or thought about.  Knowing that hearing loss is a growing problem in the world that affects our quality of life, I do what I can to comment back to event organizers that I have a concern about the issue.

This is also an issue affecting folks who travel to more mainstream events such as professional sports. The other night I attended a Portland Trailblazers game with a friend and was surprised to see earplugs being sold for $1 a pair at stands outside of the main hall.  I didn’t have to wonder why this might be the case long because as the game began I listened as the DJ used the sound system to bludgeon both the audience and the teams playing with ultra-loud announcements and encouragement for us all to cheer.  This went on throughout the night and I wondered to myself what the effect of this might be on the players who play the game night after night. I suspect their game is also interrupted by the intensity of the sound system, but that’s just another bad side effect of music/commentary being turned up too high.

As much as I worry about my own hearing loss, I’ve been saddened over the years by relatives’ loss of hearing. You may struggle as I do with a relative who’s lost all or some of their hearing. Many people use hearing aids, but many don’t – and it’s challenging to figure out how to help. One way is to suggest that your friend or relative find an audiologist.  Here’s a website that can provide that information.

I hope I never lose my hearing and I’m taking more and more precautions with time to protect myself and those who I know from this and other environmental effects (leaf-blowers, car alarms, lawn-mowers) that exist in our modern world.  If you agree with me that sometimes the music/noise at an event is too loud, please feel free to speak up. Often DJs who are spinning their music have been doing it so long that they are a bit hard of hearing, too – and thus, don’t really have a sense of just how loud things are. I know that often this turns up as a way too loud bass thrumming sound. Please say something!

Things won’t change unless we stand up and speak out.  Thanks for caring enough to take a stand on hearing loss issues.

Here‘s a great, short PSA video about Hearing Loss. And, feel free to share this posting with friends and family – hopefully, it will lead someone to get the help they need.

Speak Up About Hearing Loss

Click here to find an audiologist

I wrote this blog post while participating in a campaign by BOOMboxNetwork.com on behalf ASHA.org and received payment for my participation. All opinions stated within are my own. Truley 🙂

August 2019 – Check out this cool new hearing protection! Hearrings (they also have styles for men).