While searching online for some discussion related to a recent concert in Cambridge that I missed, I happened upon an article/discussion by Edward Tufte about volume levels and sound quality at live performances. If you don’t know, Tufte is a professor at Princeton, but is mostly known for his books about the visual display of information (i.e., graphs, tables, presentations, etc.). As a side note, I think it’s somewhat ironic that his website is a total mess (at least when rendered on a cell phone).
You can check out the discussion on Tufte’s website here:
The picture above is of Modest Mouse, who played the loudest concert I’ve ever been to (photo credit goes to The Oregonian). I remember their concert was far too loud, and it didn’t sound very good. Overall, I’d say that sound quality detracts from my enjoyment of about 1 in 5 concerts - but those issues aren’t always related to loud volume. For example, Boston Calling last year had issues where vocals couldn’t be heard properly if you were standing near the edges of the crowd. On the bright side, I find that concerts often sound great. Newport Folk Festival almost always has good sound quality, despite being a tricky outdoor venue.