Eerily Quiet: White Oak Music Hall Debuts
White Oak Music Hall. Photo: Julian Bajsel
The stage was set at White Oak Music Hall Lawn Saturday for the first in what will become a tradition for the new venue: outdoor shows. Ticketing was handled with what appeared to be ease while patrons parked in the supplied lots, side streets, or used public transport to get there and — from what I could tell — things seemed chill. I met people who were more than happy to stand in the light drizzle that came and went just to be the first inside the grassed lawn of the new venture from Pegstar. The concert for M83 seemed to be just regular fare, no different than any other show you’d see anywhere else, though while many fans lingered waiting for Yacht to open things up I kept thinking, “What about the noise?” What transpired was something that honestly shocked me and my guest for the evening, Houston rapper Guilla: it wasn’t that loud. In fact, it was closer to quiet than it was closer to “too loud.”
As I’m sure you’ve heard that from the get go, there were those who live in surrounding areas that were concerned about traffic and the volume of the shows themselves. And, in all honesty, they have every right to worry about such things, just like the chatter around the Heights area Wal-Mart before it was erected. While Guilla ate food truck quesadillas at Raven Tower and I sipped on pineapple soda, we chatted with a friend of mine from high school, Nicole from Houston’s Aerial Yoga waiting for the show to begin. Then, after about fifteen minutes of conversation, I looked up and could see that the stage lights were going strong from the White Oak Music Hall Lawn, signalling that the show had begun. It was strange to me that a concert occurring less than 500 yards away was barely audible. In fact, if I hadn’t looked in that direction, we wouldn’t have known that the show had begun at all. As we approached, it didn’t seem to actually get much louder, and once we were inside the gates of the venue, it still wasn’t very loud. It felt like the volume you might have music on in the background while you cook dinner, if that loud at all.
This was, of course, for LA-based electronica act Yacht. While they performed, I chatted with multiple people from the Houston music scene who all remarked about how “not loud” the show actually was. Mario and Elizabeth from Wonky Power both remarked how it was cool that the show was outdoors, but felt actually more intimate than most outdoor concerts. I remember thinking that it wouldn’t be this low of a volume during the set from France’s M83, but I was immediately proven wrong once they started. In fact, if it weren’t for the dazzling light show the group utilized, you might not have known that they were even on. In all actuality, it really wasn’t louder than if you had played the songs in your living room. As a person who attends a ton of live shows both in and outdoors, I felt that it honestly could have been a bit louder, but overall I wasn’t complaining. The team at Generations — the company contracted to take care of sound and lights for the venue — did an excellent job of mixing the sound at a level that wasn’t louder than it usually is inside of pretty much any venue you can catch a show at. Actually, for shows inside of a venue, it’s usually about three times louder than this show. It appears that things were designed to where the sound doesn’t go around or over the actual White Oak Music Hall building and when I stood across the street during the show I could barely hear the music as it played. The venue itself is pretty cool in that the hilltop has a private bar, the lawn is comfortable enough to sit on, and the addition of astroturf up by the front of the stage — while a different approach — doesn’t hinder the experience at all. Whether I stood at the top of the hill, to the stage left or the stage right, or even right down the middle, the experience was enjoyable from any angle.
To be fair, I didn’t walk around all of the neighborhoods that surround White Oak Music Hall, and it’s a proven fact that sound can travel. But, as Guilla can attest to, in the walk away from the venue while M83 performed in the background, everything else was louder than the music happening outside on the lawn. Raven Tower was louder, the traffic from I-45 below the bridge we crossed to get to my car was louder, and once we were back in the neighborhood where I parked at off of Houston Avenue, we couldn’t hear anything outside of our own voices in conversation. From what I could tell, if anyone was complaining about the loudness of the venue, they must have heard something that I couldn’t hear less than 500 yards away. All in all, the new Houston operation looks to be a great addition to our growing live music community. You can catch British three piece CHVRCHES outside on the lawn at White Oak Music Hall on April 29th and see for yourself. For a place that you’d expect to be loud, it’s not only the perfect volume for an outdoor show, but almost eerily quiet at the same time.