August 17th @ Free Times Café

Ever since there was rock n’ roll there have been warnings from doctors, gleefully picked up and disseminated by the media, about the dangers of this evil music. Rock n’ roll encouraged dancing which, well you know what that leads to; and then there were the tight pants on the boys and the girls which, well you know what that leads to; and then the volume and the lights etc.,, etc., etc.

You would have thought that as rock enters its approximately 60th year, that the medical scourge arguments would have finally fallen away, but no they haven’t. A recent article in The Lancet, the British medical journal, discussed the relationship between headbanging at heavy metal concerts and concussions. The article was picked up by many news outlets including the Globe and Mail – Canada’s National Early Warning System for Music Related Dangers. The article documented the case of a man who had persistent headaches after attending a Motörhead show (in the interests of accuracy, I should point out that Motörhead spells its name with an umlaut over the second ‘o’ – but I don’t have umlauts on my keyboard so you’ll just have to imagine them – and it makes sense to treat them as imaginary because if they were real, then the name of the band would not be pronounced ‘Motorhead’, which is how the band and everyone else pronounces it; the point of all this being that metal heads finds umlauts cool in an imaginary sort of way).

The article attributed the persistent headaches to the headbanging the fellow had done at the Motörhead concert. The article I read quoted a British doctor saying “Even though there are only a few documented cases of subdural haematomas [due to headbanging], the incidence may be higher because the symptoms of this type of brain injury are often clinically silent or cause only mild headache that resolves spontaneously.” Another possible explanation is that headbanging doesn’t lead to any problems at all (on the other hand, another possible explanation is that metal heads are already so brain damaged they wouldn’t notice anything like persistent headaches, but I’m not going to go there).

While the press is quick to pick up on any possible medical problems associated with rock music, even if based on a sample size of one – it routinely misses the everyday medical minefields all of us face. For example recently I had the great pleasure to drive on the 401 from Toronto to London. The highlight of the trip (and I use that term advisedly) was the stop at the new On Route roadside gas bar/feeding station right off the highway. It is great to be able to sample the local cuisine at these places, which includes, invariably, a Tim’s and then a few other chains of less renown – Extreme Pita anyone?

It is of course, de rigeur at these stops to visit the washroom where lurks a far more pervasive and threatening health hazard than heavy metal music. I am referring of course to the Xlerator hand dryer that is now standard issue in all these washrooms. Have you used one of these? More to the point have you heard one of these? It’s like drying your hands with a jet engine. They should have washroom attendants on hand to give people ear plugs so as not to ruin their hearing after a 15 second hand drying. And where is the Globe and Mail on that particular health risk to all Canadians who drive on the highway – it is nowhere. Scary article based on incredibly limited data about the dangers of headbanging, sure; warnings about the perils of being within 20 yards of the Xlerator – no chance.

Which brings me to Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room, which will be holding its monthly show at the Free Times Café (on College at Major, just west of Spadina), on Sunday, August 17 at 8 pm. No cover, lots of great music, good food and drink and hand dryers in the washrooms that are not designed to deafen every person in the room. You’re welcome.

Hope to see you there.

Jonathan

P.S. I’m sure many of you are wondering which is worse, the Xlerator or bagpipes. And I have to say that’s a tough one. Both are horrendously loud. I’ve never really heard the Xlerator play a tune, but then that can be said of the bagpipes too. I think what we’re going to have to do is play a show at an On Route station, one set with bagpipes in the food area, the other with the Xlerator in the washroom and we’ll see. There are a number of logistical issues to work out, so watch your email for a notice of this special gig.