Letter: Why is sound inconsistent at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

It is time we had an honest discussion about the sound system at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium: It is horrible.

I most recently saw Kacey Musgraves. Her lyrics were impossible to distinguish; when she was talking between songs, her words were barely discernible. A few years back, with Wilco, same thing. When you have a singer-songwriter giving a performance, it is important to be able to actually understand the lyrics. On a more positive side, when I saw Bon Iver there, every word and every note was perfectly presented. So why the inconsistency?

I know the first reaction of the sound folks at Thomas Wolfe will be to come up with a myriad of excuses. I’m not interested in excuses; I’m interested in having the problem fixed. For the fans, for the artists and for Asheville’s music reputation.

I’m not a sound engineer; I’m a live-music fan. Perhaps I’m spoiled by so many other great sound systems at so many great venues in Asheville (and other cities). For now, that is where I will spend my time and money.

— Todd Smith

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Chris Corl, general manager of the U.S. Cellular Center Asheville, with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response, which said in part: “Thank you for joining us for so many shows! Until recently, each show at the Thomas Wolfe brought in an outside rental of sound equipment. … Last year, the U.S. Cellular Center purchased its own house system, which has now been used for nearly 50 concerts and was the system used for the recent Kacey Musgraves concert.

“Our rig has been professionally calibrated numerous times by industry leaders. … However, per contract, with all artists, we must provide them with 100% control over all lighting and audio systems. Some touring engineers utilize our recommended set points, and some do not. … We always advise touring engineers immediately when we receive feedback during shows.

“Also, keep in mind that Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is an older venue, and the acoustics are less than ideal.

“The city of Asheville is currently working through a conceptual design to greatly improve the guest and artist experience at the venue. We hope to move forward on a significant renovation in the near future.”


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

5 thoughts on “Letter: Why is sound inconsistent at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium?

  1. jason

    10th row at the Modest Mouse show….. It was the worse sounding show Ive ever been too. That includes garage bands.. in garages! the delay in sound and “highs” were horrendous.

    although Ive seen Dream Theater left balcony… sounded decent

  2. Curious

    ““The city of Asheville is currently working through a conceptual design to greatly improve the guest and artist experience at the venue. We hope to move forward on a significant renovation in the near future.”
    Since the acoustics and amenities at Thomas Wolfe are of great concern to concert-goers of all genres, could MX give us some coverage of just what the conceptual design and plans for the auditorium are?

  3. Jon King

    Engineering the sound in Thomas Wolfe is mildly challenging due to reflection angles, according to sound engineer acquaintances of mine that have worked the room. Apparently Ms. Musgraves’ engineers weren’t up to the task.

    In short, don’t blame the venue for inconsistency. That’s human error.

  4. Alesha Odell

    I couldn’t agree more! Bon Iver was amazing there, but Ray LaMontagne, Incubus, Modest Mouse, and so many other shows there have been a horrible sound experience and disappointing. It’s such a shame and I truly do hope they make improvements to the acoustics in the very near future!

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.