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.”