The Quietest Concert

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A.D.D. (right) performs at the first event in the Bring Your Own Headphones concert series.

Simon Thibaudeau admits that having a small child can get in the way of getting out to see local music. That was the reason he started the Bring Your Own Headphones (BYOH) concert series.

Thibaudeau has been thinking about bringing people together to listen to local experimental music through headphones for a couple of years. It was his growing family that finally gave him the push to do it. “I’m less in shape to go to things,” says Thibaudeau. So, he created the family-friendly concert series.

The downtown Winnipeg concert venue at Dub Ditch Records ( on Albert St. is child-proofed with covers on electrical outlets. There is even a corner for children to play; although, as CRAPFACE ( proved at the first monthly event, the musician’s names don’t have to be G-rated.

Before the music started at BYOH #1, Thibaudeau’s wife handed out cookies to the audience of a dozen people who had plugged their headphones into the distribution system and were ready to listen. Some were playing with children, some reading or on a laptop, others chatting about the music they were about to hear and preparing to listen intently.

Other than wishing for a larger turnout, this is exactly what Thibaudeau hoped to see. “I wanted it to be cool for anyone to show up,” says Thibaudeau. This includes students who can’t tear themselves away from their homework long enough for a Sunday afternoon show and people who are really into Winnipeg’s experimental music scene.

This is why the concert is audible only through headphones; each audience member controls their own volume. Anyone who brings their own headphones can listen loud and get lost in the sound or keep levels low and use it for background noise.

This setup also allows audience members the control to keep volume levels low enough that they don’t have to worry about the health risks. According to Health Canada, noise levels at live concerts can cause hearing loss.

They recommend people use earplugs or earmuffs as protection. But chasing a child around, trying to keep Junior’s earmuffs secure, can take away a conscientious guardian’s ability to enjoy a concert.

Headphones can transmit noise levels loud enough to damage eardrums.  Each listener at BYOH concerts has full control over their volume level, including how loud the music is for their children – if the children want to listen.

BYOH cover pic

Audience members groove inside the cozy digs of Dub Ditch Records during the first concert of the Bring Your Own Headphones series.

Thibaudeau says this poses some interesting limitations for the musicians who usually have a great deal of control over the sound levels. “Artists thrive on volume,” says Thibaudeau. Often, the volume is cranked up, which doesn’t create the baby/student-friendly, relaxed vibe that Thibaudeau is going for.

While experimentation with volume isn’t supported by the BYOH concert format, it does encourage musicians to test out new sounds and present their old material in a new way. It’s a safe space for them to try something they might not be able to do at a large show with all their fans.

Thibaudeau is continuing the concert series and is hoping more experimental musicians come out and show off their stuff. BYOH will be held at Dub Ditch Records at 63 Albert Street on the first Sunday of every month until they run out of musicians interested in playing. Cover is “pay what you can,” bringing your own headphones is mandatory and cookies to share wouldn’t be turned away.

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Meg Crane is a Winnipeg freelance journalist and the editor of Cockroach Zine (


Meg CraneMeg Crane is a Winnipeg freelance journalist and the editor of Cockroach Zine (


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