Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

"The show ended two minutes ago; from here on out we're going to jam."

So said Curtis Salgado before launching into some of the best harmonica-playing to ever blow through the North Coast. He played one-handed, the other holding close a special microphone that lent a sound both haunting and overpowering.

If this was jamming, to hell with the planned stuff.

Salgado and his bluesy band absolutely rocked a full house at the new Tolowa Events Center on Saturday night. It was an auspicious coming-out party for the Smith River concert venue. Great music at a reasonable price - what's not to like about that?

Well, there was some post-concert ringing in the ears. But that was

due to our decision to grab the only front-row seats still available,

far to the side and directly in front of a monolithic assemblage of

speakers. Early on, we could literally feel the percussion. But the

sound was oh so good.

The ringing faded on the drive home - not nearly as intense as the

24-hour auditory aftermath of a Bruce Springsteen concert I went to in

the '80s at the Tacoma Dome.

And nothing compared to Lover Boy, the band I blame most for my

inadequacy in the hearing department.

It was a one-hit wonder ("Working for the Weekend") with staying

power, opening for ZZ Top at the Spokane Arena around the turn of the

millennium. Lover Boy blasted my eardrums like no opening act should do.

By the time the long-bearded headliners took the stage, their sound was

lost in a haze.

When I took my teenage son back to the same arena a few weeks later

for an Aerosmith concert, I wore earplugs. There was no opening act,

thank God. About halfway through, when the band started into "Dream On,"

I rose with the rest of the roaring crowd and pulled out my plugs in a

moment of mid-life rebellion.

I've been wearing hearing aids for a little over a year now. The kind

that hardly show. With a quick tap of a tiny button, I can adjust from

the normal setting (just right for the office) to the hyper setting

(clears up the otherwise muddy dialogue on my dinosaur of a TV set) to

the tamp-it-down setting (diminishes background noise so I can hear

people nearby in a crowded room).

It was the third setting that I employed Saturday night, after

briefly considering pulling my batteries and turning the aids into

old-fashioned plugs.

This was Curtis Salgado, right here in Del Norte. It was worth it.