"Ahhhhhhhh," screamed singer Benny Mardones at the start of his show at the Bayou last night. The single, succinct syllable careened around the walls, bounced off an exit sign, zigzagged through the support beams and crashed into the door at the rear.

The concert went downhill from there.

Mardones, a hometown boy who cut his eye teeth (and cast-iron larynx) in the Maryland suburbs, then proceeded to thrash the eardrums and musical sensibilities of everyone in the crowd. Loud guitars, loud drums, loud keyboards and Mardones' loud voice combined to produce a sound whose dynamic range resided somewhere between a jackhammer and a Concorde takeoff.

Of course, high volume is nothing new to rock 'n' roll. But there are certain musicians who confuse the decibel level with musical substance. Mardones is one of them. Whether singing a blues-based ballad or a high-spirited number, Benny Mardones managed to reduce each song to a mind-numbing sonic mush.

Another group of local rockers, 4 Out of 5 Doctors, opened the show with a sleek, polished set of power pop. What Mardones is subtracting from Washington's musical reputation, this group should help to restore. A healthy sound to be sure.