Big Brother & The Holding Company...
I said, "Big Brother & The Holding Company".
I _said_ ...oh, never mind.
Seriously, though... keeping your levels in the red isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's when your levels start "pegging" that you have problems. As a hobby, I used to mix sound -- for PA and tapes -- for a friend's pickup band at their regular Saturday night basement jam parties. One of the guitarists was also a professional sound tech, and one valuable bit of advice he passed on was that if I wanted to mix and record it loud, the thing to do was have my levels "tickling the red" -- that is, to keep my levels in a space at the top end of the green, and occasionally nudging into the red, and that mixing totally in the red ran the risk of "pegging" and causing distortion.
This advice did me well in my years of bootleg taping from the audience at Grateful Dead shows, where I used either Sony D5 or D6 rigs, and the sound -- as usual for live performances -- was dynamic and constantly changing. Keeping it totally in the green produced a tape with slightly weak levels and a "distant" sound, totally in the red produced oversaturation and distortion, but taking care to "tickle the red" -- what I called the "Goldilocks Zone" -- gave me a tape that was just right.
Back to Big Brother & The Holding Company, though... "Cheap Thrills" is one of my favorite albums of all time -- not just for Joplin's singing and Sam Houston Andrew's ass-ripping guitar playing, but because it's so goddamn' bone-crushing loud -- and yet, so clean. It's loud as shit, but doesn't sound trashy or messy; it doesn't sound like "hamburger", as my sound-tech buddy put it.
Another example: In the summer of '75, just out of high school, I went to see Slade -- opening for Aerosmith -- at the old Capital Centre in the Washington, DC 'burbs (unlike 90% of the kids at that show, my friends and I were there primarily to see Slade), and I was amazed at not only the massive volume, but how each band sounded. Slade were actually perceptibly louder than Aerosmith, but they sounded far cleaner and caused no discomfort; every instrument was clearly discernible in the mix. Aerosmith, on the other hand, just sounded like a bunch of noise, and not in a good way; though not as loud as Slade, Aerosmith made my ears hurt. I spent most of the Aerosmith sets either standing towards the back of the hall or on the concourse, because that was the only place where my ears didn't hurt -- and also because, to be quite honest, musically, Slade ate Aerosmith's lunch that night.