June 22, 2018
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Bangor officials continue to grapple with Waterfront Concerts sound

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — City officials Monday continued to grapple with finding a balance between what is too loud — and what’s not loud enough — when it comes to outdoor concerts and other productions at the Bangor Waterfront.

One hand, the city logged 124 noise complaints May 10, when the Rise Above Fest, featuring heavy metal acts, made a stop in Bangor as part of the Waterfront Concert Series.

“Some people don’t care for that type of music; the language might not have been appropriate for some peoples’ taste,” Tanya Emery, the city’s director of community and economic development, said Monday evening after a workshop on the topic.

“It was also early in the season and in the afternoon, so that combination of factors really drove a large number of complaints,” she said.

On the other hand, the city has heard complaints from concertgoers who said the music wasn’t loud enough — in some cases being drowned out by passing motorcycles and other ambient, or background, noise.

Councilor David Nealley said he was disappointed not to be able to hear Alison Krauss when she performed June 19 as part of the Waterfront Concert Series, which presents the majority of the outdoor concerts at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion.

There also have been concerts that generated no complaints at all, Emery said.

Finding ways to keep residents and concertgoers happy has been an ongoing effort for city officials.

The city has been grappling with noise complaints from residents since the popular concerts along the Penobscot River debuted in the summer of 2010.

Last year, the concerts were performed on a stage that was redesigned to face the downtown instead of toward Bangor’s West Side Village. The city and Waterfront Concerts also upgraded the venue to include a slope to dull some of the sound. That change was made in part to address noise concerns from West Side Village residents. The complaints largely have shifted to other parts of the city.

The city also has hired Acentech, a Boston-based audio consultant, which set up the stations and is helping the city cull through the hours of data collected during each concert and during stretches of a normal day.

Within the next few weeks, however, councilors will have access to some valuable data about sound levels connected to outdoor performances, as well as for ambient noise and an overview of options for minimizing the concerts’ impact on the quality of life in the area.

City Council Chairman Ben Sprague said the findings and conclusions the city received from its sound consultant will be made available to the public.

Emery said Monday the first phase of the city’s work with Acentech is complete.

“They did a bunch of monitoring during the concert series, and we’ve captured data,” she said. “We’ve received a draft report. There’s just a few housekeeping things to take care of in that report, but we expect to finish the product very soon,” Emery said.

The monitoring, Emery said, essentially confirms the city’s suspicion that the main culprit is low-frequency sound — “that thumping driving bass sound that gives you that feeling in your chest.”

“That low-frequency sound is really what tends to be the irritant that we suspected was highly correlated with the complaints,” Emery said. “And when you look at the data of each concert and the instances where that … low-frequency data was very high, those are the instances where we had high complaints.

“We’ve also had concerts where we’ve had zero complaints. So what we wanted to do was make sure that that monitoring showed us exactly what’s causing people to be concerned and bother people. It’s not necessarily the volume; it’s low-frequency instances,” she added.

Beyond sound and complaint data, however, Acentech’s report also summarizes available sound control technologies capable of controlling sound transmission, as well as possible directive sound amplification technologies and the idea of having sound engineers inside the venue control sound levels.

The city will consider those items in the future.

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