May 27, 2019
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How loud are the Waterfront Concerts? I took decibel readings.

Micky Bedell | BDN
Micky Bedell | BDN
The wood fence surrounding Bangor’s Waterfront Concerts.

Depending on where you live in or around Bangor, the noise level of the Waterfront Concerts may range from sound levels similar to a jackhammer to those of a normal conversation. I know, because I took decibel level readings from three locations from three waterfront concerts on three nights in a row in June.

The sound level measurements

My assignment: download a decibel meter cell phone app and take sound readings from the Shaw’s parking lot on Main Street, a spot on the Brewer waterfront (I chose the High Tide restaurant), and the Mount Hope cemetery at the Bangor-Veazie town line. I had to make sure to wait until the headline acts were on stage but aside from that, I got to choose my own methodology.

My “methodology” boiled down to taking random samples. I took measurements that varied in length of time, ranging from at least 10 seconds to up to a full minute. I took a minimum of six samples at each location, and I made sure the readings came from at least 2 songs.

To take the measurements, I downloaded two cell phone apps: Decibel 10th and Sound Meter, which both measure sound pressure levels. Then I ventured out into glorious summer nights of June 22, 23, and 24 and took decibel readings from the Journey, Florida Georgia Line, and Def Leppard concerts. Remarkably, all three nights stayed dry during my decibel-reading adventures.

The sound level results

I was surprised by how alike the readings were at each location, which contradicted my preconceived expectation about which band would be the loudest. The following table shows the results:

According to 
Glen Carol Audio, a normal conversation at a distance of 3 feet has a decibel level of 60-65 dB, or around the concert sound levels at the Veazie-Bangor town line. A jackhammer at a distance of 50 feet has a decibel level of 95 dB, around the sound levels of the concerts at Shaw’s. 

Decibel chart

Decibel chart created by Jennifer Hooper

Putting the sound levels in context

But according to a friend of minewho knows much more about sound than I doour perception of sound varies, dependent on other factors such pitch, frequency, and energy. And all of us have ears with varying sensitivity to different frequencies, which means that sounds that bother you may not bother me, and vice versa.

How is the City of Bangor involved?

The week after the concerts, I spoke with Bangor’s City Manager, Cathy Conlow, about the city’s involvement with the concert sound levels. She explained that the city is required by the Maine DEP to continuously monitor sound pressure levels of every waterfront concert in Brewer and Bangor. The city contracts with a company called Acentech to do the work. Acentech monitor the sound levels of every concert from three locations: at the mix position at the center of the concert, and two protected locations, one in Bangor and one in Brewer.

According to city records, here are some factoids from the same concerts I monitored:

 decibel 2

Conlow postured that the three-in-a-row concert schedule may have exceeded residents’ tolerance for the concert noise, and may account for why the number of complaints rose over the three day period. And if you’re wondering whether or not the new fence has made a difference in the number of complaints? Conlow said, “not at all.”According to the Cathy Conlow, Waterfront Concerts currently has no contractual obligation for concert sound levels to stay within the DEP’s recommendations. However, they will going forward; the next five-year contract will include a sound provision.

There are 12 remaining waterfront concerts this summer, but not three in a row again. That was a first. And maybe a last.

Jennifer Hooper is a writer who lives in central Maine. She can be found at

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