Complaints over noise divide the resort town of Telluride, where hosts of dozens of annual concerts now must submit sound-management plans.
“Window rattling.” “Wall shaking.” “Ear Shattering.”
Those unpleasant-sounding descriptors have turned into fighting words in Telluride, where they have been directed at a sacrosanct part of this mountain town: music festivals. Those festivals have been a big part of Telluride’s mystique since Telluride Bluegrass twanged into being in 1973, followed by the Jazz Festival, Blues & Brews, and most recently, the RIDE festival.
The high-decibel acts at some of those festivals have grown too loud for some ears. Residents in the east end of the box canyon that cradles Telluride have complained that some of the music blasting from the Telluride Town Park over 13 days each summer shatters the peace in their nearby dwellings and disrupts their lives.
The festivals have grown bigger, louder and longer, they say. The RIDE Festival – the new kid on the musical-event block – has drawn the most fire with bands like Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule and Thunderpussy that cash in on big noise.
“The Ride is painfully, unbearably, intolerably loud,” Telluride resident David Coder wrote in a recent letter-to-the-editor of the Telluride Daily Planet.
He went on to describe noise levels that shook walls in his home to the point that pictures fell to the floor.
“Think enhanced interrogation, where the CIA pumped loud music into prisoners’ cells to drive them to ‘I’ll talk, I’ll say anything you want’ desperation,” Coder wrote.
“They have a valid complaint. They own their houses. They pay taxes,” said RIDE promoter Todd Creel, who will put on his 9th RIDE Festival this summer. “But it is a live music venue.”
The complaints have not only raised a digital ruckus in the Planet and on a Telluride Facebook page called Telluride Sweet Rants and Bitching. They have caught attention at the Telluride Town Hall.
Town can come and turn down the volume
At a recent town board work session attended by complainants, music-at-any-decibel supporters, festival promoters and a sound expert, the growing problem did not fall on deaf ears. The town decided to ask promoters to do things a little differently at this year’s festivals.
“I don’t think it was a surprise that we have had complaints in the past two years,” said Telluride Mayor DeLanie Young, who has worked at every Telluride music festival, including the RIDE Festival, for the past 13 years. “I know definitely we have had instances when the music got too loud.”
Young came up with a compromise that will at least get both the lower-the-volume folks and the bring-on-the-noise crowd through the summer. She secured promises from festival organizers that they will voluntarily submit sound management plans. The town will have the right to reduce sound levels during the RIDE Festival if it is too loud. The town will also assess the sound situation at the end of the season and decide if more needs to be done.
The board members did not agree to suggestions that they hire sound experts to monitor and police the decibels.
Craig Ferguson and Steve Gumble, directors of the Bluegrass Festival and Blues & Brews, were at the meeting to explain what kinds of measures, such as adjusting the angle of speakers and tweaking the soundboard, to mitigate how much sound leaves the park.