New Ever After Music Fest sound limit 'like a library,' says researcher

Ever After Music Festival returns to Kitchener in June, but this time, with a new sound limit of 55 dB at neighbouring residences. Is this doable?

The City of Kitchener is asking for the festival to dial down to a maximum of 55 dB at residences

The Ever After Music Fest received over 100 noise complaints in 2017. (EverAfterMusicFest/Facebook)
The Ever After music fest in Kitchener has been told music from the venue can't exceed 55 decibels when it reaches the neighbourhood surrounding Bingeman's. But how loud is 55 decibels? And is that a reasonable limit? CBC KW's Flora Pan put those questions to a UW researcher who studies sound and together they took a decibel reader for a walk in downtown Kitchener. 6:33

The City of Kitchener is requesting Ever After Music Festival to get quieter this year, but is the new limit of 55 decibels from last year's 65 achievable?

Janelle Resch, a PhD student at the University of Waterloo studying sound, doesn't think so.

"That's pretty quiet," Resch said. "That's like a library, for example."

On a walk around downtown Kitchener, traffic noise measured on a decibel meter was an average of 80 dB with idling trucks in the background. In a coffee shop with low chatter and background music, the average measurement was around 65 dB.

City enforcement

Gloria MacNeil, the city's bylaw enforcement director, told CBC News the 55 dB would be measured from a person's home if they send in a complaint.

If it's over the imposed limit, they will connect with festival organizers to turn it down.

An on-site noise officer, paid by the event organizers, will also be responding to complaints.

If there aren't any, "then they will be proactively driving around to the surrounding neighbourhoods where we've had complaints in the past and they can take noise reads proactively from those areas," said MacNeil.

Janelle Resch is a PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo and part of the school’s Audio Research Group. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

However, imposing a noise limit of 55 dB might not be reasonable, said Resch.

There are many things influencing how loud music is perceived. From the humidity, wind, temperature, to where your house is located with relation to the festival and sound absorbers like trees, "it'll make a huge difference," she said.

"So to say that it's supposed to be a certain decibel level, depending on the day, it may not be an adequate measure or metric to try to evaluate how loud something is."

The old limit of 65 dB would be much more reasonable, "because above 65, it can be considered more irritating," and it's also around what's considered acceptable from an occupational safety standpoint.

'Honestly flabbergasting'

Other rules the festival will need to abide by include shutting it down by 9 p.m. on Sunday, the festival's third day. On previous years the festival finished at 11 p.m.

Denis Pasagic, from Toronto, loves the Ever After festival, and he thinks the new curfew rule might hurt the festival's profits.

"Requesting 9 p.m. is honestly flabbergasting to me, it's like, are you kidding? We already met in the middle with you for 11 p.m.," he said.

Having to turn it down, too, might "take away from the experience" of listening to bass music because fans want to "feel the bass."

Pasagic said people who complain might be picking on the fact that Ever After is an EDM festival.

"I heard that there are festivals that go on [at Bingemans] all the time, and the residents there kind of just endure it," he said, "But they've chosen this festival to not be tolerant and they want to get the rules on it changed."

However, he acknowledged that bass sounds travel a lot farther because of its lower frequencies, so people may be more easily irritated by it.

Concerned fans

News of the updated rules are concerning festival-goers months before its anticipated arrival in June.

Pasagic said Ever After has been a thoughtful festival because it's not only inexpensive, it also truly caters to what fans want.

"I really don't know why [the organizers] decided to agree to these rules, but their fans could turn against them," he said.

The organizers of Ever After, Beyond Oz Productions, did not respond to a request for comment.

But Gabriel Mattacchione, the president at the company, wrote in a Facebook post that "some decisions are unfair and unjust without realizing the full scope of what is being brought to the city."

Mattacchione followed with a promise that he will make sure the festival continues to deliver the experience their fans expect.

"I will fight for each and every one of you that believe in us," he said, "Together, let's show the city how much Ever After truly means to all of us and how unique a place like Bingemans can be for an event like this."

Ever After is returning to Kitchener for the fourth year on June 8.

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