Bass music shakes Calgary woman's house

A Calgary woman is wondering if the city’s noise bylaws are enough to combat music that’s all about that bass.

Calgary's new noise bylaw took effect in 2016 but the city hasn't laid any charges

Canadian rapper Tory Lanez surfs the crowd at the East Village Block Party during Calgary's Sled Island festival. The east Village neighbourhood will soon be home to Canada's National Music Centre. (Michael Tan)

A Calgary woman is wondering if the city's noise bylaws are enough to combat music that's all about that bass.

June MacKinnon, a Ramsay resident, said she complained about the Sled Island Block Party for the second year in a row, and despite changes to the city's bylaws, and police telling her the noise levels she was hearing and feeling were acceptable, she thinks something needs to be done to combat the ruckus. 

"It was so strong and sustained, last year I noticed it around two or three o'clock in the afternoon," she said. "This year it was actually worse … it was bass but even more so than last year, which is why I think it went from windows rattling to actually feeling like the house was vibrating." 

Bass can't exceed 80 dB

The City of Calgary updated its noise bylaws at the end of 2016 after completing consultation with citizens. With those tweaks came a change in how bylaw officers are able to deal with outdoor concert noise. 

While some citizens might enjoy grooving to festival tunes, the city's consultation showed an appetite for limiting bass frequencies that can disturb your china cabinet. 

Concerts with bass music louder than 80 dB have to drop the volume to reduce the "impact" of the music while keeping the beats sick for concert-goers.

Before the bylaw update, officers were only able to measure the "A" frequencies in noise complaints. The limit was set at 65 dBA, which, for reference, is a noise level you might expect from heavy traffic if you're standing about 90 metres away. 

No fines since bylaw change

But according to Sgt. Fausto Ricioppo, the city hasn't handed out any fines. 

"We've had some really good response within the last year, there have been no charges laid from my record," he said.

"We work it out with the citizen who puts in the complaint as well as the promoter."

Ricioppo said the city tends for an education-first approach with festivals — and he said it works.

When he goes to someone's home when there's a complaint, and the noise reading doesn't break the city's rules, Ricioppo said he shows that to the citizen, so they can better understand the noise level they're dealing with.

"Noise does travel, unfortunately, it travels and it can go long distances," Ricioppo said. "Just educating the promoter and talking and educating with the citizen resolves a lot of issues for us, and we go from there." 

He said there is a provision in the rules allowing bylaw officers to charge someone for "disturbing a reasonable person," but it's a very general part of the bylaw that they tend not to use.

"When we use that bylaw we want to show it's a community problem," he said. "I would have to subpoena all the people who complained about this event to come to court when I write the charge." 

MacKinnon said she loves living in the inner city and wouldn't want to travel too far for a show, but believes something needs to change. 

"You have to be mindful of the fact that you are in a residential community," she said.

"Perhaps there needs to be some modification to either allowed volumes or allowed times. Or even the choice of who's going to perform and the type of music that they're known for."