Moving stage may cut music fest sound complaints; Soundslinger plans 2 music festivals in 2018

OKEECHOBEE — Reorienting the direction of the main stage could significantly cut the sound levels to the populated areas near the Okeechobee Music Festival site, according to a report presented June 8 to the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners.

Changing the orientation of the BE stage at the Okeechobee Music Festival to the northeast could cut the decibel levels within one mile west of the venue to one-third of the level at the 2017 event, according to the report.

“Reorienting the stage is one of the things we plan to do,” said Soundslinger CEO Kevin Collinsworth. “What we are doing physically should make a big difference.”

He said they learned a lot about the site and how sound travels from the site during the 2016 and 2017 festivals. They will use the sound data gathered this year to improve the next event.

Most of the noise complaints from the 2017 Okeechobee Music Festival were from residents who live west of the Sunshine Grove venue on Northeast 128th.

At the June 8 meeting, Rob Likendey of RML Acoustics reviewed the sound monitoring of Okeechobee Music Festival, summarized findings and made recommendations for improvements at future events. RML is the company chosen by the county to monitor the sound levels. Soundslinger also had their own experts. Soundslinger paid for both the RML Acoustics and their own sound experts.

Mr. Likendey said before the festival, they monitored the ambient sounds around the festival site. At the same time, Soundslingers’ own team was developing the noise abatement plans.

Mr. Likendey said they measured sound at six locations between 3/4 mile and 6 miles from the festival site. In addition, they used hand held monitors in areas where there were noise complaints. Only eight noise complaints were reported during the four-day festival, he said. Most of the complaints were on Friday.

Three stages (labeled BE, HERE and NOW) face different directions, he explained. The main stage, the BE stage pretty much faces due west, he continued. The HERE and the NOW stages have more northwest orientations.

The Jungle 51 stage is on the northwest area of the site and it generally faces north/northwest, he added.

RML monitored sound from Wednesday, March 1 through Monday, March 6.

He said during the day high winds made sound monitoring difficult. When the wind blows at 10 mph across the microphone, it creates sound that is measured by the device. He added there were no noise complaints during the day.

Sound levels were also measured by frequency. Low frequency sounds are the bass sounds. High frequency would be something like crickets, he said.

For example, on March 3 at midnight, at location R-2 (closest to the venue) overall average was 64 dBA or 90 dBC. That means you have a lot of bass, he said. The ambient noise level measured in that area at the same time of day before the festival was 37 dBA or 47dBC.

He said the meters recorded sound in 30 second and one minute intervals at the six locations. The data was recorded in the computer. The data presented included the average and the maximum decibel levels.

At the meeting, Mr. Likendey played some samples of the sound recorded by the monitors. In addition to music, sound recorded included a tractor working on the property near the festival, an airplane flying overhead, bird song and roosters crowing.

He noted the festival sound picked up by the meters by the monitors was nearly all bass. Vocals did not carry as far as the sound monitors, he said.

“One of the complaints we heard was there was still music at 7 a.m.,” he said.

He said the Jungle 51 concert ended at 5 a.m., but some festival vendors were playing music.

“One of the things we tried to do was look at where the complaints were and what the levels were,” he said. “It’s not just level, it’s the character of the sound and the time of day.”

There were eight complaints reported. The nearest location that complained was one of the six areas with a meter.

“For some of the complaints we had a technician go with the sheriff’s deputy to the complaint site and take measurements. In some cases they took measurements inside the home,” he said.

Most everyone who had a complaint with low frequency levels outside their home were over 70 dBC, he said.

One complaint was six miles away. You could hear the bass but it was just barely audible, he added.

Soundslinger tried to direct the low frequency sounds, he said.

“That is difficult to do. They tend to spread out,” he added.

Reorienting the BE stage to the north would decrease the sound levels to the area where the complaints occurred by 15 dBA  (making it one-third as loud), he said.

He recommended the main stage be reoriented. He also recommended the limiting noise between the last Jungle 51 stage performance, which ends early in the morning and the main stage performance which starts in the afternoon.

This would include sound created by vendors and by sound checks at the stages in the mornings.

The last few years, music seems to be more bass heavy, said Mr. Likendey. He said sound levels at Okeechobee Music Festival were similar to levels at other major concerts.

Measuring 90 dBA at a mile away is not unusual, he said.

Commission Bryant Culpepper said the bass heavy music is what the young people like.

“That’s what the kids want,” he said. “Kids want to feel that inside. If you take away the bass, you might as well cancel the concert because they won’t come.

“I understand the aggravation. I deal with it with airboats on the river,” he said.

Commissioner Brad Goodbread said during the festival to the east, sound was nearly non-existent. He said if they adjust the stages they should be able to reduce the sound levels to the west.

“Rotating the stage would make it a third as loud for a lot of people,” agreed Mr. Likendey.

“At at least it will spread it, balance it a little more so the ones to the west aren’t getting the real pounding inside the house,” said Commissioner Goodbread. “This was only the second festival; this is a new work in progress. I am sure Soundslinger will do what they can to adjust the sound.”

“Soundslinger had already told us they were looking at directing the stages more to the northeast,” said Commissioner Kelly Owens.

Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs suggested the county have an ordinance which sets the maximum levels at the front house mix, as they do at Red Rock.

“I believe that managing this at the front house is very simple,” he said. The sound is controlled at front house mix.

Mr. Likendey said the front house mix is just one direction. He said sound spills out in other directions.

“We are not going to eliminate the sound but we are going to do the best we can to focus it in an area that is less invasive than it is today,” said Chairman Burroughs.

Another bit of good news for music fans: After the meeting, Mr. Collinsworth confirmed that Sounslinger plans to host two music festivals at the Sunshine Grove site in 2018. He said the second festival will be different from the original Okeechobee Music Festival, but declined to give details.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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