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Wavefront Music Festival Could Be Cut in Half Due To Neighbor Complaints

 Neighbors miles away were "livid" about noise coming from Montrose Beach during the 2013 Wavefront Music Festival.
Wavefront Music Festival
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UPTOWN — Next year's Wavefront Music Festival could be cut in half after lakefront residents demanded changes from organizers and park district officials — claiming the thumping electronic dance music could be heard as far as Edgewater and Rogers Park.

During a Lincoln Park Advisory Council meeting this week, residents said “bass vibrations" disturbed them at home throughout last weekend, and some called for an end to the festival, which has a five-year contract with the Chicago Park District.

Ramsey Al-Abed, one of the festival organizers, said next year’s festival could be shrunk as a result of neighbors’ concerns.

“We’re going to probably downsize by about half,” Al-Abed said regarding the four-stage, 100-plus act affair that spanned July 5-7 at Montrose Beach, 4400 N. Lake Shore Dr., and included three nights of fireworks.

Organizers said a plan to address noise concerns would be completed “by fall,” and that next year's event would include traffic controllers and a phone line where residents could call to complain.

Residents still questioned if it was right to expect Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park to put up with Wavefront.

Deputy Director of Park Services Alonzo Williams attended the meeting and said “the ultimate beach party,” is here to stay, at least for four years. The park district signed a five-year contract with Wavefront that started with last year’s festival and is worth “a little less than $1 million,” Williams said after the meeting.

“We’re looking at all types of revenue, so that my taxes and your taxes are not raised,” Williams said during the meeting.

He promised an engineering study to decide the best orientation of stages and configuration of speakers to minimize noise. He also floated the idea of a “test run,” before the festival where music would be played for a short amount of time to determine the effectiveness of sound engineers’ recommendations.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) and Ald. James Cappleman (46th) have requested to meet with organizers this month. Cappleman’s chief of staff Tressa Feher said changes to next year’s festival were “something we're going to have to talk about."

Sheli Lulkin, president of a condo owner coalition along North Sheridan Road, was “livid" after last weekend's festival, but the Edgewater resident said she was “kind of satisfied" with solutions offered at this week's meeting.

“It’s obvious that the park district has a contract and isn’t going to cancel it,” she said. “I think they really will try to work it out, especially since they’ve heard from two alderman already.”

No engineering studies or sound tests were conducted before the 2013 festival, but organizers said the festival, at its loudest, topped out at nearly 105 decibels. That’s about as loud as a rock concert, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Neighbors said that most music from the festival was largely inaudible — it was the pounding bass that bothered them.

Al-Abed acknowledged that the bass wasn’t fully taken into account in forecasting festival noise.

“We are going to take that into account and more than likely adjust a little bit” for Wavefront 2014, he said.

Chicago’s noise ordinance, which might get you a citation and fine for a raucous party, does not apply to special events and public performances approved by the city.

Festival-goers over the weekend advised complaining residents to "loosen up."

"I kind of feel like they have the right to complain about it," said Chris Varner, a 24-year-old Lincoln Square resident who attended the festival. "But at the same time, any neighbor, you're going to have those one or two nights out of the year where it's gonna be loud and it's going to be annoying. So they will just have to deal with it for a few days."