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Wavefront Music Festival's Future Uncertain Due to Noise, Traffic Concerns

By Adeshina Emmanuel | February 21, 2014 9:13am
 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 — The same bass vibrations that lured legions of electronic dance music fans to Wavefront Music Festival on Uptown's Montrose Beach last summer had pictures and paintings sliding down walls in Edgewater and Rogers Park, lakefront residents complained.

This year, festival organizers need to fix their noise and traffic problems or find another place to hold the festival, North Side officials said.

"Alderman Osterman does not support this event," Dan Luna, chief of staff to Harry Osterman (48th) said Thursday. "We're waiting for the organizers to come back to our office with what their plans are to address the concerns of both communities in the 46th and 48th wards."

Wavefront was a two-day event in 2012, its inaugural year, when it had two main stages and featured 66 acts from June 30-July 1.

Wavefront 2013 ballooned to a three-day affair featuring about 100 acts on four main stages, including Diplo, Fatboy Slim and Rusko — during Independence Day weekend, one of summer's busiest times. Organizers said the festival could be downsized "by about half," as a result of neighbors' complaints about the noise and traffic.

Organizers have pledged to reduce the number of stages, reconfigure speaker orientation and perform extensive sound tests so a team of sound engineers could determine how to minimize noise reaching as far from the festival as it did last year.

They also said they'd devise a traffic management plan with the city after Uptown residents complained of festival-goers hopping out of cabs on a packed and stagnant Lake Shore Drive and bounding across the road to get to the festival.

"We definitely want to make sure that the neighborhood is happy with what we're doing," said Dino Gardiakos of 4 Headed Productions, which put on the event. "We're planning on having it, but that's all contingent on a few things."

Gardiakos, who also owns River North nightclub Spybar, said organizers will schedule a meeting with Osterman and Ald. James Cappleman (46th) "in the next two weeks," to show them a revised festival plan.

Cappleman's chief of staff Tressa Feher said her boss's approval hinges on the approval of the Lincoln Park Advisory Council, which oversees much of the lakefront in Uptown. Council president Ellen Isaacson said her group hasn't decided whether to support Wavefront and is awaiting reports from sound engineers and the results of sound tests aimed at determining how to avoid the noise problems of last year.

Isaacson said the festival has some positive impact, namely, revenue for the Chicago Park District that can be used to improve parks and recreational spaces. But "many people in the community," are unhappy with the fest, she said.

"And if the alderman is not happy, it's not going to happen anyway," she said, referring to Osterman. "And he has a lot more clout than we do."

Luna agreed.

"As of right now, we would not support the event unless they make changes," he said. "Without aldermanic support, there will not be an event."

If the aldermen move to pull the plug on Wavefront, it's not clear what that would mean for the festival organizers' five-year, $1 million contract with the Chicago Park District, which didn't return requests for comment Thursday.

Gardiakos declined to discuss the contract, but said his festival is good for the city. He said neighbors enjoyed the three days of fireworks, and that hotels, nightclubs and restaurants benefited from festival attendees.

Sheli Lulkin, president of the Association of Sheridan Condo/Co-op Owners, said she and other lakefront residents "loved the fireworks." What the Edgewater woman didn't like were the "terrible vibrations" and loud sounds felt and heard inside her building.

Isaacson said she's glad organizers are "trying to do something," to solve Wavefront's issues — but she still has her doubts.

"It's not like they're ignoring the community," she said. "So I have to give them props for that, but whether or not they're going to be able to solve all these problems  — I'm not so sure."

For previous coverage of Wavefront Music Festival, click here.