Noise complaints almost cut in half during first weekend of ACL

The City of Austin said noise complaints during Austin City Limits Music Festival weekend have drastically decreased this year. City staff credit that to new technology, different artists and the weather.

"A big gust of wind can carry sound further than you could imagine," said David Murray, a sound consultant for the City of Austin's Music and Entertainment Division.

Because of atmospheric conditions, people who live near outdoor music venue Zilker Park sometimes get treated to a free concert.

"Well, sometimes you can hear every word of every song and so you can just sit on the front porch and take it in. And then some days, it's strange; you can hear not one sound coming from it. And I think it's maybe from which way the wind blows," said Suvi Aika who has lived one mile from Zilker Park for the last 20 years.

During the music festival some neighbors get more than they bargained for.

"I think it's unacceptable that people in the neighborhood, especially those a mile or more away, can't sit outside and enjoy the day because the music is so loud," said Jim Oberkrom who has lived near Zilker Park for about 25 years.

Last year in surrounding neighborhoods, Austin police officers were overwhelmed with noise complaints.

"We were spending a lot of time just fielding complaints. We really didn't have a whole lot of time to get in the event and work with event producers and engineers and stuff to actually do something about it," said Special Events Unit Sound Events Officer Cory Ehrler with the Austin Police Department. 

This year, police, city staff and event producers did something about it before the first note was even played.

Police are carrying handheld sound monitors that measure volume or decibels of nearby sound. The monitors can also measure frequency like bass or treble.

"For me the most annoying thing is the bass," said Oberkrom.

Austin police officers are responding to noise complaints armed with the monitors so they can determine just what changes sound engineers at the music festival can make to keep the peace in the neighborhood.

"This year we worked with festival producers quite a bit and they responded to those concerns," said Officer Ehrler.

Murray said sound monitors seem to be working and the difference is drastic. Last year during the first weekend of ACL there were 254 noise complaints. This year, during the first weekend, there were 142, a 44% difference.

"People have a realistic expectation that they will hear something. There's a music festival going on in the park, but hopefully they won't hear the thumping in their house or the things that really keep them up at night," said Murray.

Austin police officers hope next time the wind carries a tune to surrounding neighborhoods they will be able to fix the problem before the music fades out.

"If the people putting it on say, 'Oh, we can't turn it down anymore because people will complain,' then I think it's time to move it," said Oberkrom.