Line Out Music & the City at Night

Friday, April 15, 2011


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cosby 1
Hobbs' tour blog says it better than I've seen it said before:

"All over the word it seems, there’s a breed of rarified asshole that will buy into bohemian areas, and then willfully try to shut down every club."
Posted by cosby on April 15, 2011 at 3:21 PM · Report this
I manage an apartment building near a different club. We always tell future tenants about the noise, and tell them that light sleepers need not apply. So far, we've had almost no trouble. The worst noise associated with any club is dumbshit people standing outside and having obnoxious conversations at the top of their voice, and there's no law that prevents that.

Cops can threaten anything, by the way. They'll even cite you without a dB reading- up to the discretion of the officer. Just because it might not hold up in court doesn't mean they won't do it.
Posted by dB cooper on April 15, 2011 at 3:24 PM · Report this
The SPD can't arrest you for a noise violation. Call their bluff on that. And if they try, let them, then sue them.Seriously, this is bullshit.

If there is a violation, they can write you a ticket. There are very specific laws about this. Don't allow the SPD to bully you. Know the laws and know your rights.

In the meantime, call the Music Office right away - Rachel White Sawyer - 206-684-0903 and explain what's up. The Mayor, City Council, City Attorney should all be notified. Email them. Don't let the SPD start harassing clubs like they did under Tom Carr.
Posted by whoknows on April 15, 2011 at 3:37 PM · Report this
dotSpec 4
@3 is spot on.
Posted by dotSpec on April 15, 2011 at 3:41 PM · Report this
michael strangeways 5
Some dumbass bought a condo in that neighborhood and is whining about the noise? Even if Baltic Room and Chapel (which also can get noisy in that 'hood) shut down, you'd only hear the roar of traffic from I-5 all the more.


(also, WHERE are there condos anywhere NEAR the Baltic Room?!?!?)
Posted by michael strangeways on April 15, 2011 at 4:11 PM · Report this
Hang in there, Baltic Room! And MIchael @5, that's what I was wondering. I"m guessing it's more likely an ordinary renter, someone whose prospective landlord was like, no, sign that long lease, go ahead, there's no club noise I swear. I hope whoever the complainer is can get over it.
Posted by gloomy gus on April 15, 2011 at 4:16 PM · Report this
aardvark 7
install a large db meter the size of the whole window
Posted by aardvark on April 15, 2011 at 4:36 PM · Report this
Timrrr 8
The same thing happened 6 or 7 years ago; noise complaints from someone in the El Capitan every Saturday night & visits from the police about it every week. This went on all summer long (and is the reason Baltic owns a dB meter, btw).

A private noise mitigation firm was hired and found that, across the street by the apartment building, the sound from the freeway consistently measured higher dB than the Baltic Room. Yet this dance with the police continued for the rest of the summer.

Then -- months & months later -- the cops discovered that someone living in the basement of El Capitan had been holding house parties there every Saturday night. They shut him down. And suddenly all the complains & police visits stopped overnight.
Posted by Timrrr on April 15, 2011 at 4:55 PM · Report this
Blame The Baltic Room. This is their own fault, for being lazy and greedy. This problem began a few months ago, not as suggested because of a new neighbor, but rather because The Baltic Room installed a new sound system without also doing the necessary work to contain the sound it produces. Really, by creating this problem, The Baltic Room is doing a disservice to all the other responsible clubs in the area who have appropriately reinforced their structures to contain the sound they produce. They are cheating the system, and thus will bring more heat on other clubs.

On the night of the Mary Anne Hobbs show, levels directly across the street were measured and documented showing frequent pulses reaching 96-100dB, with sustained levels in the 80's. The sustained ambient levels in the area are 45dB-55dB. Most of the high decibel sound emitted from the club is in the deepest bass frequencies. These frequencies are not attenuated well, if at all, by walls or windows, and can even be amplified inside receiving structures. In contrast, most ambient spikes are in mid to higher frequencies, and thus are well attenuated by walls and windows.

Last summer, I had my windows open every night, and every night I slept just fine. This, despite numerous clubs in the area, double buses going by every few minutes, a freeway nearby, cargo jets flying overhead, and screaming drunks on the street when the bars close. I never once, not once, complained about noise. Then, a few months ago, The Baltic Room installs a ridiculously powerful sound system in a flimsy old warehouse and does little or nothing to the structure to accommodate it. Blame The Baltic Room, not the neighbors.
Posted by clubLover on April 15, 2011 at 6:49 PM · Report this
Brian Geoghagan 10
It's too bad Joy Orbison couldn't have been the support for the Seattle stop.
Posted by Brian Geoghagan on April 15, 2011 at 7:00 PM · Report this
trstr 11
@9: Piss off.
Posted by trstr on April 15, 2011 at 7:27 PM · Report this
tournant 12
I live in the El Capitan, although in the north side of the building. I can tell you personally that the freeway noise trumps everything else. As far as I can tell, my building is the closest residential unit to the Baltic Room, as well as the most susceptible to noise from the club. Even folks on the south side of my building would mostly be shielded from the club noise by the building to the south of us. You would have to have your windows wide open (in this weather?) and be actively listening to hear noise from the Baltic Room. I call shenanigans.
Posted by tournant on April 15, 2011 at 8:56 PM · Report this
@9 Massively butthurt NUMBy detected.

Kent. Move there.
Posted by capax on April 15, 2011 at 10:17 PM · Report this
If any of you are actually sincerely interested in the issue of noise pollution, in particular the negative health effects of low-frequency modulated noise, a good place to get educated is a research report compiled by the State of Minnesota on the modulated low-frequency noise generated by wind farms, which is analogous to the deep bass of club music. It's a good read for all the clearly progressive folks on here, and on The Stranger staff, who love wind farms even more than they love clubs. It'll help some of you get past your ignorant, knee-jerk, Tea Party-like stance:…

Chris Aldrich in particular should read it before blogging any more on this subject.

Further, it would be helpful if folks also read the actual laws of Seattle before making claims about sound levels and sound level laws. These are easily located on the City of Seattle's web site. It's downright irresponsible for a blogger working for The Stranger to inflame people on an issue, with personal insults aimed at the unnamed citizen, while quoting seriously inaccurate information about the law and the situation ... without making the effort to find this readily available information. But, you're the Glenn Beck of electronic music apparently. Anyway, here is a link to the specific limits of the law which, as applied to this particular situation, limits noise at the receiving dwelling to 60dB or less (yes, these limits apply to music):…

The rule most everyone refers to is a sub-section of the law, adding an additional restriction on music. It is potentially even more strict than the explicit limits. This is the "plainly audible" rule. Unfortunately, nothing is plainly audible to anyone who's spent time in The Baltic Room. That's part of the problem here ... my dead grandmother can hear better than most of you. In any case, if I can hear the thumping bass clearly in my home, with the windows closed, it is in violation of the law. Sure, I can plainly hear airplanes and buses. But, those are not music. That's why this rule is more restrictive.

Now, I moved into my home here a long time ago. It is nearly two blocks from the offending club, and for most of my time here I have had no issue with The Baltic Room or any other club in the area. A few months ago, though, with the upgraded sound system at The Baltic Room, I started getting three to four hours of thump-thump-thump-thump almost every night until 2am. On this past Wednesday night, Mary Ann Hobb's show dished out sub-bass at up to 100 dB across the street from the club, 82dB on my patio, and 72dB inside my place with all windows closed. The peaks correspond to the thumping of the music, so, no, there are no shenanigans going on.

In any case, I love clubs. I have no desire to shut down any club. To the contrary, I have directly and indirectly supported a number of Seattle clubs as well as certain regular events at clubs. I like going to clubs, but I don't like clubs coming to me. And, the law is on my side. The real issue here is that The Baltic Room has not done its job. They have not lived up to their own responsibilities to the community.

If it helps, I'm all for an additional tax, maybe on liquor sold in the city, to fund proper sound insulation and noise mitigation at clubs. Maybe even an addition to the sales tax for it. That's got to be a better solution that the never-ending battles between a few negligent club owners and irritated neighbors.
Posted by ClubLover on April 15, 2011 at 11:05 PM · Report this
@5 - The Chapel is twice as close to me as The Baltic Room, and has never been a problem. They just don't generate the wall-penetrating sub-bass like The Baltic Room. It's not the music, it's the sub-bass. Everybody in the industry knows that you can't generate that kind of sound unless you build for it. Except for The Baltic Room.
Posted by ClubLover on April 15, 2011 at 11:21 PM · Report this
aardvark 16
ClubLover, thanks for joining the conversation. I'm not taking any sides here but I appreciate thoughtful counter arguments around here (or anywhere).
Posted by aardvark on April 16, 2011 at 10:30 AM · Report this
cosby 17
I was at the Baltic Room the night of this incident and, I have to say, it *was not* very loud in there. Granted, I think I arrived once the first police infraction occurred, but it's been one of the least loud nights I can remember there. I was right outside of the club at about midnight and the music was not that audible right next to the windows.

I have to say, I don't know why we are arguing - there is a law in place and if anyone feels that they are being unfairly oppressed by the sound, ring the police and they'll come with a dB meter. From what I can tell and unless someone wants to chime in, this never happened. If you live near a club and don't like the law that is in place, put up a ballot to change the law.

I love loud music, the louder the better. Also, I chose to live in a rather quiet section of town because I also enjoy sleep. I don't understand why people who love loud music are penalized because of people who were not smart enough to figure out that they love sleep.
Posted by cosby on April 16, 2011 at 1:27 PM · Report this
i'm pro-science and i vote 18
to the dude who called SPD on Baltic Room show: go buy some fucking earplugs already
Posted by i'm pro-science and i vote on April 16, 2011 at 1:52 PM · Report this
I have to correct my post regarding the sound levels during the Hobbs show. Those numbers I posted were actually measured during the Monday night show. I do not have measurements from the Wednesday show. Further, I personally did not complain during the Hobbs show. There has been an agreement in place to work this out, as the SPD response indicates. Any issues ongoing are either because there are others calling in complaints, or The Baltic Room is not honoring the agreement.

@18 - The frequencies in question are not stopped by earplugs. Note I cannot hear the whole of the music - only the deepest of the bass. If you've ever got your blood pumping to where it seemed you could hear it pumping, that's what it's like in my place when the BR is thumpin. It's the LFE (in home theater terms) at issue. It is also important to understand that this sound, absent the rest of the context (i.e. being in the club), is harmful to people even if they are not aware of the harm. Seriously. The reason it is pleasurable in some contexts, and harmful in others, is that it causes an involuntary adrenaline response. Every thump triggers the "fight or flight" alerting response, and people do not adapt to it. That's the scientific reality of it. There are definitely many other people in the area experiencing elevated anxiety, insomnia, and irritability, due to the noise, even if they are unaware.

@17 - Really, it is The Baltic Room that moved into my neighborhood. Sure, technically a place called The Baltic Room was here before me. But, with the new sound system and renovation, it is for all intents and purposes a new club. And a new problem. When I moved in, I knew the person who previously occupied my place. Before committing, I asked, specifically, how loud it is in the area, and specifically I asked about sub-woofer noise. Based on her description of her years living there, and on that of management, I moved in. And had been content for a long time. Until recently. My building has excellent sound insulation. Except in deep sub-bass.

@12 - It is quite possible that the issue is not as bad in your building. Most likely, this is because of the brick outer walls. The walls have sufficient inertial mass to stop sub-bass. My building is newer construction. It has great sound insulation at all frequencies except sub-bass. That's part of the issue here - The Baltic Room is an inappropriate structure for the music they are generating. The sub-bass goes right through, nearly unattenuated, the front plate-glass windows. It also goes right through the roof. Basically, the BR is resonating cavity for the entire neighborhood.

Posted by ClubLover on April 16, 2011 at 2:48 PM · Report this
An interesting anecdote in this is that when this issue first arose, my neighbor above me used to stomp on the floor late at night to express displeasure with thumping bass he thought was coming from my apartment. I too initially thought it was someone in our building. As did others.

I wonder how many people in the neighborhood think their immediate neighbor has an annoying sub-woofer? How many conflicts are simmering, unnecessary, because of this?

Posted by ClubLover on April 16, 2011 at 2:52 PM · Report this
@11 - If that's an invitation to water-sports, come find me in The Stranger Lust Lab.
Posted by ClubLover on April 16, 2011 at 2:54 PM · Report this
reverend dr dj riz 22
@19.. you did all that gum bumping to realize that you're not even talking about the night or the infraction mentioned in the article..
in my best roseanne roseannadanna voice ' neverrmind'
Posted by reverend dr dj riz on April 16, 2011 at 9:42 PM · Report this
@22 - Nice try. Rather, a shout-out to SPD: "excellent work"!
Posted by ClubLover on April 19, 2011 at 3:05 PM · Report this

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