Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Foo Fighters: The megastars of rock who played for an audience of over 700,000 people

(even if most of them hadn’t got a ticket)

The Foo Fighters perform at Tennants Vital in Boucher Playing Fields

They sold 30,000 tickets but ended up entertaining around 700,000 people.

Despite Belfast City Council receiving scores of complaints about the volume of a Foo Fighters gig heard up to 14 miles away — the message was still ‘rock on'.

The US rockers’ Northern Ireland debut went down a storm with the tens of thousands of fans packed into Boucher Playing Fields in south Belfast.

But most of the greater Belfast area also got a free performance from the band when its sound travelled clearly for miles on Tuesday night.

One of the biggest outdoor gigs ever staged in Belfast, residents for several miles around the stage reported being able to hear every note and word clearly.

While some enjoyed the songs of one of the world's biggest bands, others complained saying the noise was too loud and preventing children from sleeping.

Belfast City Council received around 120 calls from residents some describing “terrorised by the hellishly loud noise”.

Around half were complaints and the other half queries about what the noise was.

Despite unhappy householders, the council remained defiant ahead of last night's Stone Roses gig at the same site.

An average of 40 to 50 complaints are usually received about gigs. It is also believed the police received 20 calls.

The council said that the second and final night of the Tennent's Vital festival, also featuring Florence and the Machine, would go ahead with no fresh restrictions.

Ahead of the gig a spokeswoman for the council said that in light of the complaints they were working with organisers to “establish guideline levels” for the event.

Guidelines in place at the Boucher Playing Fields ruled that the decibel count should not exceed 100.

At one point on Tuesday evening the level rose to 104, before it was reduced to 101.5.

Residents in the Lisburn Road and Cadogan Park area experienced a decibel level of 70.

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman explained there is no legislation surrounding music levels at concerts, so agreements between the council and promoters are for guidance only.

“Upper and lower guidance music levels for the Tennant’s Vital Concert were agreed with the aim of striking a balance between the success of the event and minimising significant disturbance from it,” she said.

“Climate, topography and the nature of the music are likely to have contributed to the sound from the event being heard at locations situated a considerable distance from it.

“Upon receiving complaints we noted that the upper limit had been exceeded and at the request of council officers this was reduced by event organisers to within agreed limits. There is nothing unusual in this a breach of guideline levels often happens at such events and are dealt with in the same manner.”

Chair of Belfast City Council’s environmental health committee SDLP councillor, Pat McCarthy said it was important to be “positive” about the event.

“There was 32,000 people of all ages at the venue enjoying themselves,” he said.

“There were no arrrests, there were no reports of trouble. Hotels were fully booked and restaurants and bars all got a turn out of it.

Mr McCarthy added: “They did get a little loud at one point.

“They were asked to turn it down and they did. It is not a hanging offence.Justin Green from MCD Productions said: ‘We have worked closely with both Belfast City Council and PSNI to ensure that Tennent’s Vital causes limited disruption to local residents who we have also liaised closely with in the run up to the event.

MCD is one of the most experienced and professional music promoters in Europe and every event is planned and managed to an extremely tight schedule including ensuring adequate sound measures and controls. Tennent’s Vital has had an extremely positive impact on the city, with not a hotel room to be had in Belfast.

“People travelled from far and wide, Wexford, Donegal, Manchester, London and a report of someone flying in from Texas.

“Bringing such a popular attraction to the city means there will always be some level of disruption but all in all it was a fantastic night.”

Radio presenter Ralph McLean said the event should be looked at a “major step forward”, adding: “Kids have been kept awake with very different kinds of explosions at night so the explosion of bass, guitar and drums is a definite step forward, I think.

“If you want Belfast to be a major player among European cities you have to have the gigs and with that is noise.”

He understood it can be hard for people close to festivals but said things have to “move on”.

Stuart Bailie of the Oh Yeah Music Centre, said: “You don’t want to inconvience a resident forever over a bit of rock and roll, but surely for a few hours it is a price to pay for people expressing themselves and being excited and happy?

“I’d just ask people to remember how awful it used to be.”

Geography makes our city a natural auditorium

By Ursula Walsh

The geography of Belfast has a lot to do with what happened. It’s a basin, surrounded by hills, so there is a valley effect.

It’s its own natural auditorium, as such, like the old Greek amphitheatres. The speakers and concert were facing toward the Boucher Road and the east, rather than north.

Therefore there was a combination of factors that made it sound louder than usual. Sound is a pressure wave. Molecules in the air compress together and that pressure wave travels through the air.

Decibels are a pressure measurement.

It’s not just the strength of the wave that’s the volume. The loudness is how strong the pressure wave is. Human perception is to do with pitch. Bass notes are low frequency. People are more annoyed by higher frequencies.

The low frequency, bass notes travel better through air. That’s how you hear planes and thunder.

People further away would have heard the low frequency because they travel better. I heard it from Newtownbreda and enjoyed it. It’s great to hear the city so alive.

Ursula Walsh is Environmental Health course director at the University of Ulster’s School of the Built Environment.

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