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The controversy surrounding Red Rocks Amphitheater being muzzled

Just when fans thought live music was making its triumphant return, controversy comes creeping around the corner. The world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheater is facing serious criticism regarding sound restrictions that were put in place back in 2015. The reason sound decibel issues are being brought back into view over six years later, is due to Red Rocks’ new partnership with Mixhalo – an application that allows attendees to listen to sets through earphones. 

Red Rocks isn’t doing themselves any favors by framing the app as being ideal for fans in rows 40 and up, especially because those sections have been the subject of the controversy surrounding diminished noise levels. This is most likely the reason why the venue is getting so much backlash, as it makes the partnership seem like a cover-up. In reality, Mixhalo is an app that is used across the industry in venues as notable as the Staples Center and with bands as high-tier as Metallica and Aerosmith. Still, the fact remains that a sound reduction ordinance was put in place at one point that is impacting the Red Rocks’ experience. 

The story starts back in 2015, when residents who were moving into the surrounding Morrison, Colorado area began complaining about noise. The restrictions put in place are as follows:

  • Shows will be required to end no later than 11:45 on weeknights, 12:30 on weekends, and 12:30 on the night before holidays (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day). Violation charge is $10,000 for each half-hour increment, effective at the start of the third minute past the stated.
  • The use of pyrotechnics during shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre is only allowed by permit from the Denver Fire Department, Fire Prevention division.
  • Sound pressure level shall not exceed 108.0 dBA for 1-minute averages. The Leq (equivalent continuous noise level) sound pressure levels shall not exceed 123.0 dB bands for 1-minute averages. A Sound Pressure Level (SPL) monitoring system, provided by the City and County of Denver, will be located at the front of house mix position to provide sound engineers with real-time data to help them manage the sound levels. If the limit is exceeded three times, the City of Denver reserves the right to charge $10,000 (and another $10,000 if it’s exceeded another three times).

A petition that has been put in place on Change.org states that “there is no reason why a Tuesday night show should be significantly quieter than a weekend show.” This appears to be at the heart of the issue, while another rumor claiming that Red Rocks is gradually lowering the volume annually “just isn’t’ true,” according to Red Rocks spokesman Brian Kitts. Conscious Electronic reached out to Kitts regarding a statement he made in 2015 claiming that the noise reduction efforts had to do with “shaving off certain high points of the show, to the point that fans aren’t going to notice.” Here was his interpretation of the statement.

“Certain things like pyrotechnics and other noises might trigger some limits.  And engineers said that reducing some peak sound – particularly for those sustained periods – wouldn’t affect an overall show.”

– Brian Kitts, Red Rocks Spokesman

While venue representatives claim the changes should be hard to notice, fans are claiming otherwise. One Red Rocks veteran who has been attending the venue for 10+ years and works in the live events space says he “doesn’t even attend EDM shows at Red Rocks anymore” due to the fact that you can literally “hear people talking over the music in the rows further back.” While fans shouldn’t base their conclusions on the perspective of one fan, these opinions should still be taken into consideration.

Red Rocks still remains one of the hottest venues in the world and their upcoming calendar proves it. Hopefully, an arrangement can be made that retains the authenticity of the Red Rocks experience while remaining respectful to nearby residents.

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