Beach Road noise an issue for some Tisbury residents

Businesses say the festival has helped during a slower period; town officials praise the field work

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Beach Road Weekend Music Festival, August 2023. —Jeremy Driesen

While the popularity of the Beach Road Weekend concert continues to grow and garner more support from local businesses and organizations, some town residents say the event has consistently created noise pollution and vibration disturbances, and is inappropriate for the festival’s current Veterans Memorial Park location. 

Since its inception in 2019, the three-day annual festival, which showcases dozens of popular performers and attracts tens of thousands to Vineyard Haven’s Veterans Park, has been met with high praise from day-trippers and Island music lovers. 

But it’s also been a source of anxiety and stress for some area neighbors, who didn’t get a say in where the concert takes place.

According to records obtained by The Times, around 25 calls were made directly to the Tisbury Police Department in regard to Beach Road Weekend noise levels during August 25 through 27. Another few dozen complaints were made directly to the festival’s parent company, Innovation Arts and Entertainment, from 11 different callers. 

“My floor is vibrating,” one resident reported. 

“Vibrations illegal for sanity,” said another.

One caller informed police that her ears were physically in pain from the “excess volume.”

In response to complaints last year regarding noise levels, festival organizers this year availed town residents of noise-monitoring phone applications, in order to record how loud the events’ sound was. 

Still, some found the sound levels to be worse than last year, reportedly registering indoor decibel levels similar to noise from heavy traffic. 

Silvia Vogt, who lives a few houses down from Veterans Park, told The Times that for more than 12 hours a day over the course of the festival, her phone app consistently clocked the noise as being between “general conversation” level and “loud motorcycle.”

Vogt noted that while she generally loves music, the festival’s continuous high-decibel sound and vibrations triggered weekend-long headaches for both her and her migraine-affected teenage daughter.  

“It was a miserable three days,” she said, adding that even when she left to go to another part of town, the sound was persistently audible. 

After long days of feeling “like we’re prisoners of our own home,” Vogt said that by Sunday, she had no choice but to leave the area entirely. 

“My take is that they should put the festival somewhere else on the Island,” she said, “like the airport, [or] Holmes Hole [Road], because it’s mostly industrial there.”

Tisbury resident Suzanne Tonry shared a similar experience; even after a drive across town lines to Oak Bluffs, she couldn’t escape the concert’s noise.

Tonry, a business owner who lives by Five Corners, told The Times that between early morning sound checks, an increase in heavy traffic, and the music volume itself, the concert has negatively impacted her overall well-being. 

The noise from the festival “hits this building like a tornado,” she said, adding that her cats spend the entirety of the weekend event in hiding: “Waking up in the morning with your bed vibrating and your windows rattling, why do we need to go through that? … My blood pressure is up for that whole weekend because I have that pounding in my ears.”

Regarding the the dozens of noise complaints from Tisbury abutters, festival founder Adam Epstein refutes claims that the sound levels in nearby residential areas were higher than years previous, and stated that over the course of this year’s event, staff made sure of that by meticulously checking decibel levels at the perimeter of the park throughout the weekend. 

“The sound this year was dramatically improved over last year,” he said in a recent call with The Times, due to an “entirely new sound system and entirely new engineer.” 

The former, Epstein says, included an “higher-quality line array,” which distributes sounds throughout additional speakers, and a lower volume. That setup was “specifically designed to “mitigate the challenges we saw in 2022,” he said.

 

Business appreciation

While some town business owners have also reported unfavorable aspects of the weekend festival, most have expressed support for the event. 

Elaine Barse of the Vineyard Haven Business Association says a recent survey indicates roughly 80 percent of town business owners found the event to be overall positive. 

The survey, meant to provide insight on the benefits and detriments of Beach Road Weekend on the local economy, also found that while only around half of those business owners attended at least one day of the concert, when it came to revenue, the majority saw either an increase or no change during the three-day event.

Part of that, Barse surmises, is a change to the concert’s entry policy, which, starting this year, allowed people to come and go as they please. This meant concertgoers were able to explore other parts of the town and the Island, she said. 

In a recent letter to the Tisbury Select Board, the Martha’s Vineyard Lodging Association, an industry group comprising 24 resorts, hotels, and inns throughout the Island, shared similar support for the Beach Road concert.

“The lodging industry here on-Island sees the festival in a very positive light,” the association reps wrote. “Not only did it fill our properties during a historic slow period at the end of summer during the three-day festival, but festival attendees typically extended their Vineyard vacation on the shoulder dates of the weekend … Those same festivalgoers also filled our Island restaurants and patronized our shops across the Island.”

Lodging association members say feedback from those guests was “overwhelmingly positive, with many stating that the festival was very well organized and executed.” 

“The MVLA sees the Beach Road music festival as an excellent event that not only allows local Vineyard residents a chance to see national recording artists in our own backyard, but also expands our tourism base to a demographic that was missing pre-festival,” the association said.

 

What about the park?

In response to last year’s concerns about the health of Veterans Memorial Park, this year, Beach Road Weekend promoter Epstein agreed to fund revitalization efforts following the three-day festival. 

And that process has been underway. Currently, areas of the park are being touched up with additional topsoil and seed, department of public works director Kirk Metell told The Times:. “We’re just giving some time for that grass to bounce back.”

While the town maintains Veterans Park every year, Metell says the extent of this year’s park revival work far exceeds efforts in nearly a decade. The park has received “a lot more work this year than it ever has,” he said; compared with years prior: “It’s a night-and-day difference.” 

Metell said although at the moment, the town is “discouraging” larger-scale sport events from utilizing the field until the recently planted grass fully takes root, Veterans Park is in fact open to the public. So far, there have been no requests to use the park this fall, Metell said. 

For years, the park was typically closed during the fall months, though some three-season sports groups have expressed interest in potentially using it in the future.

“Hopefully after this work, we can accommodate that going forward,” Metell said. 

The town will now be picking up where festival promoter Epstein left off, Metell said, and will be enacting a comprehensive year-round maintenance plan that will go out to bid “very shortly.”

A full maintenance plan would enable the park to open shortly after the three-day concert, and could make it accessible by larger sporting events, if needed — a first in “many years,” Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande told The Times: “So long as we continue to perform regular maintenance [and] deep aeration.”

“I do not recall the fields in recent memory being in a condition to support fall sports,” he said. “So this is a very positive outcome. Veterans Park fields are getting the attention which has been needed for many years.”

 

What’s next for Beach Road Weekend?

While next year’s Beach Road concert is slated for August 22–25, Tisbury officials say they’re planning on holding a public meeting in the near future to allow for public input and to discuss concerns, along with the road going forward. 

But Epstein says the future of the popular concert is far from being set in stone. In terms of considering a new venue for the festival, Epstein says, he has been flirting with the idea of moving the festival off-Island entirely, and is currently in negotiations with a town on the Cape for the 2025 festival.  

Epstein says his company had looked into other alternatives on and off the Island before the concert’s inaugural year, but had settled on Veterans Memorial Park in Tisbury because of the town’s support back in 2019. 

“Fortunately for us, people see we have a mature festival that is improving every year, and people want it to be in their town now,” he said.

 

“Most towns understand that events like this, while they may be a mild inconvenience for a few days, also deliver positive financial and cultural benefits to the town … Most towns embrace this.”

36 COMMENTS

  1. Exactly how much
    money has the town of Tisbury received in exchange for all the inconvenience, not only the days of the festival but the week to ten days of preparation?? The field was closed to walkers far in advance of the festival. And the parking lot was also closed for more than a week before the festival.
    What’s the bottom line here?

  2. If the lodging and restaurant owners who want to this continue have to have boom boxes placed at their family’s on-island homes that broadcast live music from the festival at the same volume levels as at houses adjacent to Memorial Park, then the noise pollution problem will probably be solved…
    Just sayin…

  3. I have a lot of sympathy for those who live close to the park who must endure the relentless pounding bass generated by this event. But it seems the promoter, the town government, and local businesses do not care about the well being of their neighbors because of the money they make, directly or indirectly. This location was a bad idea from the start.

    • It’s not that they don’t care about neighbors, Jim, it’s that they care about money more. It’s pure, greedy self-interest. Money trumps doing the right thing on the island, just like most everywhere else, despite the fantasy of who islanders think they are.

      And then we get to listen to the victim-whining of the self-promoting promoter who claims it’s a charitable cause, lol, especially to make the park unusable for a good chunk of the year.

  4. I understand from talking to our DPW that our public athletic park will not be open for full use until next spring. Presently it is completly closed off with yellow caution tape.

  5. Lets see. The park basically gets closed off for 6 months time. People who live close to it have to endure the loud noise generated by the concert and concert goers. Tisbury has to deal with an enormous influx of people for 3 days maybe more. The local softball league which has been going on for years has to finish early. So Epstien can make a ton of money of this. Lets put some speakers next to his house and the local town officials who approved of the concert and broadcast the concert an the same decible level thats at the Park endure while the concert is going on. Time to get real Tisbury. You are being used. Wake up and stop this concert.

  6. As the article reported,
    1) the field is not off limits. The DPW is recommending it be given time to let the grass seed grow so that the field can be strong for spring athletics. It is available to be used now.
    2) There are no profits earned from Beach Road Weekend for any person or business. No fees of any kind are paid to Innovation Arts to produce the event. BRW is produced by the Vineyard Arts & Culture Foundation, a 501-c3 non-profit organization that directly funds organizations that support the arts, education, and recreation. Even when the festival does not generate surplus revenue, its Board of Directors steps up to fund the non-profits philanthropic efforts. The Minnesingers, Edgartown School 7th Grade DC trip, Camp Jabberwocky, Harbor Homes, and several others are all direct beneficiaries of Beach Road Weekend.
    3) At no time during the festival, which only occurs from noon -9pm were decibel levels higher than 80db at the perimeter of the park. Volumes at all surrounding areas outside the park were never higher than 77db except for when the audio volume of vehicles traveling on Beach and State Roads caused levels to spike.
    4) video recordings of Five Corners have documented a dramatic (50%) reduction in actual vehicular traffic flow during the music festival versus a typical summer weekend.
    5) throughout the entire weekend, there were a combined total of 45 audio complaints filed by only 11 households. Each of those households had our team measuring decibel levels shortly after their complaints were filed. At no point, were audio levels greater than 10% over the regular ambient audio levels at those same locations on a typical summer day.

      • Facts? Fast and loose.

        1. Don’t use the park. The park is available to be used.

        2. There are no profits earned from BRW.
        The businesses and people who profited didn’t know that.

        3. At no time. Except.

        4. A summer weekend, after the season is over, is not a typical summer weekend.

        5. ONLY 45 AUDIO complaints. (What, besides audio, were the other complaints? Did you forget?)
        ONLY 11 households, which of course don’t matter if you’re Adam Epstein giving contradictory, minimizing, and gibberish facts.

    • THE FIELD IS OFF LIMITS.

      There is a yellow tape around the whole field.

      Mr. Epstein has sent the CHUTZPAH meter to TILT.

  7. My take is that Mr Epstein’s biz model will never turn a reasonable profit share for VH
    & if he’s says he in negotiations with another Cape location he’s a good he’s a good he’s playing poker with VH town fathers.

  8. It is insanely offensive due to the volume. From our house it makes concentration impossible. The music comes to our place as thumping and bounces off a neighbor’s wall to create an echo so each sound is duplicated. Thinking is impossible. In 1967 all the great bands played every Sunday for free at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. All the now legendary bands played – and simultaneously. The speakers were on the trucks and the music was beautiful and incredible. 100 yards away another band, and so on – usually 5 bands at a time and not a problem with hearing or loudness.

    Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and so on. No charge, all free, and food was provided by the Diggers and of course lots of drugs. The police were banned from the park, there were no incidents, ever, and the Hell’s Angels provided security for the bands. It was a different world.

    This enterprise is so incredibly commercial and uses loudspeakers to cause excitement and energy and the bands are okay I suppose, but not great, and it costs an awful lot. It harms property owners, it restricts use of the park for well over a month and it is just not right.

    Adam Epstein contacted us and we exchanged emails and I pleaded with him to take it off island. The fact that he is in the process gives us hope we will not need to leave our home during the concert and lovers of it can travel to its new location from here and most certainly Adam will negotiate a good deal and insure a long lasting venue.

    As for local businesses… We owned stores in all three down island towns and off island and business on MV has never been better. We wish Adam all the best as he negotiates a venue off island, but it definitely can not continue here.

    From Beach Road –

    • Frank, as I told you in writing with documentation, we measured decibel readings on the sidewalk by your address. Decibel readings while bands were performing were equal to when there were no bands performing. There was absolutely no audio impact upon your home from the festival.

      You responded to my documentation with profanity, and ccd the Select Board.

      Your rhetoric is abusive and unfounded.

      • Adam – There are an awful lot of complaints regarding noise by a lot of people on a regular basis. Homeowners have a right to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes and so all of the complaints that have been made show a lack of respect for property owners complaints. And so, to say that my “rhetoric” is unfounded is not only not true but I am curious as to you use of the word “rhetoric” which would indicate by definition “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.” If so, you really are actually indicating you consider my comment well thought out.

        Be that your intent or not, I thank you.

        Word is that you are also generous with free tickets being offered to certain people who made mention of it and again, that is also a nice thing to do as well as looking into a venue on Cape Cod and so really you deserve a lot of credit. But bottom line, at next lease renewal I suspect you will find a lot of property owners showing up.

        Too loud.

      • There is so much wrong with what Adam Epstein is bringing to Tisbury. The fact of the use of a town park in the close proximity to homes is in and of itself a mistake. But Adam could not have done this without approval from our select board – two of which owned inns that stood to benefit financially. But the select board went even further than that and approved, after warnings by citizens, the use of a powerful amplification system that they were warned against. Adam was adamant about this condition.

        After it was obvious and complaints were heard the town re-approved for another term and complaints increased and the size expanded while the park was put out of commission for longer time and a line of buses were added that added to the intrusion.

        A feature of the concert became multiple set ups for selling beer, food, and profitable enterprises popped up, expanded, and became a feature so many people were making money and taking away from the use of the park for sports and walking and peaceful pleasures.

        It illustrated in capital letters the failure of our town government – and made it difficult to correct. That Adam is looking at a venue on Cape Cod is the solution. The concert will continue, it can grow and be a permanent fixture and regulations could be professionally administered and not a select board approved free for all.

      • If you throw a party, invite the neighbors. Less of a chance having the cops showing up. Perhaps give the abutters a free pass to the festival.

      • Abusive and unfounded rhetoric? Sounds like Frank on most of the topics he’s written about. I’m grateful this time he only wrote 5 paragraphs.

  9. This event is simply too big and too prolonged for the location. It’s completely unfair to expect these neighbors to put up with it for three days. They’re entitled to a reasonable degree of peace and quiet.

    • And yet they’re probably paying to live there for 365 days, Albert. Paying island rates at that.

      Some people don’t want to sacrifice three days of peace every year. Seems more than understandable to me. You mentioned the fireworks earlier. They are, in my opinion, a poor comparison. They don’t go on for 27 hours. Much to the relief of every dog.

      • If it the concert were for one day, like fireworks, you would be proponent?
        Do dogs prefer fireworks to concerts?

  10. I wasn’t going to press send, but, I have to express my gratitude to the Beach Road Weekend. I am a Tisbury homeowner who lives near the event. Yes, I can hear it from inside my house. I also buy tickets to all the days, and attend, and have attended every day, every year…so I have a unique input to commenting on this…I grew up in a family that celebrates music. I am older, and hard of hearing. I protect my ears, and drink and eat at the event, and walk home.
    This town, if I’m not mistaken, has, just this year (2023), allowed people to have a beer without a meal, is that correct? So, it is apparent that things don’t change fast.
    I am thankful to Mr. Epstein’s efforts for convincing such wonderfully talented people to come and play on our meager softball/soccer field to put both neighbors and tourists in the same place to have fun. That’s the name of the game on-island, it’s bound to have tourists, being a tourist island, so, great to meet them, and have fun!
    That old adage is true: “You gotta fight, for your right, to PARTY!”
    I would also like to thank everyone involved in organizing, and funding this event, as it was really cool! It is always worth a try to do everything right, but as we can see, there is a strong resistance to change! Perhaps some, or a lot, of Tisbury residents are satisfied if the town is not a destination, but rather a “drive through” town…or the arrival town, taxi out town, and later depart from town. Balance the quiet times, of which there are plenty, with the party times, and give the event a pat on the back…if we were waiting for those who are covering their ears to throw a party, we would be doomed.

  11. Terrible Concert Series Mess.
    I fought Tisbury politicians for 10 years and finally won my plan for sidewalks and bike lanes on Beach Road.
    I tried to correct the problems of our drawbridge and initially was on track and then the Town Administrator sabotaged me.
    But the concert is such a mess and once again our process, our select board, allowed a concert in the middle of homes. It is devastating.
    But it is far worse than damage to homeowners. Kids are blocked from our park and sports. Walkers, dogs, all banned for a long period.
    Businesses have sprouted up and lay claim to our park now to sell food and beer. Inns and home owners rent for big money with airbnb.
    What a mess.

  12. Epstien can certainly spin the situation and make it sound like it’s a wonderful event. Epstien get real, try pulling the wool over another towns eyes and see where it goes. You’re trying to tell us you dont profit off this. I highly doubt that.

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