Once upon a time, the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club was far enough away from the rest of the world at large that, while not as remote as Black Rock City, provided us some insulation from worrying about how our event impacted the community around us. Over time and with rapid real estate development in Delaware, Playa del Fuego finds itself with a variety of neighbors who have a variety of tolerance levels for sound playing 24 hours a day.
The initial version of the Sound Policy took many of the guidelines that had been put in place by the Florida Burners for the PreHeat and AfterBurn events, synthesized with feedback from members of the Sound Community (DJs, musicians and technicians), who were consulted about ways to reduce the sound impact beyond the borders of a particular camp. These helped generate the measures listed on the Sound Policy as well as the Sound Camp Registration form available on the site. In particular, the bass turnoff and volume reduction at midnight made a big difference and was instrumental in turning the Florida regional event arounds in the eyes of their landowners and surrounding community at large. Events that were in danger of being cancelled or being forced to find a new home became events that are running with the cooperation of local authorities.
The initial implementation of the Sound Policy in Spring 2012 went out without any major hitch; there were no police called to the event and the Veterans even turned down their traditional playing of "Black Betty" at 7:30 Sunday morning, which, as it turns out was the Veterans way of "giving us a taste of our own medicine" as a result of our normal sound levels. The Fall 2012 was more of a mixed bag; instances of fantastic cooperation across multiple departments were mixed with incidents where sound went over the limits, communication measures failed, and the police made another visit back to the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club. This is not an acceptable outcome for us.
2. Moving Forward
In the Spring of 2013 we made adjustments to the policy as as well as improving a few communications practices which made Spring 2013 an event without a visit from local police with noise complaints. We implemented a "turn-down" period in order to help guide the sound in the right direction for late night activities. We still have camps that can play sound at a higher level than others. The camps are selected from the list of camps that apply to the Sound Policy. We've also enabled people within the community to help us monitor sound; any member in the burn can now voice an issue and/or complaint as it arises.
3. Sound at other burns
While making these revisions, we talked to people running Regional events around the country and planet. As it turns out, sound is a large issue with many events around the planet. The 2012 Santa Cruz decompression recently lost the right to have their event on that land due to the number of noise complaints launched within one night. The London Decompression has also had issues as well. The Florida burns (PreHeat and AfterBurn) have policies with low levels of sound, and Bass completely removed past 12:30 AM.
PDF has joined the list of regional events that are trying different measures and sound policies in order to find the right balance between the needs of the Burners who come to PDF and the community around the event.
One case that merits special attention is SOAK, Seattle's regional event. For two years, Seattle had to completely remove any amplified sound at 10PM every night. This was dictated by the land owners, and there was no exception to that rule. In response, SOAK created open mic spaces and encouraged people playing musical instruments. A silent disco was also employed in order to provide some music under adverse circumstances. The community rallied around those changes,and even with a new, private home for SOAK, the event will have many quiet zones and spaces.
The 2015 Sound Policy can be viewed below, or downloaded as PDF.