Ex-politician Laura McDiarmid questions ban on electronic music concerts at PNE Forum

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      For as long as she can remember, Laura McDiarmid has been going to concerts at various venues in Hastings Park.

      “I saw Janis Joplin. I saw Jimi Hendrix. I saw all these bands…and they were loud, really loud,” McDiarmid, a former Vancouver park board chair, told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

      Noting that the park has always been a popular site for concerts, McDiarmid said it doesn’t sit right that the city—through the Pacific National Exhibition, the organization that manages the park—is now limiting what type of music can be played at the venues. She was referring to the PNE’s decision to ban electronic-music concerts at the PNE Forum.

      “This doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.

      At the very least, McDiarmid wants to see the results of a test done by an acoustics consultant hired by the PNE. The test was cited as the basis for the move to stop “electronica” shows at the Forum.

      One more such concert is scheduled for August 11, and the PNE is trying to move it to the Pacific Coliseum, which it says has better sound insulation.

      The end of electronica at the Forum won’t bring an end to complaints about the venue.

      For Hastings-Sunrise resident Barry Sharbo, who lives across the street from the venue, all types of music concerts should be banned from the Forum and instead held at the Coliseum.

      “It’s a concrete-structure design, and more suitable to that,” he said of the Coliseum during a phone interview with the Straight.

      According to Sharbo, the PNE has not been complying with city regulations under Vancouver’s Noise Control By-law No. 655. He cited a section stipulating that continuous sound should not exceed a sound-pressure level of 70 decibels during daytime and 65 decibels during nighttime.

      Sharbo claimed that, based on his own measurements, sound levels from concerts at the Forum reach up to 90 decibels.

      PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance explained that electronica concerts were singled out because they generate sounds with longer wavelengths that are thus able to travel into the surrounding residential streets more effectively.

      “We always try and be a good neighbour,” Ballance told the Straight by phone. “And if it’s outside of the acceptable sound in the neighbourhood, then it’s not something that we’re going to undertake.”

      According to her, the PNE carried out minor renovations at the Forum when it became known that electronica concerts were causing sound-disturbance problems. However, these repairs weren’t enough to fully resolve these issues, she noted.

      “It doesn’t make sense from a budget perspective to undertake that size of renovation to accommodate this style of show,” she added.

      For lovers of music other than electronica, the Forum will remain a concert venue. “That particular building has a legacy of fantastic musical showcases, going back to the ’30s, you know. Everybody from Jimmy Durante to Pink Floyd has played in that building, and so I think there’s a long legacy,” Ballance said.