2015-01-22 / Opinion

Let’s Face the Music


Newport has long been known as “the City by the Sea,” but perhaps with the proposal for a summer concert series at Fort Adams that should be changed to “the Music City by the Sea.” Lately, there has been even more discourse over the viability of outdoor music performances.

In the summertime, when the listening should be easy, it is often not. There are many who consider music to be “noise” and the debate, and finger pointing, is endless.

Persistent noise complaints around its downtown summer concert series were cited by the Newport Harbor Corporation in its decision to sell the nine waterfront parcels that made up the Newport Yachting Center, parcels that together sold for more than $12 million.

Does anyone really believe that the increase in noise complaints and uptick in citations issued, both problems that could have easily been solved by turning down the volume, actually led the business savvy group to sell the Yachting Center?

Real estate deals such as that one tend to take months or years to assemble. It was most likely in the works well before last summer’s concert series. Do you think for a minute that the people operating the three restaurants, marina and dockside special events venue did not know until it was announced that their leased locales would soon be sold?

The big time Newport Jazz and Folk festivals that now occur at Fort Adams are somewhat removed from downtown, but not nearly far enough away from those who live nearby.

It may be a new year but the same old song about noise has already begun over a plan to move the popular downtown summer concert series to the fort.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Fort Adams, one of Newport’s venerable historic structures, is now in the news because residents think the proposed music events are problematic on several fronts. Admittedly, the fort must be maintained and restored to continue to operate as a historic site.

But is stentorian music, with the crowds it attracts and the neighbors it annoys, really the best way to support Fort Adams? Is it the best use of the fort?

Maybe, or maybe not.

We think that the Jazz and Folk festivals, long summer staples at the fort, should continue. Neighbors who don’t like crowds or the noise from these long-standing events lost their chance to complain decades ago.

But, we have popular city-sponsored weeknight concerts at Easton’s Beach and Sunday afternoon concerts at King Park, both nice venues for local performers. We also boast numerous restaurants and bars throughout town that showcase area musicians.

There are also plenty of indoor venues around town where local artists can and do perform. Indeed, the more they do, the more they help ensure that these places stay in business and don’t disappear as the Blue Pelican and Billy Goode’s have done.

Maybe other big name acts should appear at Newport Grand, with its thick walls ensuring neighborhood quiet.

And the beat goes on.

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