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Rock shocks?

January 29, 2016
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

First thing Monday morning, we were greeted with an email exchange on an issue that spilled over into the late afternoon Cape Coral City Council meeting.

In response to resident complaints that began shortly after the Cape Chaos rock show hit the stage at Sun Splash Saturday, City Manager John Szerlag and Council apologized to nearby residents and vowed "never again."

"I share your disappointment and apologize on behalf of the city administration for last night's opening performance," Mr. Szerlag wrote in a Sunday morning email to one complaining resident who called for the firing of the city staffer responsible for bringing "garbage" into the city.

"Moving forward, I spoke with parks and recreation event manager Todd King and advised of two things:

"Do whatever it takes to stop obscenities from performers at Sunsplash or any other city property.

"Adjust stage volume accordingly to account for Highwinds so will there will not be loud noise going to surrounding neighborhoods," wrote Mr. Szerlag, whose office received a total of four complaints via email.

City Council's reaction Monday night to the noise and profanity complaints was similar.

"Our residents deserve better," said Councilmember Rana Erbrick. "I'm looking for some strong regulations going forward so this never happens again. It's not so much the sound as it was the language that we won't repeat here. These people moved in next to Sun Splash, but they did not move next to an amphitheater."

No, those who live in the neighborhood surrounding the city-owned water park and event grounds off Santa Barbabra Boulevard certainly did not locate near an amphitheater.

They do, however, live near a facility that the city uses for most of its larger festivals that, yes, include lots of live music and sometimes fireworks to boot. The largest of those events, the three-day Coconut Festival held in November, typically draws crowds of 33,000-plus.

Cape Chaos, which lasted about 8 hours, drew a crowd of about 2,500 Saturday, down from the 3,000 sellout expected due to the weather. Concert-goers came out to see nearly a dozen national acts ranging from P.O.D., a Christian rock band with more than 10 million albums sold and three Grammy nominations to their credit, to an apparently offending HellYeah, whose title album unabashedly bears the "Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics Strong Language" label.

The 96 K-Rock sponsored inaugural Cape Chaos concert should have been a coup for the city - and indeed was, if one judges by the popularity of the nationally known bands on the bill and the fact that the show sold out.

Instead, like a capacity-crowd DJ-sponsored teen party at Sun Splash last March, it has become a "not here, not again" style controversy that so-often defines after-the-fact reaction in Cape Coral.

The issue, as we see it, is three-fold.

The first, noise related to outdoor concerts, is the easiest fix with city staffers saying stage location and position contributed to the sound levels heard in the nearby neighborhoods Saturday night.

The second is a little harder, but doable.

Had the city expressed language concerns to the event's host, 96 K-Rock, contract conditions could have been built in to address any front-man, bad-boy banter to pump the crowd in between songs. This doesn't readily address song lyrics themselves, however. Some bands have no problem modifying lyrics for a "public airways" audience. Others have more of a "go...," well, if you can fill in the blank, long live rock 'n' rock.

Which brings us to the third point and it's the one that may be the most difficult to resolve.

On the one hand, the city has a faction that points out that the Cape is growing younger and so needs events for teens and young adults.

On the other, there are those who don't want to see "controversial" plays staged at Cultural Park Theatre or profanity-peppered performances out-of-doors where the grandfolks and the kiddies are exposed to language they may not choose to hear or that may not be age appropriate.

Council's task at hand then, is to balance the points of view, understanding that the more restrictive the "rules" for public events, the more limiting the types of performances that can be held here.

Unaffected would be "safe" shows featuring favorite classic bands who now play fairs and festivals to the cheers of boomers rockin' the lawn chairs.

But that very well could mean that for a major outdoor concert such as Cape Chaos aimed at the 18-45 crowd, residents are still going to have to cross the river or hit I-75 out of town to hear these types of national acts.

Put another way, Council need to decide where the line is to be drawn between Cape Coma and Cape Chaos.

Just don't book raunch rockers Steel Panther for Sun Splash until it's decided where that line lies.

-Breeze editorial



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