Washington, DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user Ted Eytan

“Dear PoPville,

I live in a small condo building and we are neighbors with a church. Our buildings do not share a common wall but instead there is a small maybe 8-10 foot wide “alley” between our two buildings that is patio space and a majority of the windows to all of our individual units are along this wall facing the church.

The church is also rented as an event space, most recently to an all-day punk rock festival. Because of the close proximity of the two buildings, as well as the lack of insulation in the church’s walls and windows facing our unit (which have window AC units which let the sound go straight through) means that this concert was extremely disruptive to all of the residents of our building, with some taking decibel readings inside their units approaching 100 or higher for 10 straight hours, to the level that even the lyrics and comments made by performers on stage were intelligible through two sets of exterior walls into our individual units.

So my question is – is there a legal limit to the level of noise that a neighboring building can create in a residential neighborhood? The police were called, and while sympathetic to our situation, they said they couldn’t do anything about it unless it was between the hours of 10pm and 7am. Some building residents found online noise ordinances stating the noise cannot be over 60 decibels at a property line – but no real way to enforce this. The music and noise in question is in no way related to church worship – and because the structure was not built as a concert venue and is quite old it does not have the same levels of insulation you would find at a typical music venue.

Just trying to find out if there are any laws or ordinances about disturbing the peace in a residential neighborhood, or if there are any agencies that we can contact to prevent this from happening again. Living next to a church I understand that it is reasonable to expect to hear music from the church services (which we can also hear, albeit at a much lower volume) but the all day concert venue is a new level of nuisance. And maybe they are totally in the right – just wanted to see if anyone knows what the laws governing this matter are, or if anyone has had a similar experience and has found a successful method of resolution.”

Comments (159)

  1. Yikes — I feel for you, and I would certainly hope that people don’t have carte blanche to make as much noise as they want in a residential neighborhood as long as it’s before 10 p.m.

    I don’t know what the laws and regulations are on the subject, but… has your condo association approached the church about the noise issue? There could be friction… but on the other hand, better to bring it up now before multiple all-day concerts have left the condo residents tearing their hair out. And if it turns out that the church _is_ allowed to host these all-day concerts, then your only recourse would be to appeal to their goodwill.

  2. Condo Resident, Not OP

    Not OP, but live in the building with a bedroom closest to the noise. Every Sunday afternoon and some weeknights, I no longer have a peaceful environment but major anxiety. But then there is the guilt of not being able to complain because these are people who are choosing to worship. Obviously, it would make me look like a terrible person for trying to fight it so I’ve tried to swallow my annoyance.

    We have been in contact with the church itself and he has asked us to contact him if there are any issues. However, Saturday was due to the building owner renting the space.

  3. Wait… so the worshippers are really loud too?

  4. I lived across the street from a church on 11th Street. They had a “praise band” that played non-stop for 5 hours every Sunday. These bands have drums and amplified keyboards, guitarists, etc. Not add 100-150 voices singing loudly and it gets damn loud.
    Good luck taking a nap on Sunday afternoon.

  5. Legislation passed in 2015 allows aggrieved neighbors to forcibly convert a church to condos if they create noise or parking disturbance in a neighborhood. I’m sure there’s a developer that’s already on the case!

  6. I wish!

  7. Not a lawyer, but it appears your neighbor might be right – DC code limits noise to 60dB during daytime in residential areas. There is an exemption for “church bells or music connected with worship or official church ceremonies” but the exemption doesn’t apply if an amplifier is used. I would imagine punk rock festivals don’t constitute worship…


  8. “I would imagine punk rock festivals don’t constitute worship…”
    You worship in your way, I’ll worship in mine.

    Seriously, why do churches get away with so much crap (I realize that is not the point of the OP, but the fact that there is a loophole for them in the noise ordinance is even more troubling than the parking BS they get away with).

  9. Because we don’t actually live in a secular society. “In God we trust”

  10. The First Amendment outweighs a mere motto.
    “In God We Trust” became adopted as the U.S.’s official motto — and started appearing on paper currency — in the mid-1950s as a response to those “godless Commies” in the Soviet Union.
    Similar deal with the addition of “One nation under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950s.

  11. Because their pastors can “get out the vote”

  12. D.C. gives churches a lot of latitude because they’re powerful local institutions that can mobilize parishioners on their behalf. Power/money talks.

  13. Or DC gives a lot of latitude to churches because they traditionally have been positive social institutions in a city, (and a nation) that doesn’t have strong social welfare system. Many of these churches have been doing the good work in DC to provide services to the community and give an alternative to life on the street, when the political-powers-that-be either didn’t have the resources or the power to do so.

  14. What if it was a Christian punk band like MxPx?… (kidding)

  15. Too Much Noise

    Police won’t do anything about it during daytime hours — and they always quote to our building the same allgede “rule” about waiting till after 10pm.” However, when you do look at the published rules, there are other limits.
    * http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/ChapterHome.aspx?ChapterNumber=20-27
    * http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/ChapterHome.aspx?ChapterNumber=20-28

    It’s up to you to pursue this with your local ANC, and/or your DC Council. Please note that, if a Councilmember is involved, your name and contact information will be shared with many others in the District Government and police, and may also become part of a public record, which could include news coverage and reprinting of your complaint in print sources beyond your control. So, be mindful of what you say, and be prepared to respond to multiple requests for confirmation. Believe me, I know … however, our community’s situation did turn out better for about a year now.

  16. Recently went through this with construction…

    There’s a number to call in this link! Best of luck!


  17. I’ve dealt with this before. The city will absolutely not do anything to help you and years will pass without any action on the civil code violation. After having gone through a multi-year process with a thousand steps and several Councilmembers and the Mayor trying to get a multitude of DC agencies to do their job, I have determined that the first, second, and final steps are the only ones with any relevant outcome in this process:
    Step One: Talk directly to the owner of the offending property, in an incredibly civil, polite, neighborly way. Let them know that the use is causing a noise disturbance (they may not actually know), and ask, very politely, what can be done as neighbors by both of you to resolve the issue so they can continue to make money renting the space for events and you and your neighbors can live peacefully next door (i.e., specific hours or days, new insulation, whatever).
    Step Two: Determine if Step One has resulted in an outcome you can live with. If yes, then stop at this step. If not, proceed.
    Steps Three to 5,764 over the next three to five years: Try to get the city to enforce its own laws and not go crazy during this time.
    Last Step: Realize it’s still a problem, and either move immediately or hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit. Most people are scared of lawsuits and the incredible cost and time to defend them even if you eventually win and when they are served with papers, they will back off immediately. Some go to trial. Either way, moving or filing suit are the ONLY two options that will result in a meaningful change in your quality of life. Do not waste time trying to get the city to do anything. I repeat: Steps 3 – 5,764 and the years they take are not worth even attempting and cannot possibly have any productive outcome. Do not engage these steps.
    I hope this helps. You have my sympathy.

  18. The property owners are probably aware of the noise, as they’ve hosted punk rock shows at that location for at least 25 years.

  19. How do you know which church the OP is talking about?

  20. Are you assuming this is St. Stephen’s?

  21. No, wasn’t assuming St. Stephen’s.

    The only punk rock festival anytime recently was last weekend’s Damaged City Fest, and their only daytime show was at Sanctuary Theatre/Casa del Pueblo Methodist Church, and their sanctuary is separated from a condo building by a small alley….so…..

  22. Condo Resident, Not OP

    I’ve lived here four years, never had this issue in the past.

  23. This seems like a key point — not ALL concerts at this venue have been problematic for the neighbors, but this particular one was.

  24. So are we talking about St. Stephens, All Souls Unitarian, or that one on Columbia?

  25. This may come as a surprise to the NIMBYs on here but DIY music festivals like this are actually a good thing for the community. The church doesn’t do it to make money, they aren’t a for profit company, they do it to help support and be a part of their community. Events based around music like this keep kids off the streets and has them doing something constructive and positive instead of just doing drugs and becoming criminals. The church isn’t selling booze so people aren’t drunkenly disorderly around the event either. There’s less as less places for youth to play music in this city as the property costs keep going up and developers take over (the Union Arts building being turned into a luxury hotel is a good recent example of this). We need local and community art and music in DC, don’t try to push it out. I suggest Googling things like Positive Force DC and getting a better understanding of what a punk concert or festival really means to the community.

    And I suppose the armchair lawyers commenting here didn’t realize that the festival had permits for the event, which the police know about, and why they weren’t doing anything if the permits weren’t being violated.

    In the end if you want to live in a sterile, art free environment maybe the suburbs are for you.

  26. My thoughts exactly. Damaged City fest is an incredible asset to a city that’s become increasingly cookie-cutter and homogeneous.
    People on this blog seem to want it both ways – a unique, diverse and culturally rich city, but the minute that culture is in their face and inescapable, it’s an affront to their very existence. Art has never thrived in the confines of the law and social norms.
    Sorry some music that wasn’t typical church music ruined your day. next time, go check it out? You’d stand to learn more about the world outside of your comfort zone/familiarity bubble by spending 10 minutes at an event like damaged city fest than you would in 10 days of hanging out at folklife festival or the museums.

  27. You can have it both ways! Not everything is black and white!

  28. How does “go check it out for 10 minutes” in any way excuse “I am going to impose this very loud noise upon your in your home for 10 hours”?

  29. “You’d stand to learn more about the world outside of your comfort zone/familiarity bubble by spending 10 minutes at an event like damaged city fest than you would in 10 days of hanging out at folklife festival or the museums.”
    Or maybe you’d just be subject to inchoate whining and rage and bad music (and maybe not). Just because something is annoying doesn’t mean it’s enlightening. And just because something is beautiful doesn’t it’s not illuminating.
    I think a lot lot people moved to the city to get a variety of experiences (and it’s pretty easy to ‘get outside your comfort zone” walking through many of the neighborhoods represented here). It’s hard to take seriously someone who thinks I’ll learn more from a punk band than from Monet, just as it’s hard to seriously someone who can’t learn at least a little from both.
    Can’t we all just get along?

  30. Agreed.

  31. Nothing undercuts your argument like the old “maybe the suburbs are for you,” line. I am not a music promoter or a noiseologist that — assuming OP’s post is accurate, there may a compromise between forcing the youths (I’m not saying that all DC punks are white upper middle class kids, but…) onto the street where they would undoubtedly start a life of crime and volume that reaches a hundred decibels even after passing through three walls. Heck, if we’re worried about the kids, we may as well worry about their hearing.
    Condescension is no prettier than NIMBYism.

  32. I couldn’t agree more with “Nothing undercuts your argument like the old ‘maybe the suburbs are for you’ line.”

  33. I disagree. It might not be a pleasant thing to be told, but there’s more than a grain of truth. Cities are by definition loud, busy, and dense. I guarantee that the business and density is part of what attracted the residents of that condo. So now they think they get to decide what noise is ok and what noise isn’t? It sounds like they moved to an area that sometimes is noisy. Complaining about that is like moving to the country and complaining that your neighbor has cows. So it’s perfectly fair to ask the people complaining why they chose to move to the city if they hate having sources of noise so close to them. Following that logic, it’s fair to suggest that they’d be happier in a place with less density, business, and noise. There’s plenty of places like that, as they literally surround every city and take up all the area between cities. So no, the tone of the response might not be friendly, but it’s perfectly valid and fixating only on the tone is a great way to miss the point.

  34. It’s a cliche, and relying on it shows a lack of thought. Cities indeed “are by definition loud, busy, and dense,” bit that doesn’t mean that moving to an urban environment means either accepting unlimited noise, density and chaos or channeling your inner Stepfordian suburbanite. Cites are pretty by definition high crime zones, but one needn’t accept regular muggings and the price residence in an urban zip code.
    “Following that logic…” If there was any actual logic here, I would indeed attempt to follow it.
    It would, of course, be absurd for a transplanted urbanite to complain about the cows, under normal circumstances. But it would be perfectly legitimate to complain if the cows got losse, ate your flowers and pissed in your well. And the OP makes a reasonable — if not airtight — case that his well was being pissed in.

  35. ah but the noise IS limited as the concert was during the day.
    your analogy seems to be comparing noise and muggings. i find this problematic as noise is an indicator of activity and community, whereas muggings are a type of violent, illegal crime with zero benefit to the community. not to mention that an event like this would help reduce muggings by populating the street.
    and people who really live in the country understand that animals get loose sometimes. they might even come over and help build a better fence.
    ps sometimes when you don’t see the logic in something, it just means you don’t see it.

  36. Alternatively, if you want to hold a 10 hour rock concert maybe you should find a more appropriate venue that’s not in the middle of a residential neighborhood. And, you legal scholar, event permits do not exempt a function from the noise ordinance.

    If you want to absolutely ensure that DC residents mobilize to further restrict the ability of local and community artists to utilize unconventional performance spaces, then by all means continue to mount feeble defenses of things like this that go so far beyond the bounds of reason that you’ve lost the majority. Or, if this is your vision of what we “need,” at least don’t be surprised when the rest of us “try to push you out.”

  37. I don’t think Damaged City Fest is “what we need”, but it’s a cultural event that brings people from all over the world into our fair city to enjoy music and friendship in an all-ages, substance-free environment rooted around a common love of hardcore and punk rock. Hard to hate on that.
    A church is just as much a performance venue as the 930 club. A lot of venues in the city don’t allow for all-ages concerts, and shows being accessible to people below 21 is core to the very idea of what Damaged City Fest is all about (i’m just an attendee, i’m not affiliated with the event in any way other than by attendance).
    Lets see what happens on the Macro-level when we decide to get nit-picky about daytime noise ordinances: Sunday Drum Circle in the park – GONE. Washington Nationals games – GONE. ALL the marathons with screaming cheering fans lining up on the sidewalks – GONE. Carribean festival – GONE. Fiesta DC – GONE. Starting to get the picture? It’s not a pretty one.
    It happens one day a year. It sucks you lost the battle. but if you can’t beat ’em, join em’. You’d be surprised how welcoming and friendly we can actually be.

  38. The 9:30 Club is pretty well sound-insulated; the sound you can hear outside is muffled and pretty faint. Hell, even the 9:30’s LOBBY is noticeably quieter than the main concert area.
    It doesn’t sound like this is the case with this church… at least for this particular concert.

  39. None of your other examples are capable of causing the level of disruption described here inside the home of nearby residents. Two marathon routes pass in front of my house. I can sit and sip coffee in my front room barely noticing the cheering. There is a park across the street, and none of the events there, including movie nights or cultural festivals has ever been enough to cause 100 decibels of noise inside.

    No one is suggesting this event shouldn’t take place. Or that events, more generally, should not take place even in the presence of some noise or traffic or what have you. We are suggesting that a local church with minimal noise insulation located in a residential neighborhood is not an appropriate venue for a 10 hour rock show playing very loud music.

  40. Guess you arent talking about the “rock and roll” marathon.. which is exactly the level of disruption described here .. minus any walls for insulation and plus a much earlier start time.

  41. Actually the RnR marathon set up a stage directly in front of my house three years ago. Noise wasn’t bad at all and only lasted about 2 1/2 hours. Sleeping in my bedroom at the front of the house was not disturbed. All of the amplification directed the sound directly toward the marathon route and not toward houses. These last few years the organizers have chosen to put the stages even further away from residences.

  42. preach

  43. Condo Resident, Not OP

    I obviously do not want to live in the suburbs, otherwise I would not have taken on the responsibility of home ownership in the city. I agree with the comments below, it is a condescending tone and one that I’ve never enjoyed in this forum. I choose to live where I live because I love the neighborhood, including the fact that there are these kinds of events.

    I was thankfully not home during this occurrence because I had plans elsewhere to go to a different concert. I can only speak to the noise heard during band rehearsal and during church, but you can hear every note from my bedroom. Aptly for a punk show, it was probably even louder than normal. At one point, I believe the noise level reach 130 dB. I can understand the frustration of my neighbors because I know that if I had planned a day in my home to relax and it was interrupted by 10 hours of invasive music, I would have been at least disappointed. Of note – we were also not the only building on the block to complain of noise, as disclosed by the officers on site.

    I am happy to support my community and I am happy to support kids having a place to play and celebrate music as a former teen musician. I understand that joy and I am glad that there is a forum for that in my city.

    The issue is the building is in complete disrepair and not equipped to host an event like this on a residential block. There is no insulation, the building has never been repaired from the fires set by the homeless man in our alleyway, and the entire basement looks like it is crumbling and is covered in detritus.

    So yes, call me a NIMBY. That’s fine, I am completely fitting of that description in this instance. But I also beg you to put yourself in our shoes and have a little empathy. Yeah, the grabbing the cymbal thing was not cool (sorry, neighbor) but our building has had a lot of issues in the past with police not acting on very clear violations (Just look up the fires in alleyway posts). The OP just wanted to be informed on our next respectful steps so that all of us can be a little happier.

  44. hmmmm not to call BS on what seems like a perfectly pleasant person but you believe the sound reached 130? based on? using what equipment? with what training? from what distance? for reference: 117 dB football game (stadium)

  45. Condo Resident, Not OP

    Going off of information provided in our email chain after the fact. I assume it was something like an app or similar but I didn’t ask for details. I tried to stay out of it during since I was not physically there but felt like I should add a little more context in this thread.

  46. I’ve been reading through the comments mainly because I was curious about whether someone would trot out the NIMBY charge – as if it defends ridiculously uncivilized and unneighborly behavior by the church and is if you could tolerate having that next door. You didn’t disappoint!

  47. So we’re calling the cops now because of noise during the day in a city?

  48. I don’t see why not. Loud, annoying noise is loud, annoying noise.

  49. If you have trouble picturing this, supply your home address, and I’ll stop by with my car horn until you call the cops.

  50. Maybe coming into the show during the first band and grabbing the drummers cymbals in the middle of their set and having a fit and saying “This has to stop” wasn’t the best method to your case. They didn’t do anything because it was a permitted event and there was nothing illegal going in.

  51. Did that actually happen? If so that is so punk rock

  52. 100% happened.

  53. A permit does not magically exempt an event from the noise ordinance. Given the facts as described in the post, how then do you conclude that “there was nothing illegal going [o]n”? [sic]

  54. How do you conclude that something illegal was going on ?

  55. If the sound was over 60dB as heard from the condo, they were violating DC noise ordinances, permit or not.

  56. Are you sure ? Shows have been going on there for a while. I feel like they would have thought this issue out and maybe they do have a right to be that loud.

  57. My day was more severely disrupted by the abrasive sounds of your entitlement and Adidas flip-flops.

  58. Woah, lots of assumptions going on here – I did not personally call the cops, come into any concert over the weekend, and do not own adidas flip flops – you have the wrong person, please direct your anger elsewhere

  59. Wow. You people should feel happy that you live in a city that still seeks to create and allow a rich tapestry of community, events, spaces, orgs, and the like. Thankfully condos don’t give you license to parachute in and start dictating the environment of neighborhoods. If you would prefer the solitude and tranquility of suburban living, please by all means feel free to find a nice detached home on a quiet tree-lined suburban street somewhere.

  60. See Irving Streete’s comment above.

  61. Adidas and flops

    If you don’t live within the noise, you have no right to criticize those who are tormented by it. We invest in our homes with a sense that nobody is going to torture us with sound beyond reasonable limits for 10 hours. It is ridiculous for people not experiencing the problem to make any judgment that the noise is justified. Let’s do I under your windows for 10 hours and see how you deal with it.

  62. Considering that I have traveled five hours each way on a Greyhound bus to attend this fest, I would welcome it happening underneath my apartment. Maybe next year, rent out yours on Airbnb. Problem solved.

  63. In what world do you think it’s reasonable to suggest that someone vacate their home in order to accommodate an all day rock show in a residential neighborhood? And what possible intoxicating substance could you be consuming that would make you think these people would, on top of vacating their homes, then rent them out for the weekend to the sort of person that has to take Greyhound buses?

  64. “the sort of person that has to take Greyhound buses”
    …aaaaand you just lost any and all credibility in this thread.

  65. I did rent out my five bedroom home to a large extended family (of mixed race and means) that came to town for both of Obama’s inaugurations. I would not rent out my home to a group of young people who took buses into the city to attend a music festival. I used to be such a young person and would not trust my younger self to take good care of my older self’s nice home. This is not some sort of insidious discrimination, it’s prudence.

  66. Agreed. The pretense and elitism in that comment is sickening. Someone that would say that is way down on the list of people who are contributing positively to a culturally vibrant city.

  67. I find it amusing that Ryan has trouble with people who ride buses, but has zero problems with a guy who walks into a show and starts grabbing a band member’s expensive equipment. While wearing flip flops.

  68. So, wait, what’s wrong with taking the Greyhound bus?

  69. “sort of person who has to take Greyhound buses”

    I didn’t HAVE to take a bus. It was cheaper than any other option though, so why wouldn’t i? Why so condescending? I rode a bus, big deal. It’s not like I wore flip flops in public.

    I think it is entirely reasonable to suggest that a person who does not want to hear the noise once a year, to maybe go far away from that noise once a year.

  70. They can’t really make plans to spend the day elsewhere if they haven’t been given any advance notice of the show.

  71. I actually dare you to set up an event blasting live punk rock into my or anyone else in DC’s windows for 10 hours, that would rule.

  72. You see, if punks have the right to do it, so does everyone else. While most classical music doesn’t sound wonderful quite that loud, I’m sure we could arrange for that to happen right out side your window for several hours…
    One of our old neighbors thought it was fine and dandy to have repeated parties featuring a DJ in their yard for hours on end every couple of weekends. You could hear it for blocks surrounding. It took Councilmember involvement and some serious recon (had to find out when they were planning one of these shin-digs in advance) to get DCRA out to enforce the daytime ordinance, since DCRA doesn’t usually have inspectors on the clock on weekends. That was several years ago, so good luck given that DCRA has only gotten worse in the intervening period. Given that I clocked that music at only 70 dB inside my house, I can only imagine how bad it was for you, OP. 70 dB from Noon to 9:59 PM (they knew the cops would bust them at 10 PM on the nose) was making me crazy.

  73. I am no stranger to loud music. But I don’t want to hear someone else’s loud music inside my house.
    DJs I know who’ve hosted parties in their homes usually keep the music indoors, and often they even have guests use an alternate entrance so as to minimize sound leakage.

  74. So I sympathize with JoDa (in case that wasn’t apparent).

  75. Can I request some Dvorjak or hell even Tchaivoksky’s 1812 Overture?

  76. For you my friend, we got ten hours of amplified Kenny G.

  77. I’m sorry but doesn’t this happen for 1 or 2 days a year? I understand if the music annoys you but don’t pretend like the only solution available to you is to shut it down. Also, people have been having punk concerts in this neighborhood since the 1980s. Maybe you should have considered that before you bought your home, LOL!

  78. No one is saying shut it down. Gross exaggeration of the facts. Get a venue that is built appropriately for containing the sound within the venue and everyone wins. Simple as that.

  79. What venue do you have in mind? A rock and roll club? One of the reasons that events like this seek out these alternative spaces is to improve all-ages access and avoid hosting the festival in an environment that is predominantly supported via the sale of alcohol.

  80. Actually just finding a new venue is not that simple. This fest doesn’t have any sponsors and tickets are very cheap intentionally; the goal is not to make money here but to include as many people as possible. It’s not like they can just rent out the 930 club.

  81. Get a venue that is built appropriately for containing the sound within the venue.
    And is affordable.
    And accommodates all ages.
    And is conveniently located.
    THEN everyone wins.

  82. Those don’t really exist anymore because a bunch of people are clamoring for condos. Churches are one the few spaces left for these types of events.

  83. Yep that was my point

  84. when you “invested” did you research the neighborhood? because i’m hearing that a lot of shows have happened there over the years. sounds like you failed to do due diligence. caveat emptor and all that. anyway, you can’t by definition move to a nuisance. nobody forced you to buy right there did they?

  85. If someone was walking through the neighborhood and spotted an obvious nightclub or music venue. that would be one thing. But come on, failing to do due diligence? It’s not unreasonable for potential buyers who see a church to think that it’s… well… a church.
    There’s quite a lot of “it’s been going on forever”/”you should have known better”/”they were here first” in this thread… but it sounds like the OP isn’t complaining about past concerts overall. Just this one recent and particularly loud one, and wondering if there’s a way to avoid future concerts of equal loudness.

  86. yes. “due diligence” as in a whole bunch of people seem to be aware that punk shows have happened around here for decades. it is absolutely not reasonable to assume that a structure in a metropolitan area is “just” anything. i used to live next to a really obnoxious private school that had events which took our parking and involved a shot clock buzzer startling us every evening, as well as morning drills, morning outdoor assemblies, and a amplified festivals. but . . . we signed the lease without asking anyone about noise and without coming by at night or at 7am so really, we had no one to blame as far as i’m concerned. it wouldn’t have occurred to me to change the fabric of the neighborhood to suit my personal preference.

  87. ITT: A bunch of non-resident punks from the suburbs making nonsensical arguments about all the things they think adults living in a city should be forced to endure so that they can reenact their vision of 1970’s NYC and CBGB fantasies in the middle of someone’s home.

  88. wait i thought it was condescending to bring up the suburbs.

  89. “All Day Punk Concert Causes Too Much Noise” – The Onion

  90. General rule of thumb for MPD is that the noise has to be after 2200 (10pm). And the offender gets notice to stop their level of volume. That is of course if it’s after 10pm. That is how DC CODE are written and how we address those calls. We, at-least the district I work in, we get calls for bands, to people walking “too loudly” in the apartment above them at 7pm. With that said. I live in the city as well and it does get annoying so I feel your pain as well.

  91. interesting but....

    With all due respect, that may be MPD’s policy but that is not how the code is written. See DC Code Chapter 20-2701 (available here http://www.dcregs.dc.gov/Gateway/ChapterHome.aspx?ChapterNumber=20-27). There are daytime noise restrictions as well and the responsibility to enforce them is delegated to the MPD. Unless the Church got a temporary exemption or variance for this, the concert (or your band example) does not fall into this exception. The example of people talking too loud would be exempt. MPD leadership may have made a policy decision not to enforce those provisions during the day, but that is not how the DC Code is written.

  92. I read over the link, and again our policy is what I stated prior. Now I don’t know DCRA’s policy, but for a LEO aspect in DC it has to be after 10pm.

  93. That is in fact not what Section 2701 of the D.C. code says. That section also establishes daytime limits. And unless this event was permitted (maybe it was, idk), it doesn’t fall under any of the exemptions.

  94. AnotherBdaleResident

    Definitely had permits for this…

  95. Did they have a specific variance for the noise ordinance?

  96. Thank you, MPD

    I have to admit that MPD has always been super-chill about music shows and parties. So long as you’ve pulled permits (if it’s a commercial show) and aren’t blasting music past 10pm, they will pretty much allow anything to go on. For better or worse, MPD’s attitude has always been pretty laissez-faire which is probably a shock to many property owners who grew in places with stricter cops and more deference given to the desires of older/moneyed property owners.
    I’ve had a few parties visited up by the MPD at 2am and they’ve always been extremely friendly about it. It usually just involves getting people off the balconies or out of the yard and requesting to wrap up the music portion of the evening. Next beer is on me, MPD.

  97. Washington DC churches have a long history of allowing all ages Punk Rock shows going back to the early 80’s it is part of the culture of the city that you moved to.

  98. I’d be happy about it as a building owner. DIY stuff like that is a sign of living in a positive community.

    I mean, you could sue a church? I think a better recourse instead of trying to figure out if you can sue the church over the community events they have there would be discussing it with church management, frankly they could put up some noise dampening stuff along the wall lining up with yours if you asked. Hell ask the punks next time, they may be able to put some stuff up if they know in advance.

  99. Thanks for one of the most level headed/reasonable responses.

  100. AnotherBdaleResident


  101. Was the church there before the apartment/you moved there? Also, 100 decibels is literally louder than a jet taking off…so Im not sure their readings are accurate.

  102. Providing a space for people of all ages to come together and use their talents productively to play music, or to share their passion for music with others, creates a micro community for those with little resource to do so. This would strike me as a very valid use of a space such as this. There is little provided by the state for people with fringe interests, particularly the younger citizens, to encourage the positive use of their time and energy. The festival in question provided a safe and nurturing environment for these kids to flourish and find joy in something as simple as music. I feel that though perhaps some neighbors may not have found the music to their personal tastes, that the sacrifice of a few hours on one day to this noise does not and could not justify preventing such a joyous and productive space. These kids had come from far and wide to make friends and feel part of something good. Its unfortunate that through your personal grievances you cannot at this point see the greater picture and understand the amazing messages these kids shared, namely that they have a new strong network of like minded friends all connected in their love for punk music. The festival in question had a very strong positive and creative feel that empowers people present to let their talents and passions grow. The D.I.Y punk community shows all people that every one of us has the power and ability to create. It allows people to see that all folk no matter who they are or where they come from can pick up an instrument and play in a band with people they have just met, or pick up a pen and write a zine or book, or make posters and artwork and so on. There is no hierarchy present and no barriers to achievement or involvement. It offers an alternative that shows how all people can do the things they want to do, and that they are all welcomed and encouraged. One day of making all those people feel free and positive and inspired by the things they love surely is more important than a higher than normal noise level for a few hours within the allowed time zones. Due to that one day, a number of people that perhaps before felt they could not, will now pick up a guitar for the first time and form a band, or will start lifelong correspondences with like minded kids in other areas that share their passions. The greater punk community no matter how abrasive it may sound promotes equality, creative freedom, personal empowerment, self belief and friendship. To me this is a wonderful and life giving thing. If I had not grown up in such a worldwide connected scene I certainly would not have had the confidence to have been there playing at it. Nor would I have found an outlet for myself to find such positivity in what is often a harsh world. I was honored to have been asked to play such a powerfully good and inclusive festival. As a member of our band stated during our set, punk is freedom. Isn’t it a good thing to allow people to feel this. If you don’t think so perhaps you should try coming to the next one so you can see for yourself.

  103. TLDR: Sorry not sorry. Punk is freedom.

  104. “One day of [stuff that matters to me and my friends] is surely is more important than [making someone I don’t know, from a neighborhood I don’t live in’s home uninhabitable for half of their weekend].”

    No, absolutely not. Go find a venue in an appropriate area that is not a residential neighborhood.

  105. Maybe move to a neighborhood that hasn’t been hosting punk shows longer than you’ve been gentrifying?

  106. I lived in Shaw from the early 1990’s until the mid 2000’s and I can tell you that the narrative of gentrification and displacement has no basis in fact. Shaw has always been racially diverse, and it has always been transient. I remember looking at the 1990 census when it came out and noting that 55% of Shaw residents had been at their current address for less than five years. I bought a house in Shaw in 1996, which I owned for seven years. I paid a house history company to research its history, and I learned that I lived in it longer than any other resident in its 126-year history. (The people I sold it to, who like me are white, have since broken my record).

    Most of the residents of Shaw back then, black and white, were not DC-born. The idea that the neighborhood has a population that has lived a certain way for generations is a convenient political fiction, but it has no basis in reality.

    But thanks for making this unnecessarily into an issue about those who came first having more rights than newcomers. You’ve lived in DC how long exactly?

  107. someone born in DC

    dude. this happened in columbia heights. he lives in a condo building that was completely renovated in 2005 just in time for DCUSA and a unit goes for a cool half a million (thanks redfin). ten million percent he is contributing to gentrification. the first show i went to at calvalry church was pre-mass-yuppification in 2002 and was also a loud all day thing and 0 cops got called.

  108. the alternative is bars therefor excludes the youth. and its not me and my friends its a huge global community of creatively inspirational people.

  109. Punk (and especially D.C.’s influential punk scene) was and is a great thing.
    But events don’t take place in a vacuum. It appears that this particular venue (with its lack of sound-dampening material) and this particular volume level were not a good combination.
    I know inexpensive venues aren’t easy to find, but the building owner (does the church own the building) really ought to work with the neighbors to find a mutually agreeable solution.

  110. Yeah, I was in a band for a while too and we thought what we were doing was really really important. And I support music, for me it is THE most important thing in the world. But it isn’t important to everyone, and this isn’t really about that anyway. You gotta coexist and you gotta find an appropriate venue. In fairness, you, as one of the performers, probably wouldn’t and couldn’t know that you were also playing in the living rooms of the next door condo building.

  111. +1.. And I was once in a band too.

  112. Your perhaps missing my point. Ones band is not hugely important, but giving a space for kids that have little else of interest in their lives an environment to be creative and make connections and feel like they are part of something positive is.

  113. Nope, not missing your point. Giving a space for kids to be creative is fantastic, but annoying the neighbors is not. (And the nobleness of the purpose doesn’t cancel out the misery of listening to 10 straight hours of loud music that you didn’t choose..) Try to find a way to do concerts that’s mutually agreeable, be it adding sound-dampening material to the church, choosing a different venue, lowering the volume of the house soundsystem, etc.

  114. It strikes as odd that so giving and caring and creative a punk “community” wouldn’t actually do a little outreach to the community that was hosting their festival.

  115. there was posters and fliers all over town.

  116. Any outreach to the neighbors? Or just promotional posters?

  117. You know, at first I was also of the opinion that the punks were remiss in not explicitly notifying the neighbors before the festival.

    But reading the posts from the condo owners, it seems clear that those people were not interested in compromise, so I guess the damaged city folks knew what they were doing.

  118. Welcome to living in a REAL city. Guess what came first, ARTS & MUSIC. Guess what came in dead last, cookie cutter condos for yuppies.

    Cookie cutter condos are eliminating the music and arts community in DC. Outpricing any forms of art studios and rehearsal spaces.

  119. But won’t someone think of the napping infants! Quelle horreur.

  120. Wrong again. What came first? The government, and the people that work in the government. This isn’t New Orleans. And since you hate what DC has become so much (with all the terrible successful people working hard to pay for their “cookie cutter condos”), please take this show somewhere that fits in with your vibe better. I’m sure you can find a collapsing deindustrialized city somewhere and play a collapsing wearhouse, which will be way more punk than ruining nice people’s weekend.

  121. You live in a city. Quit complaining about the culture and get some noise-cancelling headphones.

  122. Maybe you can find a resolution that doesn’t involve getting cops involved. Have you tried ?

  123. Also – If I can sit here and listen to the construction of your condo buildings and gut-refurbished houses all through the day and evening from inside my house, pretty sure you can take a non-daily rock show from inside yours.

  124. I can't wait to move back to DC

    I guess researching and understanding the neighborhood in which you a) purchase a condo and b) chose to reside isn’t considered common sense? Asking for a friend. Regardless, making noise during the weekend and within reasonable hours seems quite considerate. I’m guessing there’s a reason the police have chosen not to act…

  125. Come on… it’s a church. How were they supposed to anticipate that it might also be a concert venue?

  126. They’re supposed to anticipate such occurrences with the aid of Google. Ignorance isn’t an excuse, especially considering the amount of money involved in such a venture.

  127. What do you figure would plausibly lead a normal person to ask the question of “is this church also a concert venue?” and thus commence said google search. There’s a funeral home at the end of my block. I guess they could theoretically hold concerts there, too [although as it happens they don’t…go figure]. Was I negligent for not investigating whether or not the f*cking funeral home holds punk shows?

  128. I’d think more along the lines of Goth or Death Metal.

  129. well i guess that depends on whether DC neighborhoods like this one have had churches hosting shows for a long time.

  130. Textdoc – you’ve lived in this city for YEARS. You mean to tell me that punk shows in churches weren’t on your radar?

  131. I’d heard about punk shows in church basements — I think specifically shows in the basement of a Quaker meetinghouse.
    But I don’t think I realized those shows were still going; I thought they were more of a thing in the 1990s heyday of D.C. hardcore.
    So I wouldn’t expect people who are 1) newer to the city than I am and 2) less interested in the music scene than I am to see a church and think to themselves “Possible concert venue — I’d better Google this.”
    Did this particular show take place in a basement? Or above ground?

  132. AnotherBdaleResident

    “or if there are any agencies that we can contact to prevent this from happening again.”
    I guess I’m confused. Could you not talk to the church about it? They more than likely have permits for these events. If they don’t that’s one thing, but if they do, you’re pretty SOL in terms of legal action. So might be time to look at some other options that don’t include shutting down community events, or driving you totally insane constantly. Maybe come together with your neighbors and help them plan a benefit show to raise money to put a little more insulation in. The DIY punk scene is kind built for that kind of thing, so maybe you could reach out to some folks there to help as well.
    Also, I doubt they’ll be having punk shows for 10 hours a day, every day (though I’m sure some people would love that) – so you’ll probably survive the few times a year they do have stuff like this going on. Maybe sign up for their email list (they probably have one), or check their website every once in a while to see if they have large events happening during the day that would be bothersome for you and then plan accordingly.

  133. I work from home many days and am currently suffering through the noise of ongoing construction of a condo flip next door – which was also the case in my last apartment for three years straight. I’ll take punk music over construction noise any day – as construction noise from condos doesn’t just happen on one festival weekend, but every single day it’s not raining or too cold.

    Eventually the project will be finished, the place will go on the market and people will move in, completely oblivious that their new special home that was built just for people like them caused so much suffering to the neighborhood for such a long period of time. And then another house or building on the block will sell and get flipped into condos and all the neighbors will suffer through the same process again, as has been going on in DC for 15 years now.

    In other words, get over it. It’s a city. Cities are loud and imperfect. You want to live in a newly refinished condo. I want to play punk music on the weekend. We both have to put up with each other.

  134. Absolutely this. If it’s making someone money, nobody bats an eye. But if it’s some kind of undesirable element doing it, find the first excuse to shut it down.

  135. Though I can sympathize with the aggrieved party/parties to a certain extent, this was, what, one day of loud music? One botched day on one weekend?

    To insist that this was some huge transgression seems just a little entitled to me. Would you also call the police on Mt. Pleasant Day or Adams Morgan Day if those were in close earshot?

  136. I don’t normally tout neighborhoods, but I must say — Mount Pleasant is extremely quiet! Not a lot of through traffic. So if noise is your beef, try living in Mount Pleasant!

  137. The most reasonable course of action to prevent this disruption in the future seems clear to me. If I was a resident in this building I would gather my coowners and would first have a discussion with the owner of the church about specifically not hosting the punk show again next year, noting both the extended duration of the disruption and that the noise was an order of magnitude greater than any prior disruption. If the owner agrees not to host extended rock concerts again in the future, problem solved.

    If the owner does not so agree, or if next year the show occurs anyway, then the next step is to file a civil suit under Chapter 20 of the DC code, which specifically allows private civil suits to enjoin noise ordinance violations. I would bet anything that one of the condo residents has a DC bar license and so the filing will cost the condo owners next to nothing. Upon serving the church building’s owner with the suit, offer to settle for an agreement not to host rock shows, particularly this show, in the future. I would be astonished if the church doesn’t immediately settle and agree not to host future all-day rock shows.

  138. yes hopefully some of the rich lawyers in the condo can sue the church without spending any money. that seems like the kind of idea a good person who isn’t blinded by their own luxury would come up with

  139. There was no noise ordinance violation.

  140. For there not to be a noise ordinance violation then the event would have had to obtain a specific waiver of the noise ordinance in conjunction with their permitting process. I’ve seen no indication that that happened. If, however, they did obtain a waiver, then it would not be difficult to prevent such waiver from being issued for future events, putting us right back in the same place with my suggested course of action.

  141. Threatening a non-profit organization with an expensive lawsuit is really a “reasonable” course of action?

  142. When the alternative resolution proposed by the festival goers is, “You gentrifying yuppie scum should just deal with whatever inconveniences non-residents/others decide to impose upon you, because you chose to live in a city, and our event is especially OK because Punk is so important and it’s only one weekend, GOD.” then yes, I think my suggested course of action is imminently reasonable.

  143. But they didn’t violate any noise ordinances … Trying to make up rules, or scream and fuss, to get your way is really insulting to all the hard work that the people running the fest put in. Just deal with it for one day out of the year.

  144. The amount of action you are willing to take against a one weekend hardcore festival is disturbing.

  145. I agree completely. Also, if they try to get permits for this next year, just fight and object and block the permits. Well informed neighbors should have no problem preventing permits from issuing to hold a 10 hour rock show in a residential neighborhood. And for those above this comment claiming no violation occurred, the law in DC is that noise may not exceed 60 dB at the property line. A permit to hold a concert does not exempt you from that, but failure to respect that law will hopefully prevent you from obtaining a permit next year.

  146. It’s unfortunate that said neighbor decided to rush the door, storm the stage, and push the drummer’s cymbals into his face nearly causing serious bodily harm. Some of this neighbors arguments I MIGHT be able to stomach but he was being out of line. Noisey maybe so but an extremely peaceful and positive event that was otherwise disrupted by this person.

  147. The OP returned to the thread to say that he/she was not the one who bumrushed the stage and attacked the cymbals. I think reasonable people would agree that that action is out of line and is not likely to engender goodwill or cooperation.

  148. Out of Town Condo Owner

    I am an owner in this condo building, and happened to be out of town this past weekend. It is sad for me to read the comments on this post, attacking my neighbors, friends and community. I have made a lot of sacrifices – working 60+ hours a week to put myself through night school – to remain a part of this community, and I love everything about it dearly. Please don’t make hurtful comments about people you don’t know, please don’t make judgments about a situation you weren’t present at. It is a gross overreaction to say that anyone in the building, and anyone in the neighborhood, means any harm to the arts and music community in DC. It seems completely understandable that the residents of my building were frustrated with an extremely loud, 10 hour concert that they were not informed about ahead of time. I don’t think anyone is opposed to a compromise here – just doing our “due diligence” in evaluating what our options are. Please put yourselves in our shoes before you make petty accusations about us.

  149. Condo Resident, Not OP

    Ditto, neighbor! Thank you for helping me bring more context to the thread. I’m glad I wasn’t there either and I can’t even imagine the frustration everyone else was feeling.

  150. And yet somehow many people found their way to this punk festival that was impossible to know about beforehand

    They should make sure to post a flyer at Whole Foods next time, so you guys will be informed.

  151. Hahaha! Because people who shop at Whole Foods are bad people, and they should be tortured with garbage music right? Look, I don’t read the flyers in the men’s room at the bus station – where I assume this was promoted. See how easy it is to be condescending?

  152. You know, the bus station bathroom was indeed their main method of promotion. You see, they only wanted to attract “the sort of person who has to take Greyhound buses.”

  153. greetings, your friendly neighborhood punk rock documentary connoisseur Dave Grohl here. while I see your struggle with coping with the punk rock festival – did you know back in 1973 I was busy planting the seeds for what would later be DC hardcore legends Bad Brains to get their rise into stardom? man it was great, shame I stepped away from jah and they decided to start the band without me.

    DCHC forever! <3Dave

  154. Some sincere alternative plans for your day if you’re annoyed by the loud music:

    * Go out for a hike in one of the beautiful parks in our area. Weather this time of year has been a bit chilly at times, but beautiful. Enjoy it.
    * Put on your own headphones, listen to your own music.
    * Purchase a pair of earplugs, or if it’s really bothering you, there are headphones that can block the sound of gunshot blasts available for purchase at the local hardware store. I recommend Ace Hardware. They’re about $25.
    * Check out the fest yourself. Talk to some people. Hang out for a bit and then head out once satisfied.
    * Use it as an excuse to spend some time with a friend at their place.
    * Go to the local library and enjoy some peace and quiet among the stacks.
    * Play a loud video game really, really loud and drown out everything outside your apartment. (Personal favorite)
    * Visit a local record store and check out some music you’d actually like to hear.
    * Take care of chores that get you out of the house for the majority of the day.

    These are all options I would have taken myself had I been in your situation and felt upset about the noise. Having lived at many loud locations in the past, I’ve used some of them myself. Personally, I love punk rock. But I have tinnitus, and the damage can sometimes sound like a train coming through, so I can understand why you might feel stressed.

    It’s a cliche for a reason: there are things in life we can’t control.. There are a lot of other options available besides pursuing legal action or otherwise fighting against the kind of music that has been going on in this city for decades.


Subscribe to our mailing list