Kohoutek catastrophe: Lively music festival stifled by noise complaint

After being forced inside by a noise complaint, a meager crowd gathered in the Gold Student Center at Pitzer College to witness the performances. (Meghan Joyce • The Student Life)

Kohoutek, Pitzer College’s annual music festival, was nearly shut down this past Saturday by Claremont Police Department officers, who arrived in response to a noise complaint. The festival, which frequently attracts more than 1,000 attendees, including students, parents and big-name artists, was forced to move indoors to the Gold Student Center, which limited attendees to 200 and put a damper on proceedings. By 10 p.m., far fewer than 200 festival goers remained.

The two-day festival began smoothly April 19, but issues began the next day around 3 p.m. when Campus Safety officers alerted the organizers to a noise complaint. The organizers responded by reducing the volume.

Shortly after the complaint, CPD arrived and spoke with EB Kolbrener PZ ’21 and Julia Fradkin PZ ’21, two of the festival organizers.

The students said the officers were apologetic and tried to help mediate the situation between the organizers and the disgruntled “community member” who issued the complaint.

Junglepussy performs in the Multipurpose Room at Pitzer College’s Gold Student Center after Kohoutek was moved inside April 20. (Meghan Joyce • The Student Life)

“The police informed the caller that the sound had been turned [down] by 50 percent and if they called again, the leaders of the festival would be arrested,” Kolbrener said. “It sounds like whoever was on the other end said ‘go through with that, you have to shut off the event completely.’”

Much to the dismay and frustration of everyone involved, when another call came, the organizers had to shut down the music or be arrested.

The organizers said the officers told them that due to California state law, anyone who repeatedly calls to report a disturbance of the peace twice or more in 24 hours essentially has full control over the situation. CPD would not provide a detailed account of the incident.

Moderate noise is allowed in Claremont between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., according to a city code summary, but the city “has established strict standards to control excessive and annoying noise.”

The city code makes exceptions to noise policies for events “conducted pursuant to a permit or license issued by the city.” The Kohoutek organizers did not have a permit for the event, but said police told them it wouldn’t have made a difference in this instance.

“The police informed the caller that the sound had been turned [down] by 50 percent and if they called again, the leaders of the festival would be arrested. It sounds like whoever was on the other end said ‘go through with that, you have to shut off the event completely.’” – EB Kolbrener PZ ’21

Kolbrener and Fradkin reluctantly asked Gravy, the band on stage, to stop playing. In the meantime, UTI, an improv group, went on stage while the organizers set out to find other arrangements.

Fradkin said the organizers shut down the event for about an hour and a half after UTI’s performance while scrambling to find a new space where they could better monitor the volume. Because of the move, several acts had to be canceled, including Donna, Pangea, Moms After Dark and Groove Nation.

“We’re really torn up about it, but there was nothing we could do,” Fradkin said.

Kohoutek staff supervisor and assistant dean of student affairs Alayna Sessions-Goins worked with the organizers to find a new venue. She called deans across the campuses to find a new space, but it seemed most practical to set up inside the GSC.

An artist, Elujay sings into a microphone at Kohoutek
Elujay performs in the Multipurpose Room at Pitzer College’s Gold Student Center after Kohoutek was moved inside on April 20. (Meghan Joyce • The Student Life)

 

Though the GSC’s limited space decreased the number of people who could attend, Sessions-Goins said it was the quickest and cheapest option. The Pitzer community immediately responded by offering to help organizers move to the new space and later cleaning it up.

“Something I’ve been thinking about is the juxtaposition of the one really entitled, selfish, privileged person versus the entire Pitzer community that came together and helped us move it and make things work,” Fradkin said. “Honestly it’s just made me really love this community of Pitzer students.”

Kohoutek has been running for more than 40 years at Pitzer, and involves significant work and planning by the organizers throughout the year, Kolbrener said.

Sessions-Goins said this is the earliest in the day the festival has received a noise complaint in at least 14 years. She said organizers have had to shut down the festival before, but usually not until the late night or early morning.

“Something I’ve been thinking about is the juxtaposition of the one really entitled, selfish, privileged person versus the entire Pitzer community that came together and helped us move it and make things work. Honestly, it’s just made me really love this community of Pitzer students.” – Julia Fradkin PZ ’21

At the beginning of the school year, Kolbrener, Fradkin and Anna Horton PZ ’19 began planning with the Kohoutek committee. The group devoted significant time at weekly or twice-weekly meetings to coordinating 5C-wide fundraising, artist outreach and promotional work, among many other tasks.

Sessions-Goins lamented that much of the organizers’ hard work — and a portion of the nearly $22,000 budgetwent to waste.

“They fundraised across the 5Cs, they were funded by all the colleges, they worked with vendors, they worked to bring free food to the event, they booked amazing artists, and then on top of that, there were families that drove out for the event, and almost none of our student bands got to perform,” she said.

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Emily Kuhn

Emily Kuhn PZ’22 is an aspiring Environmental Justice Journalist from Santa Barbara, California. In her free time, Emily enjoys (hula) hoop dancing, storytelling, and being outside playing music.

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