Neighbors and Noise Complaints: Issues With The Scene

New Paltz house venues have lost momentum this semester. Music-lovers have seen community center and church shows pop up more. Photo courtesy of Doors at Seven.

Nearly every week this semester, locals have spent their Friday nights moshing at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, filling the place of worship with energy, sweat and the sounds of distorted guitar.

These New Paltz music-lovers were struck with disappointment after DIY collective Doors at Seven announced on Nov. 17 that these weekly live shows would diminish to once a month at St. Andrew’s in 2024.

Doors at Seven’s all ages, substance-free, weekly shows at St. Andrew’s brought consistency to the everchanging music scene in New Paltz. The collective complies with the town’s noise ordinances and has a parish member present at every St. Andrew’s show to ensure that both the space and the neighborhood are respected.

After someone in the neighborhood complained about noise directly to the church, Doors at Seven discussed potential earlier start times for shows, according to Noelle Janasiewicz, founder of the collective; however, the church reached out to Janasiewicz, stating that the only compromise would be to hold shows monthly instead of weekly.

While the announcement brings disheartening news to the local music scene, many New Paltz music fans are hardly surprised. The lively basement shows of years past have dropped off hard and fast this fall, with many house venues halting shows completely due to neighbor complaints and police visits. Because of this, there is a sense of gratitude within the community that St. Andrew’s shows will continue at all.

“The church is just as committed to having live music staying there as much as Doors At Seven is,” Janasiewicz said. “If anything, our relationship has grown stronger with the church knowing they had our back when it came to finding a compromise to the music being hosted there. They could’ve told us we had to stop hosting there all together, but they helped find a way to maintain the music there.”

The church has unexpectedly become the heartbeat of music in New Paltz. Age-restricted venues such as Bacchus and Snugs limit their shows from the underage community and struggle to accommodate newer, younger bands into their heavily booked schedule. Other venues and community centers are a drive away from New Paltz, making it difficult for many to support their favorite bands. Restricting yet another venue’s ability to host shows raises concerns about the future of local music in New Paltz.

“I do feel this frantic sense when it comes to the venues,” Kitty, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of local band Meow Meow, said. “The bands that are cropping up now need somewhere to go.”

Noise complaints about venues within the town are not a new obstacle. Janasiewicz helped run a house venue called Tall Grass from 2021 to 2022 which had all but three of their shows shut down. When police arrived, they would inform the residents that noise ordinance hours didn’t matter if it was bothering someone. Essentially, there was nothing they could do to stop the constant shutdowns.

“We literally got shut down at 6 p.m. once while the sun was still up,” Janasiewicz said. “You’d think a town that markets itself off of being a free place for artists, musicians and creatives to live and make their art would actually be supportive of those creatives in its town.”

Sydney Dahl, a resident of former house venue Hog House, experienced similar issues. Her neighbors, typically families and professors, took issue with the noise as well as the many cars lined down their residential street, some even blocking driveways. After multiple cop visits and early shutdowns of live shows, the residents of Hog House decided it wasn’t worth the risks anymore and stopped holding shows after the Spring 2023 semester. 

“It’s really sad to see so many of the houses shut down, but it’s awesome to see the churches and the community centers picking up the slack, because someone has to,” Dahl said.

Many are holding out hope for the return of a bustling scene, one where many venues work together to support and uplift each other and focus on what really matters: the music.

“I think this is kind of the make or break year for the music scene, because a lot of people who know what it was like are leaving. I think a lot more people need to step up if they want this to see any sort of longevity,” Kitty said.

Stepping up looks different for everyone. Some may feel inclined to “take one for the   team” and host basement shows again (Kitty encourages), and others may find compromise and compassion when it comes to noise and parking disruptions within New Paltz communities; but most importantly, everyone needs to protect each other.

“While I don’t think it is indicative of the scene as a whole, two abusers in bands have come to light this semester. I’m glad that they have been ousted from the scene, but that is two too many. This is a community and everyone should feel safe,” Kealty, a bassist and singer for the local band, Alliteration, told The Oracle.

A feeling of protection can be difficult to achieve within a community where some musicians have faced allegations and accusations, but St. Andrew’s location and substance restrictions brings a sense of safety to show-goers who are accustomed to walking down dark residential side streets and into a stranger’s basement. Doors at Seven commits itself to addressing harm within the community and leaving no room in the DIY space for abuse. They recently held a successful emergency benefit show supporting a community member in need and local domestic violence support organization Fearless!, which received a $200 donation.

Doors at Seven also splits the profits of St. Andrew’s shows between bands, staff and the local free food fridge run by the non-profit Millions of Butterflies. The non-profit has received a donation for every show held at St. Andrew’s to maintain and restock the community fridge on 25 Plattekill Ave. Along with this, Millions of Butterflies holds bake sales at shows to benefit the community fridge. Without consistent St. Andrew’s shows, the fridge has less consistent income. 

Doors at Seven has repeatedly stepped up for the community, and now it’s on the local community to continue to support each other and the music through the ebbs and flows.

“We ask those who support our shows to spread that love towards the New Paltz Free Food Fridge and volunteer your time to help maintain it or bring donations directly to the fridge,” Janasiewicz said.