Lansdowne carried out Escapade — but no guarantee it returns

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Wayne Scanlan, Ottawa Citizen

While Lansdowne Park survived the year’s Escapade Music Festival, the jury is out on a return engagement.

Capital Ward Coun. David Chernushenko has reservations about the Glebe neighbourhood as a suitable place for electronic music concerts, feeling that Glebe residents tolerate enough commotion from sports events and “amplified activities of all kinds,” Chernushenko said Monday, via email, a day after the weekend festival at Lansdowne.

“There is a breaking point, and it would be irresponsible and unfair at a human level for the city to allow it to be crossed,” Chernushenko said, adding that “several dozen people” from Old Ottawa South and East “reported to me that their houses were shaking, notably on Sunday night, after the main stage was closed down and the closing acts were moved to the Aberdeen Pavilion.”

The councillor, who was active all weekend responding to constituents’ noise concerns, wants to consult emergency responders, on-site staff and local residents before thinking about future EDM events on Bank Street. In past years, Escapade has been held at Rideau Carleton Raceway, soon to be home to a major casino and entertainment venue.

“I never did feel that Lansdowne – surrounded by residential communities with no significant buffer – is the right place for electronic dance music or any other music genre that relies heavily on deep base,” Chernushenko said.

On the whole, Chernushenko felt that concert staff responded well to expressed noise concerns, using their directional speaker systems and base drawback technology to control outward vibrations.

Regarding medical and police issues, the councillor said he was troubled that so many resources have to be expended to keep people safe at a festival.

Meanwhile, the heavy thunderstorms that soaked Escapade Sunday afternoon caused at least $40,000 in damage to the DJ equipment.

That is only the beginning of the wreckage. The main stage brought in by the festival to the Lansdowne grass was also impacted by rain and high winds and it could be days before engineers complete their assessment. In addition, stage lights cost $10,000 to $15,000 each and they have to be dried out and tested before it’s known if they were also ruined.

“The stage can handle winds of 120 km/h,” said Ali Shafaee, director of partnerships for Escapade. “The roof is designed to rip open so the stage doesn’t tip. When the wind ripped open part of the roof, all the rain that came through went over all the equipment on the main stage.”

A decision was made to shut down the main stage Sunday afternoon around 2:45, just before two major storm cells passed.

Fortunately for organizers, there were indoor options – inside the Aberdeen Pavilion and TD Place Arena, designed to be secondary sites for the electronic dance music.

“Had we not had the arena and Aberdeen as options for Sunday, we would have canceled outright and the entire festival would have shut down,” Shafaee said. “From that standpoint, the venue helped us significantly.”

From Shafaee’s perspective, the two-day event attended by roughly 20,000 came off fairly well, considering it was the first time it was held at Lansdowne and there were logistical issues. With fewer than a dozen paramedic trips to hospital for drug and alcohol problems on the weekend, Shafaee said the event was as safe or safer than any in the past.

Shafaee also felt the noise complaints were handled promptly and efficiently.

“Speaking to people from the community ... every person has responded saying the impact was minimal to non-existent,” Shafaee said.

As far as he was concerned, the event checked off all the boxes.

“We put on a festival that was close to downtown, a site the city wanted to use for more events and it had no impact on the community,” Shafaee said.

Whether or not the concert returns to Lansdowne “is not our call,” but Shafaee plans to “debrief” with all involved, including Chernushenko.

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