The plug was literally pulled on a music show at Earl Warren Showgrounds this Saturday, the result of a record-high number of noise complaints from all over the city and what the officials characterized as an attempt by the performer to incite the crowd.
Porter Robinson, a 20-year-old electro deejay and producer, was roughly an hour and 20 minutes into his set — the headliner at the one-day Matador Music Festival, which supplemented the Santa Barbara Fair & Expo at the state-owned showgrounds Saturday — when authorities told him it was time to wrap up the show around 11 p.m.
In response to noise complaints, Scott Grieve, the CEO of the showgrounds, said he twice told Taylor Stevens of Collective Effort Events — which put on the show — that the volume needed to be turned down. Stevens said that while the decibel level was well under what is allowed, he had it lowered by three decibels both times.
But the complaints from citizens around Santa Barbara continued to pour in. People in all parts of the city, from the Westside, to the upper Riviera, Mission Canyon, Samarkand, and downtown, reported hearing the bump of the bass, though many didn’t necessarily know the Earl Warren show was the source of the noise. The Sheriff’s Department was getting numerous noise complaints, as was Grieve, who said he received about 20, an “all-time record” for complaints about a show at Earl Warren, which only hosts a handful each year, he said.
Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Kelly Hoover said that around 10 p.m., when Porter Robinson and his crew were asked to turn the music down, deputies and Grieve reminded the group of the 11 p.m. shutdown time. But there was apparent miscommunication between the promoter and Earl Warren officials about when the show was supposed to end. Stevens said the agreement was that the show would end at 11:30 p.m., while Grieve said his understanding was that the show would end at 11.
Stevens said around 11 p.m., a Sheriff’s deputy approached the soundboard and “told them they were going to shut us down.” A few minutes later, he said the deputy told them the music needed to be shut down immediately. Stevens, in turn, told Robinson’s people, who told the artist.
Robinson then told the crowd the next song would be his last because the police were ending the show. About three minutes into that song — his hit, “Language” — deputies told Grieve to pull the power cord, which Grieve did. While some said Robinson’s announcement to the crowd was graceful and not meant in a derogatory way toward law enforcement, Hoover said Robinson was attempting to “incite the crowd by saying that even though law enforcement was trying to shut them down, they were going to play one more song.”
On his Twitter account, Robinson apologized to people who had paid to see the show, saying “the police are not on your side.” He said the sheriff threatened to arrest him and seize all his equipment as evidence.
Hoover confirmed that did occur, saying that because Robinson was failing to comply, “according to our policy, the next course of action would be to issue him a criminal citation and confiscate his equipment to be used as evidence in court.”
Stevens said his group has a high standard for the shows it puts on, and the type of venue at Earl Warren — a closed, circular arena that forced noise up and out — may have contributed to the noise factor around the city.
Earl Warren presents an interesting dilemma for city officials. The showground is actually state owned and on county property, and — though surrounded by the city — does not have to go through the city for its permitting. The city used to regulate parking in the neighborhoods around Earl Warren during the fair weekend but stopped that practice two years ago.
This year brought roughly 53,000 people to the fair over the five days. Friday and Saturday had near-record crowds, while Sunday’s crowd hit an all-time high.