Maine’s newest concert venue at Westbrook’s Rock Row development finished its first show Sunday evening, but not before neighbors for miles around complained of the noise.

Thumping bass and booming music from hip-hop and funk artist Anderson .Paak carried through the mild spring evening as far as Pride’s Corner and into the Back Cove area of Portland until 11 p.m., bringing some neighbors to the brink.

Although Westbrook police declined to say Monday how many complaints they received, the city of Portland’s online customer service portal tracked more than a dozen complaints, including from the Nason’s Corner neighborhood, Back Cove, Deering Center and other places.

The concert venue is the first aspect of the new Rock Row development to open to the public. Eventually, the 100-acre site is expected to host retail, office space, residences and other entertainment facilities.

“It kept us awake until 11 o’clock,” said Lois Steele, 77, who lives in Pride’s Corner with her husband, Bob, 79. The couple say they recognize the economic benefit the concerts and development bring to the city, but they bristled at the disturbance.

The couple heard the music earlier in the evening and even drove down to Rock Row around 7 p.m. to make sure it was the source of the racket. While they acknowledged that the added tax revenue and visitors will be a boon to the city in the long run, right now they’re hoping for a little peace and quiet.


“If it was the Beach Boys, it wouldn’t be a problem,” Lois Steele joked.

The couple even joked that they remember their own parents complaining about “that damn rock ‘n’ roll” when it was Elvis and the Beatles two generations ago.

“I’d just like them to turn down the volume, because it’s going to be a good thing for the city,” Bob Steele said. “I think it’s going to be a noisy summer.”

Alex Gray, promoter for Waterfront Concerts, which is putting on the shows, said he anticipated some blowback from residents during the first show, and that as the concert season progresses, he plans to work with neighbors to try to minimize the nuisance factor.

Gray said the company set up monitors in various neighborhoods to measure the noise, and will work with the community to reduce complaints.

“You can’t graph a single data point,” Gray said. “We need real shows to really work on the data to see what affects the neighborhood. It’s going to take some time for us to get used to the neighborhood, and for the neighborhood to get used to us.”


In Bangor, where Waterfront Concerts puts on a series of well-attended shows each year, Gray said he worked with an acoustician to manage problem frequencies and reduce decibel levels. At Rock Row, because the site is flat and empty, sound carries farther than if it was blocked by the complex of structures that are planned there.

“We’re going to be a good neighbor. We can attack this. Can we have zero noise complaints? It’s not going to happen,” Gray said. “We’re always going to be a burden to someone. Are people going to hear an outdoor concert two miles away? Yes, they possibly can. But is it going to be a nuisance?”

The 8,200-seat venue, known officially as the Maine Savings Pavilion at Rock Row, has 13 more concerts booked for this season. It is part of a mixed-use complex that planners envision as a combination of business space, retail and up to 1,000 apartments on the site of the former Pike Industries quarry. The commercial development will be anchored by a Market Basket supermarket, The Paper Store, and a Starbucks, which are due to open next year.

Although developers already built an earthen berm to muffle sound, reports from residents show that there might be more work to be done to contain the volume.

In Portland, Graham St. John, 37, said he was surprised by the level of noise that carried into his Holm Avenue home, a street among the closest to the venue.

“You could definitely feel the bass vibrating in our house,” St. John said, adding that he is “hopeful that when the rest of the project is finished it will mitigate some of the noise.”


On Monday afternoon, the Rock Row developers posted a message to the community on Facebook, and also sent a version of it directly to St. John, who complained online.

“As we speak, we are working with the City of Westbrook and Waterfront Concerts to make adjustments based on your feedback,” the developers wrote. “We take our partnership with our neighbors seriously – your input has been valuable in guiding our work each step of the way, and we’ll stay in touch as we go forward.”

Gail Fullerton, who lives in Westbrook with her husband, said she couldn’t hear the music but her husband could. Fullerton focused on the economic benefits of the new development, even if it means some kvetching.

“People are going to complain, but if it brings taxes to the city of Westbrook, bring it on,” Fullerton said.

Others in town said they weren’t bothered. Sarah Spaulding, 32, who lives on Giles Street in downtown Westbrook, said she went outside to see if she could hear the music, but was surprised to find that the evening was quiet, despite being only half a mile from the stage.

She said the new activity is a welcome addition to Westbrook, where it feels like there is nothing to do.

“If it starts to wake up the baby, that might change,” Spaulding said.

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