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Standard Deviations: The unexpected noises of the Ogden Music Festival

By Mark Saal standard-Examiner - | Jun 2, 2019

FORT BUENAVENTURA — Well, isn’t that just like an old person? Goes to a music festival and complains about how loud it is.

I’ve been hanging out at the 12th annual Ogden Music Festival — Michelle Tanner’s beautifully composed love song to bluegrass, Americana and acoustic music — and it very nearly is the perfect weekend. I’ve really only had one complaint:

It’s too loud.

Now, I realize that the very definition of “elderly” is complaining about the volume of things. Apparently, once you hit a certain age, and I’m pretty certain I’m right there on that threshold, you either can’t hear stuff (“Eh? Speak a little louder, sonny!”) or you wish you couldn’t hear stuff (“Hey you punk kids, turn down that racket!”).

This is new territory for me. Being a child of the ’70s, I was raised on arena rock. Indeed, I spent my teenage years working as an usher at the old Salt Palace arena in Salt Lake City, so I attended more than my share of excruciatingly loud concerts without proper ear protection. Foghat. KISS. Ted Nugent. Kansas. Styx. Foreigner. Blue Oyster Cult. The list goes on and on.

Three or four times a month between the ages of 16 and 19 I’d arrive home late at night with my ears still ringing from an evening of being aurally assaulted by everyone from Aerosmith to ZZ Top.

As such, I’d always lived my life by the motto: “Is it really too loud, or are you just too old?” So the only real solace I can take here is that I’m not actually complaining about the volume of the performances at the Ogden Music Festival; that’s been just fine. No, the problem is a bit more subtle. And pervasive.

It’s 3:30 a.m., and I’m writing this sentence from my little tent pitched at the festival in Fort Buenaventura. I’ve been lying here for more than an hour now, unable to sleep because of the noise — a constant, industrial thrum created by idling locomotives, punctuated by various other recurring sounds. The air horn on a passing train. The clang-clang-clang from a distant railway signal. A weird rising and falling din that I can only describe as a gigantic buzz saw constantly shifting gears. The concussive crash of train cars bumping into one another, followed by the frantic barks of a startled dog at a nearby campsite.

Clearly, the dog can’t sleep, either.

All. Night. Long.

It’s odd that I arrived at Fort Buenaventura on Thursday afternoon but didn’t notice this ever-present noise until 2 a.m. Later, once again in the light of day, the sound is obviously still there — an eternal murmur that isn’t loud enough to affect normal conversation but is just loud enough to be irritably noticeable.

It certainly makes me feel sympathy for the residents of this west Ogden neighborhood.

As it turns out, Fort Buenaventura is located next to the Union Pacific rail yard. And train commerce must be booming.

Having said all that, I offer an enormous disclaimer to the above comments. Because even if there were twice the rail traffic at night, the Ogden Music Festival would be so totally worth it.

Three days of amazing music. Friendly people. A variety of food and vendor booths. Activities for the kids. And before- and after-hours impromptu jam sessions throughout the park. (I brought both my guitar and mandolin this weekend, but given my inability to achieve even rudimentary competence on either instrument I doubt I’ll be able to overcome my fears and join in.)

So, hats off to Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music, for putting on an amazing festival year after year. And while it continues to grow in popularity, and I truly wish them continued success, part of me hopes it doesn’t grow much bigger — it feels just about the right size the way it is.

Early Friday morning I wandered over by the fort’s pond, where Fox13 was doing a remote TV segment. OFOAM executive director Michelle Tanner was talking up the festival and at one point called Fort Buenaventura “the perfect setting.”

Which is mostly true. Because for sitting and listening to incredible music in an equally incredible venue, it’s hard to beat the Ogden Music Festival and Fort Buenaventura.

As for sleeping? That’s a different matter. But an easy fix.

A 69-cent pair of foam ear plugs, and it truly is the perfect weekend again.


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