Reign In Blood

Whats it take to get heard in Newport Beach?

A tragic misunderstanding of technology may have led Newport Beach police officials to deny the request of gay, women's and minority groups to use a PA system as they demonstrated in front of a Newport Beach hotel last Saturday.

Members of the Stonewall Initiative for Equal Rights gathered outside the Sutton Place Hotel in response to a weekend conference held by the conservative Reclaiming America. Reclaiming America has been outspoken in its opposition to gays, hate-crime legislation and campaign-finance reform.

Stonewall organizers were told by Newport Beach police that they would be allowed to walk on the sidewalk outside the hotel—about two football fields away from the hotel entrance—but were barred from using a sound system.

"My understanding is that there are day sleepers in the hotel, and [hotel management] didn't want them disturbed," said Sergeant Steve Shulman of the Newport Beach Police. "That's what I've been told."

The fact that police officials believed sleepers would be disturbed by the demonstrators' sound equipment suggests they believed the group had a really cherry outfit like, say, a 1200-watt QSC amp with a kick-ass 18-channel mixer to really boost the bass. In actuality, demonstrators were planning to use a small, low-powered, battery-operated PA system that event organizer Joe Delaplaine said would be useful to warn the 30 people expected to show up "not to wander onto MacArthur Boulevard."

In fact, the pissant pig amp would have had a hard time being heard at a candy-ass VH-1 Storytellers gig—Gordon Lightfoot performs his hits, sans "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"—let alone over the din of the six-lane MacArthur Boulevard as well as departing flights from neighboring John Wayne Airport.

Delaplaine, echoing the sentiments of Billy Corgan when he decided to turn Smashing Pumpkins into Air Supply, said it was never his intention to be loud.

"We're not picketing the Sutton Place Hotel," he said. "The point of the demonstration is to show the people demonstrating that they are not alone. Reclaiming America came all the way from Florida because they figured a place like Newport Beach, Orange County, is easy pickings. I mean, this is Newport Beach, where they give funds to the Boy Scouts, which is not exactly the most friendly organization to gays. We want the people who are targeted by groups like Reclaiming America to know that there are people who support them. We want them to know that they have a right to speak out."

Even if demonstrators had intended on being loud, there's no chance they would have been heard. An OC Weekly DataLab experiment showed conclusively that if one person stands on the sidewalk outside the hotel and yells, "The gay agenda is giving me a heat rash!" Weeklyreporter Anthony Pignataro will not hear that person.

What's more, Pignataro, standing next to a valet-parking attendant outfitted in what appears to be David Byrne's oversized suit from Stop Making Sense, will say he "could make out your face, but I couldn't see your lips move."

To truly be heard under such conditions, according to Blake Witte of Guitar Center in Brea, would require some major equipment upgrades.

"I would definitely suggest they look seriously into subwoofers," he said. "But to do the job right, to really put on a good show, I'd get them in contact with a contractor to do the entire sound system to their specifications.

"A passenger jet usually cranks out about 90 decibels. To be heard over that, you'd have to generate, like, 110 decibels. That's a lot; 120 decibels is a level of pain to the point of death. At 110, that would be like standing 20 feet away from a speaker at a Slayer concert," Witte said.

Slayer was unavailable for comment, though most would agree that Reign in Blood is totally kick-ass.

 
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