NORTHAMPTON - During a sound check before the start of "Limbopalooza" on Saturday, heavy metal bass guitarist and singer Dustin Alexander marveled at the unique acoustics of the stage at the Solid Rock Ranch.
"Check, check. Hello, Northville," he said into his microphone, the sound of his voice booming throughout the 60-acre property. "Listen to that. I'm impressed. You don't need any reverb out here."
The sound at Solid Rock Ranch carries strongly throughout the Maple Grove Road and Horton Road neighborhoods, partly due to the shape of the little valley the stage sits in and because of the shape of the stage itself, built to mimic a speaker cone.
Bass guitarist Dustin Alexander plays during a sound check Saturday at the Rock Solid Ranch in Northampton prior to the start of Limbopalooza, and all-day heavy metal concert to raise money for a bar in Gloversville. (The Leader Herald/Jason Subik)
"I designed the stage so it would project sound out and not trap it in, and it's got old theater curtains to help with the stage volume," said Limbopalooza organizer James Crisalli.
That big sound has led to controversy. The Northampton Town Board filed a lawsuit in May against the Solid Rock Ranch to prevent the venue from holding its annual "Mama Strawberry Festival." The town argued the festival had not properly completed an application for a Special Event Permit. A new rule passed by the town board in October required a permit for any event expected to draw 300 or more people. The court ruled the concert could go on, but a definitive ruling on the future of music events on the property isn't expected until later this year.
The Limbopalooza concert was held to raise money for the Limbo Bar and Grill in Gloversville. The bar needs about $3,500 to purchase new equipment so it reopen after its beer coolers failed in a July heat wave. The concert featured heavy metal bands that volunteered their service to help raise money for the bar that has provided them gigs in the past.
Some of the bands playing included Renewal of Faith, From Within, Accusations of the Insane and Alexander's band, Jesus Christ and the Hallucinogenic All-stars.
The event was not expected to draw more than 300 people, so the Solid Rock Ranch hosted it without applying for a permit.
Northampton Supervisor Linda Kemper said she opposed the special-event permit law, in part because she felt it was unfairly targeted against the Solid Rock Ranch.
She said some music events on the property have been too loud - she complained herself one year when the music went late into the early morning hours - but overall she said she thinks the ranch has had a positive effect on the town.
"It does bring in some revenue. Some people in the neighborhood like to go out on their porches and listen to the music. There is a certain segment of the community who are against them, but others like them," Kemper said.
Donald Goodwin lives near the ranch. He said he's never complained about the sound coming from the ranch, but he isn't exactly a fan of it either.
"It's not in my best interest for them to be doing this," he said of the music as he listened to it from his front porch. "It's all a bunch of racket, as far as I'm concerned. I don't even know how the sound gets up here so good, just listen to it - it's going against the wind, and you can still hear it. How late are they going to be playing? That's what I'd like to know."
Crisalli said in the past he's had concerts that have gone on until as late as 5 a.m., but going forward he's decided to end the music by midnight.
Approximately 30 small concerts and music festivals have been held at the venue over the past 10 years, ever since Crisalli built the 30- by 20-foot stage out of lumber made from trees cut down at the ranch.
His mother, Deborah Bant, owns the property. She named it the Solid Rock Ranch as a reference to Jesus Christ, who she called "the solid rock on which everything is built." She also runs a horse rescue operation on the property.
Bant said she was surprised to learn the town had re-zoned her property as being for residential use when it had historically been a mixed-use property. Bant said the Solid Rock Ranch is flanked on either side by a furniture factory and a septic system.
"We were specifically targeted by this change," she said.
Kemper said she was part of the committee that worked on re-zoning the town. She said the issue of the concerts at the Solid Rock Ranch was brought up several times during the process, but all of the re-zoning was ultimately decided by a consensus of the committee.
She said since Northampton attempted to get a restraining order to stop concerts at the Solid Rock Ranch in May, the town has spent between $10,000 and $14,000 in legal fees in its battle for peace and quiet.
Jason Subik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.