Police justified in muzzling Howling Wolf

On one hand, the ensuing controversy over last month’s police activity at Howling Wolf Amphitheater demonstrates how passionate local concert-goers are about the controversial venue.

Unfortunately, the episode itself also goes a long way toward demonstrating the operators of Howling Wolf, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, are in no position to ensure compliance with community standards for noise and responsibility.

Howling Wolf’s status at the time of the concert was under review by the Port Orchard City Council. The city was considering whether to extend the amphitheater’s hours of operation, something its owner had long sought. Given what was at stake, one would assume everyone at Howling Wolf would be on their best behavior.

Instead, according to police reports, one of the bands on stage during a June 25 concert launched into an obscenity-laced tirade heard by neighbors as far as two miles away. Port Orchard police — including Chief Al Townsend himself — responded to the scene and asked Howling Wolf owner Ron Rice, concert promoters, and representatives from the band in question to reduce the noise — and obscenity — levels of the performance.

The singer agreed to tone down his language, but refused to alter the lyrics of his songs — one of which referred to pedophile priests. The concert proceeded, according Townsend, with no change in volume or content.

We’re not music critics here, but it’s clear there were things being screamed or sung during that concert that were clearly not appropriate to be blasted by loudspeaker to listeners two miles away. No one can argue the First Amendment guarantees their right to express themselves in such a manner.

If the owner/operator of Howling Wolf can’t control his customers when the police are present, how can anyone assume he’d behave any better after a permit is issued and the police have departed?

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