When City Hall beefed up the Noise Ordinance last summer, they pooh-poohed concerns that the new restrictions would be used to shut down music clubs around Portland. But last Wednesday night, those fears turned into reality when a mildly-amplified set by visiting artists Of Montreal was cut short by police enforcing a noise complaint--oddly enough, a complaint filed not against the hosting club, the Blackbird, but against a karaoke bar on the other side of I-84.

The complainant, David Kahl, called the SE Precinct at 11:45 p.m. to complain about a karaoke bar next door to his house, the Cafe Thi Vu. "There's a definite thump," explained Kahl. "When it's present it's pretty anxiety-causing. My wife has MS, so it becomes an even more critical issue." Kahl said Thi Vu management usually turns down the volume when asked, but on Wednesday night he was unable to reach anyone cooperative by phone.

Officer James McClain answered the call from dispatch saying loud noise was coming from the Cafe Thi Vu at the intersection of 37th and Sandy Blvd; While Thi Vu sits at the southern corner of the intersection, the Blackbird sits at the northern side, separated by a block-long freeway overpass. Officer McClain did not visit Kahl's home for an exact address, but instead proceeded directly to the northern intersection, and mistakenly, the Blackbird.

McClain informed the staff that their club had been singled out by an upset neighbor. In response, a sound man turned PA amplifiers almost completely off to comply with the officer's request. But 10 minutes later, McClaine returned, demanding an immediate end to the show and citing a second complaint (of which there appears to be no official record). He also threatened to seize the musicians' instruments as "evidence." (There is no such allowance for this action in the Noise Ordinance.) Halfway through their set, the band halted their performance.

In eight months of operation, the Blackbird has had no noise issues. "Neighbors have never complained," said owner/janitor Pat Kenneally. "Much louder bands than this play here all the time."