Def Leppard is still incensed about the Salem, Ore., ordinance that kept the band from being as loud as they wanna be.

The rockers nearly walked away from a gig at the Oregon State Fair on September 2 after learning of the ordinance – which limits volume at the L.B. Day Amphitheatre to 100 decibels – during a sound check just before showtime.

In a last-ditch compromise, the group took to the stage and announced that fans unsatisfied with the volume could get a refund on their $20 tickets. About 700 people took advantage of the offer, and Def Leppard and the fair split the ensuing $14,000 cost.

Frontman Joe Elliott wrote an open letter to visitors of Def Leppard’s Web site and explained the group’s side of the story.

“This was one of those gigs where the ‘Sound Police’ were there to enforce a most ludicrous rule,” Elliott wrote. “These guys were serious: Verbal warning, written warning, fine, [up to] jail for tour manager Malvin (Mortimer).

“The choices were as follows: Turn down so low that it actually affects the sound, not just the volume of the instruments. Or, walk out and refuse to play under such restricting circumstances … This show was sold out in advance and Def Leppard has never chosen to back out of anything in its 20-something-year career. So you can imagine what we had to go through to reach the decision we finally did reach.”

The incident has ignited a debate about noise levels allowed by the city of Salem, and whether those allowed at the L.B. Day Amphitheatre are adequate for fair shows.

“I think it goes without saying that we will never do this again … And I would want other artists thinking of playing this venue to think twice about doing so,” Elliott wrote. “For Def Leppard to play Salem again, there will have to be a different venue offered to us or the law will have to be changed.”

Concert-goer Ramona Clawson told the Salem Statesman-Journal, “It’s a ridiculous law. I’ve been waiting for this (Def Leppard concert) for 10 years, and in some places (in the amphitheatre) it was distorted and you could barely hear.”

But the sentiment wasn’t unanimous.

“It was plenty loud. If people can’t hear that, they’re already deaf,” fair worker Barbara Dixon told the paper.

A Salem code enforcement official told Pollstar that “the band’s manager knew [about the ordinance] well in advance; everybody knew it, except I guess, for the band members themselves. It was unfortunate that Def Leppard felt it was unreasonable because I really felt they could have just gone with it and had a good show.

“Instead, they chose after each song to complain about the variance and really get the crowd incited and upset. It really wasn’t good for anybody,” Paul Thornton said.

Fair spokeswoman Lin Wolfe confirmed that the Def Leppard musicians had not been informed in advance of Salem’s volume restrictions at the amphitheatre.

It wasn’t the first time the ordinance has been an issue.

The Statesman-Journal reports that Santana has refused to play the L.B. Day Amphitheatre because of the restrictions. In 1995, Live was reportedly fined $10,000 for ignoring the limit after the band decided it would rather pay the fine than turn down the volume.

Wolfe told the paper the fair has no plans to lobby the Salem City Council for higher limits. City officials have rejected pleas to raise the limit as recently as last year. Wolfe said that instead, the fair is looking at the feasibility of upgrading the amphitheatre to mitigate volumes in nearby neighborhoods so it can accept louder bands.