First Annual Bay Area Reggae Festival Cancelled At Last Minute

Posted by Billyjam, July 19, 2015 10:20am | Post a Comment

It was being billed as the First Annual Bay Area Reggae Festival and was to take place over this weekend at the cavernous Craneway Pavilion in Richmond. Scheduled performers were to include big names of the genre such as Junior ReidGyptian, Marcia Griffiths, Freddie McGregor, Sister Carol, Barrington Levy, and Lady Saw. Tickets for the ambitious East Bay three-day event (July 17-19) were $200 or $75 per day, which, most agreed, was pricey but worth it to see some of the reggae legends booked. However, in the final lead-up days to the reggae festival, rumors had been circulating that advance ticket sales were not good.  As with any first-time festival event of this scale, those financially invested in it were getting a little anxious in the days leading up to the festival and those fears were well founded it would turn out.

However all involved hoped that the event, which was being planned by Andre Smith and East Bay promoter/artist Mystic Man, would run smoothly and be the first in a successful annual series of Bay Area Reggae Festivals.  But not long after it had just begun on Friday, following sets by two local reggae acts, it looked like the festival might be shut down prematurely. By 10am Saturday morning it was made official when Mystic Man announced that the entire festival was canceled. "We could not make good on our financial responsibilities," was the reason posted to the Reggaefest Facebook page.  Headliner Gyptian "took the money and let his fans down, cause he was in the building," posted Mystic Man to his personal Facebook wall yesterday. He also accepted "full responsibility for what happen at the festival," promising to refund money to all involved and suggesting that those who bought advance tix via credit card would have no problem in getting their money back by reversing the transaction. For all involved, from the promoters to the artists to the fans, and especially to the vendors out of pocket, the festival cancellation is a dreaded scenario (pun intended) that has left everyone unhappy.

"The promoter put it on and really just didn't have enough money to pay the artists. One of the [main] artists was paid a partial fee and the other ones were given deposits but not given the rest of the money. So then pretty much all of them banded together and decided not to perform. That was on Friday night and they all simply refused to perform. And that was it!" said Kiaran Cheevers (aka DJ Kure All) who was both a scheduled Festival performer and a representative for his employer CBCB who were among the festival sponsors. Cheevers was at the event location in Richmond from early in the day Friday and witnessed firsthand the reggae artist strike. "Romain Virgo, Bugle, Dexta Daps, and Gyptian were among the ones that were at the venue but refused to perform on stage due to the payment issue." said Cheevers adding that, once it was clear that the artists had refused to perform, promoter "Mystic Man went on stage to try and explain the situation to the audience and it nearly created a riot." 

No riot occurred but since then unhappy festival participants - especially vendors who had invested a lot of time and money - have been venting on the promotor's Facebook page demanding compensation. One named Tracey Bell-Borden demanded back the $500 deposit as well as compensation "for 4 days of lost work and revenue" in a Facebook post this morning. Another vendor named Andrew Trujillo wrote how, "We lost our asses out there in Richmond. My partners are still losing money on this festival. No power was supplied to vendors as promised. We ended up renting a generator for the weekend at a 100 plus a day. So they have to stay till monday to return it. The only rental place that had one is closed till Monday. Two more nights of room rentals and food in a town they aren't familiar with. Unbelievable!!!"

I reached out to Mystic Man for comment but so far no response. For updates visit the official Festival website, The Bay Area Reggae Fest Facebook page, and/or Mystic Man's page.

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Cbcb (3), Mystic Man (1), First Annual Bay Area Reggae Festival (1), Bay Area Reggae Fest (1), Gyptian (1), Barrington Levy (1), Junior Reed (1), Lady Saw (1)