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Freedom Fest – A Tale Of Failure

LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Everyone from vendors and production staff to performers are looking for both answers and payment following the disasterous Freedom Festival held in Los Angeles on Sept. 4th. Festival organizers were forecasting attendance variously between 7,500 and 20,000 but the event only managed to draw a crowd of 100 attendees.

Originally set to feature a lineup that included Dashboard Confessional, Semi Precious Weapons and Vanessa Carlton among others, the festival had been pared down to just a few artists including Sophie B. Hawkins after other artists backed out.

The festival also moved locations and dates, to September 3rd at Los Angeles Historic State Park, though the date was subequently changed again to Sept. 4th due to Goldenvoice's larger FYF music festival wanting to use the location on the 3rd, which they had done for five years previously.

According to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News (SDGLN), festival organizer Latham Staples, Goldenvoice agreed to pay the Freedom Festival's production costs in order to faciliate the date change.

"The whole premise behind [the arrangement] was that we could utilize their production. They’d set up the staging, lighting, toilets, fencing, security [and] all that type of stuff, and then as their event came to a close, we could piggy-back off of their stuff. They would get the tax write-off because they would assist a nonprofit and we wouldn’t have to pay for the costs of the production," Staples told SDGLN.

"Our costs were for marketing and advertising, and then our costs were the artists,” Staples said.

Not everyone who involved with the event is on board with this version of story however. Independent production manager Kent Black told SDGLN that while he saved more than $250,000 by collaborating with Goldenvoice, he claims he told Staples that there would still be significant production costs to the tune of $100,000.

"I told Latham up front," Black said, "after we negotiated the stage setup with AEG [and Goldenvoice] that he was still looking at $100,000 to $125,000 in production costs."

Empowering Spirits Foundation, the organization producing the festival's books show an estimated budget cost for the festival at $107,000. The books also reveal that ESF canceled twenty one back dated checks, one of which was written to Black to cover production costs.

"We contacted every single party.." Staples told the [and] gave them a heads up that stop payments were being put on stuff until we figured out exactly what was going on," Staples said.

One of the parties affected by financial disaster was artist Sadie Hawkins, who has since filed suit against ESF, seeking monies owed.

According to Hawkin's manager Gigi Gaston, ESF never made good on a promised $5,000 deposit, only providing a late payment of $500. Gaston told SDGLN that she and Hawkins were on the way to the venue the day of the show when Staples called to cancel. Gaston continued to the venue to try to collect Hawkin's fee, but was allegedly told by Staples at the event that there was no box office.

"When I got there," Gaston said, "[Staples] told me the previous manager had already wiped out his box office money," Gaston told SDGLN. Before leaving, Gaston claims she had Staples sign a new contract that confirmed that Hawkins did make the show and that she was owed $7,500, which Gaston is now seeking through legal action. – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers