No. 7

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Rock Harvest II event is coming to the House of Rock in Baltimore, Maryland, November 7th-9th in support of the Fallen Blue charity. There has been much controversy over bands dropping out of the event leading to complaints circulating on social media and music media sites. In an article published by Metalsludge on October 24, 2013 titled "Is Rock Harvest Another Great Big Music Festival or A Great Big Scam?", there is a discussion of an open letter to music fans, promoters and the organizers of Rock Harvest which states "Warning ! Buyer beware. If you buy a ticket to Rock Harvest don’t be surprised if the advertised band(s) you are paying to see don’t end up playing the event. The proof is in their own posters and advertisements that have been circulating since early spring 2013. It’s now October, the event is just weeks away and over two dozen of the advertised artists are no longer appearing. According to the ‘Promoters’ (Twisted Nail Productions) and ‘Co-Founders’ (John Guarnieri and Lyle Desplaines-Hawkins) these bands either cancelled, dropped off, broke up, there was a conflict of interest or they retired. Yes. Retired. According to many of the bands themselves and their respective agents – it’s simple. Rock Harvest breached their contracts." The article goes on to describe the experience of the band Tuff who were scheduled to perform, stating that "Rock Harvest had signed legally binding contracts with several of these bands and agreed to terms set forth in those contracts. But in the recent months leading up to the event, Rock Harvest did not fulfill their end of the agreement (buying flights or sending deposits) and therefore the bands were left no other option than to “not appear” at Rock Harvest. The main issue for most of these bands, were the flights. The promoters agreed to cover the cost of and buy the artists round trip flights and cover all related expenses for the weekend. Some of the artists agreed to play for free as it was a charity event. But in playing for free they also required hotels and local transportation. Rock Harvest agreed to all of this with several of these name bands and also agreed to pay guaranteed fees to some of the bands as well. Rock Harvest was to buy ad space on Metalsludge, and agreed to pay Tuff “X” amount of dollars for their appearance at their event. Then from that final payment and/or deposit made to Tuff – all of the Metal Sludge (pre-paid) ‘ad money’ would be deducted from the Tuff “guarantee” which ultimately then gives them the ad space for FREE. Rock Harvest did not honor their contract. Tuff alleges they never received any of their appearance fee, no flights were purchased, and no deposits made. The same applies for Love/Hate (who were packaged with them for this date) – contrary to their claims. They continued to delay purchasing the flights, delayed the deposits and asked for more time to complete this. Many of the bands and agents (including Tuff) granted additional time in the form of days, then weeks, and even months. When it became clear they were not honoring their obligatory duties – the bands pulled out one by one."

Rock Harvest responded with details on band cancellations stating " HURRICANE, (Robert is in Queensryche now and Andrew is on tour with a DIO Tribute band touring), KING KOBRA, ( They do not want to tour, this was announced a longtime ago.), Mitch MALLOY, (He retired), Ron KEEL, (Thanks to Stevie Rachelle from Tuff), Russ DWARF, FEMME FATALE, (Dropped off a longtime ago,) LIBERTY’ N JUSTICE, (Band is not together and JK is to busy promoting another festival, conflict of interest), LOVE & HATE, (fees paid but sponsor dropped off and affected us getting airfare), TUFF, (fees paid but sponsor dropped off and affected us getting airfare), JETBOY, (a certain band member is talking to other bands creating BS), SILENT RAGE, LONDON, (Our fault with booking airfare due to loss of sponsor), CIRCLE II CIRCLE, (You will see soon, not our issue), LEATHERWOLF, CAGE, DEATH DEALER, (Ross the boss had other commitments after contract was signed), TANGO DOWN, (Lack of airfare money), LINE OF FIRE, (inner issues with band, not our fault), BENEDICTUM, DC4, (never a contract and wanted band fees that we did not have), WHITE WIZZARD, (Band and drama issues, see bands press release), MODERN SUPERSTAR. Keep in mind this event is for and we did not want any of this to happen at all. Events go through stuff like this all the time, and I have NEVER seen certain bands act so unprofessional. Most bands have understood and they WILL be on the next event."

On October 28, 2013, Suzanne Penley, publicist for ROCK HARVEST II, released a statement claiming the allegations made by the band Tuff were misleading and false. Penley alleged that Tuff singer Steve Rachelle had taken to a smear campaign against the event and its organizers as a result of some changes in the lineup of bands scheduled to perform. Penley stated "The sponsor who's support was earmarked to cover the necessary travel expenses for eight (8) of the bands scheduled to perform, did not follow through on their commitment of support. This left the event organizers with no choice but to rescind the invitation to the bands/artists: LOVE/HATE; DEATHRIDERS with Neil Turbin; CAGE; BENEDICTUM; LEATHERWOLF; SILENT RAGE; Ron Keel; and, TUFF", said Penley. The organizers accept responsibility, and apologize for, not securing all committed sponsor monies in advance of publicizing the bands/artist's participation in this benefit concert. They had every reason to believe the funds would be available and at no time have organizers misrepresented to the public the bands/artists that were to perform and/or will be performing. All posted and published lineup information was valid at the time the information was released. Steve Rachelle's comments about ROCK HARVEST II, its organizers, John Guarnieri and Lyle Hawkins, and the event beneficiary, 'FALLEN BLUE', surrounding some recent changes in the originally scheduled lineup, are simply misleading and false. We are unsure of, and surprised by, his [Rachelle's] need to make such a negative, public outcry with unwarranted accusations as to the validity of the event and its organizers." Event co-organizer John Guarnieri stated "Mr. Rachelle's claim that no deposits were made by organizers is false. A total of $2,000 was paid via PayPal in four, $500 transactions (each) on July 29, 2013; August 12, 2013; August 26, 2013; and, September 10, 2013. We regret that Stevie has apparently forgotten about these transactions and will be more than happy to provide him with copies of, and/or post online for review, the PayPal receipts which clearly show to whom the monies were paid, the date & time, that the transaction was 'completed' and even the transaction ID. Furthermore, I think it is important for our fans to know that when it became necessary to inform Stevie of the situation with the lost sponsorship monies to cover the travel expenses for he and his band, TUFF, we elected to not request the return of the deposit monies paid to Stevie because of the (free) promotions he had done up to that point on his site about the event."

Penley cited these eight bands above that organizers had to drop from the event due to failed sponsorship monies, further adding that other bands for varied reasons not related to the event or its organizers, asked to be withdrawn. 'SEVEN KINGDOMS': "Got a little bit of bad news for you. Seven Kingdoms is choosing to drop out of Rock Harvest even if you'll be able to cover their expenses...."; -- 'LYNAM' (per their agent): "I have to reschedule the dates of the 'Lynam' tour till later.... Thank you again for all you help and sorry for the inconvenience."; -- 'DC/4': "I am going to have to pull us out of this show.... We don't have a contract so this is a pretty simple thing. Sorry this didn't work out ..., we love the cause and hope you can make this happen in a way that helps these Policemen and their families. We wish you only the very best of luck with Rock Harvest 2!"; -- 'LINE OF FIRE': "Hey John... hope all is going well. I hate to do it, but we're going to have to cancel our appearance at Rock Harvest II. We really appreciate you offering us the opportunity to be on roster, but logistically at this time it's just not possible for us. We've had some developments that have altered our original course, and we wanted to tell you now rather than too much later. Thanks again...good luck with the event."; -- 'HURRICANE': "Unfortunately because of touring schedules with Robert and other commitments from Andy we will not be able to make it this year, sorry for any inconvenience, hope it all goes well."; -- 'MITCH MALLOY': (In response to an email sent by Guarnieri on April 8, 2013 to confirm his participation.) "I doubt it.... No I'm not coming sorry...Thanks for asking."; -- 'CIRCLE II CIRCLE' withdrew their participation at ROCK HARVEST II via an email sent two months ago."

It appears that Rock Harvest began selling tickets for this event in December 2012 under the sponsorship of HighVolMusic, advertising 14 bands : Ron Keel, Leatherwolf, Modern Superstar, Russ Dwarf, Mitch Malloy, Edge of Paradise, Reverence, FarCry, Attackhead, Cincinnati Sinners, DC4, Xander Demos, Kelly Keeling, and King Kobra ... see Powerline Magazine .... However Rock Harvest had been circulating fliers stating that 43 bands will be appearing : Circle II Circle, Ashes of Ares, Cage, Seven Kingdoms, White Wizzard, A Sound of Thunder, Mystic Force, Order of Nine, Twisted Tower Dire, Widow, Flotsam and Jetsom, Heathen, Raven, Attackhead, Alloy20, Benedictum, Day of Reckoning, DC4, Deathriders, Funeral for a Clown, Ghost of War, Vainglory, Tuff, Love/Hate, Femme Fatale, Edge of Paradise, Farcry, Hurricane, Leatherwolf, Line of Fire, London, Michael Angelo Batio, Modern Superstar, Prophet, Resistance, Reverence, Ron Keel, Russ Dwarf (of Killer Dwarfs), Silent Rage, Spread Eagle, Stonebreed, Tango Down, and Xander Demos - see Metalsludge .... Twisted Nail Productions were advertising the following bands were confirmed to perform : Ashes of Ares, Rivera Bomma, Terra Ingognita, A Sound of Thunder, Twisted Tower Dire, Terra Incognita, Corsair, Raven, Generation Kill, Metal Mike (of Halford and Painmusuem), Ghosts of War, Ronnie Montrose (of Metal Church), Burning Shadows, Attackhead, New Day Dawn, Alloy20, White Trash, Reverence, Michael Angelo Batio, Xanders Demos, Edge of Paradise, Resistance, Aries, Spread Eagle, and Widow. - see Showclix. As of the week of this scheduled Rock Harvest II event, fliers were circulating online via Lyle Hawkins (Twisted Nail Productions) stating the performing bands were to be : Ashes of Ares, Rivera Bomma, Terra Ingognita, A Sound of Thunder, Twisted Tower Dire, Corsair, Raven, Generation Kill, Metal Mike, Ghosts of War (w/ Ronnie Montrose), Burning Shadows, Attackhead, New Day Dawn, Alloy20, White Trash, Reverence, Michael Angelo Batio, Xanders Demos, Edge of Paradise, Resistance, Aries, Spread Eagle, and Widow.

Rock Harvest's publicist Suzanne Penley insinuates that Tuff is over-reacting to a couple of bands being dropped/dropping out of the event, but clearly in the list of advertised bands since Dec 2012, this is not just a couple of bands, but a large volume of bands. From the lists above the following bands were advertised but are not performing due to cancellations : Flotsam and Jetsom, Ron Keel, Leatherwolf, Modern Superstar, Russ Dwarf, Mitch Malloy, FarCry, Cincinnati Sinners, DC4, Kelly Keeling, King Kobra, Circle II Circle, Cage, Seven Kingdoms, White Wizzard, Mystic Force, Order of Nine, Heathen, Benedictum, Day of Reckoning, Deathriders, Funeral for a Clown, Vainglory, Tuff, Love/Hate, Femme Fatale, Hurricane, Line of Fire, London, Prophet, Silent Rage, Stonebreed, and Tango Down. This is 34 bands advertised to perform who are not, even more than the count of 27 bands not performing as claimed in the Metalsludge article. From the description of the cancellations, there are certainly bands here who have unprofessionally backed out with no regard for the promoters, but several of these cancellations are not without suspicion. DC/4 claimed they didn't have a contract and they wanted fees the promoters didn't have, this would suggest there was never a confirmed arrangement. Hurricane states a conflict with their touring schedule and that they we will not be able to make it this year. This may suggest there was never a confirmed arrangement, sounding like they were just being asked for the first time. Mitch Malloy responded "I doubt it.... No I'm not coming sorry...Thanks for asking." This sounds like someone who was just being asked for the first time and never had interest. Overall, it sounds like the promoters failed to secure the bands just like they failed to secure the sponsor money. Penley suggests that eight bands were dropped from the show because of failed sponsor money, but it is suggested in the Metalsludge article that there were other bands who were promised airfare/lodging/etc and affected by this. In describing Rock Harvest's cancellation of these bands, co-organizer John Guarnieri stated "he withdrew their invitations".

According to the band Tuff, "Rock Harvest was to buy ad space on Metalsludge, and agreed to pay Tuff x amount of dollars for their appearance at their event. Then from that final payment and/or deposit made to Tuff – all of the Metal Sludge (pre-paid) ‘ad money’ would be deducted from the Tuff guarantee which ultimately then gives them the ad space for free. In other words, Tuff agreed to provide advertising on Metalsludge in return for the band being paid the full guaranteed price to perform. They were dropped from the show after Rock Harvest's sponsor money fell through, they were not paid the full guaranteed price, therefore the advertising was not free and was paid for by the deposit. Rock Harvest co-organizer John Guarnieri claims he elected not to request the deposit money be returned, suggesting his good grace, but if the contractual arrangements are as stated by the band Tuff, then Guarnieri had no grounds to request the deposit be returned. It would be interesting to see the contract between these parties to settle the matter. It should further be pointed out that if Rock Harvest did have the option of demanding the "deposit" be returned after cancellation, but generously allowed Tuff to keep the money, this is far from a defense as, failing to retrieve the substantial deposit, this in turn screwed other bands whose guarantees may have been met by the recouped money. Considering that a deposit is generally 50% or less of a total guarantee, this raises questions. Was the original guarantee for Tuff an amount of $4,000 or more ? How much was Flotsam and Jetsom guaranteed ? How could the promoters expect to bankroll the guarantees for the volume of bands they advertised to perform ? Most of these bands are going to want huge retainers and/or paid expenses. It is never mentioned who the sponsor was that pulled out and left the promoters with this trouble. Was this HighVolMusic who was originally advertised as the sponsor for this event ?

Rock Harvest is offering the following ticketing for this event : $60 VIP Package (60 total) - includes ticket to both days, VIP laminate, Poster, and Meet and Greet with artists performing; $35 Two Day Package (100 total) - includes entrance to both shows; $20 Friday Night show (300 total) - included ticket to show; $20 Saturday Show (300 total) - includes ticket to the show. This is a ticket attendance of 460 people each of the two days, or 920 people total ticket capacity for the entire event. It can be derived that the total gross ticket sales of this event would be about $19K. While this may sound like a lot of money to play with, consider that if four of the bigger bands were offered guarantees of $4K or more, and other bands were as well promised expenses, then $19K is gone just on band guarantees. This assuming the event was a complete ticket sellout and we haven't even factored in the overhead costs of advertising, laminates, posters, advertising, staff, transportation, possibly sound and lights, etc. From the Metalsludge article, questions were raised : "Where was the money coming from ?", "Where was the money going ?", " How is the charity benefiting from this ?". It remains very unclear where the money was going to come from to satisfy the obligations for all these advertised bands.

The Fallen Blue charity was created as a non-profit organization in 2010 by John Guarnieri, an active-duty US Secret Service Officer, as a means to provide support, both emotional and financial, for the families of police officers who are killed outside the line of duty (ie. car accidents, suicide). It is their sincere hope that those in need reach out to Fallen Blue in their time of need, so Fallen Blue can help them cope with the loss of their beloved officer." The charity can be found online at Fallen Blue, where they have artists/business supporting them and are organizing charity events. In addition to cash donations, part of the money they generate for the charity comes through big name artists donating signed merchandise which is then auctioned off. One of the supporters of the charity is A.J. Pero from the band Twisted Sister. Upon review of their website I could comment that the site has the appearance of a booking agency/promotion company. The site is mostly about bands and concerts where it seems less assuring that there is a lack of information profiling where the donated money is going, stories and photos of who exactly has been helped by these donations, etc. There are several stories about people who were close to fallen officers and have gone through those tragedies and a review of a past charity event where proceeds went to their partner SafeCall and an unknown family of a fallen officer from the midwest. It would be comforting if there were more details about the donations.

Rock Harvest's co-organizer John Guarnieri is on the board of directors for the Fallen Blue charity. It is unclear what relation Twisted Nail Productions has/had with Fallen Blue/Rock Harvest, they were originally advertised as a sponsor, but it appears they no longer have their website for TNP Booking and their page on Facebook no longer exists. Somehow I wonder if Twisted Nail Productions is the fallguy here. According to their Google Plus page, the contact for Twisted Nail Productions is Lyle Hawkins, co-organizer of Rock Harvest and Social Media Promoter for the Fallen Blue charity. Shockwave Magazine is another sponsor where again in a backend relation, its owner Vince Anderson is named as the coordinator of national events for the Fallen Blue charity. It has been hard to decipher here who exactly is responsible for this debacle called Rock Harvest II. Was Vince Anderson coordinator of this event for Fallen Blue ? Was it Lyle Hawkins and Twisted Nail Productions who have disappeared from the online world ? Does the fault lie fully on Fallen Blue who were the co-organizers/promoters ? One of the things most bothersome with this, is the uncertainty whether the charity is the primary objective or whether this is all about playing celebrity and preying on bands to make it happen. Its great to support charity, but bands are struggling too, especially in this economy, and need to be supported with more than promises. There has been an increasing number of shows in Baltimore attributed to charities lately.

Rock Harvest claims that all advertised bands were confirmed at the time they were promoted, but there is question just how secure these confirmations were. How many tickets were sold because Flotsam and Jetsom or other big name bands were advertised to appear, then dropped out. Were these ticket purchasers notified and given a choice of refund ? Considering the volume of cancellations at various times it seems unlikely the range of ticketholders could be notified of all these updates. Advertisements for this event stated "All sales final. Refunds only given in the event of total cancellation", so clearly Rock Harvest had the ability to promote anything, with no obligation to deliver on anything they were promoting beyond seeing that the doors opened on show night and some band was performing. It is a fine line in determining if this was false advertising, but certainly there were consumers who were misled. I feel Metalsludge was too bold in calling this Rock Harvest event a scam. It has been argued that the promoters simply overplayed their hand, promised more than they could deliver, and that seems true. They gambled with phantom money and ended up holding the bag when it didn't manifest itself. It was a matter of bad business, playing with insecure money. More questions have been raised, than answers have been provided, concerning where the money was coming from, where the money was going, and how deep this runs considering the backend relations between the parties involved.

It is disturbing to see all the local publications completely ignore exposing this news story. Shockwave Magazine, a sponsor of this event, has remaining silent on the issue. Is that not a conflict of journalistic ethics to suppress the news in favor of a sponsorship ? How does one call itself the "only outlet" for local music news and ignore breaking a local story of this interest. It wasn't discussed in any context with readers over the past months, readers who may have been ticket holders unaware of all these cancellations ? It is shameful. The evidences which have been presented in this back and forth online drama falls short of a satisfactory explanation. In light of this, and with respect to all the parties involved, all the facts should be brought forth to settle the matter. I hate most that this potentially scandalous affair might cast a doubt on a charitable organization and will be making further inquiries for a second part to this article in follow-up. The Rock Harvest II event is scheduled to happen this week. Hopefully the most recent advertised bands will perform, the event will get good feedback from the bands and fans, and the charity will benefit.

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