SANTA ROSA — Gabe Meyers, one of two founders of last year’s BottleRock festival, answered questions on Friday afternoon about the music festival that left creditors owed $4.5 million in unpaid bills.
Appearing before a small group of BR Festivals’ creditors and their attorneys at the federal bankruptcy court in Santa Rosa, Meyers was questioned under oath by Julie M. Glosson, from the Office of the United States Trustee, about the 2013 festival.
Produced by BR Festivals, and managed by Napans Meyers and Bob Vogt, BottleRock 2013 was held in early May at the Napa Valley Expo. A reported 120,000 people attended the five-day event, which put the promoters deeply in debt.
According to Meyers, who is the sole remaining manager of BR Festivals, Vogt asked to be in charge of all revenue and financial affairs of the festival. Meyers said he was to be the “creative” side of the partnership and take a hands-on role in all festival operations except the finances.
From the beginning, the two were open to selling the festival, especially when large concert promoters like AEG and Live Nation began courting them during the event, said Meyers.
But after expected funds from beverage and food sales did not materialize, Meyers said his reaction was, “Uh-oh. We’re in trouble.” He referred to an ongoing $600,000 dispute between BR Festivals and CP Cooks, the company contracted to provide those services.
Immediately after BottleRock ended, Vogt flew to Virginia to meet with some potential suitors and “I stayed home and literally cleaned up the mess,” said Meyers. The two have not spoken since July, he said. They no longer have any personal or professional relationship, he said.
Meyers told Glosson that BR Festivals wanted to hire a specialist in forensic accounting to get to the bottom of the 2013 festival’s finances. Meyers said he doesn’t have the necessary experience to conduct such an investigation.
Meyers noted that many BR Festivals creditors are his personal friends and family. “I’m pretty much exhausted with this,” he said.
Vogt could not be reached to comment on this story.
According to John MacConaghy, BR Festivals’ bankruptcy attorney, Vogt “has communicated his unhappiness” about the bankruptcy filing.
Glosson asked Meyers and his attorney about a reported $105,000 payment made to Vogt after the festival ended.
“Vogt said he was due those funds as unpaid management fees,” said MacConaghy. In total, Vogt reportedly received more than $715,000 in such payments, according to court filings.
Representatives from Crews Unlimited, Delicate Productions, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Landmark Staffing and Up and Under Pub have been named by the bankruptcy court to an official committee of creditors that met with Meyers on Friday.
MacConaghy presented a brief summary of the 2013 festival, saying the multiday music marathon was a hit with concertgoers but a financial disaster.
According to court documents, festival expenses topped $20 million, but the event only generated $11.2 million in income. BR Festivals spent more than $7 million on 60 bands including such major acts as the Black Keys, Kings of Leon and Jane’s Addiction.
Vogt resigned from his role in late 2013, but another corporation owned by Vogt, Willpower Entertainment, still owns the majority of what is left of BR Festivals.
Meyers said another aspect to the financial downfall was the decision to buy out an earlier BR Festivals partner, Jason Johnson, for $3 million. Vogt pushed for that payout because of the deteriorating relationship between Vogt and Johnson, said Meyers. The nature of that deterioration was not elaborated upon.
BR Festivals’ bankruptcy is playing out at the same time as a new group of producers, Latitude 38 Entertainment, is planning to resurrect BottleRock this spring. Latitude 38 Entertainment is unaffiliated with Vogt, Meyers or BR Festivals.
The new organizers, David Graham, Jason Scoggins, Joe Fischer and Justin Dragoo, have signed a contract with the Napa Expo to host a three-day event from May 30 through June 1.
Pre-sale tickets for Napa County residents were made available starting Friday, with the entertainment lineup to be announced this month.