I called Boots Hughston of 2B1 Multimedia, the firm hired by the Mateel to run Reggae on the River 2007, on Friday, Feb. 16, at his office in San Francisco for an update at a crucial juncture in the future of Reggae: the Mateel had just filed its lawsuit and Reggae Rising had just been announced.
(photo by Kim from last week’s coordinator meeting at the Mateel.)
We are halfway though February. In the past Reggae on the River tickets have gone on sale early in March with some sort of tentative a line-up announcement. Where are you on planning? Any acts confirmed?
We have confirmed somewhere between 22 and 23 out of 27 acts I’m planning to book. Contracts and deposits should be going out this coming week. I don’t really want to say exactly who the acts are at the moment because I don’t want to give the other side a pecking list to bump our acts. It’s already happened a little bit already.
I’ve talked with some people in the reggae industry who have told me both your production company and People Productions are bidding on some of the same acts.
That’s partially true. What happened is, we started booking in January. We pretty much got out ahead of them, but I did find out that it looks like they have Ziggy Marley on hold and they might have Burning Spear who they pulled off of our side and they also booked Anthony B, out of the 22-25 acts we had partially confirmed.
So in those cases, you’d been working with the booking agents, but through…
Through their friendships or whatever, it blew our deal.
The Mateel lawsuit seems to imply that [P.P.] is using its business contacts to dissuade people from working with you.
That’s starting to happen, but the good news is, we’ve been in business for so long it hasn’t really hurt us too much. But we’re only a week into their attempt to mess up our show. I personally feel that Carol should be above that and know it’s not the right thing to do. I don’t think she’ll stir the pot much more; it would not be smart for her legally. It could become real damages. The intent of that lawsuit is to make sure that People Productions does not interfere with the Mateel’s show. The whole idea is to keep them from jeopardizing the survival of the Mateel. What happens from this point on becomes a pretty serious matter.
The good news is we have most of the show booked. We plan on putting out a press release around the first of March stating all the acts. Tickets go on sale as of March 1. That’s where we’re at.
So you are moving forward under the assumption that Reggae on the River will take place as in the past, but with 2B1 as production company.
They way I look at it is this: There’s a binding contract with Dimmick and he can’t just say it’s breached; he has to prove that breach. So there is a venue [for the show]. That’s the first thing that needs to be proven in a court of law. If he wants to prove that the lease is breached, more power to him, but I don’t think he can do it before August 2 comes around.
The next thing is the permit process and our interpretation of the permits. There’s a history of 24 years of the Mateel having the permits. Just because a [Planning Dept.] employee working out of Eureka sees a different interpretation doesn’t really mean that’s the way it is. The permit is in the Mateel’s name on Dimmick’s property. It’s not the landlord’s permit; it’s the Mateel’s permit. We have the permit hearing March 1, where we’ll be discussing mitigation on the CUP filed. Some of this will be addressed then. I believe Michael Richardson is a good guy; he’s just been swayed by other people’s opinions. I think it will come back around toward the Mateel.
It has been reported that you have already paid an advance on the licensing fee. Can you say how much?
Yes. I gave the Mateel $300,000, to kind of bail them out, to keep the ball rolling.
So you gave them the full fee upfront?
Yep. I gave them the full amount. It should keep them going for a year or two. That’s the intention.
What if the judge decides for Dimmick and People Productions and you don’t get to do the show?
Technically the Mateel wouldn’t have an effective license and I guess the contract would be null and void.
They’d owe you that money.
They would, but there’s no argument between us about it. I’m a big boy and I understand how things go. I’ve looked at the negative side as well, but I respect the community and this is my way of helping out.
So you are not planning on foreclosing on the community center to get your money back?
(laughs) No. No I’m not.
There was some speculation about doing the show at French’s Camp without using Dimmick Ranch. Is that an option?
The permit is for Dimmick Ranch and Arthurs’ (French’s Camp).
Is the Cook Valley campground included?
From what I’ve been told that’s a separate permit held by Bowman. I think that’s from Mendocino.
As to Dimmick, the Mateel still has a binding contract and he’s going to have to prove that’s not a valid lease. He’s saying that he is relying on People Productions [as producers], and since the Mateel hired an outside company, that contract is breached. But People Productions breached the contract with the Mateel by overselling tickets, — an outside entity clicked the tickets and showed there were more sold than was permitted, let alone the other 12 or so breaches addressed [in the suit]. That means the Mateel had to find an outside producer to fill their fiduciary responsibility as a nonprofit. They have a business to run. They had to hire somebody; they hired us. And we’re going to try to do a heck of a good job.
Do you see the fact that a number of coordinators have pledged loyalty to Carol as a major hurdle? How do you move forward without all that institutional memory?
The first thing is, when something like this happens, all the top guys’ heads roll and they’re replaced with other people. And there’s good reasons for that, one is because the loyalties lie with the former boss. The new promoter doesn’t want to deal with disgruntled employees, so he gets new people.
You’re talking as if you’ve seen something similar happen.
Can you give a specific example?
Burning Man. All the heads rolled at Burning Man, not once or twice, but three or four times in the last 20 years.
Aren’t they in the middle of a court battle for control of the festival right now?
That’s true too. Then there was the North Beach Photographic Art Fair we did. I did it for 14 years, then it became the North Beach Fair, which is now in its 35th year. They’ve had three or four board struggles, cases where all the heads rolled and everybody was rehired to start all over again. It happens. And it usually happens around 10 or 12 years where people start getting unhappy with what’s going on. People get tired and so forth.
But on my end here, I want to keep everybody aboard. The reason why is because I want to keep the community intact. I feel that all of the coordinators have earned their place, earned their keep. What I’m trying to do is remind them all that the door’s not closed. They’re welcome to come back any time. I understand their loyalty is with Carol, and I actually respect that. I pretty good with it. As to the amount of coordinators, there’s roughly between 100-120 coordinators from last year rank and file. Out of those 120, between 60-70 have been to our meetings, maybe even more. There are 20 or so who are definitely not coming back. They’re etched in stone that if it doesn’t happen Carol’s way it’s not going to happen. Then there are a lot who are on the fence, waiting to see what happens in the next few weeks.
I want to keep the same organization as much as I can but I’ve already made plans to incorporate new people, to bring new people in, and if we don’t fill the coordinators position in the next few weeks, I’ll start putting those new people in. I’ll bring some up through the ranks, and where I can’t fill positions I’ll bring in outside people.
I’ll give you an example. Medical for instance. I love Mossman, he’s really intelligent and a fine person, and I think he’s done an excellent job, but he’s not the only guy in the world who can do medical. There’s Dr. Ross Chapman who does Sierra Nevada and many other festivals; there’s Dr. Bustamante and his critical response team and there’s others like Diana Totten who’s said she’s willing to consult and help us. We’ve talked to others from the Critical Incident Team who are interested and might change their mind and come aboard. In my mind the door’s wide open; I’m not closing it on anybody. It’s looking like we’ll have people who have been here before, just a different captain.
Reggae on the River is a complicated festival — no doubt about that. In my mind the reason has to do with it going back 25 years, it goes very deep in the community. You have people who have down the same job for 20 years and maybe their brothers have some other job moving the rebar or digging ditches. When something like this happens it gets pretty complicated. You lose one guy then his brother may not want to do it either — a complicated infrastructure has grown up around Reggae. I’ve done shows with 35,000-40,000 people where we had 300 volunteers, not 4,000. I’m not saying you don’t need volunteers, but we could do it with less.
Getting back to what happens next, it looks like it’s going to be in the hands of lawyers and judges for who knows how long.
Let’s put it this way: The Mateel is moving forward 100 percent. They have a binding contract with Dimmick and he has a contract with the Arthurs. Whatever happens next depends on Dimmick proving that his contract is invalid. He has to go to court to prove there’s a breach. Until that happens the show moves on. You can’t impede the Mateel from doing business. Everybody’s marching forward. There’s a huge amount of loss to the community if this doesn’t happen. I think it would be smart for everyone to get along and stop all the fighting.
From my perspective it just seems so sad. I read the comments on the blogs and see all this backstabbing and it gets depressing. I’ve always thought of Southern Humboldt as the last remnants of the old hippie culture of the ‘60s and all the strife makes it seem like a dream has died.
That’s the way I feel too. It’s hard to believe people are doing what they’re doing. I’m still fighting for the goodness, and the good will prevail. The morals from the ‘60s were really important. Without us this would be an uglier world. You’d have everyone living in Eichler homes with everything painted green and pink…
In houses made of ticky tacky…
We changed all that. Our generation changed that. We stopped a war. We made music that was never heard before. All that came from our generation, and it’s not going to come to an end. I always thought of the Mateel and Humboldt County as the last bastion of those wonderful hippie values. And I don’t think the dream is over.
At that point my tape ran out. Where things go next remains to be seen…