Digging Debt To China

The promoter of an August 4-6 festival near Seattle pulled a fast one on both headliners and organizers that weekend, and one attorney thinks that not only was it premeditated, but the promoter has high-tailed it to China.

Brian Burkel had covered his advance deposits, and organizers had little reason to expect he wouldn’t pay up in the end.

Burkel, an ex-convict, failed to pay Cheap Trick the balance of its guarantee the opening night of the Darrington Rock Festival, even though the band offered to go on for $10,000 less than contracted. The promoter’s alleged cash problems caused headliners Savoy Brown, Mark Farner, and Randy Bachman to cancel their performances August 6th.

Bob Conrad of Nighttime Direction, which ran advertising and marketing for the show, told Pollstar Burkel wrote him a $36,000 check on August 4th for the remainder of services rendered and it bounced.

And the list of those waiting to be paid gets longer.

Bellingham, Wash., attorney Shawn Alexander, who represents festival production manager and former Burkel roommate Justin Perron, told Pollstar Burkel’s actions the weekend of the festival showed his true intentions.

“In this case, it’s clear to me that this gentleman premeditated a lot of the acts that became fraud,” he said. “Writing checks that had non-sufficient funds, then guaranteeing that they would be good, then reporting them stolen to the bank – those acts indicate a clear intent to defraud.”

Alexander said he thinks many who received Burkel’s rubber checks will be filing complaints with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department, including “a number of the suppliers, the people who provided security, the people who did the catering, the people who supplied the generators, the sound stage, the lights, the fuel for the generators and the sheriff’s deputies who were hired on their off-duty time.”

But those complaints might go unanswered at this point.

Burkel left the festival grounds opening night, but he may have also skipped town.

Several phone numbers associated with Burkel were disconnected as of August 9th, according to The Daily Herald of Everett. It is unclear where he lives, as various addresses for Burkel are listed in Auburn, Kent, Maple Valley and Seattle.

“At this point, I have reason to believe he is out of the country,” Alexander said. “Justin, who was his roommate, said he had tickets to go to China immediately after the Rockfest. And so our understanding is that he has already left the country.”

– Dana Parker-McClain