Broke In China

A promoter who skipped town after a failed festival near Seattle recently spoke out to defend himself – all the way from China, where he’s been living since August.

Brian Burkel allegedly pulled a fast one on headliners and organizers at the Darrington Rock Festival last year. The concert left a trail of angry fans and bounced checks in its wake.

When the promoter failed to pay the balances of guarantees for headliners Cheap Trick, Savoy Brown, Mark Farner, and Randy Bachman, the bands refused to take the stage.

Burkel finally spoke out in an interview with the Daily Herald of Everett, and explained that he’d made a rookie mistake in organizing the festival – probably the most common one of all: expecting day-of-event sales to cover the money he needed to pay the organizers and the talent.

"It’s been really hard to look back and have good thoughts because it was so disastrous," Burkel said. "I was very surprised. I really expected to make money. I at least expected to break even. I had no idea it could be as bad as it was."

He reportedly claims he told organizers at the time of the event not to cash the checks immediately, and that he didn’t have enough money in his account to cover them.

He also claims a thief – a man who was helping him with the concert – allegedly stole his checkbook and began handing out checks "like candy," so he closed his bank account. No police reports were filed regarding the alleged theft.

But Bob Conrad of Knightime Direction, who organized the festival’s marketing, told the Herald that Burkel’s claims that he knowingly accepted a bad check were "absurd."

"I’ve been in this industry 36 years," Conrad said. "There was never anything I’d put myself or my partner or my other employees’ families in jeopardy for."

Burkel is currently under investigation with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s office, but he told the paper he didn’t believe it.

"What’s there to investigate?" he said. "It’s not criminal. It’s civil. It’s a matter of money. It’s nothing you go to jail for. It’s not a misdemeanor or anything."

The promoter is apparently broke, out of the business, and doesn’t plan to come back to the States any time soon.

But Conrad isn’t satisfied, and wants to clear his company’s credit and its name after being associated in the fiasco with Burkel, the paper reported.

"It’s far from over," Conrad said. "There’s no way I’m ever going to let this thing go until we get every dime and then some. He’s stolen money from us and we want it back."