BottleRock Is Back,
With Two Key Hires

BottleRock Napa Valley 2.0 is a reboot of the California festival in just about every respect – from new ownership, an experienced festival director in industry vet Steve Macfadyen, booking help from Billy Alan Productions’ Billy Brill, and, investors hope, a clean slate.

Napa Valley Expo, the organization that operates the fairgrounds where last year’s festival took place, tentatively agreed to terms Jan. 21 with Latitude 38 – the new name of the company formed by managing partner David Graham and general partners Jason Scoggins, Justin Dragoo and Joe Fischer – to save the festival and stage it in 2014 and beyond.

They’ve got their work cut out – the announced dates are May 30 through June 1 – considering how many festivals have already announced complete lineups, and L38 is just hitting the gate.

“We expect to announce the first artists in February,” Graham told Pollstar, acknowledging the short window but confident of Macfadyen’s and Brill’s ability to fill a 36-artist lineup by then. The festival is cut from five days to three, and the artist lineup roughly by half.

Latitude 38 was required by the Napa Expo board to complete an asset purchase agreement within 30 days before it would agree to lease the fairgrounds in 2014. Graham said an agreement was reached for a partial asset purchase that includes the BottleRock name, deposits with the Expo and some festival equipment and fixtures.

It does not include liabilities of BR Festivals – the company headed by BottleRock founders Bob Vogt and Gabe Meyers – including the unpaid bills to stage crews, security, transportation companies, caterers, vendors, or the charities promised paydays from BottleRock revenue.

Graham is clear that L38 has no connection to BR Festivals, Vogt or Meyers, and while his company is not responsible for BottleRock 2013 debt, it has, through a combination of negotiated agreements and future work arrangements, begun healing wounds left open from the last year’s debacle.

He says he has contracted with the IATSE local to again provide stage crews – some 143 stage workers went unpaid in 2013. An agreement’s also been reached with Delicate Productions of San Francisco to provide staging, lights and sound for BottleRock 2.0.

Graham said those efforts have reduced the overall pool of claims still awaiting payment by half and, though it doesn’t control what BR Festival does moving forward, enhances continued recovery by vendors still owed.

Those efforts, and the hiring of concert industry professionals like Macfadyen and Brill, are expected to drive home the point that BottleRock is starting with a relatively clean slate, though Graham also admits that BR Festivals is still on the hook for payment to many local vendors.

Graham declined to reveal specific financial details of the asset purchase agreement, but clearly expects BR Festivals to file for bankruptcy protection in its wake, while stressing L38 has no control over how BR Festivals winds itself down.

“L38 cannot speak for BR Festivals, but we expect that BR Festivals will file a bankruptcy case to wind down and administer its outstanding claims. BR Festivals has stated that it will seek to recover money improperly transferred from the company last year and resolve certain contract disputes, and if it succeeds, it will distribute the recovered funds to its creditors under the supervision of the bankruptcy court.”

Graham points to the business acumen of his partners – as well as his own as a startup expert – and insists that he’s put together a group that will carefully consider the business of BottleRock, and ensure its place in Napa Valley for years to come, though he would not say if his contract with the Expo was for more than a single year.

And, while food and beverage is obviously integral to the Napa experience, he said music fans can expect BottleRock 2.0 to focus on the music first, and less on the trappings that run up the bills for its predecessor.

Tickets for BottleRock 2014 went on sale as soon as last year’s fest was concluded – despite a rumored $8 million in debt left in the aftermath. L38 says it will honor or refund all ticket-pre-purchases for the next festival.