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Woof Stock organizer takes blame for chaos

The Woof Stock Music Festival was supposed to generate applause and a donation to the SPCA. Instead, it generated loud barking and backbiting from those involved in the creation of the event.
Woof Stock music festival promoter Jordan Corrigal speaks during an interview with The Citizen on Wednesday.

The Woof Stock Music Festival was supposed to generate applause and a donation to the SPCA.

Instead, it generated loud barking and backbiting from those involved in the creation of the event.

Principal organizer Jordan Corrigal stepped forward almost immediately to take at least partial responsibility and promised to set things right.

Although, some fans were plenty miffed that some bands on the schedule got their times changed without notice (Chilliwack) or did not perform at all (Helix, Trooper), the reaction of many of those who attended was positive (see letter to the editor on page 6).

Performers or those hired to provide other professional services for Woof Stock painted a picture of anger and disorganization back stage during the event last weekend at Vivian Lake.

"I got paid in full, so I'm okay there, but what I saw with my friend Mihirangi was something else," said local performer Kym Gouchie. Mihirangi is an aboriginal music star from New Zealand.

"She got off the plane, with a baby, after an 18-hour flight, and there wasn't even anyone there at the airport to pick her up. Then she sees all these other performers staying in hotels and they stick her in a dinky trailer in behind one of the stages with the bass pounding all night long.

"She's a warrior, she never complained. It was raining and really cold, and they couldn't even provide her with any food, and she was professional about it all, but that is just not acceptable. Not acceptable at all. That's the kind of treatment that really gets noticed and talked about in the music community."

It wasn't a case of musicians whining.

Travelling acts are used to surprises and sparse conditions, to a point. Contracts are negotiated in advance for that reason, and the allegations were frequent that those terms were not adhered to, the most notable being the absence of their wages.

The standard procedure for a festival is payment of half the act's fee paid in advance, then the other half upon their arrival and before they perform. The fee is not for the rendering of a performance but for the providing of their time at the contracted event when they could have been performing somewhere else that day.

On the upside, the headline acts were almost all paid their full amounts in advance, which is a great way for an organizer to boost their reputation with bands.

All the acts who spoke to The Citizen said they had no trouble getting their deposit fee without issue. But many did not have their remaining amount waiting for them upon arrival. Most of them nonetheless performed their set as an act of respect to the unsuspecting fans, but they had no intention of writing off the amounts owing.

"We will not wait forever on taking action on this," said a representative of one act.

"Sure, we're a mid-level, sometimes unknown band, but we do have people that work for us, and if we have to get our guy to track down the rest of the cake, it's worth it to me, if only on principle."

Another performer said: "We never got paid the other half of our guarantee. We're going after them this week. They owe us one grand. Yeah, pretty ridiculous."

Corrigal has taken steps to assuage the concerns of these acts. Two of them contacted The Citizen Thursday with the update that Corrigal had opened dialogue about completing the payments and in one case had even emailed part of the missing fees.

In an interview, Corrigal took personal responsibility - although there are others on the organizational team who are, he claimed, equally culpable for the legalities and finances - for a shopping list of shortcomings. He admitted he did not do appropriate homework as a first-time festival organizer.

He admitted he looked at past festivals in the area - Vanderhoof Rock Fest and Salmon Valley Music Festival in particular - with an overly optimistic view, fuelled by enthusiastic encouragement from the people he met.

Those people gave him an impression they and thousands more would buy tickets to see the Woof Stock idea, but in the end the ticket sales were shockingly small.

He failed to take into account that outdoor events in this region have almost always failed due to weather, even if it doesn't rain.

Since an open field has no "sold out" point, fans wait until the last minute to purchase tickets, waiting out the weather forecast or family plans or alternate activities.

Ultimately, Corrigal admitted he and the other organizers committed the ultimate event planner's sin: banking on 2015 ticket sales to bankroll the 2015 event.

Successful impresarios strictly live by the code of only presenting an event that is already paid for in advance.

Ticket sales, since they can never be counted on, must only be used as seed for subsequent events.

"Everything has to be paid before we even sell tickets. Everything, everything, everything," said Corrigal in hindsight. "We've learned a lot from this fiasco. We'd do it a hell of a lot different. You take the lessons out of it."

He estimated there was about $18,000 still owed to various musicians and another $15,000 in bills to service providers like the security firm. He and his partners must now pay those bills out of their own pockets.

"We're not going to pull a bankruptcy," he said, but admitted they "might get forced into bankruptcy" over these shortfalls. That was not his intention at this point, he said, and he is focused on working off these debts.

Many of those bills, he said, unexpectedly swelled when the original Woof Stock plan was to hold the event on Lheidli T'enneh First Nations land, which required no permits and more modest security/first aid provisions. When that plan fell through and he had to find a location within the regional district's governmental auspices, their permitting criteria was much more expensive.

"The regional district gave us assurances we could (satisfy their requirements) so we went for it," Corrigal said.

He has not been soured on the idea of trying Woof Stock again, or something like it, but he knows that will involve mending fences and cleaning up some reputational damage. One thing the chaos did provide him, he said, was a clear view of who on the production crew was dependable and professional. Some people did commendable work under the stress.

He also pointed a finger at one of the partners on the organizing team for "going rogue" and triggering some of the contractual problems.

That partner contacted The Citizen to point the finger right back at the other partners, saying he did only what he was instructed to do.

Corrigal wanted to stress to the public one other key point of the Wood Stock exercise. This was not organized by the SPCA or the Humane Society.

He and his partners built the event as their own business, intending to make a third-party donation to these animal welfare agencies out of any proceeds that might have resulted.

He did not want anyone to have the impression that these charities were responsible for any of the problems with the festival.