Arts and Entertainment

Rock ’n’ Blues fest was a bust; most bands not paid

PORT GAMBLE — About 2,000 visitors were expected to the inaugural Rock ’n’ Blues Festival over the weekend.

The event, which organizer Robert Presley said cost him $26,000, didn't go as planned.

About 200 people showed up during the two-day event. The money raised did not come close to covering the cost.

“We didn't expect to have such a poor turnout,” Presley said.

Presley — who said he skipped his last two mortgage payments to pay for the event — hoped ticket sales would cover all expenses, including advertising, stages and band performances. Tickets cost $25 for one day, or $40 for both days.

Food and beverage vendors were charged $250 for a 20-by-20 foot area. A fee of $40 for 100 volts, or $80 for 220 volts, was charged to any vendor requiring electricity.

So far, the majority of the 13 bands who played during the event have yet to be paid and Presley said he has two options: file for bankruptcy or withhold payments until he can figure out his finances.

While distributing payments, Presley told each band to not cash checks until he told them to, knowing the checks would bounce.

Dean Ottoman of The Front Street Cats, which played on Saturday, said Presley wrote the band a check for $775. The check bounced.

After contacting Presley via email, Ottoman received a response asking if the band wouldn’t mind settling for half the amount that was agreed upon.

To the surprise of pianist and singer Johnny Burgess of Loose Gravel & the Quarry, his check cleared.

“I will be reluctant to work with Bob Presley and Stumped Events in the future unless it is cash in advance of performance,” Burgess wrote in an email to the Herald.

Though nobody knows exactly why the event had so few attendees, a combination of nice weather and the Kitsap County Fair may have played a part, Presley said. However, Presley thought a fair with a “Western and 4H theme” would not draw so many people away from the north end.

“I figure in a county with 100,000, I could at least draw 2,000,” he said.

Among the other bands who did not receive payment was The Ben Rice Band. The band, based in Portland, was promised $575. The check was put on hold. Ben Rice’s father, Cliff Rice, said they spent about $225 for gas and food to get to Port Gamble.

Rice said he was not surprised that payment didn’t go through.

“I had a hunch,” he said. “After looking at the ticket prices and looking at the bands, I thought there’s no way we’re going to be paid.”

Rice said despite about 30 people being in the crowd when The Ben Rice Band performed Saturday evening, the band still sold 20 CDs.

Despite the setback, Presley said he plans to host the event again next year. He said he will pay bands in advance.

“It was an unfortunate thing and I’ve apologized to everyone,” he said. “Trust me when I say that nobody is more upset than me.”

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