Sunset Junction Saved By Live Nation, Says Festival's Founder
Additional reporting by Liz Ohanesian and Andrea Domanick
2:40 p.m. update: Sunset Junction and Live Nation have released a statement confirming the validity of this West Coast Sound scoop. Full press release at the bottom of this post.
11:45 a.m update: Despite the denial of a Sunset Junction marketing underling, Sunset Junction lawyer Philip Tate has confirmed our story about Live Nation's bailout. Nonetheless, Sunset Junction's permit has again been denied, all but torpedoing the fest for this year.
The beleaguered Sunset Junction organization yesterday raised the $141,000 required by the city for this weekend's event. Festival director and founder Michael McKinley tells West Coast Sound that the bulk of the haul came from Live Nation.
"We've got the money," McKinley said in a frenzied late afternoon phone call yesterday, adding that the Beverly Hills-based concert promotions company Live Nation had come to their aid. He asked that the information be embargoed until today, for fear that it would negatively impact the organization's second permit hearing before the Los Angeles Board of Public Works, which began at 9:30 a.m. this morning.
As suspected, Sunset Junction's attempts to quickly raise six figures from prospective attendees -- the same people paying $25 for tickets -- was not successful, but Live Nation's last minute rescue will greatly increase the chances that the event will take place. It is not assured, however, as the city can still choose to again deny its permit. As we reported yesterday, many bands scheduled to perform have begun booking themselves at other venues, just in case.
Regardless, the news that Live Nation is serving as the Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance's benefactor comes as a shock to many, considering the three decades-old festival's roots as a community gathering. For his part, McKinley has often emphasized the organization's charitable nature, going so far as to bring groups of children with him to press conferences. The partnering with Live Nation seems to go against the grassroots, community-centric image Sunset Junction projects.
"Let's not pretend anymore. Let's not dress it up and call it something it's not," says Sarah Dale, who is a member of Silver Lake's neighborhood council and owns Sunset Boulevard boutique Pull My Daisy. "It's a major corporate event."
Corporate sponsors aren't new to Sunset Junction. Miller Lite, Chrysler, Sierra Mist and a number of commercial radio stations are also involved this year. But some speculate that linking up with Live Nation, the largest concert promotion agency in the country, could have different ramifications.
As the festival became increasingly popular in recent years, Silver Lake company Spaceland Productions was credited with bringing internationally-renowned acts into the fold. Though they are no longer involved, local clubs like Satellite, El Cid and Hotel Cafe host branded stages. While there are no reports that Live Nation will be involved with booking Sunset Junction henceforth, some insiders suspect this is the dawn of a new day.
"I don't think Live Nation is doing this 'bailout' as a gesture of goodwill towards festival-goers," says DJ/promoter Lawrence Gjurgevich, "but rather as a power play to own a piece of L.A. which they have yet to gain a foothold in -- the East side."
Live Nation has a stake in a number of venues in Los Angeles, including the Wiltern, Hollywood Palladium, Staples Center, and House of Blues. But their almost-ubiquitous presence on the concert circuit has been noticeably absent from events in Silver Lake and neighboring Echo Park, where shows are still typically organized by in-house booking agents and independent promotion teams.
Still, to Dale, Live Nation's involvement beats the alternative. "I'd rather it be a corporation than people donating to a fundraiser for a fundraiser."
Press release from Sunset Junction and Live Nation below.
STATEMENT FROM SUNSET JUNCTION REGARDING TODAY'S DECISION BY THE BOARD OF PUBLIC WORKS
The requested city fees of $142,000 for the 2011 Sunset Junction Fair were secured from Live Nation ($100k) along with supporters, who stepped up on behalf of Sunset Junction in respect of their 31-year history. Sunset Junction legal was told by the Board of Public Works hearing on Monday, August 22 that they may re-consider issuing permits if Sunset Junction could provide them with this year's fees in advance, totaling $142,000 by Wednesday, August 24 at 12 noon. The majority in attendance on August 22 were in support of Sunset Junction.
Live Nation deeply understands the importance, the legacy and the great impact the fair has on the majority of the community, along with the artistic community. The funds did arrive yesterday from Live Nation, however not in time for Sunset Junction organizer Micheal McKinley to deposit in the bank. The funds were deposited in the bank this morning (8/24) with a faxed receipt of proof sent over to the Board of Public Works. This is disputed in the media.
Last year, one week prior to the 2010 Sunset Junction Fair, organizers were presented with a bill for $267,000 from the city. In prior years, these fees did not exist for the non-profit organization, which utilizes Sunset Junction as a fundraiser to help at risk youth embrace a better life choice. Sunset Junction repeatedly asked for an itemization of city fees and once they were received, found that the fees were inflated more than 10 times that of comparable LA festivals. They also found that the fees for the police seemed to be questionably inflated. This point was also brought up at Monday's hearing and addressed by Commissioner Valerie Lynne Shaw. The official answer by a police representative when asked about the discrepancy in charges from one year to the next, was there "was a change in policy".
Sunset Junction has every intention of paying the city fees that it justifiably owes; the non-profit simply asks for a fair and just accounting that is comparable to other citywide events.
Sunset Junction was fortunate and grateful to have Live Nation step-up to support them at the 11th hour. This is not a regular occurrence during these harsh economic times and prior years of recession, and therefore Sunset Junction should not be faulted for not being able to previously deliver funds. It is a testament to Live Nation for having the passion, heart and soul to save the special magic of Sunset Junction for all the fans, the community, the artistic community, the at risk youth and everyone else here who loses as a result.
For pics from last year's fest, see "Sunset Junction 2010: Day One with Ghostland Observatory, Bad Brains and more" and "Sunset Junction 2010: Day Two with Lee "Scratch" Perry, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and more."
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