An ambitious first time music festival promoting ecological awareness was disrupted by Mother Nature and organizational problems over the weekend.
Performances by the two headliners for FON (Friends of Nature) FEST, at Virginia Key Beach Park on Key Biscayne, were canceled.
The rapper Matisyahu, who had been slated to close the festival Saturday night, left after driving wind and rain forced the closure of the festival’s main stage at 9 p.m. Also on Saturday evening, FON organizers contacted famed Latin rockers Café Tacuba, the star attraction on Sunday, to cancel their show.
Other stages and performance areas were shuttered because of permitting and organizational problems, as well as bad weather that began on Friday evening.
The Virgin Beach stage, meant to showcase local bands, was shut down earlier in the week by city of Miami officials because it would have violated city sound ordinances, organizers said.
A film tent curated by Wynwood theater O Cinema did not have the promised equipment or furniture, and was also closed. With the bad weather, a solar-powered DJ truck heavily touted by the festival did not come.
None of the cancellations or changes were reflected on the festival website as late as Sunday afternoon; a post on Saturday night’s aborted main stage concert on the festival’s Facebook page was taken down on Sunday morning.
In addition to Matisyahu, other acts sidelined by Saturday’s weather included Miami reggae singer Kevens and Dub FX.
“In concept it sounded like a great line-up,” says Kareem Tabsch, co-director of O Cinema. “To see it crumbling from the onset is disheartening and disappointing.”
Festival organizers apologized but vowed they would be back. "We put our hearts and souls into producing this event,” said FON FEST co-founder Ines Galindo. "I know we had a lot of kinks and the rain certainly didn't help. Even though we didn't reach our goal this year, we will try harder next year to show this year's attendees that we can make it happen."
Lisa Nevins, an O Cinema volunteer at the festival Saturday, said a crowd had gathered at the main stage that night despite the weather and the stop and start music. “It seemed like they kept trying,” she said. “But about 9:30, after another torrential downpour, the main stage completely shut down.”
Galinda and fellow organizer Oscar Diaz hoped to raise awareness of ecological problems and money for non-profit groups, and had been promoting FON for months. But they had never produced an event on this scale, and Galinda said the pair put up $400,000 of their own money, borrowing from friends and family and using personal credit cards.
Lower-than-expected ticket sales appeared to be part of the reason for the cancellations. A representative for Bosstich and Fussible, DJ’s from Nortec Collective, a famous electronic music group, said the pair’s show was canceled on mid-afternoon Saturday, hours before rain shut down the main stage.
“They said they were not going to be able to pay us, they didn’t have the funds, the walk-up [ticket sales] were not what they were expecting, and we should not perform,” said Jennifer Sarkissian of Nacional Records, Nortec’s label.
A representative for FON said that bad weather, not low sales, was the only reason bands were canceled.
Carlos Guzman, bassist and manager for Miami-based Suenalo, said they signed a contract but never received the promised deposit for the show they were supposed to play on the shuttered local stage. When Guzman contacted Diaz on Wednesday, he said Diaz cited increased logistical expenses, as well as closing the stage, as one reason the festival could not present the popular Latin jam band.
“He was very apologetic and said he ran into problems with the city, that initially they had approved everything but were giving them a hard time because of extra traffic and he had to spend a lot of extra money,” Guzman said.