News Clip: So we’ve paid thousands of dollars to get into this, our day and everything, we still have not received an email, a text, or nothing to confirm that it’s cancelled. I am really sad because I loaded my bracelets already. All our alcohol already bought, and I have my tickets. You know, I’m so sad, I’m still out the price of the ticket so far. I’m supposed to be a food vendor there so I’ve gotten like thousands of dollars of food at my place for this event that now I’m stuck with.
Jordan: For a tiny community in Ontario it was just about the biggest, loudest thing to never happen.
Audio Clip: Roxodus. Remember standing at the foot of a stage with a wave of rock music screaming at your face? Now imagine a whole weekend of that. Roxodus.
Jordan: The largest classic rock music festival you can imagine was supposed to kick off two days from now, but it won’t. It never will. A couple of weeks before the festival rumors started to swirl, and then just 10 days out, it was gone, canceled with a simple statement posted to the Internet. There were a lot of questions, not a lot of answers. What would happen to the tens of thousands of ticket holders who had already made travel arrangements, paid for VIP packages and loaded cash onto digital wristbands. What would happen to the vendors who bought space and secured workers and purchased tons of food, and what would happen to the two promoters at the heart of this who made huge promises, sold a grand idea, and are now the subject of a police investigation? And yes, if all of this sounds like a cheesy Canadian rock version of a documentary you might have watched on Netflix, well, you’re not far off. Welcome to the story behind Roxodus, which nearly became Canada’s Fyre Festival.
Audio Clip: Let there be rock. Brought to you by MF Live.
Jordan: I’m Jordan Rawlings, and this is The Big Story. Shawn Gibson is a reporter for Barrie Today who was covering Roxodus back when it was still a real event. It was going to actually happen. Hi Shawn.
Shawn: Hey, how are ya?
Jordan: I am great, thanks. I wanted to talk to you today about Roxodus.
Shawn: Yes. Everybody wants to.
Jordan: Yeah. So first of all, I guess why don’t you start for people who are outside of Southern Ontario, although I gather people came from all over Canada to this thing. But what was Roxodus supposed to be?
Shawn: So Roxodus was supposed to be this mega rock concert that was just too good to be true, obviously. But just for from the lineup wise, too good to be true. Aerosmith, Kid Rock, Nickelback, Alice Cooper. I mean, the biggest names in rock, and it kind of blew us away because it wasn’t at Burl’s Creek. Burl’s Creek is known for having these amazing concerts, they just had The Stones. It was gonna be at Edenvale Airport which is the other way and uh nothing like this has ever happened there before. So it was just this once in a lifetime concert that was gonna hit our area, and it was…. everybody was looking very forward to it.
Jordan: So do you remember hearing about it when it was announced? Like, how big was the push behind this thing?
Shawn: So, yeah, so when they, you know, said Roxodus was coming and they mentioned a few of the artists it was like, wow, that’s pretty cool, and again right away you thought Burl’s Creek did it again. But when they mentioned Edenvale Airport everybody kind of went okay, stopped for a second to think about it and they kept naming the bands and the push on it was…… I kept seeing it on social media. I didn’t really hear too much about it on the radio, I didn’t hear; There weren’t a lot of ads all over the place. So I wasn’t sure how that went, there wasn’t a lot of money put into advertising but, I mean, the push on social media, it took itself. I mean, smart or not smart it kind of pushed itself. Once was the bands were named it went crazy, it was like a wildfire and it really truly was going to be one of the biggest concerts people had seen anywhere, really and I think that’s what pushed it on social media.
Jordan: How were they selling it on social media?
Shawn: Again, like just the biggest rock concert you could; They actually…. they just kept saying things like Roxodous, Roxodous, Roxodus, Roxodus. It was this big; This word and it just it stuck to everything, so everybody was like you going to Roxodus? You going to Roxodus? I can’t believe Roxodus…. It kind of like; I knew Aerosmith; I think Aerosmith was announced a little bit later than the other bands. I know Nickelback was announced, Kid Rock was announced. Aerosmith was a little bit after, not too long after. So when Aerosmith hit, it really caught wildfire. It was like holy smokes like, this is huge.
Jordan: So we will get to exactly what happened in just a moment. It was supposed to be this coming weekend, and in the weeks I guess before this all kind of exploded last week, was there any skepticism flying around? Were there any rumors?
Shawn: So truthfully when it was all announced at first, myself, I’m a pacifist so I was like there’s no way this is happening and I didn’t mean it like to the magnitude of what we see. It was just unbelievable, like it was just; Look at the lineup, it’s unbelievable. So then there were other people who, you know, around town and a little bit of chatter you’d go to the coffee shop and sit and chat it up, and they were like there’s no way this is gonna happen man there’s one road in and out. I don’t know if you’ve ever been up that way, but highway 26 going past that airport into Wasaga Beach kind of; Wasaga Beach is the next big area. It’s two lanes, it’s one East, one West that’s it. So the whole idea of you know, what 20,000, 40,000 people descending upon this airfield in two lanes was. Everybody kept saying there’s just no way permits are done, and I think the permits got finished on June 19th, I believe, that’s pretty late in the game. And when they were finalized, it was like, wow, okay, this is happening, like it’s really happening. But there was a lot of skepticism, and then for myself, nobody really; I mean, you hear the different chatter, people say oh there’s no way it’ll work because the highway, and then the roads in and out. But I was sitting at a coffee shop in Barrie on Sunday and I got a message from somebody who said, hey, I just wanted to give you a tip there’s no way this concert’s gonna happen, and I was like, what’s your name? You know, like I don’t want to go on the record, I like okay well then I can’t use this story, kike I don’t know what to tell you. And I was busy, and they kept going, and they said can I call you? I said sure. So they called me up and he kept talking, he kept talking, and I was like, I was taking notes but he kept going with things, and he’s like, and I’m like ok this isn’t just somebody talking. So he went on, one of the things he said was if you go up there right now, have you been up that way? I said no I haven’t been up that way in a little bit and he’s said there’s about 10 to 11, it was 16 flatbeds, they’re not empty. Nobody’s working anymore, there’s no work going on in the airfield, there’s nothing happening. That struck me as odd because we’re like at the time were like 10 days away, so I really paid attention to that, and, you know, I talked to some editors of mine, and, you know, they said the same thing. If it’s not gonna go on the record we got nothing. But I paid attention to it, and this guy kept going and there was no, you know, a lot of times you think okay this guy’s got a vendetta, there’s something he’s mad at them about something, but it wasn’t the case at all. This guy was very concerned about people’s money. Monday evening I had a story ready to go, looking for you know, someone to tell me something that wanted go on the record, and the chatter started happening online, you know? Hey, I’m hearing that there’s an announcement tomorrow, I hear Roxodus is gonna make an announcement. So I woke up early in the morning and we started really hearing that they were gonna call it. So I you know, I flew up to the airport, and started asking around, they had no idea. They they were like, no we don’t know anything.
Jordan: So when they did cancel it, or I guess in a day or two before the cancellation became official, was there any word from the promoter? From the event itself that things might not happen because at that point, I was seeing people we’re still buying tickets and stuff.
Shawn: Yes, that was; So there was nothing. There was absolutely nothing from Roxodus, from the Roxodus promoters. MF live is the name of the production company that was kind of handling it, nothing from anyone, and you’re right. When it came down that it was canceled, I know I checked about two hours after, but I heard it was a long time after that. You could still buy tickets and it was like, okay, that’s a key part like shut that down. And as we’re finding out more and more now, this decision was made the day before, that they were calling it. They were calling it the day before, they knew it was done. So there was a whole over 24 hours where tickets are still being purchased and other than that, the week before, they kind of knew they were shutting it down. But officially, the word is there was a meeting in town, or a meeting in the area, and they were shutting it down and decided to make the announcement the next day in the morning when really 24 hours plus, people were still buying tickets.
Jordan What kind of money are we talking about here for tickets and other things? What the people were paying.
Shawn: I know there was different packages. There were several, several packages which also really made it kind of unbelievable. So there was plans to have a, like a carnival. They would fly you in by helicopter because it was an airfield, they could do that. So there were different tiers for that, a couple 100 for a ticket, maybe 4-500 for the special treatment with a tent because you could get this…. another thing you could do is camp there, and you get this special tent, real state of the art type tent, and if you didn’t want to keep the tent they were saying they were going to donate it to the homeless. So you could buy it and donate it, that’s all well and good. So there were; One of the people I was talking to, her and her husband spends $1200 on tickets, and loading up their wristbands because it was that wristband policy. So you scanned the wristband, and you can add money to it, and then another few 100 on hotel, and another couple, same thing except without the hotel, they had an RV and they were gonna get some camping space, which they said was limited because so many people were doing that. So, yeah, people were dropping a couple $1000 dollars on tickets and hotel.
Jordan: But when you start telling me about like, they’ll fly you in on a helicopter and you can get VIP packages, and your own tent and stuff like, you know, given the last year, the image that’s immediately popping into my mind, right?
Shawn: Absolutely, and it was, I think, what’s what was the hashtag, I think it was the Canadian Fyre Fest, I think was the hashtags. Yeah, you know, part of it’s like okay that’s the sexy term. Sure lets you know that’s a great sentimentalization but it really was without people actually getting there. Had people have gotten there, sure it would have turned into Fyre Fest because it’s not like it hadn’t; and not to diminish, but had it happened in Toronto, you just turn around get on the highway or get a hotel room or; I don’t know that this is literally in the middle of nowhere. This airport’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s two lanes, forest all around. So all of these people would’ve came to this town that’s just got nobody there. So it would have, ya it would have absolutely been a Fyre Fest situation without being too dramatic, it really would have.
Jordan: So what was the reason given by the promoter why it was cancelled?
Shawn: So what they had said was because of all the rain, the grounds were no good and couldn’t support the stage. The drainage, and the grassy areas was just…. it was dangerous and they couldn’t move it, and they were trying to hold off in hopes that it would dry up. Right off the bat anybody that lives in this area knew that was not right, because we haven’t had a good rainfall in awhile. What they were trying to say was, it was the rain earlier in the spring. That still does not make sense because I’d only had a few significant rain falls but nothing to stop production on a concert you know, a couple of months later.
Jordan: Well and you mentioned that Burl’s Creek had just hosted The Rolling Stones, a huge concert.
Shawn: Ya, just had The Rolling Stones and I mean that was…. I mean they added staging to that, I mean that was just a huge production. So they just had it, and I asked that question to the mayor of ClearView, ClearView Township, and he had said, you know, the day before; I had asked him if that was possible at all, and you know he tried to put out fires of his own I guess, he said, yeah it’s believable because this is an agricultural country, so it’s hard to; It’s really hard to decipher what the ground is going to do and again, I think maybe he was just trying to calm everybody down and calm the situation before he really knew anything. I got to the airport, and I spoke to the owner of the airport over the phone, and I asked him what he thought about that, and I was asking he was laughing and he said, that’s a great excuse and he said, I really shouldn’t say anything else. I had asked for permission to go onto the grounds, and because it’s fenced off, like it’s fenced off and it’s got a security gate and all of that because it’s an airport and he said, absolutely, you know, go on in and get your photos. So a gentleman drove me around and was showing me where everything they was gonna be, and the ground where it was gonna be it was all gravel and cement, and then I asked him, and he knows those grounds better than anybody and he said, that’s a bunch of bunk. He’s like, that’s not true at all and he said not only are the grounds fine, but that they were; the people that were running the concert were in there a long time before, a couple of months before, and one of the main things they were doing was preparing the grounds. So they had prepared, they were fine, they really were fine, and we’ve come to find out through I believe it was Facebook posts that are now deleted, or words given between the two promoters that it wasn’t the case. Because when I spoke to the owner of; First of all, to go back a bit, when I spoke to the owner of the airport he said that the day before the gentleman from MF live when it was both of them or one were trying to sell the land back to him. The MF Live had purchased 137 acres of the east part of the airport last year, November and December, maybe even October.
Jordan: So they bought it, they weren’t just renting it for the festival.
Shawn: No they bought it to prepare it for festivals, or this festival, at the very least. So they purchased it, ready to go, and the airport okay no problem, they sold that land off. The day before the concert was called they tried to sell it back, and he didn’t say that; Everybody said it was way too high, and he wasn’t doing that. I’m assuming they were trying to cover their costs from the concert by selling it off too high. So there’s; The allegations now are back and forth, that the two gentlemen that run it have spoken again. I think they made a Facebook post. It’s been; One of them has blocked me so I can’t see his stuff. But they’re blaming each other now, back and forth. One mishandled money, the other one wasn’t even in charge of that stuff, he just was supposed to book talent. It started to fall apart for them so….
Jordan: So they’re not even blaming the grounds anymore?
Shawn: No, they still; It’s gone away from that. Those initial message on their website, and the one that they put out to the media, I guess, but now they’ve just kind of deterrent from that. They’ve gone completely off that, and are just blaming each other.
Jordan: It’s a pretty small community up there, and this is a huge show. Have you talked to folks who were preparing to work it, preparing to supply it, like what happens when that goes away a week out?
Shawn: One of the; Some of the people was, I spoke to a vendor who spends close to $2500 on his lot, like the space that he was gonna have, and the hydro provided for that lot. So as far as him working it he said that he basically spent thousands of dollars on that, and he has no idea how he’s gonna get that back. He sold that; He sells non dairy frozen yogurt, so not only did he spend all that money on the hydro and the lot itself, he had a whole bunch of product made, because he can’t make it on the spot. So he has a ton of product that he’s got to get rid of, that, he said fortunately he thinks he could sell it off. He has it frozen, and he could sell it off at different festivals over the next little while, but as far as the lot and the hydro stuff, he doesn’t know how that’s gonna work, and he hasn’t heard anything back about that yet. But people working it as far as workers, we haven’t heard of anyone yet, we haven’t spoken to anybody about that. I do know actually, when they cancelled it, I tried every day, once in the morning, once in the evening to get a hold of someone at an email that was provided when they announced the cancellation, and heard nothing back until two days ago and the gentleman messaged back and said, you know, thanks for being patient, but I actually don’t work there anymore. My final duty was to mention the cancellation, and put that out there and he hadn’t heard anything else at that time from anyone in management. It kind of just went blank for him as well.
Jordan: So is anybody obviously not the promoters, but is anybody else stepping up to offer refunds? Will any of these people get their money back?
Shawn: The few good stories kind of start loud. Eventbrite, the ticket place Eventbrite, have already begun, hey began yesterday, maybe the day before refunding people, and the word is that they’re refunding; From what I gather they’re going to refund everybody the money, it’s gonna take a little but people are; It’s really starting to snowball and when, I mean assuming a lawsuit happens, I don’t know for sure, but I’m assuming some things going to happen here, they will go after the money lost. So the people that spent their hard earned money, are getting money back. I’m hearing tons, I mean my emails went is off all day yesterday of someone who said, hey I haven’t heard anything back do you know anything? And six minutes later, they messaged said never mind I just got my refund. So the refunds are coming in fast and furious, and I’m sure you know if anybody hasn’t got it yet, just be patient, it’s gonna take a little while. But apparently it’s moving pretty fast, and Eventbrite, I’ve reached out to them and they said they’d get back as soon as they could, but it just seems like they’ve really stepped up and they’re really helping people out.
Jordan: And then they’ll go after the promoters to try to get their money back,
Shawn: Yeah, then they’ll go after and try to recoup the losses, but like they said they’re important thing was a lot of people spend thousands of dollars, hundreds of dollars, and they should get it back and not have to worry about going after people they can’t even track down.
Jordan: So what happens next? We wait and see what the police say?
Shawn: Yeah, wait until the investigation, until again; Whoever they’re invested; We could always assume that because there’s two people, you know, the two people at the head of it; MF stands for Mike and Fab live. So Mike Duffy, and Fab Louranger are two of the guys that ran this, and they’re the two guys now that are going after each other, blaming each other. Mike Dunphy, what we’re hearing is he was; As of last week was no longer actually through his own words, was no longer with MF Live, and then you start, you know, someone looked at and goes oh so he’s a former employee, okay? And what we do know is the O.P.P are looking into a former employee of MF Live. It could be anybody, but the rumors start, it could be him, because that’s what it sounds like. But until we hear back from the O.P.P we don’t know, we just don’t know anything.
Jordan: What’s the legacy of this festival gonna be up there?
Shawn: Well, you know, I think, I don’t know the term for it, I can never remember, but because it’s happening right here, we all look at it like ah man. We don’t realize, we forget that a lot of people are listed, like looking in and this is a huge deal all over, and I think we have to step back and look at this and go this is horrible. This is a horrible thing to happen at any time, a concerts going to be held at Edenvale Airport or the grounds of the who, by the way, are great people and it’s not their fault, everyone’s gonna go remember Roxodus? Like I mean, someone said to me and I don’t know if you remember, but years back years, years and years ago the big marijuana pot plant in Barrie, at the old Molson Plant.
Jordan: Oh, I do remember that.
Shawn: Yeah, the big; and I mean, I’m telling you it’s become, you know, a lot of people that lived here, the older crowd, they don’t even want to talk about it, it’s a stain on the history of the city, and there’s other people who are like that’s the funniest thing of all time. Like nobody died, nobody got hurt, what a funny story, and I think that Roxodus will do that as well. I just think, and especially because it’s become really light hearted more so because people are getting their money back, because of people like; because of companies like Eventbrite who stepped up, and I will say I want to mention this because it’ll show you how the humour; How people are trying to get around; Or how people are trying to make this a better feeling event. On Thursday, Thursday would have been I believe the kickoff, Thursday the 11th, there’s a little bar at the Edenvale Airport, a bar and restaurant called The Hanger. There’s going to be a concert/like get together called Rocksobust. There’s a Facebook page called Roxodus, the festival that never happened, but more than 20,000 wish it did, and there’s gonna be a get together for people who want to come out, who maybe lost out on tickets, or people who just want to come out and have a good time. And from what I gather, they’re trying to get a cover band or two of some of the big names. I think I heard that a cover band for Kid Rock was gonna perform, and they’re having a good time, they’re going to go out there thirsty, they’re gonna have a laugh and get together and and just kind of have some fun and I’m betting a ton of people will become friends over this and get together with us. But it’s shows like this, I guess that Canadian humour, you know things went bad, but it’s not that bad, we’re getting everybody back so let’s have fun with it.
Jordan: Sean, I’m so glad you guys are making the best of this. Thanks for joining us.
Shawn: No problem. Thanks for having me on.
Jordan: Shawn Gibson is a reporter for Barrie Today, and that was The Big Story. For more from us you can head to thebigstorypodcast.ca where you will find precisely zero stories like this one, but lots of other good stuff. You can also hit us up on Twitter @thebigstoryfpn, and you can rate us, review us, and subscribe for free anytime wherever you get your podcasts on Apple, on Google, on Stitcher, or on Spotify, or on one of 69,000,000 other podcast applications. Thanks for listening. I’m Jordan Heath-Rawlings we’ll talk tomorrow.
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