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"When there's a rain delay on an outdoor festival for 45 minutes, it is not refund city," Victoria says. "It's a rain or shine event. Everybody's there. The show went on."
During the festival and in the ensuing days and weeks, Simpson, the stage manager, was handling payments for the workers. He's familiar with the fact that smaller and mid-sized festivals come with their fair share of unexpected surprises. Equipment might not show up as promised, or a staging crew might come in with different expectations or the money might not be as bountiful as initially thought, and his job included navigating those obstacles. But, listen, things like this tend to get worked out. He assured everyone that the money would be coming.
Despite the claims that a rain delay investigation was causing the hiccup, Victoria says she and her team were never told what ticketing agency was involved with the festival. They weren't told with any sense of certainty when the investigation would be cleared up. They weren't told where the money was physically located. Even as late as mid-May 2015, when Scene first began speaking with EST Fest staff, none of the workers knew the name of the ticketing agency. It was as though a ghost had fled in the night with the cash.
A few weeks after the event, Victoria and the other workers were told to forward their invoices to a group called Livin' Legends LLC.
Recalling the curveball, Victoria says now: "What do you mean I have to suddenly make an invoice to Livin' Legends? This is a new name. I've never heard this. That was never part of the agreement."
But even through this avenue, the money was still unavailable. By that point, Livin' Legends, the promotions team behind MGK's touring successes, was embroiled in a lawsuit over this fiasco.
On Aug. 20, 2014, Nelson Ledges Quarry Park filed a civil complaint against Livin' Legends LLC, citing breach of contract and accounting discrepancies. "[Livin Legends] has breached the contract by not paying the full rental fee and associated staffing and clean-up fees to the Park. Such fees were due before and immediately after the festival," according to the suit. The park's rental fee was a baseline $25,000, with incremental increases in line with attendance. A cleaning and maintenance charge was "not to exceed $4,000."
As the lawsuit unfolded, Victoria's confusion only compounded in trying to get her due payment. "I was like, 'What do you mean?' There are only two responsible parties and both are disagreeing," Victoria says, referencing the venue and the event organizer. The confusion didn't let up anytime soon.
Not much is known about Livin' Legends. "Check us out @ www.livinlegendsllc.com," the group's Facebook page urges. But livinlegendsllc.com brings up nothing but a blank page. While confirmed as being active last summer, est-fest.com now similarly directs the user to a page where he or she may claim the domain name.
The company originally filed in the state of Ohio in 2007. The incorporates are listed on public records as: Donald P. Hill, Andre Cisco II and Brandon Young.
The group declined to speak on the record with Scene, though Cisco II spoke briefly over the phone and said: "We've done festivals, and we've done so many shows in Cleveland. Everything has run smoothly. We've never had any issues like this. It's just unfortunate what happened."
For Russell and Walters and everyone else, it still isn't really clear what happened.
Livin' Legends declined additional interviews, insisting instead on providing a written statement to Scene about the handling of the festival. In full: "Machine Gun Kelly was solely hired as a performer and liscensed (sic) the EST 19XX name to the 2014 Festival. After recently discovering the details behind the handling of last year's EST 19XX Festival, Machine Gun Kelly and the EST Team are attempting to make things right fiscally and legally to ensure that this does not ever happen again and that the 2015 festival runs smoothly and all parties are made whole."
Follow-up questions were ignored by MGK's publicity team, and the staging crew remains clueless as to how MGK and his team will "make things right." At least one worker points out to Scene how most popularly accepted estimates of MGK's personal wealth hover at "$1.2 million."
Settlements were proposed; at one point Victoria was willing to square her crew's payment at $7,000 total, but the imposed May 20, 2015, deadline ran out on that offer.
"It's not fair for nobody involved in this production where not a dollar was given to anybody," Russell says. "[Management] swore up and down that we were to be paid the day the festival ended. It's now months later, and not one person has seen a dime from it to my knowledge."
And she's nearly correct. Some workers speculate that some of the festival's 18 or so bands and artists were paid, though Scene could not confirm that. And Will Roth, who provided sound equipment for one stage on Saturday during EST Fest, received the $1,600 he was owed.
"We took the sound system out early in the morning, set it up with the band on the beach, and we were probably done by 1 o'clock," Roth says. "As we were going out, they needed some spotlights for the main stage, so we also brought those out." His role was fairly nominal, but, like everything else, the weekend's sound equipment costs racked up.
Over the course of four or five months, he says, he remained adamant and eventually got his check settled through Livin' Legends.
As Russell describes it, though, over the following weeks she began losing contact with the festival and venue's management. Emails went unreplied-to, voicemails went unanswered, and the dread, held briefly at bay, began to sink in.
"People forget that we're bringing a lot of money to Ohio," MGK said during a May 2015 interview with Hot 97 in New York City. "They speak on LeBron, they speak on a lot of things, but we bring a lot of money to Ohio."
During that portion of the interview, MGK says that last year's EST Fest garnered about 10,000 attendees. Festival organizers and workers, however, said that attendance was just shy of 6,000. It's not really clear what the real number is.
When you drive up to Nelson Ledges Quarry Park for a festival weekend, you pull in through a mostly bare-bones entrance. Those who have tickets pre-purchased and in-hand are sent through. Others hand over cash before being whisked into the event.
Tickets began at $50, before rising along tiers ($75, $100) as the event got closer. Even the most conservative math balances out to hundreds of thousands of dollars in ticket sales, to say nothing of the proceeds of whatever merch lined the stands that weekend. At $50 a ticket, 6,000 attendees would translate to $300,000.