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When he first heard about it, Jorge Moreno thought the Premios Rock Latino festival would be "a great opportunity" for Latin rockers from Miami and beyond to gain some always-needed exposure. Days before the August 18 festival was to be held at the Bayfront Park Amphitheatre, Moreno began wondering if the event would take place. The festival happened -- sort of -- but after surveying the chaos and mayhem backstage, Moreno deemed the affair "a tremendous fiasco," a waste of time, effort, and expense.
Why? Take your pick -- unhonored contracts, scheduling problems, advertised acts that never showed up. "It was so disorganized. No one working there knew what was going on," complains Moreno, director of Rock Latino at Musical Productions, Inc., a Miami-based production company that had two of its acts on the Premios roster: local group Inmundo Mundo and Mama Vaca from Argentina, neither of which performed at the event. Depending on whom you ask -- Moreno, or festival promoter/organizer Rudy Rodolfo -- Inmundo Mundo was either booted from the stage or they exited by choice; Mama Vaca passed on the festival after travel and accommodations supposed to be provided by Rodolfo never materialized (ditto for headlining act Enanitos Verdes).
In an undated letter issued on Premios Rock Latino letterhead and which "constitutes a legal agreement between Premios Rock Latino, Inc. in Miami ... and Musical Productions, Inc.," Rodolfo agreed to "cover the costs of plane tickets, lodging, per diem, and ground transportation" for Mama Vaca (and Inmundo as well, although they are based in Miami). Rodolfo says that after a sponsorship deal with American Airlines fell through -- which he had hoped would result in airfare freebies for participating groups -- he issued a letter to concerned parties that gratis travel would not be provided. Moreno, who had been trying to reach Rodolfo for weeks prior to the festival, never received such a letter.
"Three days before the festival, I finally reached him, and he said they were not paying for any of [the bands] to come," says Moreno. "He said they had to cut it from the budget and that the bands had to pay for their own plane tickets. The day of the show he posted a sign on the door saying that, due to plane problems, these big names like Enanitos Verdes weren't going to play. It was just complete chaos."
Reached last week, Rodolfo first denied the existence of a contract with Moreno or promising airfare, lodging, et cetera, to any of the scheduled acts. Told that his signature was on the contract, Rodolfo replied: "Yeah, so?" After a copy of the contract was faxed to his office last week, Rodolfo acknowledged its existence, but added that follow-up letters were sent to Moreno and the others announcing the change in travel arrangements. "There were notes sent out after that," Rodolfo claims. "We let everyone know what was going on and everybody agreed, everyone said okay." (Rodolfo was asked to provide a copy of these notes, specifically the one sent to Moreno, but failed to do so.)
As for Inmundo Mundo, Rodolfo says the group was booted from the stage for "bad behavior" -- namely, a heated, razor-tongued exchange between the group's lead singer, Alfredo Bergna, and festival MC Jessica Fox. "[Inmundo Mundo] were saying obscene things and got really rude so security guards kicked them out," Rodolfo states. "They were just very impolite and insulting, so we didn't let them perform."
Moreno has a different story: "The MC came out on-stage and told Inmundo Mundo that they couldn't play then -- that they had to play later on the bill," he says. "They had already been pushed back twice on the bill so there was an argument. [Bergna and Fox] started insulting each other. Then Alfredo told the crowd 'I love you, Miami, but we're not gonna play in this piece of shit.' Then they left the stage. They chose not to play. They just walked off the stage."
Pepe Alva, frontman for Miami rock en espanol greats Alma Raymi, said his set at Premios Rock Latino was uneventful, if abbreviated (three songs instead of the allotted four). But he adds that scheduling was a huge problem. "I had a successful show, but I saw all around me a lot of bands who weren't very happy," Alva observes. "The stage managers were treating some of the bands very badly because they weren't as popular as others. They wouldn't give them an exact time to play, didn't give them enough space on the stage. Personally, I can't say it was a mess. We were treated okay. For the rest? Yeah, it was a mess."
You could also deem the festival a financial mess. Rodolfo -- former owner of the now-defunct South Beach Dance Club and ex-promoter at Penrod's Beach Club -- says he put about $57,000 of his own money into Premios Rock Latino, but lost an estimated $42,000 because of poor ticket sales. Only about 800 tickets were sold; Bayfront Amphitheatre seats close to 2500. Rodolfo said he charged accommodations at the Dupont Plaza Hotel for some of the participating bands on his American Express card. Despite the loss, and in spite of the acrimonious complaints from Modelo, Rodolfo believes the festival was a success, and plans to hold the second annual Premios Rock Latino sometime next year.