Harvest festival cancelled as BDO rumours swirl

PETER VINCENT
Last updated 09:46 17/09/2013
 Harvest festival
NOR RETURN: The Harvest festival cancelled

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Less than a week after maverick promoter AJ Maddah said his Harvest music festival was in jeopardy, he has exclusively confirmed its cancellation.

Now rumours have emerged that Maddah may have acquired a share of Australia's longest-running touring music festival, the Big Day Out.

If true it would be a major coup for the promoter who already runs Australia's biggest-selling festival, Soundwave, and was named the most powerful person in the local music scene in August by the Australian Music Industry Directory.

The BDO's former co-promoter Vivian Lees appeared on Triple J's Hack program on Monday afternoon and announced his former BDO partner Ken West had sold his share to Maddah.

"I'm hearing that Ken is withdrawing from the situation and I'm very concerned for him," Lees told Triple J. "I am alarmed at what I have heard."

According to Triple J, this means the BDO would be run by Maddah and big Texan tour promoters C3 Presents, which also promotes giant US festival Lollapalooza.

Lees took several swipes at Maddah in the Triple J interview, saying he plays "fast and loose" and alleging he has "no commitment [to the careers of Australian artists]."

Lees also alleged: "I've seen him in action. If he doesn't like the way something's going, he'll cancel it. He'll get halfway along in one direction and turn 180 degrees in the other direction and think that nobody notices. He has skin as thick as a rhino, and he's a gambler."

Maddah declined to comment on the BDO rumours, although on Monday evening on Twitter he did defend himself: "As usual, the rumours are a bit exaggerated and not quite as sensational."

He did confirm to Fairfax Media that Harvest was definitely cancelled as a festival: "It's done, over". But he added "at the very least for this year", hinting at a possible return.

For now, he is trying to resurrect headline shows by the bands that were on the Harvest bill. The Harvest brand would be kept alive by promoting those tours, he said.

Last week Maddah told Fairfax that Harvest was on the brink but he had secured agreement from high profile acts Franz Ferdinand, Goldfrapp and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to tour and play their own shows. No agreement has yet been reached with Harvest's main headliner, Massive Attack.

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Intriguingly, Maddah blamed the quality of the Big Day Out line-up for ticket sales so poor in Brisbane and Sydney that the whole event was "too risky".

Last month the BDO lineup for next year was announced, headed by Blur, Pearl Jam and Arcade Fire.

If the rumours are true, Maddah appears to have secured his place as Australian music's number one power player, at least in the crowded festival scene.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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