Rockesha Was Truly Wisconsin's Worst Music Festival

Jun. 23, 2014
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Anybody who follows live music promotion knows that it's not unusual for an upstart music festival to be scrapped after one year. Nor is it uncommon for troubled concerts to be canceled a few weeks out because of poor ticket sales. But the unlucky attendees at this weekend's Rockesha concert in Waukesha witnessed something truly unique: a music festival canceled mid-show.

The festival Saturday at the Waukesha County Expo Grounds was to feature Warrant, Quiet Riot, Lita Ford, Firehouse and Eric Martin from Mr. Big. I'll spare you any cheap cracks about that lineup. This was an '80s hair metal festival, and nobody could fault that lineup for skimping on '80s hair metal. Unfortunately, fans who paid $30 for a general admission ticket or $100 for VIP tickets never saw most of those headliners.

According to John Schulze of, all they got was a short solo set from Eric Martin. "After Martin's set there was an unusual amount of time being taken to set up the stage for what would have been the next band, Firehouse," Schulze wrote. "Fans and photographers up front noticed that actually Lita Ford's roadies were setting up her gear onstage. Fans in the VIP section began to claim they heard that Firehouse refused to play because they were not being paid. Soon after most of Lita Ford's gear was set up an announcer came to the microphone and told the crowd that the event was cancelled and it would be rescheduled. He had no further information beyond that, and seemed to be just as confused as the crowd as to what was going on."

VH1 hair metal personality Eddie Trunk, who hosted Rockesha, confirmed the debacle on Twitter. "Turn out was poor, promoter lost money & didn't pay bands fully, bands leave show done," he tweeted. "I've been doing this 31 years and never had anything like that happen. Unfortunate for all involved, especially those that paid & traveled." With advance ticket sales sluggish and with an unwelcoming forecast deterring walk-up sales, it seems the promoter opted to just pull the plug and cut his losses.

So what happens to the fans who did come out, some of whom threw down a Benjamin just to watch the guy from Mr. Big play a few songs under cloudy skies? It's unclear whether they'll get their money back. Since the promoter has promised to reschedule the concert, their tickets will hypothetically be honored at a future event. But given the failure to pull off the concert the first time around—and the terrible press the event attracted by folding in the most inconvenient way possible—realistically it's unlikely that the festival will return for a second try.

If you're thirsty for more Rockesha schadenfreude, you can find plenty of it on the latest episode of The Classic Metal Show podcast, where the hosts interview an exasperated witness who watched the festival fall apart in real time, then call out the event's shoddy promotion and make fun of Warrant a lot.

Update: The Waukesha Freeman is tweeting some more details about the troubled concert. According to the Freeman, the promoter "needed 8-900 people to buy tickets at gate, only 35 people did, Expo source says." That same source says the promoter lied to the Expo "multiple times" about the event.

Another Update: And the story gets weirder. In a Facebook post this afternoon, promoter Rob Lyons apologized for the cancellation, writing that he is "entirely responsible, nobody else had a thing to do with this," and then in the same paragraph pinning the event's failure on an unnamed business associate who is "currently sitting in a mental institution in the Madison area." Below you can read the entire post, where Lyons vows to come up with a plan to reimburse ticket holders without suggesting how.
First off, I want to say that Warrant, Quiet Riot, Lita Ford, Firehouse, Eric Martin, Eddie Trunk, ARM Entertainment and the Waukesha County Fairgrounds had absolutely nothing to do with this debacle on Saturday.

I as the promoter of this event am entirely responsible, nobody else had a thing to do with this. There are people that are extremely upset and I do not blame them one bit. The fact of the matter is that we did not come close to the presale or day of show ticket purchases. It is on me to make sure that the bands get the rest of their money and because the concert did not meet expectations it put me in a very tough spot. Unfortunately, I was put in a bad situation by a business associate who I never had a reason to doubt as we had past dealings. On June 6th, this person was to meet me at a local fast food restaurant in Lake Country to hand deliver a cashiers check for $15,000.00. As I waited for over 3 hours with excuse after excuse from him, I realized this was not going to happen. I made a call to the police department in his area to press charges, later that night I received a call from someone claiming to be his father and telling me that this gentleman tried to take his own life, skeptical, I stayed on my path with the police. The officer actually called me back to verify that his father was indeed telling the truth. This so called "friend" of mine is currently sitting in a mental institution in the Madison area. I have friends that can verify this not to mention countless emails and texts.

At that point, I really only had 2 options, first was cancelling or rescheduling the show 2 weeks ago, that was not really a great option since I would lose over $41,750.00 in deposits already paid to the bands, stage, fairgrounds, etc. THESE WERE THINGS ALREADY PAID! The other option was to press forward and have the show and pray that we had a good walk up crowd. Well, 47 paid patrons the day of show killed any effort. I think a combination of things like weather, other parties played a part but once again, still my responsibility. We had a total of about 1,200 people there on Saturday via VIP and general admission, of those, the radio stations gave away roughly 500 tickets and VIP's, sponsors also received tickets and VIP passes.

I have seen or heard a lot of things posted here, the fact is since January 1st, 2014 until the day of the show, we had just over $25,000.00 in paid tickets via Paypal, Groupon and in person cash, we also collected about $4,800 in sponsorships, both low. But we kept moving forward because everyone told me this state will wait until the last minute to purchase tickets, that was our hope, didn't happen. So to those posting that there is "hundreds of thousands" unaccounted for, that is not the case. We spent almost $12,000.00 in advertising via 3 radio stations, paid prints, facebook boosts, etc. All of this information is verifiable.

What I need to do now is come up with a plan to start reimbursing all of the fans who had their weekends ruined over this. Nobody feels worse than I do, my heart aches for everyone, I had people that flew in for this and this fell apart, I will never be able to apologize enough. I will be pursuing legal action against my "friend" as I am sure a few of you are planning the same on me. For those out there posting that this was fraud, that is not the case. All we wanted to do was put together a great concert so all of you could have a great time.

I will do everything in my power to make this right but please bare with me as I figure this out and come up with a plan.

Rob/Splat Entertainment LLC


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