Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Newport lives

George Wein wasn't about to let Festival Network LLC's financial woes put an end to the two festivals in Newport, Rhode Island that launched his 55-year run of producing festivals across the United States and around the globe. (See December 31 blog entry for background.)

While it is unclear what will happen to the rest of the festival events that Wein produced before he sold his Festival Productions Inc. operations to a group of investors and young entrepreneurs two years ago, including the JVC Jazz Festivals in New York and elsewhere, Wein had some welcome news today.

He announced that he applied for – and received – a license from the State of Rhode Island to produce a folk festival this July 31 to August 2 and a jazz festival the following weekend, August 7 to 9. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Newport Folk Festival, and it is 55 years since the jazz festival concept blossomed in Newport in 1954.

The license to put on these two 2009 events going to the Wein production team is not surprising, considering that Festival Network, as of late January, hadn't paid the state the thousands of dollars in usage fees it was due from the 2008 festivals at Fort Adams State Park last August. Other vendors from those weekends were also owed money. Festival Network did pay the $200,000+ owed to the state - due since August - sometime in February. The state subsequently voided its three-year contract with FN because of the late payment. That gave Wein the opportunity to step back into the picture.

"When I was informed that the festivals, which have been the most important part of my life since 1954 and 1959, might be lost forever, I realized that it was necessary for me to come back and apply for the rights to produce jazz and folk festivals in 2009 and beyond," Wein said in a news release. “The traditions we have established (in Newport) mean everything to me."

If you read between the lines, and not very deeply, it sounds like Festival Network has a slim-to-none chance of righting its ship – and slim stayed in port.

Wein and his veteran team are among the best at producing festivals. After all, they pretty much created the mold. It’s a pity that the Festival Network LLC team never took the opportunity to learn from the masters. Rather, they ran the operation into the ground – and doubtless created angst and heartache for this true gentleman of jazz. Fortunately, he persevered.

Stay tuned. We still haven’t heard what may become of the other festivals that became part of the Festival Network LLC operation.

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