Booking issues plague Fall Fest

Last-minute booking problems for this Saturday’s Fall Fest sent Program Board leaders scrambling for new bands about a week before the concert, leading to the selection of Virginia Coalition and The Canon Logic as co-headliners.

The University canceled mash-up artist Girl Talk last Thursday amid concerns for safety and security, stemming from the musician’s request to not have a barricade in front of the crowd. About a week earlier, rock band Rooney backed out of the concert, citing a family emergency.

Virginia Coalition, also known as VACO, is based in Alexandria, Va. and is touring this month with singer-songwriter Kate Voegele. The Canon Logic is based in New York City and played at the Vans Warped Tour in 2007.

Fall Fest is traditionally one of GW’s largest musical events, headlined in the past by artists like OK Go, Common, Kanye West, Andrew W.K. and Cypress Hill.

Program Board Chair Tiffany Meehan said Virginia Coalition originally replaced Rooney as a co-headliner, and The Canon Logic was slated to be an opener until Girl Talk fell through. She emphasized that Fall Fest is “bigger than the band,” noting the numerous other events which include tug of war, jousting and T-shirt making.

Tim Miller, executive director of the Student Activities Center, said the University backed out of negotiations over the $15,000 contract with Girl Talk largely due to the artist’s request that barricades would not be used to prevent audience members from joining him on stage.

“It is something we aren’t equipped to handle and is something we weren’t willing to take on,” Miller said.

Girl Talk booking agent Sam Hunt, who works for The Windish Agency, said GW initiated negotiations for the Sept. 6 concert on Aug. 4 and confirmed the artist as a headliner on Aug. 7. He said the University acted inappropriately by backing out of the contract after the artist was confirmed for a show.

“They really pulled the rug out from under us today,” Hunt said on Thursday.

“They had ample opportunity to not make an offer or to decide they were not equipped to hold this concert, but instead they took the information we gave them and presented an official offer,” Hunt later wrote in an e-mail. “We confirmed it, and they agreed to the confirmation. When we got the contract, we even expressed willingness to work with them on the issues they were concerned about, and instead they insisted on not holding the show.”

Miller contended that certain issues like the barricades were “deal breakers” for the band.

Empty Bottle booking agent Pete Toalson, whose venue in Chicago featured Girl Talk in the past, said the timing of the University’s decision runs against music industry standards.

“This is both highly unprofessional and unusual,” wrote Toalson in an e-mail. “I’ve been organizing events (some of them in the academic realm) for 15 plus years now, and the protocols for doing so are pretty clear.”

Known for mixing as many as a dozen different samples in his songs, Girl Talk, whose real name is Gregg Gillis, has released four albums in the last six years. In the past, he gained notoriety for his on-stage antics, as well as his habit of sampling songs without the artists’ permission.

Nathan Wright, who books shows for the Program Council at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said Girl Talk played on the campus last week, with students dancing on stage. He said the administration was initially concerned about the act.

“They were terrified. They were extremely terrified,” Wright said. “All in all it was fine. We had students on stage … Everything went smoothly.”

-Eric Roper, Jennifer Easton and Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.

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