Rock the Peach hits sour note

Attendance at Penticton music festival falls short, leaving creditors still awaiting payment of about $100,000

A small audience watches the performance of the band Free City Collective on stage at the Rock the Peach Music Festival at Kings Park on the final day. Attendance at the three-day event did not reach the expectations of organizers.

A small audience watches the performance of the band Free City Collective on stage at the Rock the Peach Music Festival at Kings Park on the final day. Attendance at the three-day event did not reach the expectations of organizers.

Attendance at the inaugural Rock the Peach music festival was barely a third of what organizers expected and some suppliers have been left holding the bag as a result.

Six creditors are owed a total of about $100,000 and have been asked for a 90-day grace period on payment after some of their cheques bounced, confirmed promoter Willi Jahnke.

“We’re pretty much restructuring here but we’re not running away,” he said, “and we want to stay and we want to make it work.”

Jahnke said he’s the president of iRock Entertainment Inc., which produced the event at Kings Park in Penticton with $400,000 of its own money. The July 27-29 festival featured headliners like Collective Soul and Sam Roberts Band.

But a stormy Friday night got Rock the Peach off to a bumpy start from which it never recovered, Jahnke said.

A total of 1,904 people walked through the gate that night, according to numbers he provided, and attendance declined on each of the following days for a three-day total of 4,865. Organizers expected total attendance in the range of 14,000.

“Besides the attendance, the show was really well done,” Jahnke said.

The event also seemed to please the City of Penticton, which engaged in a “collaborative process” with neighbours prior to the event, said communications officer Simone Blais.

She said city staff met with area residents in May and then worked to address their stated concerns about security, litter and parking. A total of 15 vehicles were towed over the three days from residential-parking-only areas around Kings Park. Still, Blais said the city received “really positive reports” from festival-goers and “it seems like we’ve addressed most of the residents’ concerns.”

The promoter paid up front for use of the park, as required by the city on all its leases, Blais added.

Jahnke said the company will now talk things over with the city before deciding whether it will try to Rock the Peach again next year, but he still sees potential here: “New kids on the block are always taken with caution, especially as Penticton didn’t have a positive track record when it comes to festivals.”

Data collected from ticket buyers showed about 60 per cent of the audience came from outside the region, Jahnke said, and he thinks that figure could go higher.

“It’s just a matter or tapping into that and proving to people this is really a festival worth coming to.”

Organizers also noted complaints about high prices and found most people preferred single-day passes. Grouping artists of similar genres together on the same day could grow that segment, Jahnke said, and would avoid a repeat of the disparate Sunday lineup, which featured 1980s rockers Glass Tiger, followed by Spanish guitarist Jesse Cook and country singer Ronnie Dunn.

“Will there be adjustments? Absolutely. There has to be,” he said.

Jahnke also produced through a different company the Nakusp Music Fest, which ended an eight-year run with its last show in 2011.