BREAKING: XO Music Festival canceled by venue; organizer arrested in February

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UPDATED AT 12 P.M. THURSDAY: The Contra Costa County Event Park has cancelled the XO Music Festival, alleging festival promoters failed to fulfill a contractual obligation to provide liability insurance for the event. The insurance would have covered such things as security, lighting and production of the event.

The troubled festival was scheduled to take place between July 12 and 15. Several acts had alleged they were not paid or had contracts slashed. The festival’s producer, Habidulla Qadir, is facing unrelated fraud charges. Still, it was neither of those things that led to the direct cancelation.

“If they would have met all of their insurance requirements, we would have allowed the festival to continue this weekend,” said Joe Brengle, CEO of the Contra Costa Event Park.

The decision was made because of safety concerns to attendees, the facility and the City of Antioch.

Brengle said his organization did due diligence after the producers contacted him in the fall of 2017. The producers had previously scheduled Southeast Asian music festivals at fairgrounds in San Mateo, Pleasanton and at Great America in the South Bay.

“The feedback we got from the other venues was that the festivals went fine and that they would do another contract with them,” Brengle said. The Event Park in Antioch signed a contract with Habidulla Qadir in December 2017. The contract was only for use of the facility in Antioch, not with the booking of entertainment.

Originally called the XOXO Music Festival until a legal dispute with an identically named festival in Oregon, XO has been suspect since its announcement. It originally used logo elements from BottleRock, and the festival’s initial claim of seven stages has gradually been reduced to three. BottleRock is not affiliated with XO Music Festival. CBS5 reports that the festival organizer was charged with more than 40 counts of real estate fraud in February, and on Tuesday found setup for the festival hadn’t begun.

The ticket processor for the event has begun to issue refunds to ticketholders. That should take several days.

The cancellation of the festival followed several months of unorthodox promotions, including over-promising on entertainment and not naming several headliners.

“It’s a music festival that was boasting big ’90s rap and hip-hop and I thought they needed some more diversity on their comedy line-up,” says comedy producer DNA of Stand Up Santa Cruz, who was hired to book the comedy stage. “That was my initial reach out. It seemed odd. I got the feeling they didn’t know what they were doing comedy-wise.”

Shortly before the official cancelation bands had begun withdrawing from the festival.

“I fully planned to pull Dangermaker out if things got too shady,” frontman Adam Brookes told us. “I had heard from numerous Bay Area artists that they were also pulling out.”

Brett Curriden of San Francisco band Lords of Sealand took to Twitter to announce that they dropped out of the festival, citing a lack of “fair compensation” and encouraging headliner Ludacris to pull out as well.

Ludacris, on the XO schedule for Saturday, is also on the schedule for the V103 Summer Block Party in Chicago on the same day. His tour schedule lists him in San Bernardino on Friday.

Brookes said Dangermaker had similar experiences with compensation.

“We were never paid nor offered payment, but to be paid in ‘exposure’ which is [nonsense],” he said. “But not too uncommon unfortunately if you’re a independent smaller band, lots of people take advantage out there.”

While DNA insisted on payment for all the comedians, he also saw problems with money.

“My goal was to make sure every comic was paid. I was being pushed from XO to get comics to perform for free,” he told us.

“In the last several weeks I was texting him regularly that the promised payment to our headliner comic was super wonky,” he explained. “I got varied responses from the ‘check was in the mail (never received)’ to ‘PayPal isn’t working for us (?)’ to ‘Our Venmo has exceeded it’s limits.'”

Bob Rosenberg of Will to Power wrote a blog post in which he announces the band’s non-involvement and outlines his suspicions from the start. Trinere V. Farrington, another freestyle artist, relayed the same story of a mass cancellation in a Facebook post.

Multiple emails to the XO Festival from RIFF have not been answered over several weeks.

DNA expressed the same sentiment as several of the people scheduled to be involved: “Was this just inexperience and the lure of big money? Or was there something else going on? Whatever the case, it [screwed] a lot of creative souls. From the artists point of view it was a huge let down.”

Editor Roman Gokhman contributed to this report. Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at

(1) Comment

  1. Brent Curriden

    Thank you for this post and for your support of local artists. This has all been pretty crazy. Definitely not what our small time prog band is used to, haha. We believe that it is worth fighting to get artists, both ourselves and the other amazing talent that surrounds us, fair pay.

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