Where’s the Funk?

By Marcus Pan

I was heading up front to help with traffic when the news came down; Farm Funk wasn’t going to happen.

It was just passed 9:30 AM when Jaken Steele and I pulled into Somerset Stables in Franklin Township, New Jersey on the morning of Friday, May 30 th . The rain was still drizzling, but it wasn’t a bad rain. Made the ground a little soggy, but nothing overly muddy. We parked my car next to the red Mean Little Man-mobile, easily recognized as there were few cars in the parking lot. The gates weren’t due to open for at least another two hours. I easily met and found Chris Eissing, the Mean Little Man himself, and we started trouncing around the site. Steele and I were introduced to the other two media folk who made it out from the Aquarian. They were soon off and it was our turn to tour the site with media coordinator Eissing.

We headed off to the Jump For Joy site first, where Steve Wisbeski’s people were already pulling the tarps off of the dirt track. The track was a freestyle one, designed for tricks rather than racing. As the tarps were pulled, Steve himself came by and we were introduced. Immediately we were enlisted as part of the stage crew. Heading out to the vending field, Steele and I got to work. We helped build the 16 x 32 foot main stage. After putting this together, Steele and I popped up our tent in the camping area and started putting together the Legends Home Base.

After things were settling down and nearly ready at base, I left Steele to finish up and headed over to where Steve, Craig (Population VI) and members of the band Wishbone were finishing up with the second stage. I started to help there, and then started to direct traffic to their proper locations as a few concert-goers and bands started to trickle in. It was around this time, about noon now, when I decided to head up front and begin collecting and directing traffic at the front gate. Michael Jones (Better Mousetrap Productions), the organizer, was still nowhere to be seen. According to some, he was camping there the night before but then packed up and left sometime that night or early morning. As I was getting ready to head to the front gate to help the guys out, the news came. The police had called Joe, the lease-holder on Somerset Stables, and told him the concert and festivities were not to go on. They also said that Jones was aware of this situation two weeks ago.

Shutting Down
The reactions of those of us on site and setting up ranged from extreme disappointment to pure anger. Words were said and fingers were pointed. Most of those fingers pointed at Jones who was reported as saying, on the day before the event, that he had all the permits necessary and was to get the insurance that day. But the police stated he was aware of the lack of permits, one of the main issues that killed the festival, and that the event could not go on as far back as two weeks ago. How something as important as permits can be forgotten was beyond anyone there.

Other problems arose. For one, the owner of the land was not notified that a party of thousands of people was about to kick off on her property. As a matter of fact, she wasn’t aware of such a thing until she read the paper on her doorstep that Friday morning. That’s what prompted her call to the police, and afterwards their call to Joe at the stables. The landlord had recently sold the property (some stated it was to the tune of eight million, but I was unable to clarify that). One thing that apparently frightened her was any zoning problems that could have arisen between the Farm Funk Festival and her alleged sale of the property. In my opinion, her issue with the event was one of courtesy, not of money. Chances are if she was asked months ago about having the event (or whenever Jones started the ball rolling) she might have agreed without much of a care. After all, this was the third year of the Farm Funk Festival. But she was never contacted by anyone at any time.

The gates of the event were barricaded by the police of Franklin Township and all would-be concert-goers were turned away. Those on the property were expected to leave. Instead, about twenty or so of us convened in the far back of the property. The landowners even came down to the site and possible expulsion of our little group with trespassing charges was examined, but Chris took care of that problem quickly by making it known that the maximum safe amount of people allowed on the land, with Joe still leasing the property and giving permission, was thirty people and the landowner didn’t have a say in this particular matter.

As I said, reactions were swift and brutal from both staff, organizers and concert-goers. Most point their fingers at Michael Jones for blatantly neglecting to mention that the permit needs were known as far back as two weeks ago. One concert attendee stated that he was surprised to see how “one man can screw it up for thousands of people.” Another took a more personal feeling of loss at the concert’s closing: “I can’t believe I pitched a tent and didn’t even get to puke next to it.” And still, Michael Jones never appeared at the site the entire day.

What of the organizers and big guys involved in really making this happen? Both Craig of Population VI and Steve of Jump For Joy point their fingers at Jones as well. Steve tried to get the police to allow at least the jump contest to go on considering he had riders coming in from across the country. That, too, was a no-go. He even went so far as to have his lawyer contact the township to move for an injunction on his behalf. That, also, did not bear any fruit as the entire event was shut down. Police continued to blockade the entrance for the entire weekend. Of Jones’ inability to even bother showing up for his brainchild, Craig had said, “There’s no respect there.” While on the site, Mean Little Man Chris Eissing only said, “No comment at this time. I want to know all the facts first.” However, only days later Eissing writes on his web site that he “severs all ties, both personal and professional, with Michael Jones,” and all of his involvements including Octave Unity. Jeff Lakata, spokesman for the band Wishbone who have been involved in the Farm Funk Festival since its beginning years ago, did have something to say. “Michael Jones gave Farm Funk a bad name. This is what happens when you try to make a profit from something fun. We apologize to everybody.” The words “class action” came out of the mouth of the men who came down to perform sound hookups, so you can see that something very scary may be brewing.

Day’s End
I continued to gather what information I could about the event and what happened to it. But it seemed to be a combination of not having the proper permits and offending the landowner by not having the decency and courtesy of informing them. Throughout the day and up until this point, I’ve heard rants and raves about Better Mousetrap and Michael Jones. One suggested that since we do have the bonfire permit, let’s roast him. Another was quoted as saying “I don’t want to cook him. I just want to tenderize him for ‘ya.” And so on it went, everyone showing their dislike. But all I heard were the sides of Population VI, Mean Little Man and Jump For Joy. What of Jones’ side?

I got a short but welcome glimpse into Jones’ side of things when he called one of the people at the site with us around 5:45PM. This is the first we’d heard from him all day. I got to ask a couple questions. The most obvious and first one out of my mouth was where was he and why didn’t he show up for his brainchild? Mark Roseberry of FaceIt Productions played the part of the mediator on the phone between Jones and I. He told me “If Michael was able to make it he would have. But he was on the phone with everyone.” Said others standing around Mark and I, “He didn’t want to get his ass kicked.” Hostilities were, and still are, high. I asked about permits, to which I received in answer that he thought “Permits weren’t necessary.” This, according to Roseberry, was told to Jones at the Franklin Township clerk’s office. Then I asked why the landlord wasn’t contacted, to which I received the reply that he didn’t know her and felt gaining permission from the leaser, Joe, was enough.

That’s what happened that day. I know because I was there in the dirt and the soggy field, pulling tarps here and attaching stages there. As far as I know, I was the only media journalist on the site at the time the news of the fall-through came down. I have already received welcome commitments from Michael (Better Mousetrap), Chris (Mean Little Man), Steve (Jump For Joy) and Craig (Production VI) to sit down talk about the event and what happened. That way I’ll be able to get you the views of all of the individuals involved. But I was just as disappointed at the event’s closing. I was looking forward to a great time and even worked a bit that morning to get there. And to lose it all for something as mundane as permits and alerting a landowner…it’s just plain ludicrous.