Print this Post

Lawsuits and the music festival that never was – The legacy of Canada’s failed Roxodus Music Festival

December 2022

The concert business is a fickle business. Despite the best of planning, no one really knows if things will go off as planned, especially with outdoor concert venues, whose success can sometimes hinge on nothing more than favourable weather conditions.  Putting on a one-evening-only concert is one thing, but a multi-day, multi-act festival, is another thing entirely.

Sometimes a concert promoter can score big, not just in financial ways, but in cultural importance. The sometimes they are an enormous critical and financial success, sometimes they barely cover their costs, and sometimes they can bomb spectacularly, both critically and financially.

The 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair was a financial disaster in the immediate aftermath. It only generated a profit after the Woodstock documentary and two accompanying soundtrack albums were released in the following two years, but it came to become a cultural touchstone for the late 1960s. The phrase “the Woodstock generation” became part of the common lexicon.

On the other end, there were such epic disasters as the Altamont Free Concert, the Fyre Festival, the Astroworld Festival, and Woodstock ’99.  Concert festivals that involve murders, assaults, sexual assaults, property damage in the millions, arson, all-out riots, and a multitude of criminal charges and lawsuits stretching over years, are not remembered fondly.

The Roxodus Music Festival is one festival that may have been the greatest rock festival since Woodstock (the 1969 version, not the follow-up versions), if not financially, at least from an artist line-up stand-point. but it never happened.

Scheduled to begin on the Thursday, 11 July 2019, on a 420-acre property directly adjacent to the Edenvale Aerodrome, a small private airport near the southern Ontario town of Stayner, it was to have featured big-name rock acts such as Aerosmith, Nickelback, Kid Rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Billy Idol, Blondie, Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper and many others, including a selection of emerging artists.

An assortment of camping spaces, a wide range of food and drink selections, including a craft beer tent, art installations, merchandise booths and a luxurious ultimate VIP lounge beside the stage, would complete the festival experience for the anticipated expect about 40,000 concertgoers.

What seemed like a very ambitions line-up for a first-time festival, was abruptly cancelled on 3 July, just eight days before the four-day festival was supposed to begin, collapsing into a huge pile of debt, anger and disappointed music lovers. First-time event producer, MF Live Incorporated, filed for bankruptcy protection six-days later, citing debts of over $18 million to almost 200 creditors, against assets of a paltry $154, 000. So, what happened?

The official statement from MF Live, posted on their web site when announcing the cancellation of the festival, was as follows:

“Due to heavy rains in the Spring of 2019, the property at Edenvale Airport, Clearview Township, will not be ready in time to accommodate large crowds and performance stages for the Roxodus Music Festival that was scheduled for July 11 – July 14, 2019.”

Apparently, there had been last-minute attempts to re-locate the festival to Burl’s Creek Event Centre, a popular outdoor event property 30 miles to the east in Oro-Medonte Township, that regularly hosts the Boots & Hearts Country Music Festival, but MF Live was apparently unsuccessful.

MF Live’s web site went on to say, “Our dream of producing a ‘once in a lifetime experience’ has been put on hold as we take the much-needed time to nurture our venue into a premier landmark in Ontario.” The statement appeared to indicate that Roxodus may indeed go ahead at an unspecified future date, but MF Live’s bankruptcy filing soon afterwards seemed to negate that statement.

Over three-years later, the continuing lawsuits are the only legacy that Roxodus has earned. Answers as to exactly what happened are still unknown, but reports of underwhelming ticket sales also circulated in the immediate aftermath. As well, claims that the property was still too waterlogged to properly accommodate the festival were also disputed at the time.

The man hired to be the festival’s spokesperson and on-stage master of ceremonies, veteran Canadian radio broadcaster and music writer/historian Alan Cross, was confident that the festival would be a complete success.

“I only accepted the gig after meeting the team behind the festival. Trust me when I say that they ticked all the right boxes when it came to organization, finances, and their overall vision for the festival,” Cross stated in the media in the wake of the cancellation. “But the thing that sold me on these guys was the fact that they paid all their acts upfront, artists who were represented by some of the most powerful agents and managers in show business. They must have done their due diligence, right? All the announced acts were 100 percent confirmed and ready to play.”

A final meeting with one of the organizers at a pre-party on 11 June, left Cross with no reason to believe that the festival was in any danger of cancellation. Like the artists, Cross had already been paid for the pre-festival promotions work he had done. MF Live seemed to have the financial backing and industry clout to pull-off the festival. How could a promoter have assembled such an impressive line-up if they didn’t?

It all seemed too good to be true, and ultimately, it was just that. The only positive outcome for disappointed music fans was that ticket seller Eventbrite, an online ticketing website, provided refunds to ticket holders through a special compensatory fund they established specifically for those burned by the Roxodus failure.

A lawsuit filed by Eventbrite against the promoters and Taurus Investments to recover those funds was settled in November 2022. Taurus Investment Group is still facing charges under the Conservation Authorities Act, laid by the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority, in connection with work alleged to have been done on the property in anticipation of the festival. That matter is scheduled to be back in court in January 2023.

Amongst the fallout from the failure of the festival were the totally unwarranted complaints leveled against the owner of the Edenvale Aerodrome, which opened in 2004, on the site of a former Royal Canadian Air Force airfield from World War II. The owner of the aerodrome was simply renting the property to MF Live for the festival and had nothing to do with organizing it.

In fact, of the three lots that made up the original WWII aerodrome property, the eastern-most lot, where a some of the parking and camping would have been situated, was actually owned by Taurus Investment Group. Although it was where the original RCAF buildings, hangar and taxiway were located, they were never part of the current Edenvale Aerodrome operation. It was sold in 2021 to a Canadian numbered company, for more than $4.2 million.

The Roxodus Festival could have been the greatest Canadian concert festival ever held. Instead, some are calling it “Canada’s Fyre Festival.”


Sources: https://globalnews.ca/news/5456009/roxodus-music-festival-cancelled-alan-cross, https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/10750143-three-years-later-what-happened-in-the-wake-of-roxodus-music-festival-/, https://www.simcoe.com/news-story/9444263-roxodus-festival-gets-approval-from-clearview-council, https://globalnews.ca/news/5497532/mf-live-inc-roxodus-bankruptcy, https://docs.grantthornton.ca/document-folder/viewer/docul8LWsxcWho7J/942577124193821329?_ga=2.213581405.897118176.1563224992-1737805256.1563224992, https://www.grantthornton.ca/en/service/advisory/creditor-updates/#MF-Live-Inc-Roxodus, https://www.clearview.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/projects/supporting-material/2019-04-24_planning_justification_report.pdf, https://www.newmarkettoday.ca/local-news/organizers-of-failed-roxodus-music-festival-facing-three-separate-lawsuits-2707642, https://www.todocanada.ca/city/toronto/event/roxodus-music-festival, https://www.bradfordtoday.ca/local-news/eventbrite-steps-up-to-offer-refunds-to-roxodus-ticket-purchasers-1558150, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fyre_Festival.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/lawsuits-and-the-music-festival-that-never-was-the-legacy-of-canadas-failed-roxodus-music-festival/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>