As someone who has lived off-and-on in Chicago since the mid-80's, I can tell you that corruption is such a part of daily life in The Windy City that you almost begin to take it for granted. Hell, sometimes, you are almost taken aback when it isn't there, which is why we were soooo relieved to discover that corruption, along with its greedy little brother nepotism, had not overlooked the most eagerly anticipated musical event of the summer, Lollapalooza, which will take over Chicago's Grant Park from August 4-8.
Former Chicago Sun-Times rock critic Jim Derogatis broke the story in late June that the organizers of Lollapalooza, Austin, TX-based C3 Presents, had instigated an outrageous radius clause on ALL acts (from major headliners to baby bands at the bottom of the bill) that prevented them from appearing within 300 miles of Chicago for six months prior to and three months following the event.
As you can imagine, such a clause is incredibly restrictive for bands when you consider how many cities and venues fall within that range. The effect doubles when you consider the state of the current economy and its impact upon the concert industry. If you're a band trying to eek out a living on the road, good luck doing so when you can't play anywhere in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Champaign-Urbana, Madison, Milwaukee, Davenport for a period of nine months. NINE MONTHS.
What's even more appalling is that C3 Presents also organizes the popular Austin City Limits Music Festival, which takes place in Austin, TX in October. It should come as little surprise that several bands are appearing at both festivals and that a similar radius clause prevents them from appearing within 300 miles of Austin for a similar period of time. Can you imagine the logistical night mare of booking a decent tour schedule when you can't play the midwest all summer or the southwest for the duration of the fall?
Needless to say, a lot of bands are pissed, but, being that Lollapalooza is quite a feather in one's cap, not so pissed as to tell C3 Presents to get bent. Still, the clause has caught the attention of Derogatis, who has never been one to miss an opportunity to fan the flames of controversy, as well as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
While Madigan's office has not yet confirmed that an investigation into C3's restrictive practices has been launches, Derogatis has been in contact with a number of agents connected with the music festival and many - such as former Artist Direct honcho Marc Geiger - confirm that they have been subpoenaed.
Geiger, of course, helped launch the festival with Jane's Addiction singer Perry Farrell in the early 90's. He is now VP at Williama Morris, which just happens to be run these days by Ari Emanuel, brother of President Obama's chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel.
No less than two weeks after he broke the initial story, Derogatis discovered a highly coincidental connection between festival organizers and Mark Vanecko, a nephew of Chicago's esteemed mayor, Richard M. Daley. In a July 7 article, Derogatis revealed that Vanecko had been instrumental in brokering the deal between the City of Chicago and Lollapalooza that ensures the festival will stay in Chicago through the year 2018.
He also saw to it that liquor sales for the festival were awarded to Lollapalooza Festival Services, a company co-owned by his friend, Kevin Killerman (awesome last name, by the way), who was charged with 45 counts of serving alcohol to minors in 1992, not to mention over 20 charges in the past three years (for which he has plead guilty). That shouldn't get in the way of the man being awarded such a lucrative alcohol contract by longtime buddy, and Mayoral nephew, Vanecko, though, should it?
Did we mention that, while he had no official involvement with the festival during its first two years in Chicago, Vanecko is now the official registered agent for C3 Presents AND, as an attorney, lists Kevin Killerman as a client.
Why any of this matters to anyone is best summed up by Derogatis:
C3 has secured an exclusive, long-term contract for the city’s largest and most prestigious public park to hold a lucrative and expensive private concert complete with corporate underwriting under the aegis of a non-profit city group and in partnership with the city itself. All of this was done without competitive bidding and with no hint of the sometimes insurmountable hurdles placed in the way of other concert promoters, or of harsh anti-music initiatives such as the rave ordinance, the promoters ordinance, and the overly zealous post-E2 wave of code enforcement raids that have hassled smaller music venues in recent years.
Ah, "Sweet Home Chicago"...indeed.