John Prine won't be there. John Stewart won't either. Neither will Jerry Jeff Walker, the New Riders or several other acts originally advertised as appearing at Stompin' 79, the three-day country-rock festival set for this coming weekend in Bruceton Mills, W. Va.
Promoters of the festival listed 13 acts two weeks ago in their initial advertising in Washington and Baltimore alternative journals and on a number of radio stations. Only six of those have signed contracts. And agents for seven acts said this week that they had either turned down offers or had never been contacted about performing at the festival.
Other acts that have been advertised but will not appear include Le-Roux, Sea Level, Rick Danko/Paul Butterfield Band, Nantucket and Papa John Creach.
Arne Max, advertising manager of Stompin' 79, blamed the confusion on problems of communication with promoter Jack Utsick -- who is based in Maine but has been acting as a talent buyer for Stompin' 79. Utsick was not available for comment yesterday. Max also cited problems in getting confirmations from talent agencies, and the festival's inexperienced advertising staff, which listed acts before they were signed.
Hal Abramson, the sole promoter of Stompin' 79, hired Utsick to buy talent for him since Abramson is not a year-round promoter. Abramson also put on the last such festival, Stompin' 76, which drew 150,000 people to Galax, Va. -- 100,000 of whom neglected to pay the admission fee, causing Abramson tremendous losses. Still, he says he could not turn down the opportunity to put on what he call "the last great festival of the decade".
Another problem, Max said, arose from trying to put a festival together in little more than a month.Most festivals require at least twice that lead time to cover advertising, physical preparations of the festival site and other logistical problems.
Many festivals (bluegrass in particular) offer disclaimers -- in their advertising and on their tickets -- that acts are subject to change. "It's an unfortunate situation," says Max, "but now it's been corrected." All current radio spots carry such a disclaimer.
Al Markowitz, who is handling public relations for the festival, reports that approximately 15,000 tickets had been sold as of Monday afternoon and that, contrary to previously advertised policy, tickets would be sold at the gate. The promoters are hoping for a crowd of 50,000 and -- despite the late changes -- Markowitz insists that "the show will definitely go on."
The list of current confirmed performers: Jonathan Edwards, Pure Prairie League, Orleans, Tom Rush, the Earl Scruggs Revue, Dixie Dregs, Stillwater, the Dirt Band and the Dillards. Several local acts will also appear, and Max claimed that negotiations were continuing on other national performers.