Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Pandemonium Rocks - The Australian Music Festival That Never Should Have Happened


Causing A Pandemonium

Some call it the "biggest scam since Fyrefest" , others claim it should never have happened, yet some went and had a good time just to see Alice Cooper. This is Pandemonium Rocks 2024, what was supposed to be the "savior of all Australian music festivals", boasting a huge line up back in January of Wolfmother, Wheatus, Psychedelic furs, Dead Kennedys,  Gang Of Four, Cosmic Psychos, Palaye Royale, and eccentric Hard Rock headliner acts Placebo, New Wave / Punk Rockers Blondie, Alice Cooper, and Deep Purple.

Back then, tickets were originally priced at $260 AUD ($285 in some cases after the presale). However, people began noticing red flags when the promoters would start offering "2 for 1 deals" on special holidays such as Valentine's Day and St Patricks Day, a real kick in the guts for people who already paid full price for two tickets.

But wait. The drama didn't end there. Public outcry occurred when the Sydney leg of the festival was planned to be held on the same day as ANZAC Day, a public holiday that pays respect to Australian War veterans. Some called the placement of the original location in Sydney, the Domain, distasteful. It went so far that things got political, with local fun ruiner NSW Premier Chris Minns declaring that the concert "will not go ahead" at the original location. Quickly, controversial Australian concert promoter tycoon Andrew McManus, host of the event, who's been in trouble with the law several times before, and was also the promoter for the ill fated 2022 edition of Under The Southern Stars , another failed music festival, revealed that the new date for the Sydney leg of Pandemonium Rocks was to be held at Cathy Freeman Park in the Olympic Park Precinct of NSW.

Deep Purple, one of the major acts for Australia's Pandemonium Rocks 2024, were one of the first headlining acts to drop out after the festival changes were made. They hadn't toured the country for 11 years.

Shortly after the new venue location for Sydney was announced, public started noticing bands such as Deep Purple and Dead Kennedys dropping off the bill and taking the Australian Tours off their touring section of their websites.

A since deleted 9 News story a day later revealed that the Pandemonium Rocks Festival 2024 was reportedly cancelled. As a last effort ditch, the promoters scrambled online, claimed that the show "must still go on, but with due alterations", and put on their tin foil "Fake News Media" hats on. Telling confused ticket punters to keep track of their Facebook Page for details about the festival updates due to transparency. They shortly turned off the  comments of all posts on their Facebook Page so people wouldn't complain. People waited weeks for the announcements to be made. This wasn't just for the Sydney concert, but for the whole tour. Leaving many ticket holders in the dark.

In the end, many went to Music Feed Founder, Joel King's Facebook Page as he was providing more festival updates from insider knowledge, moreso than the promoters themselves to the public.

 Alice Cooper, who ended up performing at Pandemonium Rocks 2024 with punk outfits Blondie.

After much speculation, the changes were finally announced to the public and fans weren't happy. Originally announced as a two staged event, the festival was moved down to a single stage only.

The original announcement of the "slight alterations".  It was just shy over 2 weeks after Easter when the official announcements were made. 

Bands axed, 2 Headliners drop out. No refunds. 

British alt rockers Placebo, were another popular headliner of the original bill that were axed from the festival. 

The changes were announced a few weeks after Easter. The festival was coming up only in a few weeks and people around Australia were getting anxious. Instead of "Two massive stages", there was only one. punk rockers Dead Kennedys were one of the first bands to go public about them dropping out of the festival. Then, Placebo, Petch, Gyroscope, Gang of Four and Deep Purple all announced that they won't be performing at the festival, to many fans' disappointment.

Let's hope they stick to their word. Deep Purple announce the cancellation of their Australian 2024 appearance at Pandemonium Rocks. 

This is, I believe the first time in history that Deep Purple had cancelled a full Australian tour. However, they once skipped Australia and headed to Singapore back in 2002, bizarrely in 2024, the Singapore concert for Deep Purple would be their only Asian tour. The boys have a new album coming out in the middle of the year called =1, so hopefully the tour gets bigger after it gets released, and they make a return trip to Australia within the next year. 

Many people who were sad about the cancelled bands demanded full refunds. However, the Promoter refused to give them, telling people to "support the music industry and go anyway" (what a joke), they change the ticket prices to $190 AUD, and offer people a partial $70 refund, a old hoodie piece of merchandise, or two free complimentary tickets. The $70 partial refund was meant to be spent on the Festival at the day of each event but many claim they are still yet to receive the partial refunded money, as they had to fill out a form on their online website..The Brisbane venue was changed to Eaton's Hill.

Drama, Spam & Data Breaches

If you thought things couldn't get any worse, it did. A day before the festival took place it was revealed there was a massive data breach on the Pandemonium Rocks website, revealing customer's bank details, full names and locations to people who opted in for the partial refund or hoodie request. Thankfully this didn't affect me , as I ignored those options and went straight to the bank. Their official Facebook page got taken over by spammers on the day of the concert, sharing links to a fake live stream of the festival. Admins started to delete everybody's post and block everyone who spoke ill of the festival, organization or changes. This led to frustrated members to make their own separate Pandemonium Rocks discussion pages.

The Show Must Go On 

Punk Blondie, along with Alice Cooper and a few of the remaining bands performed at Pandemonium Rocks 2024.

Despite the drama and chaos, Pandemonium Rocks surprisingly went ahead but would be lying if I said it wasn't without its issues. For starters, people paid up to $800 for a VIP Experience. There was no meet & greets, but the festivals promised a "raised platform" viewing experienced, a express line, "gourmet food". and a raised viewing platform / deck for VIP punters and VIP Disabled access. 

To make matters worse, Music Feeds reporter Joel King had information that the planned VIP Viewing Decks & Disabled Access decks were cancelled, but the admins on the Facebook Page disagreed, claiming that they were still going ahead. What they had at the day certainly wasn't a raised deck by any means. 

VIP Tent?! Photo credit - Ashley Bernstein
In most cities, the VIP deck was either barely raised or it was either a concrete platform , or on the ground. To make matters worse, the VIP deck for disabled people did end up being cancelled (despite the promoters saying they were still on).

 Caged up "like criminals", shocking imagery of the VIP disabled access for Sydney, with no raised deck. People could not see behind others standing up. The VIP section was further away from the stage than people at the front. Photo credit: Joel King

But how did the main acts fair? The ones left were Wolfmother, Cosmic Psychos, Psychedelic Furs, Wheatus, Blondie and Alice Cooper. Palaye Royale dropped out at the last minute due to health complications with their mother, who sadly died shortly after the announcement. They were replaced by last minute fill in local acts for each venue.

Many people said that most of the bands that were there did well, despite being disappointed by the many that dropped out. However, attendances to each venue were reportedly very low, from 6000, Sydney reportedly had 3000, and Gold Coast & Brisbane had probably fewer. The Newcastle leg had to be changed to an inner venue. It pretty much ended up being Alice Cooper and Blondie live with a couple of bands before them.

What Does Australian Consumer Law Say About Refunds?

Check out this interview I did with Australian Consumer magazine Choice, regarding the Pandemonium Rocks Festival changes and our rights to get fully refunded if major changes occur after you bought tickets. Despite what both OZTIX and APEX Entertainment's Andrew McManus claim, under Australian Consumer Law, we have a right for full refunds despite what their conditions say. Many people like me had to contact our bank to receive a Charge back, some like myself are still waiting. I also, like many contacted the ACCC, and plan to go to NSW Fair Trading if Chargeback request fails. People in Australia affected by changes like these in music festivals have a right to full refunds.

The Death Of Australian Music Festivals

Like it or not, music festivals in Australia are certainly dying. Many are being cancelled one after the other. Pandemonium Rocks has just made things worse and make people lose even more faith in the Music Festival industry. What I find great about all this though, is i've noticed this year especially, the resurgence of pub concerts. Big rock bands from US  / UK etc touring Australia and doing pub shows. I've already seen a couple of great gigs this year at places like Bridge Hotel and the Crowbar, planning to go to the Factory Theatre a few times later on in the year to see a couple of people. Glenn Hughes is touring Australia in September. It's kind of a way for him to make up for Purple's cancellation I guess. 

Final Thoughts

So what happened to me during the Pandemonium Rocks festival drama ?  I was really disappointed about it all. I got two tickets when they were first announced, hoping to see Deep Purple again and in the end I had to give the two free complimentary tickets away to someone who wanted to see Alice Cooper, which I was happy about because I did something nice. But i'm still awaiting a charge back from my bank for the full refunds of the tickets, as we did not get what was originally promised. I hope this is the first and last time that Pandemonium Rocks takes place. I hope the music festival scene in Australia dies a slow and horrible death. I'd never been to a music festival before this and the only reason why I was interested was because of Deep Purple headlining, a band I have loved since Childhood. I've only seen them a couple of times during my life time live and Andrew McManus dashed the hopes of me seeing them again anytime soon. We need to bring back the traditional concert tours. I hope the Australian justice system catches up to Andrew McManus again, I got an email from ACCC a day before the first concert saying they will be investigating, so I hope to see what happens. 

I have nothing against the bands that ended up performing, but Australians need to be protected by Consumer Law in case if these dodgy changes ever happen again, and I really hope McManus never holds another music festival ever again. He needs to be blacklisted from the entertainment industry. Go to local gigs. Support venues & buy albums. 
For people like me who are still waiting around on getting chargebacks from the bank, I wish them the best of luck.


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