The weekend of August 11th, 2012, saw the happening of one of the biggest Electronic Dance Music festivals thrown thus far in the Big Island Scene. The Flatline Music Festival was responsible for bringing in at least a thousand people to the Kavafarm for a night of good fun, good people and good vibes. Few events held at the Kavafarm have been able to reach the capacity that Flatline was able to, being advertised on multiple islands and heavily promoted on the Big Island, but despite their initial success, there is a bit of controversy surrounding the event…
Zack Gibson, 46, and caretaker of the Kavafarm, has presented allegations against Jake Thompson, 29, of PayDay HI, stating that he had walked away from the event with all of the proceeds made near the end of the night. Gibson said that the two were supposed to have a meeting around 6 a.m. and that Thompson was to show “complete transparency” but before that could happen, he saw Thompson and two helpers pack up and drive away from the venue a few hours before the designated time of the meeting.
Gibson, better known as the “Kavaman,” is the caretaker of of Pu’u'ala Ranch and Farm while his family and wife, Johanna, are the owners. Located on the northern part of Big Island, the Kavafarm resides on the immensely beautiful Hamakua coast. Pu’u'ala is commonly referred to as the “Kavafarm” and has been on the land for over a hundred years. It is the second biggest organic farm on Big Island and hosts a multitude of vegetables and plants other than just Kava. The Gibson family gained ownership over the land back in 1995 and have been responsible for its upkeep and success since then.
Gibson said he was approached by Thompson, an Oahu-based promoter, with the idea of Flatline earlier this year on the night of Party In Paradise, another EDM-based event held at the Kavafarm. Shortly after discussing minute details, Gibson said the two made a verbal contract with one another. He said the details of the party were “so easy, that they could not easily be forgotten.” The verbal contract stated by Gibson was thus: Money made from the door and presales would be split 50/50, after paying for the security and the bathrooms. The production would be taken care of by Thompson while Gibson provides the venue. Kahiwi Victorino, Boay promoter and one half of the brotherly dubstep duo Ohm Grown, confirms that this is the way that Gibson normally works and they have always been able to come to responsible agreement on proceeds after splitting costs on certain things. Gibson also states that Thompson was responsible for bringing at least an extra 20 trashcans and a medical and police official to the event. Expecting a larger audience than they are normally equipped for, Gibson wanted to be prepared for and ready to handle a crowd of this magnitude.
On the night of, Gibson said that Thompson had enacted a few policies for the night that he and his workers didn’t necessarily agree with. There was an added reentry fee of $2 if you had to go back to your car for any reason. You were not allowed to bring in any personal water bottles, but you could purchase a 16 oz water bottle inside for $3. (Gibson and his workers normally provide a filtered water spigot for people to use – for free) Also, Gibson said that Thompson was allowing people to bring in alcohol and bottles of liquor, against his preference not to. Other problems of the night included a multitude of fights that broke out, but Gibson credits the hired security for doing a good job and dispersing conflicts. Gibson and K.C. Mitchell, Gibson’s personal production manager for events, were also unhappy with what the MC and promoters from the Oahu scene were saying and promoting over the mic later in the evening, a stark contrast to the positive tones and vibes provided by people from the Big Island scene. Mitchell said that what was stated had to the potential to “ruin all future events in and of itself” at the Kavafarm.
According to Gibson’s personal employees working at the door, 512 people paid at the door and 424 people arrived with presale tickets. So combined, the profits made from just these sales alone were about $22,360. Gibson said that he had no idea about the VIP sales that were being done online for the event, so this number could potentially be bigger. Events thrown at the Kavafarm are meant to help the venue financially according to Gibson and not receiving payment has taken a serious toll on the morale and finances of himself, his workers, and his family. The aftermath of the event has left the Kavafarm in a continual state of needed repair and has been an exhaustive effort to keep up with. Gibson said there was broken glass everywhere, crops were deliberately driven over, and without the money from the event, he has been unable to pay his workers. Mitchell said that people were passing out mid-job after working 6-7 days straight of constant work in the days following the Flatline Music Festival.
The difficulty of this whole situation is that it was based on a verbal contract. Since there was no legitimate contract written up for the event, there is no clear evidence for what was violated and what wasn’t. The Gibson family has been throwing events at the Kavafarm for about 10 years now, ranging from EDM to Reggae, and has said this is always the way they have done business. But all that there is to go on are the words of Mr. Gibson and Mr. Thompson, but Thompson and other Flatline promoters have been unwilling to address Gibson’s allegations publicly. Shortly after the event happened, the website for the festival was taken down as well… I tried to get a hold of Thompson and fellow promoters for their side of the story but was unsuccessful before publication.
Despite the initial turmoil experienced by Gibson and the Kavafarm, they are still persisting and holding events at the venue. A few weeks have passed and Flatline seems to have drifted into the background but the controversy surrounding it still persists. What really happened between Gibson and Thompson? Was there a problem with the way the proceeds were distributed? There is not enough evidence to clearly dictate who was wrong, but there is something to be learned from this. Gibson said that from now on he will write up contracts for events so as to hopefully avoid another incident like the Flatline Music Festival and remains optimistic for the future of the venue.
Kava, or Hawaiian Awa, is a drink derived from the roots of the Awa plant. The root of the plant is harvested, washed, and then pulverized into a mash, followed by being filtered through cloth and mixed with fresh water. The resulting concoction is a drink similar to alcohol, but without the serious side affects. Kava has sedative and anesthetic properties that cause your body to relax without losing any mental clarity, and can set the tone for a laid-back night of fun and laughter between friends. Typically, a person never makes their own cup, but rather is served to you by another person. This is in remembrance of how it was done traditionally where the drink was prepared by and shared from one friend to another. Kava is considered to be a natural antidepressant and relaxant, and is apart of many rituals and ceremonies in Polynesian culture.