A Northern California festival flagged by several Amplify readers as too good to be true has just declared itself “best new music festival” in a phony press release sent out over PR Newswire this morning.
“XO Festival in Antioch, California has all the ingredients and more of an amazing summer festival,” reads the release, carefully excluding the fact that the $27,000 contract event producers had signed to stage the event at the Contra Costa Event Park in Antioch falls woefully short of the promised massive three-day, 20,000 person, eight-stage festival organizers have begun selling tickets for using a phony sizzle video of spliced together b-roll.
The press release also fails to mention that the man staging the event, Habibullah Qadir, had been arrested in February along with his brother for participating in a complex real estate scheme to defraud Fremont, California landlords using bad checks, fake identities and false bank statements. Making it worse, Contra Costa Event Park CEO Joe Brengle was caught by Amplify trying to conceal Qadir’s involvement in the festival at the state-owned fairgrounds he is supposed to oversee. Qadir later admitted to Amplify in an email that he had alerted Brengle that Amplify was asking questions about the event.
But all these problems haven’t slowed XO Fest organizers, who sent out a phony press release this morning attributed to a PR person we verified doesn’t exist, declaring “This year, XO Music Festival is labeled ‘best music festival in Northern California.’ The nomination is obtained by public preference as well as industry professionals.”
So here is the deal. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, voted for this festival to be the best anything. There was never a vote taken. The festival has like 40 Twitter followers, so we’re not sure where they are getting this public preference line. In fact XO Fest is like Fyre Fest if Fyre Fest took place at a rundown fairground in the middle of Nowhere, California (I lived in Antioch from ages 10 to 14 and am allowed to say that).
The amount of dishonesty and deception coming from both Qadir, and in part from fair manager Joe Brengle who really should know better, is astounding. What’s particularly baffling is that Qadir continues to lie about his resources for the event, inventing a publicist named ‘Rob Hardy’ as the author of the press release, but then listing the phone number for the Contra Costa Event Park as his contact number. When one calls 925-757-4400, as we did this morning, they quickly learn no person name Rob Hardy works there.
If that wasn’t a big enough headache, Qadir now has a new problem on his hands — a trademark fight with the owners of the actual XOXO Festival in Portland, Oregon. Sources tell Amplify that officials with the Pacific Northwest event organized by technologist and blogger, Andy Baio, the former CTO of Kickstarter, say the original XOXO fest filed a trademark for the name in 2016. When Baio’s group discovered the Northern California event had applied for the same trademark, they sent multiple cease and desist letters.
When those were ignored, Baio’s group began initiating trademark takedowns on the social media sites for the Northern California event. Knowing they had a losing case, lawyers for the fake XOXO eventually relented and began changing the name of the event to XO Festival, although the old name is still being used on the event’s sizzle video and across the festival’s website.
The owners of XOXO Festival in Portland could seek damages for the trademark violation, although our sources tell us they just want the name changed to avoid confusion with their event. Meanwhile, Qadir is due in court May 31 to face a pretrial hearing on a litany of fraud charges related to the real estate scheme including grand theft, identity theft, filing false financial statements and felony vandalism and is currently free on $100,000 bail.
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