Just when we thought we had heard the last from the Unity Summit Music Festival, the organizers behind the aborted event have been slapped with a lawsuit.
Phoenix New Times learned this week that Sedona Bottling Company filed suit on March 15 against Jackfruit Studios, one of the organizers behind the failed event. The drink company is alleging breach of contract and fraud, among other charges.
According to the lawsuit, Jackfruit never returned the $25,000 deposit Sedona Bottling paid on October 11, 2018, to be the exclusive water vendor of the festival.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that Jackfruit's Runar Berntsen and Ty Pursley made a number of false statements on a phone call to induce the company to enter into an agreement with them, including:
• Berntsen said he was about to sign Norwegian DJ Kygo to perform and that actors and media influencers were coming in to promote a movie that Jackfruit was working on.
• Pursley claimed Pepsi was interested in being an exclusive vendor at the event, which induced Sedona Bottling Company to sign.
The company is asking the reimbursement of $25,000 plus interest, court costs, and lawyer fees, and any other relief the court deems appropriate.
As New Times reported last November, the music festival was charging anywhere from $75 to $1,200 for a ticket to the event. They declined to send us even a lineup. Runar Berntsen of Jackfruit Studios and Delyric Entertainment, founded by former Phoenix mayoral candidate Alexandra de Scheel and business partner Adam Young, hyped the event through social media, but nothing came about.
When we visited the festival grounds several days before the event, no event setup had taken place. Officials at the city of Mesa’s Licensing Department confirmed that no permits had been filed under the venue’s address, 1901 North Alma School Road, or the name Unity Summit Music Festival.
In the days following our reporting, the festival’s Eventbrite page and WordPress-created website were taken down. A “Legends” show went on in its place. Mellow Man Ace, DJ Rectangle, and Iakopo performed at Maya New York Pizza Bar and Grill, located at 223 East Brown Road in Mesa. The festival was then postponed to April 20, 2019. According to a Facebook post on November 21, 2018, Berntsen stated that he is no longer affiliated with the festival's co-founder Neil “King Trick" Westbrooks.
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According to the festival’s Facebook page, they have changed their name to DAZE Music Festival, which is now scheduled to take place on April 3, 2020. No lineup has been announced. If your band is interested in performing, drop them a line at firstname.lastname@example.org (it's your funeral).
New Times has yet to receive word if anyone actually purchased a ticket to the original Unity Summit Music Festival. A number of local and regional artists that were slated to perform reached out to us, describing chaos and unprofessional behavior behind the scenes. They stated that they were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements and were strung along waiting for payments that would never come.
New Times reached out to Sedona Bottling Company’s lawyer and to Jackfruit Studios. No response was received at press time.
New Times staff writer Steven Hsieh contributed to this report.