By Bob Patterson
Here in the Bay Area, we are lucky to have a great community of local culture and music writers. I end up spending a few hours a week enjoying the work of other local writers in a wide variety of publications. But as of this last week, I can no longer trust that the music opinions of SF Sounds aren’t being used to settle the business scores of its publisher.
When I first saw this issue’s cover story ‘The Backstreet Boys of Bluegrass’ about The Brothers Comatose I thought it was pretty funny and was interested in some burns about the dorky coordinated dance moves they throw into their shows. What I got instead was a noticeably unhinged hit piece that was baffling in scale. I have nothing against calling out a bad show, bad behavior or even hating a band, but there was obviously something else going on for SF Sounds to go all in on a local, indie bluegrass band. I can understand how The Brothers Comatose might not be your thing, but I find their music to be generally interesting and fun.
The second fishy part of this story is that it wasn’t attributed to an author, and even has this bizarre correction online alerting readers that the person originally credited with the story, did not, in fact, write it. “Print copies incorrectly attributed the author as Patrick Knowles.” It turns out there is someone at SF Sounds that might have a reason to hate The Brothers Comatose, and this motive is even in the damn story. I am talking about SF Sounds publisher Jason Perkins, who in the past, has already been called out for not self-identifying in editorials (among other concerns).
In the story, we don’t learn a lot, but we do learn that one of the reasons The Brothers Comatose should be scolded is alleged bad behavior by them and their fans at Comatopia, a festival hosted by the band at Sierra Valley Lodge in 2016.
“…Comatopia which took place in the Sierras in August 2016. Recruiting a solid lineup of really good bands, the band was able to say they finally headlined a festival – a major cornerstone of any bands’ career. While the festival sold well, the band’s performance was a disaster that finished with one member throwing up on stage and another falling over in a drunken stupor. This resulted in the band being unable to finish their own set at their own festival…The Festival which was staged at Sierra Valley Lodge, resulted in so many complaints from the county that the lodge lost their music license and so is now shuttered as a result of the Brothers’ Comatopia’s event and behavior…”
One thing not mentioned here is that Jason Perkins was a co-owner of the Sierra Valley Lodge (It has since changed hands) and managing partner of Parish Entertainment Group (PEG). Even if we didn’t believe Perkins was the author, this should be disclosed. It should also be noted that this was actually the second time that Comatopia was held in this location (this year will be the third overall), even though it is being positioned as the first.
Sources at Comatopia have disputed the reports of vomiting on stage and the other claims made here, but in the interest of fairness here is a source provided by SF Sounds:
“It was a fun festival, remarked Arnold Danko, production head of the festival, “but the Brothers Comatose performance was the worst headliner set I’ve ever seen on a stage especially when we had to clean up the vomit and equipment for the real bands…The band’s out of control attitude was the major nail in our coffin and ended Sierra Valley Lodge as a beautiful summer venue,” rues Danko as he reflected that it was the only event out of five festivals the Lodge had hosted last summer that resulted in complaints – and their lodge’s closure.”
While this seems like a damning report, after reaching out to several sources it is clear that Arnold Danko doesn’t exist and this quote appears to be a total fabrication. There is an Arnold Mitchem who has headed production for several other events at the Sierra Valley Lodge, but I was able to confirm that he was not at Comatopia and did not give this quote to SF Sounds.
The Sierra Valley Lodge seems to have been embroiled in a long fight with the Sierra County government and even assuming The Brothers Comatose were as bad as described, it’s likely they are being pulled into a proxy war between the author and Sierra County.
In addition to owning the venue for Comatopia, Jason Perkins’ PEG was also the promoter for Comatopia 2016. Perhaps we can speculate that Perkins is peeved that Comatopia is using a different promoter in 2017. Comatopia 2017 has already been announced at a new location in North Fork, CA this August. So, in essence, we have two major conflicts here that aren’t being disclosed, that the author owned the venue and was the promoter. It should also be noted that at the time of the 2016 festival, eight months before the SF Sounds story, all indications pointed to a positive experience.
I am not writing this because I don’t like Jason Perkins. I don’t know Mr. Perkins. I’ve met him once, and he was perfectly nice if a little confrontational. But in many ways, this confrontational style has served music lovers here in the Bay Area very well, as he has managed to create and preserve the venues we love like The New Parish, Brick + Mortar, and the many other PEG properties. He also has been a constant check on the abuses of the SF Entertainment Commission.
I can commend Perkins for supporting the music community with SF Sounds, but the complete lack of journalistic integrity in this story is unacceptable. There are print copies of falsehoods being distributed at venues all over the Bay Area. Whatever issues Mr. Perkins has with The Brothers Comatose should not be disguised as a music editorial and frankly, they probably deserve a retraction. Before we can trust anything written by SF Sounds again they need to install an independent editorial staff, abstain from quoting fabricated sources, and disclose any potential conflicts. As it stands this is like the 98 Degrees of shitty hit journalism.
Header Image is an edit of an original image via SF Sounds