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Wave of illegal concerts sweeps South America

Thousands of South Americans attended illegal, non-socially distanced concerts and parties over the Easter weekend, with authorities making arrests across the continent as national governments continue to battle the coronavirus with varying degrees of success.

South America remains a hotspot for Covid-19 – with high mortality rates in Brazil, Peru, Chile and Paraguay of particular cause for concern – though the recent unlicensed live events suggest some people are beginning to chafe under ongoing restrictions on indoor gatherings.

In the town of Turuku, in Ecuador’s northern Imbabura province, local government officials, national police and the armed forces shut down an unlicensed music festival, Killary Fest, which would have been attended by an estimated 5,000 people.

Despite dismantling the stage and confiscating much of Killary Fest’s equipment, including speakers, authorities returned on the evening of Friday 2 April to “learn that, despite the warnings, the party was starting”, reports El Comercio. When they again moved to shut down the event, police and soldiers were pelted with sticks and stones by revellers.

The incident follows months of parties, concerts and other unlawful events in Ecuador, reports El Comercio.

In Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in Chile, a local election candidate is being held by police after organising a concert in a former hospital, attended by around 100 people.

Brazilian police continue to target illegal parties, which are being blamed for the surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths

In addition to not seeking permission for the event, Juan Pablo Martinez – who is standing in upcoming city council elections – failed to enforce mandatory social distancing and mask wearing at the clandestine concert, according to prosecutor Rina Blanco.

The show “endangered public health, given the number of people in close contact, and who he invited,” Blanco comments.

A music venue in Morón, near Buenos Aires in Argentina, has been shut down for 30 days after video emerged of cumbia singer Pablo Lescano playing to a non-socially distanced audience.

The event, which many have dubbed “el recital covid” (the Covid concert), was harshly criticised by the mayor of Morón, Lucas Ghi, who says organiser Vaprisana “worship[s] mischief, deception and the violation in rules” – comparing the club unfavourably to the honest businesspeople of the city, who “adhere to the norms and protocols required by the pandemic”.

Brazilian police also continue to target illegal parties, which are being blamed for the surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths in South America’s most populous country.

The most recent brought together around 100 people – half of whom were caught not wearing face masks – in the city of Sao Paolo last weekend. According to local press, the three organisers were arrested, while the venue was fined R$190,000 (€28,000).

 


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Bogus booking agents arrested in New York

Two women who allegedly scammed a charity out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by posing as booking agents for artists including Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, Drake and Ed Sheeran have been arrested by police in New York.

Under the name Canvas Media Group, Nancy Jean and Carissa Scott conspired to defraud investors in events including a benefit concert for the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, set up by relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, according to prosecutors.

As alleged in the US district attorney for eastern New York’s complaint against the pair, Jean and Scott were contacted last September by the organiser of a concert at the 64,000-seat Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, in aid of the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation.

Prosecutors say Canvas Media “falsely represented that they could book top-tier musical acts to perform at the concert, and provided the investor with a contract for a total fee of [US]$500,000 that purported to commit Timberlake to perform”.

One investor in the benefit show then sent a $100,000 deposit to Jean and Scott, which they allegedly later used for personal expenses or withdrew as cash.

“Subsequently, when Timberlake’s social media account failed to mention or promote the event, the investor requested confirmation that Timberlake was booked,” the complaint continues. “In response, the investor received a telephone call from an unidentified individual who falsely claimed to be Timberlake’s manager. The unidentified individual stated that Timberlake would perform at the concert, but that the fee would have to be raised to between $800,000 and $1 million.”

“Simple stealing is bad enough, this is worse”

When the investor baulked at the increased ‘fee’, Canvas Media said Bruno Mars could perform instead of Timberlake for $600,000.

Scott also reportedly claimed she could book other top-tier artists for the concert, including Drake, Flo Rida and Ed Sheeran.

“As alleged, the defendants viewed a fundraiser for a charity formed to protect children from gun violence as an opportunity to commit fraud and line their own pockets,” comments Richard Donoghue, United States attorney for the eastern district of New York. “Simple stealing is bad enough, this is worse.”

According to the New York Post, Jean and Scott have been banned from working as agents or promoters while awaiting trial.

William Sweeney Jnr, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, says: “Nancy Jean and Carissa Scott may have been able to realise a quick profit as a result of their alleged fraudulent booking scheme, but not long after their illegal activity took off they landed in New York to face federal criminal charges.

“It’s discouraging to think these defendants were willing to defraud an investor supporting a charity foundation. Fortunately, the FBI doesn’t entertain such activity.”

Justin Timberlake is no stranger to agency scams, having been one of a number of high-profile artists targeted by scammers pretending to be his representative, alongside artists such as Adele, Eminem and Mark Knopfler.

 


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Numerous arrests made post Wembley Arena show

Police in London responded to “significant disorder” following a Kiss FM-promoted concert at the 12,500-capacity SSE Arena, Wembley, on Friday night (25 October).

Acts playing at the sold-out, Halloween-themed Kiss Haunted House Party included Stormzy, Sean Paul, Young T and Bugsey, Anne-Marie, Liam Payne, Jax Jones and Aitch.

“Officers are on scene at Wembley Arena following significant disorder after the Kiss Haunted House event,” read a post on the Twitter page of the local police service at 11.44 p.m. on Friday evening.

“Numerous arrests have been made, officers are asking people to disperse immediately to the nearby tube stations.”

No injuries were reported.

“The safety of event-goers is of huge priority to us”

“The safety of event-goers is of huge priority to us. We have cooperated fully with the venue and police to ensure a swift resolve to any issues,” said a spokesperson for the event.

The unrest followed the sixth edition of Haunted House Party, hosted by UK urban and dance music radio station Kiss, which has seen past performances from the likes of Rita Ora, Stefflon Don and Jess Glynne.

The SSE Arena, Wembley, which is operated by the newly formed ASM Global, celebrated its busiest year on record in 2018, with an even busier year expected for 2019.

 


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Updated: Live industry reacts to Catalan leaders’ arrests

The team behind Barcelona festival Primavera Sound is among those to have released a statement in support of “the free exercise of democracy”, following the arrest of nine leaders of the 2017 Catalan independence movement.

“In the face of the guilty verdict from the Spanish Supreme Court against the Catalan politicians and activists, Primavera Sound manifests its unconditional support to the free exercise of democracy and of dialogue to reach an understanding to resolve political conflicts,” reads the statement from the Primavera team, which also runs events in Portugal and Los Angeles.

“The criminalisation of peaceful movements and civil demonstrations sets a dangerous precedent for everybody.”

The statement follows yesterday’s (14 October) sentencing of nine politicians and activists to 9 – 13 years in prison for “sedition” and “misuse of public funds”. A further three defendants were found guilty of “disobedience” and released on bail.

The individuals on trial organised the Catalan independence referendum in 2017 and declared independence of Catalonia, a semi-autonomous region in northeast Spain, from the rest of the country. The referendum and ruling were later declared illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court.

“From the team of people that make up Primavera Sound,” continues the statement, “we want to show our empathy and support to all those condemned and to their families at this time. And, as always, we call for debate and serene, civil and peaceful expression.”

The organisers of Festival Cruilla, which also takes place at Primavera Sound home Parc del Forum, shared an image with the Catalan words: La presó no es la solució – imprisonment is not a solution, in English.

“The criminalisation of peaceful movements and civil demonstrations sets a dangerous precedent for everybody”

The Catalan association of agents, promoters and managers (Associació de Representants, Promotors i Mànagers de Catalunya) has also spoken out against the arrests.

“As a representative body of the live music sector, the ARC Association expresses its rejection of the Supreme Court’s condemning sentence against the Catalan social and political leaders,” reads a statement on the association’s Twitter page.

Catalan venues and cultural centres have also showed their solidarity with the jailed leaders, with the Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture, La Nau Bòstik and Sala Flyhard among those to close their doors in protest.

Barcelona opera house el Gran Teatre del Liceu issued a statement to saying, “we defend political dialogue as the only pathway for the urgent resolution of this conflict.” Programming is continuing as normal as the opera house, which serves as “an open space for freedom of expression”.

Another figure of the classical music scene, the Catalan choral society (Orfeó Català), weighed in to say that the sentencing “worsens the situation in the country and leaves the conflict further from being resolved”.

A whole host of Catalan artists have also expressed support for the leaders, including pop group El Amics de les Arts, folk band Els Catarres, reggae group Oques Grasses, guitarist Mazoni and singers Sílvia Pérez Cruz, Núria Graham, Cesk Freixas and Gerard Quintana.

 


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‘Satanic’ metal band arrested on terror charges in Georgia

Two members of veteran Greek extreme metal band Rotting Christ were detained on terrorism charges ahead of show in Georgia last Thursday, after authorities accused them of practising satanism, their record label has said.

According to a statement from Season of Mist, frontman Sakis Tolis was detained alongside his brother, drummer Themis, after being arrested on arrival in Tbilisi on Thursday 12 June on charges allegedly relating to their band name.

Sakis explains: “After the regular document check at the border, my brother and I were stopped by the police on our way out from the airport. After some minutes, we were ordered to follow police to another area of the airport under the pretence of further questioning before entering the country. Instead, we had our passports and mobile phones taken away and were led into a prison cell.

“When we demanded to be told the reason for this arrest, we were simply told this information would be ‘confidential’. Our lawyers informed us later that we are on a list of unwanted persons [regarded a threat to] national security that branded us as satanists and therefore suspects of terrorism.”

The incident has echoes of the controversy around heavy metal music in Egypt, where metal acts have found themselves arrested and shows shut down after being branded devil worshippers by conservative Muslims.

Around 84% of Georgians are Orthodox Christians, although the constitution of the former Soviet republic safeguards freedom of belief and religion.

“There is “no jail that can stop our endless lust for metal”

Sakis says the pair were locked in a “small and rather dirty cell, and without being permitted any contact to the outside world or legal representation or our embassy for 12 hours”, before the promoters of the RedRum event, Sweden’s Terror Crew Promotions and Georgia’s Locomotive Promotion, intervened and the band were released without charge.

“Due to the hard work of the local promoter, who involved legal experts, journalists, and activists in Georgia, we were finally released,” he explains. “We are extremely grateful to everybody involved in this process. In the end, we were even able to perform our show and it turned out to be a fantastic night.”

In a follow-up statement, Sakis says there is “no jail that can stop our endless lust for metal, and we promise that we will always be frontline in the battle against any kind of god-fearing regimes, as well as any kind of terrorism, independent of where they come from. Freedom of speech to everyone, brothers.”

Rotting Christ are regarded as pioneers of black metal in Greece and the Balkans, and have released 12 studio albums since their formation in 1987. Their name has previously attracted controversy in the US, when Gary Bauer, a minor Republican presidential candidate in the 2000 elections, accused the band of being “anti-Catholic”, and Malta, where Roman Catholic groups have protested against their shows.

They were also forced to cancel an appearance in Greece in 2005 after Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine – an outspoken born-again Christian – refused to play on the same bill.

 


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UK Trading Standards arrests four in anti-tout raids

British consumer protection body National Trading Standards has made four arrests as part of its investigation into the business activities of large-scale secondary ticket sellers.

The existence of the investigation, which began in April 2017 and focuses on “businesses that buy and sell tickets in bulk”, was revealed last month when news broke that competition watchdog CMA had raided the London offices of StubHub and Viagogo. It is believed to be codenamed ‘Operation Electra’.

The arrests are linked to alleged breaches of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations act of 2008, the UK version of the EU Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, which seeks to protect consumers from “unfair, misleading or aggressive selling practices”.

While National Trading Standards has not named the four individuals, or the companies they represent, Viagogo in particular has been criticised for masquerading as an ‘official site’ for concert tickets, which could potentially breach the 2008 legislation. It was also recently criticised by French authorities for allegedly misleading consumers on the number of tickets available by suggesting they are about to sell out.

“Yesterday (Tuesday 12 December), officers from National Trading Standards conducted raids at a number of properties across the UK,” a National Trading Standards spokesperson says in a statement. “These raids are part of an ongoing investigation looking into unfair practices in the secondary ticketing market and particularly the practices of businesses that buy and sell tickets in bulk.

“These raids are part of an ongoing investigation looking into unfair practices in the secondary ticketing market”

“A total of four properties were raided and four people were arrested under suspicion of breaches of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. In addition to the arrests, a range of equipment, including computers, mobile phones and storage devices, have been seized as evidence.

“The raids, led by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, were supported by local police, specialist police officers and the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team.

“National Trading Standards has also been working closely with the Competition and Markets Authority, which announced on 28 November that it will take action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer protection law.”

National Trading Standards declined to comment further.

“FanFair Alliance welcomes what sounds like a comprehensive raid by National Trading Standards,” reads a statement from the anti-touting campaign group. “With new legislation due for enforcement in 2018, and the Competition and Markets Authority promising action against secondary ticketing sites that break consumer protection laws, this should mark the beginning of a long-awaited clean-up of this market.”

 


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Primavera Sound condemns arrests of Catalan leaders

Barcelona festival Primavera Sound has condemned the arrests of more than a dozen Catalan politicians on the orders of the Spanish government, saying it stands “united” with all those who “suffered a violation of their fundamental civil rights” in today’s police action.

The paramilitary Civil Guard this morning raided government offices in Barcelona a bid to halt the planned 1 October vote on independence for Catalonia, detaining 14 officials, including the region’s vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, and seizing computer equipment and nearly 10m ballot papers.

Spain has also announced it is to take back much of the region’s devolved spending powers, in what Catalan president Carles Puigdemont says amounts to the suspension of self-government and the imposition of a “de facto state of emergency”.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy defended the crackdown, saying Spain “had to act”, and that there is “no democratic state in the world that would accept what these people are trying to do” (apparently forgetting there was a state-sanctioned referendum in Scotland almost exactly three years ago).

“We at Primavera Sound condemn any action that prevents the free and full exercise of democratic rights”

“Primavera Sound cannot and does not want to keep quiet about the events that have taken place over the past few days in Catalonia and especially what has taken place today in Barcelona, the city which hosts the festival,” reads a statement from Primavera Sound, issued this afternoon. “This is why we want to publicly manifest our support for all the institutions, bodies and people that in the last few hours have suffered a violation of their fundamental civil rights.

“Aside from ideologies and political inclinations, we at Primavera Sound condemn any action that prevents the free and full exercise of these democratic rights, and we urge all those who feel assaulted to take a serene, civic and peaceful stance in the face this adversity. Today we stand united.”

Football club FC Barcelona has also criticised the police action, saying it is committed to “the defence of the nation, to democracy, to freedom of speech and to self-determination, [and] condemns any act that may impede the free exercise of these rights”.

 


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Tout who made ¥10m from Arashi tickets arrested

A 25-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of illegally touting tickets to concerts by Japanese boyband Arashi.

According to police in the city of Sapporo, quoted by Fuji TV, Izumi Nakayama is alleged to have resold online 300 tickets over a period of 18 months to the tune of approximately ¥10 million (US$98,450).

Popular ‘idol’ group Arashi (pictured) only sell tickets to members of their fan club, and announced in April that facial-recognition technology would be used to prevent those who had purchased secondary-market tickets attending their Japonism Show arena tour.

“There’s no problem if you buy a ticket to use yourself, end up unable to do so due to circumstances and then resell it”

The group have also lent their support to the #ResaleNO anti-ticket touting campaign, which is backed by leading industry groups and last month took out full-page ads in a number of Japanese newspapers.

According to RocketNews24, Nakayama is accused of violating the Secondhand Articles Dealer Act, as she lacked the permit needed to resell the tickets. Authorities also apparently took exception to her buying up the tickets with the sole intent of resale: reports the website: “According to the website of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police,” reports RocketNews24, “there’s no problem if you buy a ticket to use yourself, end up unable to do so due to circumstances and then resell it. However, that clearly wasn’t the case with Nakayama, who has admitted to the authorities that she intended from the very beginning to resell the tickets.”

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2016, there are a number of well-known secondary ticketing sites in Japan, with the most established including TicketStreet, Ticket Camp and Ticket Ryutsu Center. Unlike Nakayama, large-scale resellers on those sites presumably have the proper permits.

 


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428 arrests but no deaths at Nocturnal Wonderland

Police made over 400 arrests at Nocturnal Wonderland at the San Manuel Amphitheater in California last weekend, but – in news that bodes well for promoter Insomniac’s strained relationship with San Bernardino County – there were no recorded deaths.

A total of 428 people – one in every 157 of the EDM event’s 67,195 attendees – were arrested, the majority for trespassing, public intoxication and possession of ecstasy, says the San Bernardino sheriff’s department, and 20 people hospitalised, but, like sister event Beyond Wonderland in late March, the festival was fatality-free.

A proposal to ban raves at the 65,000-capacity amphitheatre was struck down by San Bernardino County councillors in June, although Janice Rutherford, the councillor (or ‘supervisor’) behind the original motion is attempting to revive the bill following the deaths of two young people at Hard Summer at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana – promoted by Insomniac parent company Live Nation – last month.

 


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Egyptian promoter arrested over Sepultura show

An Egyptian musician and concert promoter was arrested on Saturday night after police shut down a “satanic party” in Cairo featuring Brazilian death metal band Sepultura.

Witnesses reported that Nader Sadek and two other people, including the owner of the villa where the concert was taking place, were taken into custody and interrogated after police, acting on instructions from the National Defence Council, raided the concert, at which Sadek and other local acts were also due to perform. Giza police chief General Khaled Shalaby said his force received a tip-off that around 60 people were preparing to attend a “satanic” event in Sheikh Zayed, in the Cairo suburbs.

Controversial Egyptian Musicians Syndicate head Hany Shaker, who was initially reported to have stood down after the backlash to a similar controversy involving Sadek in March, stated on Egyptian state TV that “the devil worshippers [Sepultura fans] were dressed in a very weird style and drew their makeup in the shape of a pentagram” and “wore leather jackets with stars on the back, and that is strange.”

“The devil worshippers wore leather jackets with stars on the back, and that is strange”

However, it seems the various Egyptian authorities hadn’t got their stories straight: Ahmed Hegazy, head of the Giza Security Directorate, said the main reason for the cancellation was a lack of proper permits.

Sadek confirmed to IQ on Tuesday 7 June that he had been released from custody.

The show would have been Sepultura’s first in Egypt. Early on Saturday, the band wrote on Facebook: “Cairo, let’s make history tonight!”