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Funk Fest fans left fuming amid refund denials for a canceled show that started late

Bell Biv DeVoe never had the chance to take the stage at Funk Fest Saturday, June 17, at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater. Much of the show was canceled due to storms that hit the Kansas City metro area.
Bell Biv DeVoe never had the chance to take the stage at Funk Fest Saturday, June 17, at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater. Much of the show was canceled due to storms that hit the Kansas City metro area.

The weather wreaked havoc on Saturday’s outdoor music shows, and patrons of one event are particularly unhappy about what they saw. Or didn’t see.

As a storm roared into the metro area around 9 p.m., organizers of Funk Fest at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater interrupted the show.

The problem: the show was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. but it didn’t begin until more than 90 minutes later.

“We got there about 10 till 6 and they were still setting up doing soundcheck,” said Andrea Villanueva of Kansas City, Kan., who attended with a friend. “We kept checking the time and checking the time and it was about 8 when a comedian came out for a couple minutes, then a DJ came out.”

About 8:15 p.m., En Vogue took the stage. They were part of a lineup that included Doug E. Fresh, SWV, Guy featuring Teddy Riley, Bell Biv DeVoe and Keith Sweat. Ticket prices ranged from $39.50 for a lawn seat to $225 for a front-row VIP seat. Villanueva and her friend paid $75 each, fees included, for their tickets, plus $10 for parking.

At about 8:30 p.m., En Vogue performed three songs before informing the crowd they’d been ordered to evacuate the stage because of the incoming weather.

“They said ‘Thanks for coming out’ and walked off,” Villanueva said. “Another guy came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to ask you to go to your cars.’ They said they weren’t shutting it down; we’re just going to wait until the weather subsides.’ They told us to listen to 107.3 (FM). We’ll keep everybody updated.’”

She and her friend were in the car at 9:15 p.m. when, via the radio station, they were advised that promoters had plans to restart the show.

“They basically said the rain was letting up and probably in an hour they’d start opening the doors again,” she said. “But they said, ‘Mind you, it’ll take 45 minutes to an hour to set up everything again.’ At that point, we buckled our seat belts and just drove away because we knew by that point it was going to start raining again. So we said, ‘forget it.’”

Villanueva said she’d heard from people who had stayed longer than she did that eventually the radio station went off the air and the amphitheater shut off all the lights: “And that’s how people were notified that the concert was canceled.”

At 11:07 p.m. Saturday, the amphitheater posted an update on its Facebook page that said, “Tickets will not be refunded for this event. Questions should be directed to Variety Entertainment, the promoter who organized the event.”

Management of the amphitheater did not respond to inquiries from The Star.

One fan responded to that post: “I called Ticketmaster for a refund. Was told that they will not honor a refund because over half the show had been performed.”

Villanueva said she’d contacted Ticketmaster and got the same response.

“I get it,” she said. “It says on the ticket ‘all weather event,’ but if it’d started at 6:30 like the ticket said, they’d have made it at least halfway through the groups. That would have been fine with me. I wouldn’t want my money back. But to only see three songs from a headlining group is ridiculous. Wrong is wrong.”

Fans who went out to Starlight Theatre to see headliner Willie Nelson Saturday saw two full sets from openers Dwight Yoakam and Robert Earl Keen. Nelson’s set, however, was canceled. Bill Brownlee, who reviewed the show for The Star, said Starlight provided patrons with updates during the storm.

Starlight Theater has issued a statement: “Starlight Theater is working with Willie Nelson and (promoter) Live Nation in an attempt to re-schedule Saturday evening’s canceled performance. Although we do not have a confirmed date at this time, please check back at kcstarlight.com or follow us on social media for an announcement.”

Organizers of the fourth-annual Boulevardia down in the West Bottoms were able to get in almost all of Saturday’s bill before suspending the second night of the two-day festival. Things were shut down not long after 8:30 p.m., giving fans more than ample time to make it safely to their cars or to the nearby parking garage, which is where hundreds of fans took refuge.

Boulevardia was also affected slightly by Friday night’s storms. The set of headliner George Clinton was trimmed by 15 minutes to give patrons time to get to their cars before the bad weather hit.

Two of Saturday’s canceled performances were headlining sets by Local Natives and Guster. However, both bands managed to squeeze in impromptu, stripped-down sets: Guster in the parking garage and Local Natives on the main stage, each before a crowd of less than 300.

A similar situation unfolded at Crossroads KC, where the Black and Bluegrass Ball was underway. Three opening bands — Loaded Goat, Useful Jenkins and Fest Ov Fools — performed before the rest of the show was canceled. However, headliners Split Lip Rayfield and the Jeff Austin Band each performed a set in the VIP lounge during the storm.

“We originally decided to pause Saturday’s show until the weather had passed,” said Jason Way, the venue’s production manager. “The safety of our patrons was and is always our main concern. However, we realized that they would not get another break in the weather. … We all decided that the best plan was to host an acoustic show in our VIP lounge for the remaining patrons.”

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

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