A Doggone Drag

It’s been almost two months since the Dogstock 5 Music Festival, but the debris on Randy Long‘s Osage County, Kansas, property suggests that the camping and music festival could have been last night. Campers left behind clothing, plastic bags, even a broken-down charcoal grill. The main stage is still marked off in orange, plastic fencing. Trash barrels and rubbage dot the grass. Plastic bottles, junk-food wrappers and bits of random paper have been piled into a mountain of garbage just a few hundred yards from Long’s house.

“We ran out of money to have the trash hauled off,” he says.

And that’s just the beginning.

Long figures that the fifth-annual music festival, held July 26-29, has left him and his wife, Suzie, in debt to the tune of $100,000.

By most accounts, the festival of more than 100 bands managed to be a pretty good time, but the biggest Dogstock ever was a nightmare for the Longs. They owe for services at Dogstock, they’re more than a month late on their mortgage payment and under investigation by the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. Gazing into the 81 acres he has called home for the past decade, Long declares, “This place is literally hanging in the balance.”

Long is hanging the blame for the disaster on Eric Noble, the independent promoter he hired to manage Dogstock. “His big idea of a successful event was him riding around on a golf cart, looking important and smiling and waving at people like some sort of big dog,” Long says.

Long alleges that while Noble was doing that, people hired by Noble were scalping tickets, failing to secure the main entrance and possibly even stealing money outright at the gate. Noble, who lives in Boonville, Missouri, spoke to me via cell phone. He denies any wrongdoing at Dogstock and says it’s Long’s fault that the festival failed. “He just didn’t have the money to make it happen.”

Noble says Dogstock’s success depended too much on ticket sales, which were low because some of the biggest advertised acts dropped off the bill a couple of months before the show, including Ivan Neville’s Dumpsta Funk and the Original Lowriders. And though Long says there were 4,000 to 6,000 people at Dogstock, Noble estimates the total attendance at closer to 2,000, including a lot of folks who got in with free tickets.

However it happened, the Dogstock debacle is depressing, considering its ultimate purpose.

Dogstock was supposed to raise a little money for the Akita Adoption and Rescue Foundation, which the Longs have operated for the past 10 years. Long also hoped that the festival would raise awareness about the importance of being a responsible pet owner. And what better way to spread a message than through music?

As Long is fond of saying, “Music is the universal language.”

If that’s true, then his dialect is hippie. When I paid him a visit, Long was wearing a purplish tie-dyed Grateful Dead T-shirt and a denim bucket hat. I followed him down several dirt paths through a maze of brush, spider webs, trees and wire dog kennels.

Within those kennels were nearly 80 hulking canines, barking and pawing excitedly at the dirt, eager for human affection. They’re mostly fluffy Akitas or mutts with some of the Japanese breed’s blood in them.

Long knows every dog by name and runs his big hands over their teddy-bear heads as he relays the typically horrific stories of what brought these animals to his shelter. Staring into a dog’s almost-smile, it’s hard to care whose fault it is that the music festival failed.

Maybe Noble isn’t so noble. Or maybe bighearted Long isn’t a savvy music businessman. Unprofitable events are facts of life in the concert industry. And it’s heartbreaking that, in this festival’s case, lives are at stake.

Fortunately, this weekend, there’s another chance to help.

Friday through Sunday, Dogstock 6 happens at Fun in the Sun Campground (5927 Slough Road in Oskaloosa, Kansas). Tickets cost $60 at the gate and include camping. For more information, see dog stock.info. About 30 acts will perform, including the Gaslights, the Mississippi Flapjacks, and Melvin Seals and the Jerry Garcia Band.

Categories: Music