Organizers say that there will not be a second year for the grass roots festival and ask that critics back off.

Photo from Homegrown Harvest Festival

Earlier this week, someone wrote in the comments section of a story on the Homegrown Harvest Festival, "Who else has yet to be paid? It's my understanding that individuals have tried to help see that people would be paid but they discovered so many falsehoods that they walked away. There should be a follow up to this with a new story about what's going on with these people."

I've waited to follow-up on the story to give the organizers a chance to find the money to cover the checks they wrote to bands, but an email sent last night to musicians who played the ill-fated fest suggests that those efforts have been unsuccessful. "We are acutely aware that many have been set back by the inability of the event to cover all the expenses," Ryan Way wrote. "The Homegrown Harvest LLC has been working since the day after the event to find an alternative avenue to garner funding to pay the bills (payments) incurred by the loss we suffered by low attendance at the festival. So far, nothing has panned out, despite over 6 weeks of solid effort." 

Elsewhere in the letter, he writes, "The festival failed financially. The LLC can’t find the funds to fix the money problems, and we sure don’t personally have the funds to fix anything."

The email goes on to announce that Way, Executive Producer of the event Gypsy Elise and the other organizers have given up on plans to try to bring the Homegrown Harvest Festival back for a second year. "Homegrown Harvest LLC won’t even consider doing such an event again," he writes.

The thrust of the email, though, was to tell the unpaid musicians to stop vilifying his wife, Gypsy Elise. In it, he wrote:

Even since before the close of the ill fated festival, my wife, whom I love with all my heart, has been the target of vile words, vicious accusations, and downright cruelty by the unfortunate few that have felt it was their right to take out their aggression on her. 

That ends now. I simply won’t stand for it a moment longer. 

It’s only taken me this long to speak up because we have both been too focused on the overall effect of the aftermath. My wife did nothing wrong on a personal level, and in fact, does more than her share of benefits and assistance where she can. Even with her severe back issues and our 11 month old little guy, she always has the best interests of others firmly in mind.  If you don’t believe that, you clearly do not know her at all. 

So far, response to the email has been mixed. Many have written Way to express support and appreciation for the festival's vision, the desire to try to do something to try to help the New Orleans music community, and to pass along sadness about the personal nature of some of the response to the situation.

Leslie Smith played the festival, and she typified the support when she wrote an email to Way that read:

I am so sorry you both have suffered so severely and have been so horribly attacked by the music community. Please tell your lovely wife to let the poison go. If she takes it in, she'll just harm her spirit and her art.

There will always be unhappy people - mean people - just looking for the most negative way to deal with anything/anyone.

It was a beautiful festival. It was a good idea. I don't know her well - I just met her for the first time at the festival when I gave her a hug, but god bless ANYONE who has a vision and busts their ass to make it real. 

Critics were disappointed that the email didn't seem to accept responsibility for the decisions that contributed to the situation. "I don't know what to say," Chris Perkins says. "They went into this venture with signed contracts in one hand and no cash to pay the acts in the other. The sensitive side of me is very attuned to their plight: food stamps, uninsured, bad health, so on and so forth, but I'm not so forgiving now. I am not inclined to press charges, and I don't think we'll ever get a cent of what's owed to us."

Once it became clear that the checks wouldn't clear, some musicians got in touch with Nick Geraci from the New Orleans District Attorney's Office, and they encouraged musicians on Facebook and in the Comments section of stories on this site to pursue the matter through legal channels. Despite the frustration and anger, so far no cases have been filed.  

In the email, Way suggested that one possible avenue for help is The Grammy Foundation's MusiCares, which was very involved in helping area musicians get back to work after Hurricane Katrina. "If you truly suffered any financial hardship from the festival, there is a way that you can receive aid," Way writes. "Contact me DIRECTLY at RyanWay.Music@gmail.com for details. We have received such aid ourselves and will never let pride stand in the way of getting bills paid. When you contact me, you will see, that the organization (MusiCares) Can and Will help, you need only have the information."

When asked, Way didn't say whether they received help after Homegrown Harvest Festival or in another situation, but the program's mission doesn't appear to cover situations like this. According to the Grammy.org site, MusiCares' Emergency Financial Assistance has more specific uses: 

The "heart and soul" of MusiCares is the Emergency Financial Assistance Program that provides critical funds for music people struggling with financial, medical or personal crises. This program offers financial assistance for medical expenses including doctor, dental and hospital bills, prescriptions, addiction recovery treatment, psychotherapy, treatment for HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other critical illnesses, as well as basic living expenses such as rent and utilities.

The application form for MusiCares assistance states, "MusiCares may grant financial assistance for needs that have arisen due to unforeseen circumstances such as: rent, car payments, utilities, prescriptions, medical/dental expenses, psychotherapy and other expenses related to these categories." There's no mention of remaining unpaid for a performance, though perhaps it could help out if the lack of payment creates a genuine, immediate hardship.

David Roe of The Royal and Dumaine Hawaiians was upset by the suggestion to reach out to MusiCares and dissapointed by the email. "This letter you sent is worthless," he wrote in an email. "Too many words that don't say you are sorry. Not enough that you are." 

Here's Way's letter in its entirety:

Dear Homegrown Musicians...

It is with a heavy heart that I find myself writing this. First off, I want to say here and now that I am personally very proud of the footprint we laid in November, but deeply sorry for the outcome of the Homegrown Harvest Music and Arts Festival financially. We are acutely aware that many have been set back by the inability of the event to cover all the expenses. The Homegrown Harvest LLC has been working since the day after the event to find an alternative avenue to garner funding to pay the bills (payments) incurred by the loss we suffered by low attendance at the festival. So far, nothing has panned out, despite over 6 weeks of solid effort. Turns out, this is a very difficult time for more than those that were a part of the Festival.

However, I am faced with a far more difficult challenge that I simply must address with this email. Even since before the close of the ill fated festival, my wife, whom I love with all my heart, has been the target of vile words, vicious accusations, and downright cruelty by the unfortunate few that have felt it was their right to take out their aggression on her. 

That ends now. I simply won’t stand for it a moment longer. 

It’s only taken me this long to speak up because we have both been too focused on the overall effect of the aftermath. My wife did nothing wrong on a personal level, and in fact, does more than her share of benefits and assistance where she can. Even with her severe back issues and our 11 month old little guy, she always has the best interests of others firmly in mind.  If you don’t believe that, you clearly do not know her at all.

If you are not aware, I am the head of the LLC, not Elise.  Yes, she was the key producer of the event, but not a single soul wasn't completely blown away by the professionalism that clearly went into the venue preparation and production of the event. It took a lot of work, and many people were involved. We were also investors in the event from the earliest phases (Last December), and took the gamble, put our heart and soul and money into this Louisiana event, and like everyone involved, felt very secure in the community coming together to assure the success. With the Challenge Matches, be began the process of “stirring the interest” and it never slowed down.  It was never about “the money” for us, but about the rock solid belief in the musicians, artists and performers in this state. We never lost sight of the big picture. We couldn’t.  Be believed in every part of this.

Several have pointed out that they have "seen us at our gigs". Well, of course you have. We are musicians. It's what we do and the life and lifestyle we chose, just like you. And because of that choice, we have also been faced with the difficult reality that sometimes things go south, and we don't get what we worked so hard for. Just this year alone, there have been 4 such instances for our own band, where we showed up, performed, and expecting pay, got nothing but the fact that the money didn't materialize as anticipated. At festivals and gigs alike, this has happened to us, and not just this year. It is a part of the truth of the times; the economy; name any reason that you yourself are fully aware of. Ultimately, we go on and keep doing what we love and enjoy, because it was the choice we made as musicians.

The festival was initially originated because Elise wanted to build on the existing music community here in Louisiana. She is very proud and protective of this state she loves, and brought musicians together in the past many months to meet, socialize, perform together and network, if for no other reason than to build on the reality that we are all in this as a ‘family’. The Musicians Clinic helped her and us, with her broken back and really stepped up. We wanted to return the gesture with the event, at the same time bringing musicians and performers together from all over the state. It was a 24 hour a day effort for her, and every bit of love in her heart went into this. And now, she is the target of very cruel words by those she considered friends. If you have wondered why she hasn’t personally replied or posted, I as her husband insisted that she not, since I saw how it was effecting her. She was already down, and yet being kicked from all angles. Thankfully, she has also found deeper friendships from this, but the constancy of the threats and demands has taken its toll.  When people post rudely directly to her personal Facebook page, demanding that she “Pay The Bands”, it still amazes me that anyone imagines that we are harboring funds somewhere.  We live on food stamps and gigs just like many of you do. We gratefully utilize the Musicians Clinic, as uninsured musicians. Because of the unfortunate outcome of the event, we have had gigs “taken away” by those throwing around their “power” as booking agents for venues. Elise never complained, and in fact, was glad that the bands that accepted our cancelled dates got that extra work. It seems to be forgotten that Elise was trying to showcase the very musicians she is so proud to stand beside. 

Folks, we all took this hit. Not just a few, everyone. But the ‘statement’ was made, that Louisiana can be a unified front of talent and hopefully one day, stand on its own merit. We did the level best we could. You all performed (those that did) incredibly, just like at all your shows. Many stepped far and beyond the norm and came to volunteer and really be a part of the showcase. Musicians were parking cars, running errands... It was a beautiful thing, how some really came together and saw the bigger picture.

The festival failed financially.  The LLC can’t find the funds to fix the money problems, and we sure don’t personally have the funds to fix anything. All we have is our desire to see Louisiana musicians and artist do well. So the best news I can give you right now is that clearly, Homegrown Harvest LLC won’t even consider doing such an event again, which will delight many, sadly. I simply can’t allow Elise to be put through this again. My wife is taking this harder than she seriously should. We have an 11 month old angel that needs her focus. Elise hasn't been sleeping; I have had her at the doctor many times. She simply isn't up to par, and I have to attribute it to the extreme stress this has put her under. I love my wife, and had to say this. 

Not a soul has posted on my page, but I am the president of the LLC, not Elise. There was no intent behind the failure of the event. Nothing was done to hurt anyone. Many are wishing for our failure as musicians, and have stated such to us. Enough. She tried to do something wonderful. She has produced events that have been successful and landmark before. This time, it just didn't work, but to wish ill and vile things on the very person trying to bring the performance community together makes me question why she even bothered to try. It saddens me deeply that money has been such a dividing factor, when in fact, money is but a small part of the larger life we all share. It seems to be an issue that consumes far too many. Our family struggles with money (or its lack) daily, but we know our own worth and keep pressing on.

We tried to offer a solution which was rejected rudely and without respect for its merit.  So I will say here and now once again, if you truly suffered any financial hardship from the festival, there is a way that you can receive aid. Contact me DIRECTLY at RyanWay.Music@gmail.com for details. We have received such aid ourselves and will never let pride stand in the way of getting bills paid. When you contact me, you will see, that the organization (MusiCares) Can and Will help, you need only have the information.  You should have it anyway, because as musicians, there will ALWAYS be times when we will need a little help when gigs don’t pan out, etc. Unless you are a personal friend and are treating her with the dignity she deserves, I am respectfully asking you to NOT call, email, Facebook, or text Elise with any questions or comments related to Homegrown Harvest.  She's had her heart broken by the unfortunate few, and I won't tolerate it any more.  If you're truly a friend, feel free to show your support.  As I previously stated, all Homegrown Harvest questions and complaints come to ME.  You can find my contact information in my signature as well as throughout this email.  

From here on, please deal with me directly, through RyanWay.Music@gmail.com, as Homegrown Harvest is now a past venture. Even so, we are getting emails from bands daily, requesting information on “the next event”. Well, that isn’t going to happen and that is an unfortunate thing for us all.  Please accept our sincere apology, and know that this was never the plan.  The best way that this can “be made right” is never to offer such an event again. The threats to my wife MUST end now. She is a woman of honor, as most know very well.