Jeff Jardine

X-Fest goes on both because of promoter and despite him

So X-Fest will live to see another summer, assuming promoter Chris Ricci can produce a security plan that satisfies Modesto Police Chief Galen Carroll.

But the council’s 4-3 vote Wednesday to grant him the permit on the aforementioned condition suggests he’s hardly on solid footing with the city and that another X-Fest in 2017 is by no means a gimme.

Accusing the City Council of only caring about crime when it happens at the annual summer concert probably isn’t the best way to make friends and influence the people who decide the event’s fate in downtown Modesto.

Declaring city officials were intent on X-ing out X-Fest altogether when officials’ primary demand put the onus of providing security on the promoter riled up his supporters to make a public show of force that did more to ultimately threaten the event’s future than ensure it.

Publicly challenging the council, the city manager and the police chief – the latter two greatly impact the staff’s recommendations to the council – is not the brightest idea, either. Of the four council members who voted to grant the permit, two – Doug Ridenour and Kristi Ah You – come from law enforcement backgrounds. They trust Carroll. If Carroll recommended denial, the concert would be dead.

When city officials visited with The Bee’s Editorial Board last week, it was clear they intended to endorse the permit as long as Ricci met conditions they deemed reasonable, not prohibitive. If, indeed, the event generates roughly 80 percent of his annual revenues as he says, then you’d presume he’d do whatever it takes to keep his meal ticket intact.

Which means the future of X-Fest, including this year’s August event, is in Ricci’s hands and really his alone. He can continue to fight City Hall in a petulant, accusatory tone, spew conspiracy theories and destroy what little trust or relationship that remains, and that likely would be enough to turn a 4-3 vote into a 3-4 or worse loss the next time around.

Or he can check his attitude at the door, knock off the rhetoric, accept and meet the city’s conditions, and begin to rebuild the trust that would enable him to keep the event going for years to come. Rebuilding that trust will hinge greatly on whether he hires the 300 security officers the city demands and keep 120 of them two hours after the show ends. Last year, he promised to hire 200 security guards but hired only 150 along with 50 others who weren’t certified.

Ricci over the past 17 years built X-Fest into a major event that last year drew about 15,000 people. It closes the downtown for 24 hours, which shouldn’t put any business out of business. But it is an event involving lots of alcohol and is open only to the 21-and-over crowd. Nobody’s going to confuse it with Graffiti Summer or another event that is open to all. X-Fest is a for-profit event – primarily Ricci’s profit, though some nonprofit vendors generate funds for their causes after he takes his cut.

Certainly, there are people in Modesto who want it stopped or moved out of the downtown. They don’t like the music or the kind of crowd the hip-hop acts draw. That is what he sells. Ricci is a music promoter. If he thought Glenn Miller tribute bands would bring 15,000 people through the gates and get them in the mood to drink lots of beer, he’d probably consider it – if it made the same amount of money. That isn’t going to happen.

Instead, he promotes an edgy event akin to hanging out in the Black Hole at a Raiders game, which is fine. Attendance is not mandatory. But that kind of event demands responsibility, including and especially when it comes to security inside the fences. The promoter, meaning Ricci, is expected to provide it. As X-Fest evolved over time, so has its atmosphere.

The City Council has final say over the permit, meaning the event’s present and future. If Modesto officials wanted to kill the event, it would have died Wednesday morning.

Instead, X-Fest will go on both because of Ricci and despite him.

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