Just days before Limp Bizkit, Rick Ross, and Papa Roach were set to take the stage, one of New Jersey’s most iconic music festivals imploded in spectacular fashion on Friday after its organizer was accused of hoodwinking and cyberbullying fed-up fans.
Bamboozle, founded in 2002 by John D’Esposito, held sold-out festivals in the Garden State for 10 years, featuring acts like Bon Jovi and the Foo Fighters, until a dispute between organizers in 2012 put it on ice.
This year was supposed to be a big comeback—but cracks started to appear from the get-go.
When pricey “early bird” tickets first went on sale, D’Esposito encouraged fans to buy early, claiming that ticket prices would jump as more big names were announced. “The lineup is stacked,” he promised on his Instagram.
But that never materialized, with subsequent announcements falling flat and promises of other big-name artists evaporating. Rather than getting more expensive, ticket prices fell.
Fans who’d paid nearly $400 for three-day passes complained about false advertising and demanded refunds, going so far as to start an Instagram page called Scamboozle that said its aim was to “expose the fraud that is Bamboozle Festival” and help customers get refunds.
But D’Esposito only dug in, blocking or cyberbullying people who complained online, and hurling insults like “jackass,” “dork,” “donkey” and “f’n clowns.” (D’Esposito insisted to the Philadelphia Inquirer that it was “tongue in cheek.”)
When one person called a lackluster line-up announcement “fucking trash,” Bamboozle’s official Instagram page replied, “Noooo. Nooo. UR.”
When another called the whole ordeal “horrible,” the festival replied, “I know you are but what am I. Look at yourself. Your arguing about a festival no one wants you at clown!”
By last month, D’Esposito admitted to NJ.com that he’d sold just 6,000 tickets despite earlier suggestions that it was closer to 50,000.
Then the death knell came on Friday when Atlantic City officials said they would not be issuing permits for the event after organizers failed to pay licensing and facility fees, and blew through deadlines to provide required paperwork like insurance certificates, and emergency evacuation and medical plans.
“There was an ongoing concern that we were not getting the required documents from festival organizers in a timely manner,” Atlantic City Business Administrator Anthony Swan said in a statement. “We asked for this information months in advance to protect the city and the taxpayers of Atlantic City. The event was fast approaching, and these issues were still unresolved.”
Festival organizers posted a brief statement on their website Friday, acknowledging that the event was canceled.
“After extensive discussions, we have made the heartbreaking decision to cancel Bamboozle 2023,” the statement read. “An incredible amount of time, dedication, passion and hard work was invested into making this comeback a success. We appreciate everyone who supported this festival. Refunds should be requested at point of purchase.”
It has left many out of pocket, including one cannabis vendor who said he forked over $10,000 for a booth and was struggling to get a hold of anyone to arrange a refund. “I own one small CBD store in North Carolina, and $10,000 will absolutely break me,” Nick Richetti told the Press of Atlantic City.
Others flooded the Scamboozle page to share details of their desperate, but unsuccessful, attempts to get refunds.
“Bamboozle was home to me when I was a kid. It was in my backyard, and I was in high school thinking I was doing the coolest sh*t in the world,” one ticketholder wrote. “I got tickets for [me and my girlfriend] to revel in the nostalgia of our first times together, as well as all those wholesome times back in high school… My anniversary weekend with my loved one is shaping up to be a huge failure, with a $1000 price tag on it.”