Bridal-show planner Joel Jones wanted to host an event for local geeks who didn’t make it to Comic-Con. His first one-day Nerd-Con mixed fantasy nerd culture with live bands and drew 3000 to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, in August 2015. Veteran local promoter Joe Troutman was brought in to hire the bands, including Green Jello and local band Random Gibberish.
Some of DJ Galactic Ray's handiwork
Jones’s second Nerd-Con, last year, also in August at Escondido’s Center for the Arts, expanded to three days and drew over 7000 freaks and geeks, according to promoter Troutman and the manager of DJ Galactic Ray who performed all three days.
The third annual Nerd-Con didn’t happen last month and won’t be happening anytime soon.
“I have a collection of four names of performers besides myself who got cheated [by Jones],” says Rob Estrada, manager of DJ Galactic Ray. “We gave him a discounted fee of $500 for all three days. He kept promising [payment], then he eventually blew me off and told me good luck on trying to collect, that there would be no way we could collect.”
Troutman says that Jones also owes the Center for the Arts more than $40,000 to rent out “almost the entire campus,” including concert facilities, the convention center, and other rooms.
“That’s run by the community,” says Estrada. “Maybe that’s why this was all swept under the rug, because it was so embarrassing for them.... I contacted the DA’s office but I never heard back from them.”
Troutman, meanwhile, says he had to pay over $1500 out of his pocket to talent and additional staff he brought onboard. “I took care of a lot of people. Some people refused payment because they knew it wasn’t my fault.” Troutman says the worst part was knowing that the event “absolutely” was profitable.
Local geek-rockers Random Gibberish played both Escondido Nerd-Cons. Frontman Matt Sernaker says he has been unsuccessfully contacting Jones monthly for his band’s year-old debt. He also agrees someone should restart a similar event. “We are playing one in November in Palm Springs.”
340 N. Escondido Boulevard, Escondido
Center for the Arts executive director Jerry Van Leeuwen confirmed that Jones does in fact owe the center more than $40,000.
A call to Jones on September 4 asking him about widespread unhappiness with him as promoter led to him saying, “I never heard anything about that.” Second question: “You never heard about bands not getting paid or rent not getting paid?” to which Jones responded, “I’ll have to put you in touch with the rest of the LLC. If you could call back tomorrow that would be great [click].” Jones did not answer the LLC question the second day.
Troutman claims Jones’s business, 4 Nerds by Nerds, LLC, “is now just Joel and his girlfriend.”