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AJ Maddah Went To Town On Vivian Lees Last Night

Written by Nastassia Baroni on June 27, 2014

Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah has hit back voraciously at former Big Day Out chief Vivian Lees on Twitter today, following Lees’ criticism of Maddah’s handling of the Big Day Out during an appearance on triple j‘s Hack. In his extraordinary comments, Maddah accuses “sociopathic” and “evil” Lees of profiting from the death of a 16 year old girl at the Big Day Out in 2001.

During his interview on Hack yesterday, Lees described Maddah as “a mega-dickhead” and said his previous assessment of Maddah’s character had been proven by his recent sale of his Big Day Out shares. “He’s led the race to the bottom and it’s blown up in his face,” Lees told the program’s host Tom Tilley.

When asked on Twitter this morning about his reaction to Lees’ comments, characteristically Maddah did not hold back. “Insults from guy who boa[s]ted about how much ex[t]ra money he made saving on barrier & not paying Limp Bizkit is a compliment,” he wrote. “And that was before the 16 year old girl whose death was a direct result of his actions or lack thereof had even been buried.”

Here Maddah is referring to the tragic death of 16 year-old Jessica Michalik who was crushed in the crowd at the 2001 Sydney leg of the Big Day Out during a set by Limp Bizkit. She died as a result of asphyxiation five days later. In the aftermath of the teen’s death, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst blamed promoters and event security.

Durst claimed he told co-promoter Vivian Lees before the show that, “In my opinion, the whole event was completely unsafe and his security was completely inadequate. I told him we had never done a big show without some type of second barricade.”

New South Wales deputy coroner Jacqueline Milledge at the time also said that festival organiser didn’t properly asses the situation. “For promoters to be taken by surprise because their headline act causes excitement and reckless behaviour shows they did not turn their mind to the crowd reaction,” she said outside the Glebe Coroners Court in Sydney. However she also said that Durst’s “inflammatory” and “insulting” language also contributed to the tragedy.

While it’s not the first time these accusations have been made against Lees, it is the first time Maddah has made them himself, and the claim that Lees was pleased about saving money by not putting in extra barricades is particularly cutting. In his Twitter tirade, Maddah also accused Lees of “complaining” that he didn’t get enough recognition for donating money to the bushfire appeal, after he “sent out multiple press releases.”

Tensions between Lees and Maddah have been long-held. Lees was one of the BDO’s co-founders and ran the festival since its inception in 1992 before selling his half to Texan promoter C3 Presents in 2011. He has been a critic of Maddah’s operation of the event since he came on board, last year described Maddah as an “odious character” who has no commitment to the careers of Australian artists.

“I’ve seen him in action. If he doesn’t like the way something’s going, he’ll cancel it,” said Lees at the time. “He’ll get halfway along in one direction and turn 180 degrees in the other direction and think that nobody notices. He has skin as thick as a rhino, and he’s a gambler.”

Via Twitter, Maddah said he didn’t know before his Hack interview that they would play a pre-recorded segment with Lees, but said his comments were “hilarious” and he wasn’t upset about it. “In my near 41 years on this planet I have never met anyone more sociopathic or evil. A real scumbag,” added the festival mogul.

Read the entire Twitter exchange below.

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