Understandably so, I’m always a bit apprehensive to book at a venue at which I’ve never booked before. The vast majority of the venues at which I book, I’ve attended shows at before, and are run by friends of mine. I’m not the type to insist on dealing with only people I know, or treat with great suspicion people I don’t know, as that would be making unfounded assumptions and greatly limit the resources with which I have to work. However, it’s completely justified to have an amount of “stranger danger” with a venue, considering how much the show’s success depends on it, and especially when it is a new venue that has recently started booking shows. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, unless they give me compelling reason to not trust them. Trust is a necessary element in booking, especially when it comes to a venue. Once trust is broken, it can never be fully restored.
A recent show I booked was originally supposed to be at a venue at which I’ve booked numerous times and am friends with the booking agent, owner, and employees. I was informed that there was a miscommunication leading to double-booking on that date. I don’t hold it against them, they are very good to me. Therefore, that necessitated finding a new venue. I was having trouble finding another venue that was appropriate for the show and had the date available. Therefore, I tried a new venue that a friend had told me about, at which friends’ bands had an upcoming show: Sporty O’Toole’s in Warren.
It took considerable effort to get in contact with the booking agent, and after numerous emails and phone calls to multiple people, I finally reached him. He confirmed the date, stated the venue had a PA, although not a great one, and a sound person, and everything was looking good. Two weeks later, I received an email from him stating that they would not have a PA, and that we would need to provide one. This was a few days before my friends’ show, so I immediately called one of my friends and informed him of this. Turns out, the booking agent had never contacted anybody involved with that show and let them know. The information somehow didn’t get communicated to the bands, who had to go out the night of the show and rent a PA. I wasn’t able to attend the show due to heavy snow that night, but my friends in the bands advised me the show went well, with the exception of the PA situation.
Therefore, I wasn’t worried. I had already asked the bands to bring a backup PA in case the venue’s really sucked, and had gotten that taken care of. The day of the show, numerous other issues not related to the venue came up: first, the out-of-town band cancelled. I was able to find a local band to replace them. My door person cancelled two hours before the show. I figured I could find somebody to fill in, or do door myself, and that issue ended up working out. I had emailed the booking agent earlier in the week to follow up as to whether he would have someone to help with sound. No response.
Once at the venue, the first band ended up arriving a bit late, then realized one member had forgotten his equipment, and had to drive a bit of a distance to retrieve it. The second band arrived shortly after, but they had some equipment issues and needed to use the first band’s mic, part of the equipment that was left behind. That left the headlining local band, who were playing their first show after a year’s hiatus, I was not moving their spot. The fill-in local band hadn’t all arrived yet, I didn’t expect them to, as I had told them it was ok to show up a bit later, as they were scheduled to play third.
I had been advised ahead of time that the owner was a jerk who didn’t like to have any sort of live music at his bar. For that reason alone, why they even have live music there, I have no idea. I had several questions for him once I got to the venue, he was cool at first, but as the place began to get packed and he was the only bartender, he became pissy with me about asking questions and obtaining smaller bills for the door. It got to the point at which I had to send other people to ask questions and get change on my behalf. His service as a bartender was horrible, and it took a wait at the bar on average about 15 minutes to get a drink. The show started 45 minutes late due to the aforementioned problems, but I wasn’t worried because I had been advised previously as long as we were done before 2, it would be ok. I sent a band member to ask the owner, to verify. He stated the owner said the show had to be over before 1!!! Not what I was told previously.
So, in short, sound was pretty bad due to the PA’s we had, which were never promised to be great. We switched the second band to be first, which didn’t make much of a difference due to their equipment concerns, and the headlining band to be third, to make sure they got to play. The fill-in band didn’t get to play due to time constraints, but I paid them just the same, we had a large turnout, so the bands and the door person were paid generously and to their satisfaction.
However, the headlining band was unhappy with the sound, there was a lot of talk on the internet, and I had to do a lot of peacemaking and damage control. I make the best decisions I can as a promoter, with the resources I have and the circumstances that exist, and am very smart and strategic in running a show. I don’t hold the issues with the bands against them, shit happens, it’s part of booking shows. They’re good dudes, and I’m sure if it could have been prevented, it would have been. When a clusterfuck of problems arise and the venue doesn’t hold up to its promises, I have to think fast and act quickly. Though if there’s anything anybody doesn’t like, I get blamed and have to deal with harm to my reputation as a promoter.
So, please learn from my experience: don’t book at a venue that doesn’t provide a PA, *ever.* In order to make money, one has to spend money, and a PA is a necessary investment in order to get people to come into one’s establishment for live music and spend money at the bar. The bar profited handsomely from the turnout the bands and I brought in, though we were used and made to look like fools. Anybody who promises something and doesn’t deliver, when they knew from the beginning that they couldn’t, and tells somebody one thing and then the opposite later, when he knew all along, is a fucking liar, plain and simple. The bands and I have been doing what we do for many years and have a large amount of knowledge and experience, don’t make us suffer because you are new to this and don’t have a fucking clue about anything. Show respect to the people who help you. Anybody who doesn’t respond to someone or convey important information just because they have bad news to give, is a coward and a little bitch. I say whatever I have to say, regardless of whether it’s good or bad. And that’s why I’m making this situation known, I don’t want to see anybody get burned as badly as the bands on that show and I did.