Bands Want Houston Beer Fest to Pay Up
Photos by Francisco Montes
A number of bands who played the recent Houston Beer Fest are now upset with the promoters, claiming they bounced checks to as many as 20 acts who appeared, as well as some vendors. Meanwhile, the promoters say they are digging out from a huge financial hole resulting from scheduled headliner Rick Ross's no-show at the event (not to mention theft by their own employees), and are pursuing legal action themselves.
Tuesday afternoon on the Houston Beer Fest 2015 Facebook page, Evan Dickson, manager of Austin alt-rock group Dynamite Hack, posted, "You guys should really pay all the bands from 2014 before scheduling 2015."
His comments were co-signed by Jonathan Pretus, vocalist/guitarist for New Orleans-based The Breton Sound, who also performed at Beer Fest. Later in the thread, he said the band was not informed of the free beer available in the artists' catering area until it was too late and the band had already bought their own beer tickets, "which in itself was an adventure."
"Not the most organized event I've ever been to," he said.
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On the surface, the fourth-year festival appeared to have been a success, drawing large crowds to Sam Houston Park last month for the two-day event, which featured acts including Pepper, Action Bronson 3OH!3 and dozens of local and regional bands. But things began to unravel around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 8, when an announcement was made that a "medical emergency" had prevented Ross from making the trip to Houston.
Timothy Hudson, one of the Beer Fest partners as well as the festival's talent buyer, says he had received a message from Ross's management earlier saying that the Miami rapper was dealing with an infection due to a tooth that had been extracted earlier in the week and might not be able to make his appearance. (Previously, Ross had already canceled his past several Houston dates.) However, Ross's Twitter account posted the following photo to his more than 3 million followers the evening of June 8, which coincided with Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
Further adding to Beer Fest's woes, Hudson claims the event experienced a significant problem with employee theft this year.
"The combination of Ross and employee theft has made it very hard for us to pay some of the vendors," Hudson admitted Tuesday. "We had several employees stealing beer cards (which to us is money) and giving away free beer, which is money as well."
Ultimately the money Beer Fest organizers spent buying beer for the festival, which advertised in the neighborhood of 100 different varieties of beer, dwarfed the revenue the festival saw in sales, Hudson says. He added that he and his partners have drafted a letter to Ross and his management informing them of their intention to sue unless the rapper's substantial up-front guarantee is refunded.
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Jeanne Palazzo, manager of New Orleans progressive rockers the Scorseses, says her band had performed at Beer Fest two years ago and was paid in full at the proper time. But this year, she continues, the tour manager was given a check on site and Palazzo deposited it three days later. Two days after that, she adds, Hudson texted her to ask for the account's routing information because he had been unaware the band had been handed a check after the festival. The Beer Fest partners had only just then made a deposit, he claimed.
It took several more days before she was able to get a response back, Palazzo says, when she was told, "I haven't forgotten about you. Trust me." After the Facebook thread became public Tuesday afternoon, Palazzo says, Hudson texted her again, saying "this week."
"I was willing to work with Tim, but based on all the different stories he is telling everyone, I don't think we are getting paid," she says. "It is a shame because it has the potential to be a great festival with proper management. I've worked with him before but didn't have any issues."
Ken Fauchaux, manager of The Breton Sound, and the band's singer, Jonathan Pretus, tell a similar story with a similar ending. As with the Scorseses, Fauchaux says they were handed a check the date of the performance, only to have it returned several days later. After exchanging a series of text messages with Hudson on June 27 in which the promoter again asked for routing info and then agreed to a PayPal exchange, Pretus says, the band had not heard from Hudson until yesterday. At that point, relays the singer, Fauchaux emailed Hudson saying the band would see him in court.
He was assured The Breton Sound would get its money this week, Pretus says.
"I replied that as soon as it was in our account, we'd call off our attorney, and he said he understood our position and thanked us for our patience," adds the singer.
The band's manager does not sound like he's holding out much hope, though.
"Communication from the promoters about this issue has been minimal, if nonexistent," Fauchaux says. "Only after our frequent attempts to contact them have they promised payment multiple times by an ever-changing date. At this time, all dates have passed without payment and without explanation."
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Making it worse, he notes that the festival has been bragging about its sales on Facebook (see screenshot at right).
"I find this absolutely unprofessional and entirely unacceptable," Fauchaux says.
Other bands who played Beer Fest say they were paid, albeit not immediately.
"We don't take checks and were paid successfully in full, shortly (maybe a week later) after the event electronically," says Chris Gore of local synth-pop trio BLSHS.
Dwight Taylor Lee of Houston's Wandering Bufaleros says it took about a week for his group to see any money, and only then with the intervention of another Houston band's manager. Although he did not want his name used, that manager says his band's check also bounced.
"If we didn't have [the manager] in our corner, it looks like we would be in the same boat as so many other bands," Lee adds.
But even after things have gotten this far out of hand, Hudson swears he is doing what he can to make things right.
"It has been a hard lesson, but I'm just trying to fix everything so these bands can be paid," he says.
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