It takes years to build a good name and only seconds to destroy one, so should you choose to organize concerts or festivals, tread carefully, always be prepared to take a loss and don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Some neophyte promoters are legitimately slimy characters, but sometimes they just get in over their heads or suffer for their hubris. Regardless of the situation, one mistake can permanently damage your reputation, and DFW has a wealth of cautionary tales any aspiring promoter should take to heart. Below are five episodes that have taken place in the past decade.
Denton County Proper (2011)
Matthew Gray, the vocalist and guitarist for Denton band Matthew and the Arrogant Sea, tried his hand as a promoter in fall 2011 under the moniker “Denton County Proper” and curated some eye-opening shows in Denton, with artists such as John Oates, Here We Go Magic, Low, Akron/Family and others.
After Gray abandoned ship and refused to pay Los Angeles punk band Bleached following an underattended show at Rubber Gloves, the public hanging on social media began. The handful of shows he booked, including a New Year's Eve show with John Maus, simultaneously dropped like flies, leaving just one show to remain intact: Owen (the solo project of American Football’s Mike Kinsella) at Hailey’s.
As we reported in 2012, Kinsella was also a victim of Gray’s business practices, having been owed $1,800 months following the Hailey’s gig. One year after this incident, Kinsella had some even more choice words for Gray, which he expressed via Twitter:
Oh, cool! That dickhead Matthew Gray from the band Matthew and the Arrogant Sea who owes me 1800$ (or… http://t.co/na1gsIhGcs— Mike Kinsella (@mybandowen) March 17, 2013
(Side note: We asked the members of Bleached about the Rubber Gloves incident at their Granada Theater show with Against Me! in September 2017, and they thankfully did not remember it.)
Regardless Fest (2016)
This April 2016 festival made waves when it announced Young Thug as a headliner, but just as the hype started to brew, logistical issues doomed the hip-hop festival organized by the now-dormant Pentone Productions. Initially scheduled at the University of North Texas Coliseum, this event was relocated to the North Texas State Fairgrounds in Denton, but when organizers realized they would be in direct competition with the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, they once again relocated the festival and set up shop at Hacienda Ranch in Krum.
Some residents of Krum displayed their racism upon finding out about this event, and in response to these overwhelming concerns, the Krum Police Department issued the following statement on Facebook:
Mockery of the event reached its culmination in less than a week leading up to the event, with tweets such as:
Y'all know Young Thug is driving through Krum like 'wtf I get myself into'— Tito (@titomedina24) April 29, 2016
Young Thug is going to be so pissed when he figures out he's playing in fucking Krum— Harrison (@shredharrison) April 19, 2016
When I found out young thug was playing in Krum today. pic.twitter.com/zZQqQO75I4— OFFSET (@offsetmd17) April 30, 2016
On the evening of the show, and immediately before Thugger’s scheduled performance, it was announced that the Atlanta rapper would, in fact, not perform the affair. As a result, over 1,000 people who purchased $35 tickets ended up seeing a handful of local hip-hop artists in a barn during a rainy day.
Regardless (heh) of the misfortunes, the show still went on.
Travis Scott at The Door (2017)
In summer 2017, Travis Scott went on tour with Kendrick Lamar and DRAM, and was scheduled to perform the American Airlines Center on Friday, July 14. The week of the show, a secret show dubbed "The Night Show: Travis Scott" began to make the rounds on social media and advertised the affair as taking place at a “secret location,” which turned out to be The Door.
Tickets for the show ranged between $50 and $100 for general admission and $200 for VIP access. The intimate offering predictably sold out within hours, but when the Houston rapper got on stage, he performed two songs and left, due to what many allege as a breach on the promoter’s part.
The promoter, Dallas Entertainment, tweeted about the incident, stating that the Houston rapper “walked out on his fans.”
Travis Scott walked out on his fans.— Dallas Entertainment (@DallasTxEnt) July 15, 2017
Starfest Music Festival (2017)
This festival took a crack at the asinine concept of being a “pop-up” festival and ended up being the subject of ridicule upon its announcement. There was even a Facebook event dubbed “Starfest Music Festival watch party” that was scheduled at East Side Social Club in Denton, where spectators would gather and scour Twitter to marvel at the festival’s unraveling in real time.
This festival had more red flags than a Chinese embassy. It was announced one month in advance, TMZ reported that they were the subject of a $100,000 lawsuit and the city of Plano terminated the festival’s contract and deprived it of the Plano location, prompting it to relocate to Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie. In the interim, the festival’s website mysteriously removed and reinstated from the lineup artists such as Lil Wayne, Flo Rida and Carnage.
In October 2017, the festival got postponed to November, then asked people to donate to the American Red Cross in aid of Hurricane Harvey victims and promised a “great announcement.” That announcement never came, and the festival quietly deleted its Facebook event page, never to be heard from again.
Its web domain (starfestmusicfestival.com) is still up for grabs in case you’re interested.
The Rail Club vs. Ghostlight Concerts (2018)
Last fall, we reported that the Fort Worth mainstay The Rail Club shuttered, a demise that co-owners Brian Scheid and Chris Polone blamed on Ghostlight Concerts founder Kevin Dunlap. Scheid and Polone sued Dunlap in Tarrant County, alleging that he embezzled money from the venue and diverted the funds to himself.
Dunlap has denied these allegations, but if Ghostlight Concerts’ dormant Facebook page is indicative of anything, they damaged his reputation, which by the looks of social media’s response to the news, was already rocky to begin with.
Toward the end of Dunlap’s tenure at The Rail Club, White Girl Mob cofounder Lil Debbie criticized the venue after a show of hers that was scheduled to take place while under his management:
FORT WORTH SHOW :— Lil Debbie (@L1LDebbie) September 14, 2018
To all my Fans in Fort Worth, Texas. I want to apologize for the last minute cancellation of my show. I also want to send a huge FUCK YOU to everyone at the Rail Club for doing shady business and fucking my shit up!
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.