I don’t usually let any of my Facebook stuff cross over to this site; I’m barely on there at all anyway, and mostly use it just for booking gigs, which is how that stuff mainly gets done these days. But I’m gonna make an exception this once; read on and you’ll know why.
BEWARE BANDS: You do NOT want to play McKoy’s Smokehouse on Old Pineville Road in Charlotte. They will not live up to the terms of whatever agreement you make with them, and will try to stiff you or short you on your pay on some pretext or other.
My band, the Belmont Playboys, played there last night, and the terms of the agreement were as follows: provide for musical entertainment between the hours of 7 and 9 PM, for a remuneration of 500 dollars.
I enlisted my good friend Bart Lattimore to open the show; I had concerns about our bassist being able to get done with work in time to get there. Bart started at 7, whereupon one of the managers almost immediately complained to me of Bart’s “not being loud enough” (Bart does a solo thing with acoustic guitar; not as loud as the Playboys, naturally, but both his guitar and voice were mic’ed, adequately amplified, and audible just fine through the PA system we provided). This manager insisted that we cut Bart short and start playing ourselves before he “lost the crowd.”
Nonsense; horseshit, of the purest ray serene. Bart lost exactly nobody. Bart is a great performer, an excellent singer and songwriter with tons of charisma and stage presence, who knows instinctively how to really work an audience and draw their enthusiastic attention. The crowd continued to grow until the place was packed, with not an empty table either inside or outside, with people ordering food, liquor, and beer throughout the night.
The Playboys then went on a bit earlier than I had anticipated, at eight o’clock; I had figured probably 8:15. We played until about 5 minutes to nine, and the crowd was, again, enthusiastic and completely happy with our performance—the percentage of them who paid attention at all, that is. Events like these aren’t like concerts or club shows; the band is always something of a sideshow, in truth. The main attraction is the bikes, and the riders hanging out together and shooting the breeze. The crowd up front was attentive and smiling; I got a whole lot of “great show” comments afterwards, right up until the time I left.
As we were packing our gear, the owner of McKoy’s came up to me and expressed dismay and anger, asking why we were packing up; we were supposed to play until 11, he claimed. I told him in no uncertain terms that there was no way on God’s green earth that I would have ever agreed to play that long for that little money. 7 to 11 would have meant four sets; had I had any inkling at all that that was what was expected, I would have demanded twice as much money at the very least, and would have enlisted another opening act for the show. Most likely, though, I would have just turned the gig down flat as being not worth the bother.
The show was booked by Lisa Lopez, who has been handling the Friday bike night events for McCoy’s for nine years now. These are the relevant excerpts of the Facebook Messenger conversation via which the show was booked, emphasis mine:
LL: I’m trying to get some GREAT talent to play for us and I’ve ALWAYS enjoyed you guys for years! McKoy’s offers $500. and a bar tab. I will also be there to take pictures and will just hand them over to you guys, as well as do all the promotions (if you want). I am not in charge of band bookings, but have been given the go ahead to ask the musicians I think are good to play there. Are you interested?
MH: Either way, thanks most sincerely for the shout, let me know what dates you might have and all.
LL: YAY!!!! I will let you know the available dates and check back with as soon as I can! And LOVE the Playboys! That would be great!
LL: Ok…..these are the openings we have. Theyre all from 7pm until 9ish.
After confronting me about stopping at 9ish and telling me I was required to play until 11, I showed the owner the messages on my phone that clearly and indisputably stated otherwise. He then stalked off and angrily chewed Lisa out in full view and hearing of the crowd around them, which was almost shockingly unprofessional if you ask me. But I think now that he was just playing a scene, laying some groundwork, and in that light it was actually pretty clever.
As soon as we were done packing up, I asked the same manager who had complained about Bart’s volume earlier where the owner was, that I wanted to collect our pay. He told me that the owner had left to find a part for a dishwasher that had broken down. I was kind of puzzled over where he expected to find such a thing at 9:30 PM; there are no restaurant supply stores open that late around here, and even Lowes closes at 9. The whole setup was starting to smell, it seemed to me.
I was highly suspicious by then, as you might imagine, and told the manager I wasn’t going to wait around all night for the owner. I asked if the owner would be there the next day, and the manager said yes, he would be coming in at 3 o’clock next afternoon. I packed up and left, planning to come in a bit after three the next day, vainly hoping to get things sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction. I should have known better.
Sure enough, I showed up at McKoy’s next day at 3:30 and asked a waitress if the owner was there. She said no; he was off, he wasn’t scheduled to work at all that day. I told her I needed to get paid for last night’s show, even though it finally dawned on me in that moment that I almost certainly wouldn’t be. She then asked if I’d like to see a manager. I said yes, upon which she brought the same manager from the night before. He requested that we step into the office, closed the door behind us, and presented me with some paperwork to be signed, which I did not do. No way in hell was I signing anything this guy handed me, ever; I had belatedly realized what I was up against here. He then informed me that he would only be paying me half the agreed-upon sum, since we stopped at nine (as per the original agreement, mind) instead of playing till eleven.
I told him in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable, and he then told me that the problem was between me and Lisa and that I should take it up with her. I told him, no, the problem is between McKoy’s and Lisa; I had a clear agreement, in plain text, which we had met the conditions of fully. He then said that I could take half-pay, or he could pay me nothing. I told him, fine; I’d be posting a full and truthful account of this on Facebook and spreading the word around any other way I could think of.
Lisa sent me a long text this morning apologizing for the mess, and stating that McKoy’s had also refused to pay her for the photography and video she had done per a separate agreement she had with them. She told me that she had been booking these shows for the past eight or nine years, and while some bands had ended up playing a bit past nine, eleven o’clock had never been any sort of specific requirement.
She also told me that the manager had come to her early the evening of the show and demanded that she call me and get us there by 5 PM. She told him that she didn’t have a phone number for me—the whole thing had been arranged on Facebook Messenger up till then, as most gigs are these days—and that there was no real reason for us to be there that early anyway. She said she was kind of puzzled by this request at the time.
But in hindsight, I’m not. It seems clear to me now that that demand was only the first of several pretexts contrived by McKoy’s owner and manager to provide them with an excuse for refusing to pay us the agreed-upon amount. I believe that McKoy’s owner and manager never had any intention of living up to their part of the agreement, as we lived up to ours.
This should in no way be interpreted as any sort of complaint against the bartenders and waitstaff of McKoy’s, by the way; without exception, they were friendly, courteous, professional, and seemed to have some integrity, as a couple of them who had overheard what was going on after the show remarked to me in disgusted tones that it “wasn’t right.”
Not so with McKoy’s management/ownership team, though. I’ve been a professional musician for forty years now, and this is hardly the first time I’ve had to deal with this sort of thing. It IS the first time in a very long time I’ve gotten burned like this, and even though I had my nagging suspicions throughout the night, I’m actually a little embarrassed that I didn’t see it coming and just walk away before the band got taken advantage of yet again.
We ended up playing a free gig last night—something we’re happy to do for a worthwhile charity now and then—without our consent. McKoy’s screwed us, in my opinion; I don’t think it’s even remotely arguable by anybody with honest intentions. But that doesn’t mean I’m under any obligation to anybody to keep it to myself. Quite the opposite, in fact: I feel I have an obligation to make the facts known, if only to help other musicians avoid the same thing.
In days past when something like this happened—and it does, quite a bit; I’ve said for years that there’s an entire class of people out there who make their living screwing bands over, and it’s the sad truth—there was no real recourse. Bands are at the bottom of the totem pole, and have no leverage whatsoever; there are too many of us who are desperate for any gig at all to do anything other than take our chances with possible liars and crooks and hope for the best.
But it’s different now; we have the means to speak out and warn others, at the very least. I have no ill feelings towards Lisa at all; I’ve seen no evidence at all from anybody that she screwed up, or is a liar, or a cheat. Likewise the bar- and waitstaff; they were uniformly excellent. But, again: not so with McKoy’s management and ownership. My alarm bells started tingling from the start, and the failure to heed them and pull the plug immediately was mine, and mine alone. So again: if you’re in a band, and you aren’t either a newbie who’s desperate for any gig at all or so godawful bad you pretty much have to take anything you can get, I strongly advise you to avoid McKoy’s like a bad rash.
Now, I’m not suggesting that any of you thuggish Reich-wing Nazis go over there and leave any ugly comments or anything (they’ll be taking it down pretty quick, I suspect). I would never do that. But if any of you were to be so moved, well, hey, I can’t stop ya. And would laugh, and laugh, and laugh.