It happens in the band business. Club owners refuse to pay up, drummers drink the profits or promoters abscond with every last bit of dough-re-mi.
“Musicians,” says musician Peter Mavrogeorgis, “have a history of being ripped off.”
This one, however, was different.
As the owner/operator of Dollhouse Productions, which doubles as a live venue and recording studio, Mavrogeorgis—a guitar player, bassist and sound engineer—got the short end of the stick on June 21. Following an all-day, nine-band underground show, promoter Floyd Lionel slipped out the door without paying anybody.
Under the name Savannah Metal Punx, Lionel had been promoting hardcore, metal and punk shows in Savannah for five years. The June 21 event, in fact, was billed as the SMP “Birthday BBQ Bash.” Headliners were the out-of-town bands Ringworm and Eyehategod.
Within two days, Lionel had re-appeared and made good—after the fact—to eight of the bands. He also took part in a venomous back-and-forth with Savannah music people on Facebook. It all got pretty ugly.
“I asked him to erase the thread, because it just looks bad for Savannah,” says Mavrogeorgis. “Nobody needs to see us all spitting at him, and his retorts. It just makes us all look like a bunch of idiots.”
A day later, Lionel stopped communicating with Dollhouse staff. That was that.
On July 11, nearly a dozen Savannah bands will share the Dollhouse stage. At press time, the still-evolving list included Crazy Bag Lady, Whaleboat, Blackrune, Solomon’s Ghost, Broken Glow, Whiskey Wednesday, the Gumps, Doom Salad and Pridemeat (the latter being the only band that was also on the June 21 bill).
Dreamed up by Mavrogeorgis and his wife Blake, “EyeHeart the Savannah Music Scene” has two functions: To recoup the $1,000 Dollhouse is owed, and pick up the performance fee for the still-unpaid Eyehategod.
The other reason, Mavorgeorgis explains, is perhaps more crucial.
“There were a lot of bad feelings after that show,” he says. “And Savannah’s finally turning into a real music scene. Perhaps it was in the past, I don’t know, I’ve only been here a few years. But I want to keep this momentum. We’re really trying to reach out to bigger bands and show them that Savannah is not out of the way—it’s a half hour off 95!”
So it’s a public relations thing. “The thing is with these larger bands, they all talk, and I just thought this was a step in the wrong direction,” Mavrogeorgis adds. “Because people left with bad feelings.
“I want them to know that Savannah cares, and that our music scene really does appreciate when a bigger band stops by and plays. And our local bands really appreciate the opportunity to reach out to audiences by garnering opening slots for bands that in New York they wouldn’t otherwise get to play with. That’s where I stand.”
The all-day rental for Dollhouse was $700, and the backstage beer tab—picked up by Mavorgeorgis with the understanding that SMP would reimburse him —came to $300. “You can imagine how much beer nine heavy metal bands drink,” Mavrogeorgis laughs. “And that’s the wholesale price.”
A rep for Eyehategod wouldn’t confirm how much Lionel promised the New Orleans band; reportedly, it’s somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000.
Any money left over from the July 11 event will be donated to the Give Me 5 Foundation, a local music charity.
“I don’t want to come off as someone who’s trying to be some sort of an angel, or some evangelical guy,” Mavorgeorgis says. “That’s not the point of it, and I don’t want anyone to take it that way.”
As a former touring musician, he explains, he knows all about living from gig to gig.
“We reach an age where we realize we’d have to be crazy to continue,” Mavorgeorgis says. “But if I wanted to make money, do you think I’d open a recording studio and a venue?
“OK, maybe there is something evangelical about it. Because it’s just ridiculous; it’s not a money-making thing. The place used to be the Savannah Overhead Door Factory; I could have kept it at that and had money in my pocket. Before that, it was the home of the Sunshine Biscuit Company.
“I probably could have made more money making the damn biscuits again.”