Editorial Note: Aural States takes no side in the Lo-Fi Social Club dispute and fully supports local venues as long as they continue to book high quality shows and provide a positive environment for the live experience of music. We wish the new management the best of luck in filling the great space with some talented musicians.
So this week has not been a stand-out week for venue logistics and management in Bmore. The Talking Head finds itself rooming with Sonar in their lounge space as they, like so many others, leave behind the venerated but perpetually troubled/turned-over Davis St space. In the coming weeks and months there are plans to establish the venue as a separate entity, including moving the Head’s entire PA system and staff. In addition, there will be an entrance exclusively for the Talking Head in the small alley next to Sonar. Only time will tell how this space sounds and feels relative to the old, reliable Davis St.
The Talking Head isn’t the only venue having issues. Locals know that the venue Lo-Fi Social Club has had some major logistical problems in the past few months including an anemic schedule, little to no promotion for the shows that successfully went off and a number of shows where bands were double-booked or left in the dark, outside a dark and locked Lo-Fi. Now, some light is being shed and heated drama is emerging surrounding the Lo-Fi Social Club owner Neil Freebairn and former employee Peter Goode. Read up: an apology and vague explanation from Neil on Myspace here while Peter goes more on the offensive with a horrific story of bad business practice below (originally posted on Beatbots/Myspace):
Attention all bands, performers, bartenders, soundboard engineers, Djs, and patrons of Lo-Fi Social Club. I implore all of you to boycott Lo-Fi Social Club. I have kept quiet about this for far too long and feel that it is important for all to know the story of my involvement with the club.
I am the former booking agent and curator at Lo-Fi Social Club. After pouring my heart and soul into that club (even scrubbing the floors on my hands and knees with gasoline to get the putty off from the floor after it was installed, for no money whatsoever), I have been completely let down for the last time by Neil Freebairn, the proprietor of the club. I was put in charge of booking at some point in December. I did the best job I could with what little resources that were available to me. Neil told me he didn’t want to bother with the booking anymore and this would be an easy way for me to make some money while the record store was being built (I was to be manager as I will explain shortly). I was the only person doing any booking at that club save a show or two that Neil promoted heavily because his former band was playing, booking around 100 bands and I was working for peanuts, and these are peanuts that were never paid to me.
Prior to my working at Lo-Fi Social Club full time, and after having organized the most successful night at the club when the club was at the former location in Brooklyn, The Pain of Being Dead art show, he promised me a position as curator at the new location at 1825 N.Charles. He never paid to ship back artwork to artists that were in this show and I still have several art pieces from that show that rightfully belong in the hands of the artists that spent their money and time to send the artwork to the club for the show. He told me he would pay for this and never did. This show was on April 13th of 2007. In addition to his promise to give me the position of curator, he promised me a position as record store manager when the new location opened. Regretfully, I gave my 2 weeks notice at my then current job. Needless to say, the record store never opened, though he continually promised me that it would over many months. He offered me 24k a year plus health benefits to manage the record store and curate the art shows there. This never happened. He promised for months that he would stock the store and that he was dealing with Morphius to stock the store. I spent countless hours writing up an inventory for which I was never paid. I also began construction of the record store in my backyard with a fellow Lo-Fi staff member because Neil said that if we wanted it to happen, we needed to show initiative. Well, we showed the initiative and spent the majority of my time trying to make that aspect happen and I wound up in the poorhouse for it.
Opening night was a disaster as you may all well know. I had stressed to Neil the need to count heads at the door as I knew the club would be packed that night and we would have eyes on us. He decided that “it wasn’t important” and decided to stop counting heads. It actually was very important, as several bands including Durden, Squaaks (and I believe this was supposed to be their cd release party), and Thrushes did not get to play as the police rightfully shut down the show considering it was a fire trap with that many bodies inside and outside of the club. Neil saw this disastrous night as a minor setback, but this left a sour taste in many peoples mouths, including mine, and rightfully so. This was an omen of worse things to come.
After a stream of unsuccessful shows Neil booked, he offered me the opportunity to do all the booking for the club, offering me $x amount for each show I booked. I spent months booking every single show at the club and spent a tremendous amount of time talking to bands and setting up 90% of the bills from January through March. In addition to this, I was managing both the myspace calendar and calendar on the official website very diligently, also taking and uploading 90% of the photos and creating content like interviews on the website. I was also videotaping and making and uploading almost all of the videos that are located on the website. I was working extremely hard for Lo-Fi to get off the ground.
To make a long story short, Neil Freebairn, after giving him more than adequate time to pay me (he was supposed to start paying me in January, and this left me heartbroken and destitute over the next several months causing me great mental and financial turmoil.) has still not payed me for my booking at his club. Expecting that he would make good on his obligation to pay me, many times over months, he has run me around in circles promising payment. All the public apologies you have seen Neil make, were because I told him it was in his best interest to do so. He seemed to not really care when he left five bands standing outside a locked club for a show that had been booked at least two months in advance, while he decided to go skiing instead of running his club. He chalked this up to a miscommunication even though the show was on the calendar.
In addition to him letting me down in all the afforementioned ways, I am stuck dealing with bands and artists that are upset because their bills that were left unfinished due to Neil firing me. I had to deal with all the irate bands leaving me angry messages and artists whose artwork I can not afford to ship back to them. I have very expensive artwork that needs to be shipped back to artists that Neil agreed to pay the cost for and never did. On a side note, at one point, Neil “sold” (he gave it to a prospective buyer who said money was not an issue) a piece of Patio Screendoor’s artwork that was clearly labelled Not For Sale. I got some considerable heat from this though I was no longer involved with the club any longer. Luckily, Patio tracked down his piece of artwork himself and got it back.
This past weekend, I decided that, as a favor to my friend Pietro, and only as a favor to him, that I would help him out and hook him up with Lo-Fi as a space so that he could celebrate his birthday. Neil had promised him the night several months before but never returned any of his phone calls or text messages. I felt bad that Pietro wasn’t going to have a place where could have his birthday. Neil promised to pay me a large sum of the money he owes me this past weekend the night of Pietro‘s party. He did not. He avoided me all weekend and never paid me. This is the last straw. He will not return any of my phone calls and has made no effort to contact me.
It is s this the type of inept person that should not be supported. I have never worked with a person as unprofessional as this. He has ridden on my coat tails for months on end and has caused considerable damage to my reputation as a booking agent and a curator. He has gone on the radio and not given me any credit even though I was single handedly taking care of all the booking and curation for months on end. I know he has done similar things to other people involved with Lo-Fi that are on public record in the past. I have wasted half a year of my life because of Neil’s promises to me and beyond not fulfilling those, he is not paying me money that he owes me and is illegally using my copyrighted images on his website which he refuses to take down. I implore you to not support this club in any way shape or form.
I have good reason to believe he has been selling alcohol illegally at his club on nights he did not have event licenses for as well hoping that he will not get caught. I’ve seen him do it before.
I will be pursuing legal action against Neil Freebairn. I am posting this because I don’t think anybody should have to endure anything like what happened to me or bands that were left standing outside of a shut down club or traveling bands that have shown up to find out that Neil booked another show instead and never showed the decency to call and notify the bands. I am an honest person and stand behind this statement 100%. I feel it is important for everyone in the arts and music community to know about these injustices and illegal practices being conducted over at Lo-Fi Social Club. I have it in writing that he owes me this sum of money but he is making no efforts to pay me. The principal of what happened to me is why I am going to pursue this aggressively. This club owner is a dishonest crook that should not be worked with. I intensely regret ever having any involvement with him and his establishment.
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