An Open Letter To Untamed Entertainmentby Max Barashenkov / Images by JJ Van Rooyen / 17.02.2012
How Hardcore Almost Died
Dear Bradleigh Swenson
We all bleed for the music we love in our own little ways. Some of us play in bands and sleep on empty stomachs. Some of us take photos or design flyers for free. Some host radio shows to promote their chosen sounds, others scribble on the Internet. Of the myriad of genres, niches and scenes, the local hardcore/metal sandbox is perhaps the smallest, yet it’s fiercely loyal and supportive of its own. We troop out to gigs in the worst venues, digest even the most horrid of sound rigs and we do so gladly. Yet when there arises an entity that threatens the fragile thing we have going, it’s time for blunt words. Thus, Bradleigh Swenson, you sir, are a scumbag and your farce of a company, Untamed Entertainment, should be purged from this land with fire and bayonet.
“Why so harsh?” you, dear reader, might ask, “Untamed Entertainment bring down hardcore bands from the States and Europe to our forsaken neck of the woods, they deserve to be praised!” You will, of course, be right on said fact, but let me put forward a thesis – it’s better to have those acts stay where they are, than bring home word of disastrous tours, lacking audiences and pathetic promotion in South Africa. Because that is exactly what they will be taking away after dealing with Untamed Entertainment. Sure, they might be thrilled at the experience, like the boys from Austrian band Bloodshed Remains were, of simply being in Africa, but will they return, from a commercial point of view? Probably not. And I wonder how many other small hardcore bands will make the trip after seeing their friends return broke?
Let us examine Untamed Entertainment’s handling of the Bloodshed Remains tour that played out its fifth leg at ROAR in Cape Town on Wednesday. The guys mission from Austria, not a cheap undertaking at all, and what kind of promotion and advertising do they receive? A Facebook group for each of the shows. A fucking Facebook group! I believe there is a promoters’ manual somewhere that states on its first page – ‘Facebook cannot serve as the sole source of advertising for live music events’. Moving on. The above-mentioned groups list generous sponsors, such as Playboy SA, and entice with ‘playmates and playmate of the year appearances and magazine giveaways etc.’ I wonder if Playboy SA even knew about this, because, naturally, there was not a playmate in sight. Moving further on. Two of the shows were cancelled, one due to ‘the venue closing down’ and the other due to ‘car breakdown’. Alright, you can have that one, but let us proceed. In Durban, Untamed Entertainment had to resort to what can only be called ‘attempted audience poaching’ to try and get more than ten people into Burn. All is fair in love and war, true, but is this not simply low and pathetic? The parade keeps moving.
Cape Town’s leg of the tour saw no support bands, despite alleged texts from you, Untamed Entertainment, confirming that two support acts were secured. An email from you, Bradleigh Swenson, was received by Ghosthunter Bookings on the day, addressed to two bands, Yes Sir, Mister Machine and Give Back, neither of which have ever expressed the desire or the ability to play the show, neither of which are managed by Ghosthunter Bookings. The email urged the bands to arrive at soundcheck ASAP. Bizarre, no? The circus continues. Bloodshed Remains were booked to do an interview on the Danger Zone, an alternative radio show on the Internet station, Zone Radio. The band never showed up. Neeext. Upon arrival at the venue, it comes to light that there is no drum kit for the band to play on. The problem is mercifully resolved at the last minute, but what kind of promoter or tour manager does not consider such a crucial thing as a damn drum kit? Mysterious are thou ways, Untamed Entertainment. Have we had enough? Hmm, shall we add a little bit of colour, courtesy of you, Bradleigh Swenson? Some direct quotes, if you will, just to sweeten the deal?
Arriving at ROAR on that Wednesday night and discovering on the spot that there are, indeed, no support bands, my questioning of said fact was answered by you, Bradleigh Swenson, in this fashion: “Yes, it’s just one band, but they’re international so they’re good.” Am I the only one to see the frailty and simple stupidity of that logic? You were kind enough to drop the price to R60. Good man. Later, when we were pretty much the only people in the club, you were heard rumbling, “So Cape Town people are bastards just like those in Durban, they don’t support shit.” Refreshing, especially considering the fact that at least 30 of us trooped out to your abortion of a show on a Wednesday night, paid the entrance and gave the Bloodshed Remains guys all the support we could. And you, my dear Bradleigh Swenson, had the balls, after the boys from Austria tore up the place for a good hour and a half – to compensate for your inability to secure support acts – to get up on stage and lecture us about supporting the ‘scene’? That, perhaps, was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back and turned disappointment at a fail show to anger and rage.
Let us, for a second, entertain the thought that luck and circumstance were just not on your side that day. Shit happens, who can deny that? But let’s look back, into the past, and ask, “Does Untamed Entertainment have any previous transgressions?” Well hello, hello, it seems it does. Personally, I witnessed the equally disastrous Through This Defiance show at ROAR several months ago. Then the cover charge was R100 and I have never seen every single person at a gig look so outraged and pissed off. All 28 of them. That number including the three support bands. Lessons should have been learned then, but no. I applaud you for getting these bands down here, but what is the point if they play terrible shows? Terrible not due to lack of support, but to your lack of promotion? Looking further back, the Thornfest fiasco arises. Many bands, including Crossing Point who came out from Durban under the assumption of getting paid according to the contract, never saw any money. Their emails remained unanswered, their phone calls ignored. Northern bands, such as Facing The Gallows, now refuse to deal with Untamed Entertainment. They have simply been fucked over too often. It seems business ethics are not high on the priority list, Mr. Swenson? Without doubt, if one digs deeper, many other acts of musical exploitation will arise and it is sad to know that a company such as Untamed Entertainment has been allowed to run unchecked this long.
Please, please, dear Bradleigh Swenson, will you rid the local music scene of your presence, because, well, you are not doing anyone any good. We have had successful tours by small international acts, from The Ghost Inside, to Horse The Band, who played packed out gigs and left only the best memories behind. Don’t foul the little community that we have with your inabilities and ineptitudes. Please.
Sincerely, A Hardcore Fan