Trouble At The Tralf?

Agents told Pollstar they were pulling shows from Buffalo, N.Y.’s Tralfamadore Music Hall because of missed deposits, while others have complained of non-payment. The owner of the well-known club admits there has been some financial troubles but says they are temporary and were embellished by a local newspaper article.

“The Tralf,” as it is known, has seen its share of hardships since relocating in 1982 and has gone through several owners. The latest, Rohit Kapoor, bought the club in September and renovated it extensively, including changing the sound and lighting systems, rebuilding the kitchen and relocating the box office.

A recent article in The Buffalo News said the club was hemorrhaging cash, that the staff had left en masse (including longtime buyer Tony Marfione) and the 27-year-old Kapoor’s lack of background in the music business was a root cause for the spiral, which includes an order by the city to shut down for failure to obtain business licenses.

Meanwhile, two agents have complained to Pollstar that, after settlement, they got either a rubber check or were promised a wire transfer that never arrived. In the situation involving the bounced check, the agent told Pollstar she was going to contact the Buffalo police. Another agent said he waited for a deposit that never came before switching venues. And all said getting ahold of Kapoor was impossible.

Calls to the club were met with an automated system that could not be navigated, but Kapoor returned a call to his cell phone the same day.

“It’s been a rough year financially, no question,” Kapoor told Pollstar, but said the issues with the agents were part of a transitional phase, and he wasn’t hiding from anyone. Instead, he has had to play talent buyer for the first time in his life now that Marfione has left. The one show involving a missed deposit involved slow ticket sales and the need to adjust to that situation.

“There are two things that are going on here. One, yes, the club definitely did have a lot of financial struggles but it will continue to exist and will do great next year,” Kapoor said. “The other thing that is happening is we have a lot of people working against it to deliberately bring it down.”

He accused a former owner of the club who wants it back and a competing club of fueling the bad press, adding there were “a thousand discrepancies” in the newspaper article. Meanwhile, a new staff is coming in, and a new talent buyer.

“Until last month, I’ve never dealt with an agent directly, ever. [Marfione’s] been doing it forever and I trusted him to continue doing that. A lot of times, it’s not because [the agents] didn’t get their information from me or even tried to get their information from me; it’s because they got their information directly from him,” Kapoor said.

“As far as the agents go, yeah, they’re owed and it’s not like anyone’s trying to run away and trying not to pay them. We’re just trying to fix all of the financial problems right now and we’ll get them all back on the right track.”

He added that the city was by no means trying to close the club down but instead has been incredibly supportive. The reference in the paper involved a construction situation that the city had monitored from the start, then had to resolve with the venue on the back end.

“This is an opportunity with you guys, being the industry magazine as opposed to a biased newspaper that’s in the city, (for me to say) that the place will go on and will be strong and will continue to be a great venue,” Kapoor said.

The Tralf has played host to James Brown, Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Brubeck over the years.

Joe Reinartz