This Fledgling Promoter Is For Real

So many times, Pollstar tells tales of woe: A show collapses and the promoter disappears. An act cancels and a promoter is stuck with the bill. There’s even some con artist – with a "force manure" in his poorly spelled, fake contract –- that dupes unknowing club owners from time to time.

Then there’s the story of Denis Benoit, a fledgling promoter who tried to bring Firehouse, Warrant and White Lion to a city of 12,000 people in upstate New York.

The event – the Upstate Music Festival in Norfolk – collapsed day of show. It was going to take place at the Massena Town Beach.

When Benoit was told he didn’t have the proper mass gathering permits, the festival was moved to a property five miles down the road. Then it was moved to a venue called All Inn Lounge in Hogansburg. Then it was canceled.

Meanwhile, Firehouse arrived in the city after flying into New York and getting a 3-hour ride to the city. Warrant had flight tickets in hand when they were told to not board the plane because of the cancellation.

Is everybody pissed at Benoit? Is this a tale of the typical neophyte promoter who didn’t understand all the paperwork involved in a concert promotion? One who didn’t have the capital to handle a cancellation and has drifted back into the faceless crowd?

Apparently not.

John Domagall, agent for all three bands, gave Benoit a glowing review. He said Benoit was highly professional and did everything by the book. In fact, Firehouse went back to play for Benoit in September.

The reason the festival fell apart in the first place had nothing to do with the promoter – according to the promoter. It was politicians in the ointment.

Benoit said he and his partner, Richard Nadeau – both from Cornwall, Ontario – decided in January to put on a show in Massena, which is on the Canadian border. There had never been a concert of this size in Massena, and the two men – doing business as Concert International – thought bringing in some high-profile ’80s acts would do the trick.

They met with the Massena Town Board and secured the Massena Town Beach for the event, Benoit said. He anticipated an audience of 10,000.

The chamber of commerce would get $2 per ticket and its office would act as a kiosk. Benoit said he filed all the paperwork he was asked to file – from EMS and security forms to a mass gathering permit and securing porta-potties. Long story short, he claims the show was a no-go after a city official claimed Concert International did not file papers that it actually had filed.

The concert was moved down the road and capacity was reduced, but Benoit said he ran into the same problems. Then, even though about 6,000 tickets were sold, the show was moved to the 3,000-capacity All Inn and Benoit says he was ready to hand out refunds to those who couldn’t get in. That’s when the sound company – which Benoit says he paid – took off back to Canada.

Still, he gave Firehouse their $10,000 guarantee as soon as they arrived in town.

Lawsuits are on the way, Benoit told Pollstar.

Domagall’s job is to make sure his clients get paid and he worked on their behalf to get payment for Warrant and White Lion. It wasn’t smooth, but he got the guarantees.

"As far as I’m concerned, there was a happy ending," Domagall told Pollstar. "The bands got paid, and Firehouse has since gone back and played a rescheduled makeup play. … He paid them $10,000, which is the same as what he paid them not to play last time. He offered Warrant a return play [which they could not schedule] for $10,000, which is what they got last time."

He added that Benoit went to great lengths to put on a good show, including getting ads produced through Bill Young Productions.

"I think he was genuinely concerned with handling things the right way. I tell you what: I’ve had plenty of problems with the major promoters who didn’t sell enough tickets and wanted out of their 10 percent deposit. The fact that this guy canceled and actually paid the bands was a hell of a deal."

Now he’s working with Benoit, helping to secure George Thorogood through Monterey International.