My Gig From Hell - Baz Francis Duarte (Magic Eight Ball/Mansion Harlots) Print E-mail
Written by Baz Francis Duarte   
Sunday, 11 February 2018 04:00

Baz Francis live at S8 Underground Club Budapest Hungary by Andrea DuarteI try and maintain a dignified silence on certain matters, but sometimes a gig is only a fiasco when others dishonour the code of the artist, and then us musicians have to speak up to help guide our peers away from being treated as badly in the future. Last year, I wrote a three-part ‘Face That Launched A Thousand Shipwrecks’ World Tour diary for Über Rock in which I documented my travels across eight countries on the verge of three continents, and one glowing review that I gave of a venue then has since come back to haunt me, so this piece shall revise that part.

 

In May 2017 I travelled out to Cairo to record my live album, 'Trainwrecks In The Desert', and that week began with me being in Finland for a show there as well. When I got a booking in Turkey proposed for the days of the week in between those two dates (which was the day available to me at the venue before Ramadan), it was going to be a massive strain on me for me to pull it off, but it was a challenge I felt up to. Edirne on the far west of the country has no airport which was not a good start, so this was set to be an around 4,000 mile trip for me (around 250 miles by car, the rest by air). When the venue owner agreed to pick me up from İstanbul Airport, I wanted to make sure that this show happened despite all the strain that this would put me under.

 

I booked my plane tickets at my own expense (to be reimbursed later, it was agreed) and headed out into the unknown. I was indeed greeted by the owner of the venue in which I was to play, a small but homely looking place named Mahzen, and as soon as I arrived in Edirne I was taken around being introduced to all and sundry as 'the English musician playing in our venue!'. It was quite a lot to take in, but I was happy to speak to everyone. Looking back on it now however, I was a fool not to see the owner's ulterior motive.

 

I presented all the staff at the venue with free albums and shirts, having publicised the venue farther afield than they had been mentioned before. I was honourable on that front, and had requested the most basic of fees for the gig just so that I could cover my costs and make this show happen with them. Additional costs to me then meant I was set to be £30 down at the end of the trip, but I wrote this off as an investment to an experience. I picked the wrong person to have such faith in.

 

 

I shan't repeat the man in question's name (although it is mentioned in my earlier tour diary in a more favourable light) as he has a perfectly nice family who would no doubt be appalled by their husband/father's business/human ethics. As his wife and daughter were unable to make my show as I have previously mentioned, I performed a special soundcheck exclusively for them. I thought nothing of it at the time as I believed they were all great friends in the making.

 

A few hours later I was set to go onstage, and it was agreed that I would play a three-hour non-stop set into the early hours. Again, I was happy to do this for my hosts, but in a small venue on a weeknight in more provincial part of western Turkey, my audience was small... but their hearts big. Even still, it was not the easiest of jobs trying to entertain them with my Turkish language skills that were limited to all of two words! Try as I did though, I made it through the three hours and delivered a set that those who booked me were apparently very happy with.

 

We posed for photos after my show and then I sat with everyone remaining, allowing others to play on my guitar when what I needed most at that point was sleep. There lied the problem: the guy who booked me then all of a sudden couldn't take me back to Instanbul some 125 miles away because "something else came up" for him, and he was going to pack me off on a 5am bus to the airport instead. Thankfully, a more honourable friend of his who had enjoyed my set agreed to take me there instead, but with two hours until we had to leave town, I dared not sleep lest I missed my ride. Before we departed Mahzen though, the owner sat me down and through an interpreter told me how he'd wire me the money later, and also that he wished to have my address so that he could send my wife and I some wine to our home as she had not been able to join me on this trip. I had no reason to doubt him nor his generosity. The downside to my only way of getting back to İstanbul was that I was ridiculously early for my flight and couldn't get flight-side at the airport for some time to follow, but I got there at least and slowly began to make my way back to the UK.

 

 

What happened next is something that everyone at Mahzen knew: I was moving to the States. When I asked for an update on my money 30 days on from my gig in Turkey, what should have been a simple matter then turned into a six-month back and forth of lies and deception from their end. I was asked for additional banking details and so forth, which I promptly provided, and I was due to finally get reimbursed for my Turkish trip two months late, but better than never I thought. Then, the money never came through. Then the excuses began about the state of the Turkish economy. Then the guy promised me another guaranteed date of payment, then failed to deliver once again. All the while I was insulted to see my allegedly financially stricken debtor's family posting photos from their summer vacations via the powers of social media.

 

Following my trip to Egypt later in the week of my Mahzen show I had gotten some sort of gastric flu, which although caught in Africa, was not helped I feel by the fact that I had physically exhausted my immune system and I by taking on so much by playing on the verge of 3 continents in the space of 10 days on that part of my tour. Skip forward a few months, and like anyone starting out a new life in a new continent, I was totally wiped out of money in the beginning and had to borrow money to survive at first. Now that owed Turkish money was the difference between me being able to afford to eat or not, and I told my debtor exactly this. I was offered excuses and then eventually just ignored, all the while receiving Thumbs Up on Facebook and the like by him, his family and team as if that were compensation for this man's crime, because make no mistake, the owner of Mahzen is a thief. In the end I had to write off the expense in my head for my own peace of mind, but I share this story today as a warning to my fellow working musicians out there. I played countless shows across 11 countries last year, and this man was the ONLY one out of all of them who did not pay me as agreed for my services.

 

Would you ask a plumber to travel 4,000 miles to come and fix your sink at their own cost, and then not pay them back for their most basic expenses when they come and do it against the odds? If not, then DON’T TREAT MUSICIANS THAT WAY.

 

No one should ever be made to feel like a fool for thinking the best of people, nor for doing that which they love, but when you are cheated like I was at Mahzen then it is hard not to feel this way. My once good memories from that trip have now all been tarnished, and people like that man who stole my hard-earned money don't actually promote live music; they are the death of the song.

 

Stay safe out there, guys as there are sharks in the water.

 

With love, Baz Francis Duarte.

 

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