When it comes to Spanish-language rock, nobody comes to San Antonio. And when they do come, they wish they never had.
On June 22, D. Baron Media in Los Angeles sent out an email announcing the cancellation of a scheduled concert at Club Rio by Mexico’s Jaguares (the band led by Saúl Hernández, former leader of Caifanes, one of Mexico’s most influential rock bands) “as a result of a promoter defaulting on their contract.”
That same day, Club Rio’s Luis Garza told me over the phone that about 250 tickets had been pre-sold, but that he couldn’t use the money for refunds because the promoter, Edmundo Pérez (from Houston’s Planeta Entertainment), had taken it all. After a few unsuccessful attempts, he was finally able to locate Pérez.
“He finally called me last Saturday and told me he’s going to start giving me payments in two weeks. We’ll see,” Garza wrote me in an email dated July 12.
Two days later I received an apparently unrelated email from Bettina Pelagagge, manager for Rosario, Argentina’s Vilma Palma E Vampiros, a major pop-rock band in the early-to-mid ’90s, still touring for loyal fans in many markets. I had seen an ad announcing their San Antonio show on July 14, and wanted to write a story about them (the “What-the-hell-are-you-doing-in-San-Antonio?” type of piece).
“We almost played there,” Pelagagge wrote on July 14, the day they were supposed to play here. “We had an interesting Texas tour but Mr. Edmundo Pérez left us broke. He took off and we lost everything. Next time we hope to find serious people.”
For weeks, neither Garza nor Vilma Palma heard from Pérez.
“The last time we saw him was 20 days before `the announced July 14 show in San Antonio`,” wrote Pelagagge. “After that, he no longer answered phone calls or emails, and at his office in Houston nobody shows up.”
Pérez likewise failed to respond to my email and three phone calls. Just before submitting this column I wanted to give it another try, but I couldn’t: Perez’s voice mailbox was full. So I contacted John Pantle, from United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills, a leading Latin alternative booking agent, and asked him about Dr. Evil.
“I worked two Texas tours with him and never had a problem,” wrote Pantle, who works with Molotov and Café Tacuba, among several major Latin alternative acts. Minutes after I told him what my deadline was and that I hoped Pérez would contact me, he wrote me back. “Wait. He will.”
And he did. Last Wednesday, Pérez contacted me by phone and, in a calm voice, denied every single allegation against him.
“That’s basically not true,” Pérez said about Jaguares’ contentions that he defaulted on their contract. “The McAllen show didn’t have the expected turnout, and Houston was so-so. San Antonio we had to cancel because we sold a little over 200 tickets and we need to protect our interests. Even Live Nation and ClearChannel have to cancel shows sometimes.
“And with Vilma Palma, we never signed any contracts. I just tried my best to get them some shows, but it was very difficult because they’re not on the radio. Nobody sent me any deposit and I didn’t keep anybody’s money. I’m building a case against `Vilma Palma` because they’ve been telling lies about me all over the United States.”
What about Garza’s claim that Pérez promised to make payments to Club Rio in relation to the missing pre-sale ticket money?
“Luis is a very good friend of mine, but that’s a lie, brother,” Pérez said.
“He’s lying,” Garza responded in an email Wednesday. “He’s known for his shamelessness. … A day before the show I gave his wife a check for $4,000 for the pre-sale tickets. … I have witnesses that can confirm he recognizes the debt and promised to pay back $1,000 every two weeks, which he hasn’t done. I can give you copies of the $4,000 check and also a bounced check for $690 he gave me more than a year ago. And we can do a conference call anytime, so that he can deny it in my presence.
“The same day of the Jaguares cancellation, Brian, from William Morris Agency `the nation’s top talent agency` called me to apologize and blame it on Edmundo `Pérez`, who owed them $17,000 and couldn’t be found.”
Garza provides other names and phone numbers of people in the industry who could confirm this.
Why can Vilma Palma play in Utah, of all places, and not in SA, which has a much larger Latino population? Why can Jaguares pack stadiums in LA, but not draw in McAllen? Why do promoters organize shows but fail to promote them, except for on radio, as if radio alone was enough to make kids magically pour in? Who owes who?
Maybe San Antonio rockeros should do what LA rockeros did in the late ‘80s: tell the promoters to shove it and organize their own tocadas. Maybe we’ll never become the US mecca of rock en español (as LA is), but at least the local Latin music scene will suck a little less. •