By TONY TAGLAVORE
This Thursday night was supposed to be THE night.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of Shreveport-Bossier music lovers were likely going to fill Festival Plaza in downtown Shreveport. A-Train, the popular local band from the 80s and 90s which hasn’t played together in several years, was going to perform as part of Rewind — a never-before Thursday night kickoff to the 39th Mudbug Madness festival.
But a difference of opinion about the definition of a single word — which was not made clear in the contract between the two parties — has halted the highly-anticipated concert.
That word? Reunion.
Mudbug Madness officials believe reunion means a one-time event. But after the contract was signed between Bruce Flett Productions (representing A-Train) and Mudbug Madness, A-Train accepted an offer to play an invitation-only concert in Shreveport for approximately 300 people.
That concert took place last Saturday night — five nights before A-Train’s scheduled Mudbug Madness performance.
“We did not put in the contract that they could not perform elsewhere, but it was clear, verbally, that it was for a reunion show,” Mudbug Madness chairperson Terri Mathews told the Shreveport-Bossier Journal. “When we heard they had booked another show for days earlier, then clearly it wasn’t a reunion show anymore.”
Thus, the disagreement.
“She was all up in arms that we were—I never really could understand the reasoning on this—but somehow in her mind, (playing a private party) made it not a reunion,” John Howe, a founding member of the band, told the Journal. “We hadn’t played for years, and here we are playing, and the reason we’re getting together specifically is because of the Mudbug festival. So, that kind of looks like the definition of a reunion.”
One thing both sides do agree on is that the contract did not state A-Train could not perform anywhere else before performing at Mudbug Madness.
“We looked the contract over real carefully, and there was nothing that precluded us from doing whatever we wanted to do,” Howe said. “That’s like saying you can’t go eat crawfish anywhere 30 days before the Mudbug fest, because if you do, you shouldn’t come here because you’ve already had your crawfish. That’s just ridiculous.”
Mathews found out about the private concert in advance, but not from anyone with A-Train.
“(Someone) texted me a copy of the invitation, and I immediately reached out to Bruce (Flett, an original member of A-Train). We had a few texts back and forth, and after that, I asked for details about the party, and that’s when John Howe called me. I still asked for details about the party, and I never received them.”
Mathews said she had been working with Flett for the past five or six months. But when the issue arose of A-Train playing another show before its scheduled performance at Mudbug Madness, Matthews said Flett stopped communicating with her.
“Bruce Flett was the guy I dealt with all the way up until I heard about the other booking, at which time he had John Howe call me,” Mathews said. “I have not heard from Bruce since.”
Calls and messages to Flett from the Journal were not returned.
Mathews won’t say how much of Mudbug Madness’ approximately $30,000 advertising budget was spent on promoting A-Train’s scheduled performance. However, billboards were seen throughout town.
“When you talk about all the advertising, it was a significant part,” Mathews said. “We’re a non-profit. We can’t just throw money into the wind.”
Mathews said the festival began its advertising campaign a month earlier than usual, because of the expected interest in A-Train’s performance.
“It was probably five or six months ago when I reached out to Bruce in New York and said, ‘Hey, can we make this happen?’ It was months and months of planning this. We immediately started designing our ads and everything around that show. We are extremely disappointed, and I know a good part of the community is, too, and we hate that.”
Mathews admits the festival lost money not related to advertising but would not go into specifics. Howe said that, per the contract, A-Train received a non-refundable deposit, which was 50 percent of its performance fee. Howe also said the festival paid for an airplane ticket to fly a band member to town for the concert.
When asked if that was true, Mathews replied, “No comment.”
Mathews said Mudbug Madness is not seeking legal recourse for money lost. Howe said A-Train doesn’t plan on paying back the cost of the airplane ticket, or the down-payment amount.
“After all this, they’re asking for the deposit and the plane ticket back,” Howe said. “I’m thinking, ‘What part of non-refundable do you not understand?’”
Howe says it’s Mudbug Madness which owes A-Train money.
“They are in breach of contract, and they owe us the other 50 percent of the performance fee. I would prefer not to (seek legal recourse). The money is hardly worth chasing. They don’t pay a whole lot. Plus, you’ve got the time and the trouble. Who needs that kind of a karma headache?”
While they disagree on the meaning of the word reunion, both sides agree on one thing. A lot of people have been let down.
“There is nobody more disappointed than Mudbug Madness,” Mathews said. “All these people who are up in arms, we feel for them, because obviously they weren’t invited to the other event. We feel bad for them, but this was a verbal agreement to have a reunion show. No, it wasn’t in the contract, but it also didn’t say we couldn’t cancel.”
“We’re terribly disappointed,” Howe said. “There are probably a couple of thousand people that wanted to have a party and wanted to hear us one more time. Those are our friends. We were looking forward to seeing them. Our fans are our friends. They’re part of our past and our memories.”
Festival Plaza will be open from 5-10 p.m. Thursday for the Rewind event. The Boomers and The Crawdads — two former local bands — will perform. Papa Mali’s Shantytown Underground Band will replace A-Train.
“We just had that one spot to fill,” Mathews said. “We had been talking with Papa Mali about next year, so that just fell into place. He was available, and we’re real excited about that. We’ve got 29 other bands over the four days, so we’ve got a lot of music.”
Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com