Friday, February 10, 2006

6. Broken Promises

I, that am honest; I, that hold it sin
To break the vow I am engaged in;
I am betray'd, by keeping company
With men like men of inconstancy.
——Love's Labour's Lost,

That is a piecrust promise: easily made, easily broken.
——Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins

I can sense your frustration, gentle reader. You feel betrayed. You think an essay whose title includes the words "Greek vacation" should actually contain some description of a Greek vacation. After all, what is a title but an implicit promise about content? And if a person breaks an implicit promise, isn't he not only a liar but a weasel, since he raised your hopes without actually stating the promise? And isn't a manipulative liar worse than a bald-faced one?

Dear reader, I shall try to be neither sort of liar. Everything in this essay is and shall be, to the best of my knowledge, completely factual. When it becomes necessary to disclose facts that do not reflect well on me, I intend to do so. Let me reassure you, I did in fact go to Greece and will attempt to get us there soon. Bear in mind, the preparation took more than a year; the trip itself lasted only two and a half weeks.

But speaking of broken promises, perhaps now would be a good time to tell you what promises were made to me before I stepped on the plane. Or at least what I expected, since in some cases, whether the promises were explicit or implicit depends on other contingencies, such as the meaning of the word "we," for example. So, implicitly or explicitly, Q. and his wife, E. — via conversation, e-mail, and text on their Web site — had fostered within me the following expectations:
  • That we'd be playing "at the Olympics" in front of "thousands of people" and staying someplace "in the shadow of the Acropolis." Meals, a place to stay, and transportation would be covered. Virgin Megastore would be a corporate sponsor for commercial concert venues.
  • That Q.'s company and record label would also sponsor performances in Athens by some better-known Christian bands: Switchblade, Feveri$h, Jimmy & the Pullet Pluckers, and Mob Barley. Loudmouth, we were told, was booked to play a concert with the latter two bands. I was impressed. Switchblade and Feveri$h in particular are fairly high-level bands, and they don't work with just anybody. Q., it seemed, had the connections to make an event like this fly.*
  • That Q. and E. would spring for some Olympic event tickets. Here we must note the difference between an expectation and a promise:

    E. sent everyone a link to the Olympic event schedule for Aug. 24–25, comprising some 50 events, and asked us to name the ones we'd most like to see. She wrote, "Even though Q. and I were so busy during the last Olympics in Salt Lake City, we committed to everyone that we would go to an event or two during the next Oly’s in Athens."

    1. I guess that since she asked us to choose an event, I assumed she'd do something with the information we gave her — namely, buy tickets.
    2. She used the phrase "committed to everyone that we would go." Well, how do you "commit" to go to a ticketed event? Buy tickets.
    3. She didn't ask us for money — so logically, who was left to buy the tickets? Q. and E.
    4. I assumed most events would sell out well in advance, so it would be smart to buy tickets ahead of time, especially for a large group like ours. (In fact, the Athens Games were rather a disappointment in terms of ticket sales, but no one could have known that beforehand.)

    Well, my assumptions might have been logical, but they weren't accurate. E.'s e-mail never said who'd pay for the tickets. And she and Q. did take some band members to an Olympic event, although those who went had to pay for their own tickets. So this counts as a shattered expectation but not as a broken promise.

  • That Q. had assembled another band called U4ic,** who would be flying over with us. He said I might play with that band as well, and in fact he called me in to record some rhythm tracks and a lead break on tenor guitar for a U4ic song. It was a calypso version of the hymn "Sweet By and By." (Those tracks are probably my only contribution to one of Q.'s musical projects that actually appeared on a release of any kind. But more later about that.***)
  • That a cellist would join Loudmouth, and she and I would each be expected to prepare a classical solo piece. I gave Q. a copy of my solo CD and sent an e-mail suggesting a couple of pieces I could play and asking which one he liked.****
  • That the Loudmouth CD would be completed and for sale at the concerts we played — and the band would get some of the money.
  • That there were some 150 ministries supporting Loudmouth.
  • That band members would be doing TV and radio interviews. When I asked whether my wife, Sarah, could come along for the trip, Q. suggested that she could be an on-camera coach for the interviews. Later he offered to pay for her transportation as well as mine, as long as I confirmed her availability with him right away. If memory serves, this offer was made toward the end of the week of July 18–24, on Thursday or Friday. I confirmed by e-mail on Saturday, July 24, and by voice mail the following Monday.

I could go on. But now that I think about it, I had reason to believe, even before I went to Greece, that broken promises were something of a behavior pattern with Q. and E. I've already mentioned Q.'s failure to show up at my church. In addition, they repeatedly talked about recording at some cushy studio (this one) with living quarters, hot tubs, and a 9-hole golf course. Since I thought they were just trying to impress me, and I don't particularly care where I record (I made most of my solo CD in the producer's laundry room), the fact that this never happened didn't bother me. Maybe it should have. Q. also waxed rhapsodic to my wife about plans to have our volunteer roadies do a Stomp-style performance at our concerts (as though that wouldn't require talent, training, choreography and a ton of rehearsal). This latter scheme even made its way into a press release, along with many other non-events. Various other teasing tidbits about things "in the works" would crop up in e-mails from E. — working with a Grammy-winning guest producer; gigs in Idaho and New Zealand as well as on Crete and the Greek island of Patmos; staying at Kalamos Youth Center; playing at a Worship Together seminar — and then dissipate into the ether, never to be mentioned again. In fact, this last suggestion seemed to be the occasion of a dramatic flip-flop in Q. and E.'s promotion strategy. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail E. sent on 7/2/2003:

We had several invitations to music fests, events, etc. The one reason we have said "No" is because we want to have CDs for you guys to be able to be compensated for your time.
And here's what she said on 10/7/2003 when she mentioned playing at Worship Together:
I know it may seem weird to you because most independent groups finish their CD project first and then go out there and promote and do concerts and stuff, well not us. We have chosen to get you guys out there promoting in all different avenues with cool opportunities, i.e. radio servicing, radio interviews, TV, concerts, etc. for several months before the release of the CD like the big names do it. By the time your CD hits the street everyone is familiar with who you are.
Did you catch that? The two statements are completely contradictory. It's a 180-degree change in the space of three months! How bizarre is that? Given that we never played at Worship Together or any other such event, the first statement was probably closer to the truth. On the other hand, given that the CD was never released, the second statement was probably closer to the truth. In the end, we got the worst of both worlds: no CD and very little exposure.

So if I've learned anything, I guess it's that people who make false promises about extravagant things (such as studios with golf courses) may be just as likely to make false promises about basic things (such as room and board, performance venues, and whose transportation is covered). And perhaps, having seen that certain promises weren't kept before I went to Greece, I was foolish to expect that other promises would be kept when I got there. However, I can't impute to Q. any sinister motive. He may well have attempted to effect all the things he promised — but if so, many of his attempts failed. He tended to represent deals as done when they really weren't, and to take credit for the work of others.

A very illuminating quote appears on an old version of the Web site for Q.'s record label:

We support and work with a lot of credible, worldwide renowned ministries. We feel in order to keep a ongoing trustworthy relationship with these ministries and future ministries, it is important when looking at adding more people to the team, we keep the high standard of growing a business and ministry where we are all "living a life above reproach" as the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to all Christians.
Of course, it isn't up to me to judge whether Q.'s behavior meets this standard or not. I'm only here to recite the facts.

*Speaking of connections, Q. not only licensed songs by Jessica Simpson and Moby for a compilation CD, he claimed to know the artists. He also claimed that well-known Christian singers Stinky Cheeseman and Picante Chilipepa were supporting our Greece trip — but I am not sure whether said support was supposed to be financial or emotional. The impression that Q. was working with several bands besides ours seemed to explain why he was sometimes hard to reach, and why his work on the Loudmouth CD was going so slowly. After all, he had many other irons in the fire!

**People like myself who pay attention to words and their meanings will note that "euphoric" usually refers to an artificially induced sense of well-being, such as you might get from drugs. So perhaps it wasn't the best name for a band professing Christianity.

***Here's a chronology of changes to the music section of Q.'s Web site, which rather tends to support the notion that chaos and instability reign at what passes for his record label:

Early March 2005: Loudmouth Worshippers renamed U4ic; U4ic renamed Playpin Junkyard. Makes you wonder who's reading this blog.

April 2005: Q. deletes the music page from his Web site, renames his record label, and launches a new site for it. Playpin Junkyard disappears entirely; U4ic is still listed, with no release date or other information. A new project called Knee Fight is scheduled for September 2005. (Knee Fight — what the ...? As if Playpin Junkyard weren't a stupid enough name...)

Autumn 2005: Release date for Knee Fight comes and goes. Project deleted from site. Link added to the Web site for "Six Steps to Heaven," a Hawaii-based band. U4ic still listed, with new graphic but no information. "Six Steps to Heaven" may have the best shot at actually finishing a project and getting it released, because (a) they're a pre-existing band not manufactured or managed by Q.; (b) they're in Hawaii, so he can't interfere with their operations on a daily basis. We shall see.

October 2005: Q. and B. recycle the name "Watercloset," a band B. used to front about 13 years ago. B. is the only original member in the new lineup, but he does obtain the blessing of other original members to use the name. New band photo includes two of the guys who went to Greece with Loudmouth, along with B., and two others I don't recognize. The forthcoming project is to be titled "The Best of Watercloset" — kind of an odd title for a band that did one CD in the early '90s and has been inactive since then. And, as we shall see, every water closet gets flushed before long.

February 2006: Q. assembles another outreach team for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Details are never made public: no announcements about which bands are going to Italy with which other bands, etc. Perhaps Q. has learned something about making extravagant promises.

March 2006: U4ic link disappears from record-label homepage. So both bands Q. assembled for Athens are history. The "Watercloset" project is reconfigured as a solo project for B. Considering that these changes happened just after the Winter Olympics, it's really tempting to infer that another meltdown occurred in Italy, similar to the one that unfolds in this blog, and that existing material is being repackaged as a B. solo project because Q. can't keep a band together long enough to do anything else. However, you'll never catch me making such inferences. That would amount to idle speculation, which is not my purpose here.

****Do you think I ever heard back from him about this?


Post a Comment

<< Home