Drama At BackBooth – A Case For New Ownership

    As the owner of BackBooth, Aaron Wright is ultimately to blame for the bad and praised for the good. Given the revelations behind his inept oversight and history of a lax moral and ethical requirement of his former and current employees, one has to ask…..is he fit to be running BackBooth?

    By Jacob Engels


    We here at the East Orlando Post spend a lot of time focused on politics, as you well know. We hold those in power accountable and call them out for hypocrisy and corruption. But corruption, dishonesty, and hypocrisy are not limited to politics in Orlando.


    Orlando has a vibrant and thriving community of music, entertainment, and art. We have written about the arts in Orlando on many occasions and can call many local musicians, filmmakers, actors, and artisans our friends. Often times the East Orlando Post writes about their endeavors while other media outlets fall silent.


    Talented young artists of all mediums call Orlando home and they have fallen prey to an unscrupulous, dishonest, and corrupt bar & venue owner. So, like we do with when our local politicians run amok, it’s time to call out Aaron Wright – the owner of Backbooth.

    Over the past month, I have been researching several allegations made against the popular Orlando bar & venue which Wright owns.

    It all started when a friend approached me and informed me that her boyfriend’s band (Tef London) had been promised a cut of the pre-sale tickets and at least $100 for playing a show at BackBooth, which was organized by promoter and BackBooth employee Danny Alvarez. Backbooth is owned by Aaron Wright.

    Danny Alvarez, accused of reneging on several agreements with Tef London.

    The promoter working the show, Danny Alvarez had promised them a cut of the money brought in from the pre-sales after they finished their set along with $100.

    Jenny Morrison who doubles as lead vocals for Tef London and as the band’s manager told the East Orlando Post that she showed up on December 14th, nearly a month before the scheduled show on the 16th to grab tickets so the band could get started on the pre-sales.

    “I arrived when Mr. Alvarez asked me to, and was told that he was not in. After 30 minutes or so, I returned and was able to meet with Danny. He told me that all local acts have a $100 guarantee and that if we sold a good amount of pre-sales we would get a percentage of the “door.” He also told me that we had a 45 minute set and that tickets would cost $12,” Morrison told us.

    On the night of the concert, January 16th the Tef London pre-sale tickets accounted for 27% of the people in the bar that night. The Caffiends who also played that night accounted for 21% of the people at BackBooth. Control This, another band playing that night accounted for 0%. Morrison of Tef London said she wasn’t informed of their addition (Control This) to the line-up until the day before.

    Tef London. Jenny Morrison (center).

    “We got an email the day before informing us that another band had been added to the bill and that our stage time was going to be cut in half. It really sucked. We hustled to sell those tickets to family and friends and now they were only going to be able to see us play for half the time,” explained Morrison.

    What kind of venue is Aaron Wright operating? One where young artists who are trying to make a living and follow their dream are lied to and taken advantage of by promoters that he hires?


    In a separate correspondence with a member of the band Control This, Mr. Alvarez said this in response to a question about securing payment for members of Control This, who are paid wages according to the communique.

    “We have a budget set aside for Locals but of course Guarantee has to be met first, but if we all sell some tickets we should be able to all make some money.”


    So let’s do a quick recap. First, Danny Alvarez explains that local bands are guaranteed at least $100 and a percentage of “the door.” Second, Danny Alvarez reneges on his oral agreement with Morrison confirming they had a 25 minute set. Oral agreements are legally binding in the state of Florida. Third, he tell the third act Control This that he has a budget set aside for local bands, but if everyone helps with the pre-sales then everyone WILL MAKE MONEY.


    On the night of the concert, the band arrived on time at 5pm for the scheduled “load in” and Alvarez was no where in sight. Kyle Raker of the promotions company Norse Korea eventually let the band in when Alvarez failed to show.


    After the show, the members of Tef London began looking for Danny Alvarez – wanting to secure the payment that he promised and they could not find him. Jenny eventually spotted Danny and he told her to hang on, and that he was going to go talk to his boss (Aaron Wright) and then come back to settle up. Fifteen minutes passed, and Morrison was told by a bartender at BackBooth that Alvarez had gone home.


    Aaron Wright, owner of BackBooth.

    “We worked hard to take care of this bartender all night, and we spent a lot of money. He knew that and offered to call Danny for us in an attempt to get things straightened out,” described Morrison.


    During the call, made on the bartenders phone, Alvarez told Morrison that their ticket sales did indeed account for 27% of the people through the door that night. He then told her she should have never handed over the pre-sale money and that he wouldn’t be paying the band at all.


    Alvarez denies these allegations, saying the show didn’t bring in enough money to cover the expenses and pay bands. He said that he took money out of his own pocket to help cover expenses.

    BackBooth owner Aaron Wright reached out to us through our facebook page and said that these allegations are an outright lie and that he is not to blame for a promoter breaking an agreement he made with bands and that we would be opening ourselves up to a defamation lawsuit if we ran the story.

    He said that he had problems and concerns about a promotions company called Booked Promotions, which he claimed Alvarez worked for. He said he was working with a new company called Norse Korea and was trying to make sure everything was going to be “above board” once again.

    We sent the communiques and testimony from Jenny Morrison and members of The Caffiends and Control This to Mr. Wright and suggested he sit down with them and put the matter to bed.

    We even offered to moderate. We reached out to him with the opportunity to do an interview with the East Orlando Post to provide his side of the story. We told Mr. Wright that we would hold the story in hopes of him and the bands coming to a resolution.

    He agreed to do both. In the end, he never responded to us or the bands, so we reached out to him again and informed him that the article was back on and that he still had the option to tell his side of the story.

    Through facebook Mr. Wright threatened legal action again.


    I think he meant to say sue.


    Following this missive, we began reaching out to people who had been discussing this upcoming article, Alvarez’s employer before Backbooth, and others plugged in to the local music scene. What followed painted a disturbing picture of incompetent ownership and management at best, and out right dishonest business practices at worst. Many bands painted a damning picture of BackBooth dating back to 2008.

    Several asked to remain anonymous – saying they had already been warned by Aaron Wright (Owner of BackBooth) that if they spoke out – they’d never play in this town again and could be subject to a lawsuit. Cory Hall who has been heavily involved in the local music scene said this, offering hope that Kyle Raker of Norse Korea would clean things up.


    Has BackBooth owner Aaron Wright been turning a blind eye to shady promoters who renege on deals with local bands on more than one occasion? Hall’s comment would seem to suggest that he has. If so, what is his cut?


    Zach Knauer, a solo artist said he and another local act were scheduled to play at BackBooth with a band that would be traveling from the Carolinas called Lion In Winter.

    “After they had driven all the way from South Carolina and arrived for “load in”, we found a bouncer standing outside BackBooth. The venue was closed and we waited around for a few hours before we were all informed that the show was cancelled.

    Lion In Winter even offered to play for free, but BackBooth denied that request. We were all really dissapointed.” Knauer told us via facebook message.

    Does Aaron Wright understand what it means for a young up and coming band to make the financial and time commitment to drive through several states for a show? How much money did this band lose that they could have used to pay for rent, groceries, and other needed expenses like medical care?


    Another local band, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of not getting booked again, told us that BackBooth and promoters they contracted to organize events triple booked a night and cancelled on two local acts the night of. They instead had an out of town rapper perform.

    “It just made us feel like the owner and the promoters were not on the same page. They pretty much said “Screw you, this out of town guy is more important.”

    And that’s when Kyle Raker, whom me mentioned earlier started popping up in feeds and started to send threatening messages to people sharing their negative experiences at BackBooth. Remember, Kyle was the promoter from Norse Korea who let Tef London in on the night of their show when Danny Alvarez was MIA.

    Kyle Raker of Norse Korea (glasses).

    “I believe some clarification is in order here. Neither the venue, nor the owner, receives a cut of the ticket sales for shows. It all goes to the promoter. So if you were not paid what you were promised, you were wronged by the promoter. As a promoter, that upsets me greatly. The last thing I need, is people making what I do harder. Jenny and I talked about her situation the night it occurred. I stressed then, and I stress again, that her issue is with that promoter. Not Aaron. Not backbooth. Aaron and backbooth stole nothing from her. It’s the same w any other venue. Wills Pub, Odins, etc. The owners aren’t pocketing door money. They are there to provide a room and a bar and that is the extent of their relationship with the business side of shows. I find extremely disappointing that you guys are calling for a boycott of Backbooth- the venue I was just recently hired to take over promoting for- when the person who allegedly stole money was not and is not even and employee of Backbooth.” Raker opined.

    That brings us to an interesting part of this whole cluster f***. Raker, who is now handling promotions for BackBooth claims that Danny Alvarez was not and is not an employee of BackBooth.

    At that point, I reached out to Alvarez’s former employer – Booked Promotions, who BackBooth owner had claimed to have problems with and who he blamed the alleged theft of pre-sale money on – along with Danny Alvarez. Andrew Maffetone, who owns Booked Promotions provided us the following comment via email.


    Booked Promotions helps artists with booking, promotions, production, concerts, festivals, management, consulting , tours, and more!

    “That particular employee was released from our company about 5-6 months ago and Backbooth had approached us and asked if it was okay for them to hire him because of his non-compete in his contract. We approved it and he was hired by them.

    We let him go for different reasons, not for stealing pre-sale money. If we had even gotten a small hint of that happening he would have been let go a lot sooner.

    “If we were ever approached with an issue from a band they were always paid out what was guaranteed. If this is actually something that happened at Backbooth through him while he was an employee we would’ve been told by one of the artists and we would have done what we could to solve the problem.


    Our businesses focuses strongly on customer service with our musicians because we are fully aware that without them there would be no music scene and we would not exist. If an issue like this was ever brought to our attention we would have done everything in our power to rectify the situation. This sounds odd as we still book shows with Backbooth and the owner has not mentioned this to us at all.


    We still have shows at Backbooth and many other venues around Central Florida and we always make sure our bands leave happy and given what was promised.”

    According to Maffetone – Aaron Wright and his new promoter Kyle Raker were lying about Danny Alvarez never being employed with BackBooth – when in fact he had been fired by Booked Promotions and then released from his non-compete agreement in order to be hired by Wright to work at BackBooth several months prior to the Tef London show.


    So, who is telling the truth?

    Is BackBooth owner Aaron Wright lying about employing Danny Alvarez during the time period in which he alleged broke his oral contract with Tef London and reneged on a promised amount of stage time, percentage of the door, and a guarantee of $100?


    Or is Booked Promotions owner Andrew Maffetone not telling the truth about when he terminated Danny Alvarez? Maffetone told us via phone that he fired Alvarez because he suspected that he was stealing from the company and said that Aaron Wright knew of these allegations prior to hiring him.

    I’d say Aaron Wright has some explaining to do. What did he know and when? When did he hire Danny Alvarez? Why did he hire someone that he knew was being accused of stealing from a previous employer?

    Alvarez told us that both Aaron Wright, the owner of BackBooth and his new promoter Kyle Raker (Norse Korea) both hate him now and have banned him from the venue for making them go through this.

    “I’ve made dumb mistakes” Alvarez said via facebook message.

    What the heck is going on at BackBooth? Can bands trust promoters planning shows there? Can they trust that the owner Aaron Wright is hiring honest help?

    Or do they have to look over their shoulders and wonder if they will get what the promoter promised. Will there really be a show, will we get payed, and will  get to play for the promised time period?

    As the owner of BackBooth, Aaron Wright is ultimately to blame for the bad and praised for the good. Given the revelations behind his inept oversight and history of a lax moral and ethical requirement of his former and current employees, one has to ask…..is he fit to be running BackBooth?

    Young musicians already have a hard enough time making it in the music industry and trying to make ends meet at the same time. They shouldn’t have to worry about people like Aaron Wright and Danny Alvarez.

    It’s time for new ownership at BackBooth, Aaron Wright just doesn’t have what it takes & lacks the courage to right the ship.

    With the reputation that Aaron Wright is cultivating as a shady venue owner, his place may be more suited in public service. I’m sure sunshine law violator extraordinaire Jennifer Thompson and lobbyist happy public records destroyer Teresa Jacobs would welcome him and his unscrupulous behavior with open arms.

    Aaron Wright for Mayor or County Commission in 2014!


    Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at info@eastorlandopost.com