The saga of the Metal Health 2011/Sex Action 2010 tour is the stuff movies are made of – it’s just that at this point I can’t figure out if it’d be a comedy, a drama or a horror flick. Here’s the short version:

A couple of buddies banded together to form a promotion company (Intense Impact). They booked an Australia/New Zealand tour called Metal Health 2011 featuring three classic hard rock bands (Quiet Riot, Warrant, LA Guns), plus a local support in each territory. I emailed them to ask for more info and to set up some interviews, but got no reply. A few other sites reported the same thing. Personally I never saw any print ads for the shows, nor did I see posters around town. They could have been out there, but if they were there certainly weren’t many of them. As an outsider it almost seemed like the promoters were hoping to rely on word of mouth and the perceived power of Facebook to promote the gigs.

Eventually a PR company was brought in and they did a great job of trying to make up for the lack of early publicity, but by then I think it was too late. Two of the bands (Warrant and Quiet Riot) pulled out about a month from the gig, claiming a contract breach. LA Guns vowed to continue and the tour was renamed Sex Action. The Stick People, a band featuring former Queensryche guitarist Mike Stone, was booked, but dropped out shortly after amid what Intense Impact described as visa hassles. Fans were outraged.

With tickets still priced at $90 each, the promoters offered one free additional entry with each ticket, plus entry to a VIP afterparty. Reunited Australian band Defryme was booked, and promoters attempted to secure another Australian band to round out the bill. They asked Facebook fans to petition the bands (including Rose Tattoo, Screaming Jets, Baby Animals and The Angels) to agree to the tour. In the meantime the show was promoted as having a (and I quote), “special guests surprise ???” while the promoter waited for one of the bands to accept the last-minute offer.

A few shows were cancelled outright, including the Auckland, New Zealand show in where the venue issued a strongly-worded statement that the promoter was neither equipped nor experienced to stage the event. Ouch. NZ support band Rascal Kings claimed on Facebook that they were left severely out of pocket.

A day out from the April 29 tour kickoff, official afterparty venue Back In The Day announced that they had been advised that they were no longer running the afterparty, but would still present the band Sunset Riot, who were going to play at the afterparty. Where was the official afterparty to be now? It was a mystery.

Then on the day of the first gig, the tour was cancelled amid rumours and reports (much of which came from the Intense Impact facebook account later that afternoon and into the next day) of assault, broken contracts, 12-hour minivan treks, non-existent backline payments, Facebook sledging, hospitalisations and arrests. Support bands including Heartbreak Blvd. showed up for soundcheck to be told that the show was off. The promoter was MIA, and tickets to the now-cancelled tour were still being sold. Hell, the Intense Impact website was never updated to reflect any of these changes, still saying the Quiet Riot/Warrant/LA Guns tour was going ahead right until it was taken down on May 2 (it used to be here). Even as I write this, tickets are still being sold for several of the shows.

At the very last minute, thanks to some great last-minute hard work by KWPR and Back In The Day, Back In The Day hosted LA Guns for two shows, adding them to the Friday night event (the former Sex Action tour afterparty) with Sunset Riot going on after. On Saturday morning Defryme were added to that night’s show.

I went to the show, partly to show support to Defryme and LA Guns, and partly just out of curiosity. What would a show put together in these circumstances be like? All three bands put in energetic, rocking sets – Defryme performed to a largely stand-offish crowd but they still rocked. Sunset Riot ratcheted up the energy levels with their more Sunset Strip-influenced sound. LA Guns were probably feeling in a bit of a funk backstage – after all, they were booked to play big venues like The Palace and instead they were playing a small corner stage in a bar – but if they were pissed off they didn’t let it affect their performance. They pulled no punches musically, and made a few (non-slanderous) references to the cancelled tour.

At the moment you can follow the fallout on the Intense Impact Facebook page [update: it’s gone]. I don’t know how much longer that account is going to be there, but for the moment at least it’s an interesting read. The promoter drops by from time to time to put forward his side of the story, which he alleges involves deception, a drunken crew member and a whole bunch of taking-the-money-and-running.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think anybody set out to deceive anybody. I personally think the promoters bit off more than they could chew, and subsequently choked. If nothing else, this sorry saga is a powerful lesson in doing your homework.