Benefit of the Doubt: ‘This Is Boston’ raised nearly $15,000 for the One Fund. So where’s the money?

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the aftermath of tragedy, it can be heartening to see outpourings of unity among those that want to help, a phenomenon that was on display last spring after the Boston Marathon bombings. Many different communities found a way to make a difference and raise funds for the victims of the attack, including the New England metal and hardcore community: on May 6, 2013, a benefit show featuring such local loud-rock luminaries as Converge, Slapshot, Doomriders, and a reunited Wrecking Crew sold out Quincy’s South Shore Music Hall, getting metal fans of all walks to empty their pockets for a good cause: the One Fund.

After the show, dubbed “This Is Boston,” the production company that organized the event estimated that nearly $14,000 dollars had been raised. But nearly a year later, missing money and accusations of mismanagement and theft have marred the reputation of the event.

The benefit was, unlike the star-studded TD Garden benefit that took place the week before, a thrown-together grassroots effort, with shifting venues and a widening net of bands and promoters confusing matters. Lykaion Cult Productions, a relatively small-time show promotions group run by Mike Eleftheratos and Mark Laskey, initially intended to hold the show at the 80-person capacity O’Brien’s in Allston. But the addition of big headliners like Converge and Slapshot necessitated a larger venue, as well as a desire amongst the promoters and the bands involved to raise as much money possible for the cause.

Eventually, the underground and black metal-leaning Lykaion Cult found themselves responsible for a large public fundraiser being held at a 725-capacity room. “So many people wanted to be a part of something positive in the aftermath, and it just snowballed,” explains Lykaion Cult co-founder Mark Laskey. “In retrospect we were in way over our heads, but at the time it seemed like we could pull it off and it would be a great event. To a large extent we did, and it was… until all of this.”

“All of this” refers to what unfolded in the months following the event, when it slowly became evident to those close to the show that the money raised hadn’t gotten to the One Fund. Eleftheratos was responsible for handling all money, making the post-show tallies and ensuring that the final amount made it to One Fund, and by many accounts a large sum of the night’s proceeds never reached their intended destination. The day after the show, Eleftheratos made a post to the event’s Facebook page, thanking all participants: “If it weren’t for you all we wouldn’t have raised nearly $14,000 for One Fund! We are picking up the check for the presale tickets later this week but in the meantime I have counted all the cash from the merch/raffle items/door money and estimated the amount of the presales.”

But the lack of specifics began to rub Jacob Bannon, singer for headliner Converge, the wrong way. He spent months after the show following up with Eleftheratos trying to get confirmation of the money’s transfer to the One Fund, and was repeatedly met with excuses. By June 8, in an email to Eleftheratos, Bannon stated: “As of now we are getting the impression that there is no donation that is being made by your promotions company.”

When we reached Bannon by phone, he explained further. “This sort of thing isn’t complicated,” Bannon says. “Our band independently raised money for the event, we sold shirts through our store, and gave 100% of the proceeds. We do that all the time; money for the Red Cross, we raised money for Japanese tsunami relief, we’ve given money to Dana Farber for cancer research. We try to give back, we do what we can.”

If the event succeeded because of the close-knit nature of the metal/hardcore community, it was that same quality that in some ways allowed this situation to occur. Since Eleftheratos was a respected friend to many in the scene, his actions didn’t seem suspicious to those he worked with, and he was entrusted solely with the after-event business.

“I had no reason to be suspicious,” says Robin Goodhue of Ammonia Booking, a promoter who assisted in securing the Quincy venue for the event. “Why would anyone? I offered to help count money [at the event] and [Eleftheratos] said it was all set; I’m not about to grab money from his benefit show and start counting it. A few band members asked me who he was and if he should be trusted since he had never done a show this big. But at that point he was trustworthy among his friends.”

[pullquote align=”right”]“We want that money to go to the victims ASAP,” says Robin Goodhue, “and we also want people to remember their time at that show together as something positive.”[/pullquote]By October, Bannon’s hectoring led to Slapshot band member Craig Silverman getting involved — at this point, the One Fund had yet to receive any money from the event. The show had sold 525 advance tickets online, at $20 each; that money, minus the venue’s expenses and security, had been sent via check to Eleftheratos by James Pansullo, owner of the South Shore Music Hall. But the check languished, undeposited, for months, until Pansullo, in early November at the urging of Silverman, Bannon, and others, cancelled the check and issued a new one directly to the One Fund. That deposit, for $8,675 is to date the only verified amount that the event has given the One Fund.

“I went to the Prudential Center,” verifies Pansullo, “to the One Fund, on November 4, 2013, and I gave them a check made out to the One Fund Boston Inc. for $8,675. Now, I also wrote a check on June 7 for the exact same amount, and I handed it to the promoter, Mike Eleftheratos. The pre-sale tickets were sold through our ticketing company, TicketFly, which sold out, 525 tickets, $10,500. If you deduct the $1,600 venue fee, an additional $225 for broken equipment that night, it came out to $8,675.”

The rest — some 150 day-of-show tickets sold, raffle proceeds, t-shirts, and posters — was all raised as cash at the show, and by several accounts was all taken after the show by Eleftheratos to be tallied and deposited. “He accepted the check,” explains Pansullo, “and that, I figured, was the end of that. Come September, that check still had not been cashed.”

Although it took everyone involved awhile to figure out that something was amiss, hindsight seems to leave little doubt as to who is to blame; Eleftheratos explained to numerous parties that he was getting the totals and then donating it to One Fund. He assured Silverman that the money had been sent, anonymously, via Western Union. “All I asked was that he get us some kind of proof, some kind of receipt,” says Silverman. “It’s pretty simple!”

According to Silverman, Bannon, Goodhue, Laskey, and others, Eleftheratos eventually just cut off all communication, ceasing to be part of his own promotion company in the process, and alienating the very community that he helped unite for the One Fund cause. (Multiple efforts to reach Eleftheratos to confirm or deny the statements made by people interviewed for this piece were to no avail.) Friends, ex-friends, and acquaintances alike all speculate as to whether he left town or not, or what might have been the motive. Some says he’s still working in town, at a Back Bay coffee shop.

“None of us knew he had this in him,” explains Goodhue. “There is no way to prove that the money isn’t sitting in Western Union either and he is too dumb to get a refund.”

Bannon reached out to multiple agencies to get some kind of help or intervention. “I contacted the One Fund, and the Attorney General’s office. The One Fund did confirm the payment [of $8,675 made by Pansullo in November 2013], and said that they would bring this to the Attorney General’s office. I also left a message with the Quincy Police Department, to see if I could get any legal support, whether it was law enforcement or otherwise. No one ever called me back.”

In the absence, then, of any official investigation, it has been left to the bands, supporters, attendees, and organizers to figure out an appropriate reaction to this situation. “There’s a lot of people that this has upset,” Bannon adds, “that are just beside themselves. I mean, this show, this event, it personally made me feel like a kid again, and for someone to exploit that, and to exploit the positive aspects of this community that we love, to exploit the generosity of others, just really makes me sad.”

Goodhue concurs. “We want that money to go to the victims ASAP,” he says, “and we also want people to remember their time at that show together as something positive.”

Laskey, attempting to navigate his own feeling of betrayal at the hands of his one-time partner, is dumbfounded when remembering how the event was conceived of: “I remember when the marathon bombings happened, [Mike] pitched the idea of doing a benefit on one of [our usual DJ nights at O’Brien’s]; I was all for it. I mean, I worked on Boylston Street, literally a block from where those bombs went off, so it was really personal for me.”

In the end, it’s clear that people aren’t just saddened about the money, but about the unconscionable breach of the metal/hardcore community’s sense of trust that this represents. “$14,000 may not be a lot of money in the grand scheme of things,” says Silverman. “But we raised it, you know? And it’s sad that it didn’t get where it’s supposed to go.”

Follow Daniel Brockman on Twitter @thebizhaslanded