The Unbelievable Story Of Threatin: Heavy Metal’s Fyre Festival Moment
On a bleak November evening in 2018, the night after Halloween, Jered Threatin stepped under the spotlights at The Underworld in the heart of London’s Camden Town. An iconic, 500-capacity rock venue that has played host to titans of the alternative music scene, The Underworld was the inaugural stop on the Los Angeles-based rock singer’s European tour. Spanning 10 cities and four countries, the two-week tour was titled Breaking The World, and since every date was sold out, according to tour promoter Casey Marshall, Threatin planned to do just that.
As the first note rung out on that first night, however, the only thing to break was Threatin’s guitar strap. Throwing down his instrument, the 29-year-old frontman, whose name and face were at that moment plastered across a six-foot banner draped above the stage, scrambled to find another strap. In an attempt to fill the silence, Threatin’s drummer, Dane Davis, launched into an impromptu five-minute solo. For a new heavy metal act hoping to break into the British music scene, it was a mortifying, if not career-ending, blunder. Fortunately for Threatin there were only seven people in the audience that night to witness it, five of whom were the support act.
“I remember talking with one of the guys that worked there afterwards and he was saying this is really, really weird,” recalled Threatin’s guitarist Joe Prunera, who was also on stage that evening, along with Davis and bassist Gavin Carney. “He was like, ‘We always have a crowd; this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this.’” Prunera, who had flown over from Los Angeles with Threatin and the rest of the group two days earlier, was battling severe jetlag and a bad cold. Surprised but unconcerned by the sparse turnout, he put it down to a post-Halloween lull. “We were thinking, ‘Okay, it was a bad promoter, they didn’t do their job.’”
The next stop, three nights later, was Trillians Rock Bar in Newcastle, a 300-capacity venue whose walls have previously absorbed the good vibrations of acts such as Anvil and The Damned. Here, the audience was a little more robust, thanks in part to support from Dogsflesh, a local hardcore punk band who’ve been around since 1982 and can always pull in a crowd. Unfortunately, it quickly transpired that most of the onlookers had only stopped in at Trillians on their way to see another band, Killing Joke, who were headlining a larger venue down the road as part of their 40th anniversary world tour. Which meant that by the time Threatin’s support acts had wrapped up their sets, there were only five people left to watch him take the stage, half of whom were sympathetic members of Dogsflesh.
Having been less than impressed by Threatin’s diva-like behaviour backstage, however, Dogsflesh founder Rob Moore was not one of them. The LA frontman had avoided making eye contact and barely said a word when he was introduced to Moore during soundcheck, nor did he bother to watch either of the support acts. “None of the bands that we’ve played with, who were a hell of a lot bigger than him, have ever been like that,” said Moore incredulously. “They’ll always shake your hand [and say] ‘Enjoyed that, really good,’ even if they thought you were crap.” It didn’t help that just moments before going on Dogsflesh were asked to cut their set by 10 minutes so Threatin could extend his – even though there was almost nobody left to see it.
The next four shows, in Glasgow, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, followed the same inexplicable pattern. Threatin, Davis, Prunera and Carney would pile into a van driven by Threatin’s wife Kelsey – who also happened to be his tour manager – and set off for the next city where they would play to pretty much nobody. “Every show, we’d get there and it’d be, ‘Okay, we’re optimistic about it,’” Davis recalled. “And then that optimism just tanked.” Jered and Kelsey seemed equally bemused by the low turnout, promising to take it up with Casey Marshall, who, unusually for a tour promoter, had also failed to attend any of the gigs.
In Bristol, where Threatin was booked to play the Exchange, further embarrassment was to come. While the frontman and his wife parked the van, Davis, Prunera and Carney were approached by the venue’s management who said the hire fee hadn’t been paid and asked to speak to Marshall. The trio explained they were just the backing band, having been hired eight months earlier by Threatin’s manager to accompany him on tour. They directed the man to Kelsey who, according to Prunera, got “super mad” before Threatin stepped in and offered to cover the cost, saying the record label would reimburse him.
Between the poor tour management and increasingly tense atmosphere (Threatin and Kelsey bickered frequently) both Davis and Prunera considered packing it in, but neither had the cash for a last-minute, trans-Atlantic ticket home (Carney declined to be interviewed for this feature).
On a drizzly Friday afternoon, the group arrived in Northern Ireland via ferry. The end was finally in sight – Belfast was the last UK show, which left only three more dates, in France, Italy and Germany – and Davis was looking forward to catching up with his mother, who had flown over from Las Vegas to watch him play. As the musicians bundled themselves back into the tour van Davis’s cell phone signal, which had cut out on the ferry, reappeared together with a flurry of Facebook messages. One in particular caught his attention: “Sorry the whole tour’s a scam,” it read.
For while Threatin and his band had been on the road, the baffled venues had turned to social media for answers, having failed to receive an explanation for the dismally low turnout from Casey Marshall. Some had laid on extra security and bar staff to cope with the hordes of fans she had promised and when nobody turned up they had been left not only furious but out of pocket. “What happened to the 291 advance ticket sales your agent said you’d sold? THREE PEOPLE turned up,” The Underworld commented on Threatin’s Facebook page.
“We had a show last night where the singer had told everyone he had sold 150 tickets (sold out) to our small room, he had actually sold only 1 ticket,” The Asylum in Birmingham posted on Twitter. “Just a reminder this is how you get black-listed.” Meanwhile someone from the Exchange had been digging around online and published their suspicion that Threatin’s 38,000 Facebook likes were bought and the hundreds of fans who indicated they’d be attending the tour were all based in Brazil.
Further sleuthing swiftly revealed fragments of Threatin’s charade – and ego – scattered across the web. “The world rarely sees so much talent wrapped into one person,” his website boasted. A biography on Fandom.com claimed Threatin “has never been photographed wearing any colour” alongside an apparently staged paparazzi photograph of the singer, dressed in black, walking through Beverly Hills. His YouTube channel featured a series of bizarre clips in which he appeared to be interviewing himself and the dozens of adoring comments on his music videos – “That voice is so sexy!”; “tour japan you my favorite america rocker (sic)” – all seemed to have been posted by puppet accounts. As for a much-touted “Artist of the Year” award, that had come courtesy of a bogus music website called Top Rock News, which was hosted on Wix and peppered with articles cribbed from real sites.
Of more immediate concern for Davis, however, was the revelation that Threatin’s tour promoter, management company, record label and even his publicist were all fictional, each consisting of little more than a Wix-hosted web page and an email account managed by Threatin himself. As for Casey Marshall? She didn’t exist.
Davis said nothing but as soon as Threatin and Kelsey left the van to sort out the band’s accommodation, he showed the Facebook messages to Prunera and Carney. Trying to make sense of the story, the trio realised with dawning horror that not only had they been deceived, but they were stuck in a van 5,000 miles away from home with the very person who had perpetrated the deception. Jered Threatin had faked not only a tour, but an entire music industry and no-one had any idea why.
For a small town boy, Jered Eames always had an outsized ego. “He would show up to family events like he was showing up to a show,” recalled his brother Scott, who is five years older and a professional guitarist. “With the swagger that rock stars do.”
With pale, elfin features, waist-length brown hair, and a rotation of death metal band shirts, Jered was an unusual sight in the small, mid-western city of Moberly, Missouri (pop. 13,775), where he grew up. “He was into music nobody really knew,” recalled Emily Rodenbaugh, a former classmate. “He was short and slender when he was 14, so he was just mousy and people didn’t pay attention to him.”
The Eames boys discovered rock’n’roll young, introduced to acts like Judas Priest, AC/DC and Aerosmith by their parents Jerry, a drugs and alcohol counsellor, and Donna, an office manager. From there they moved onto Slayer, Metallica and, eventually, said Scott, “the much heavier stuff”. By the time the brothers reached their teens they had formed their own death metal band, Saetith (an anagram of ‘atheist’), with Scott on vocals and guitar, Jered on bass, and a rotation of drummers.
Throughout school and university, the boys gigged regularly, recorded two albums in their home studio, and sent out demos. By the end of 2010, the dial was starting to move. They inked their first record deal, with British label Rising Records, and got to work on a third album. In March 2011 they played their first international show, in Puerto Rico. Footage from the gig on YouTube (below) shows the brothers headbanging with abandon on stage in front of a decent-sized crowd, their long hair whipping around their heads. There was even talk of a European tour.
It was after Puerto Rico that cracks first began to appear with creative arguments over the album. These were quickly dwarfed, however, by the realisation that Rising Records was a scam. Although there is a real record company of the same name based in Sheffield, the Rising Records Scott and Jered had signed with was run out of a rented Essex mansion by an unscrupulous music producer called Mark Daghorn. Metal forums, blogs, Reddit, Facebook and other social media sites are littered with claims that Daghorn ran what was effectively a pyramid scheme in which he promised dozens, if not hundreds, of young rock bands a record deal on certain upfront financial conditions.
“They produced other bands that we knew and people that we had crossed paths with, so it was pretty trustworthy at the time,” Scott recalled. “We signed the deal, came up with some ideas for the album, sat down to start putting things together and then we find out that [Rising Records] are getting sued. Then the Mark Daghorn guy just disappeared off the face of the earth.”
In fact, not long after Saetith signed with the fake Rising Records – and handed over the cash – Daghorn absconded to Barbados, where he has since reinvented himself as a restauranteur and allegedly shacked up with a woman tenuously related to Rihanna. “A lot of lives were pretty destroyed, way more than ours,” said British musician James Kennedy, who won a county court judgment against Daghorn after his band Kyshera were scammed. “We lost a few grand.” Reports emanating from the Caribbean suggest Daghorn hasn’t exactly turned over a new leaf: in 2016 he was arrested in connection with a shooting (the charges were later dropped).
Scott, in multiple telephone interviews, was reluctant to discuss Saetith’s short-lived relationship with Daghorn, framing the encounter as a bad business deal rather than a con and claiming “it didn’t really affect us”. But after trying and failing for so many years to get a label’s attention it must have been a blow to realise that not only was their long-awaited record deal a sham, but they had been conned out of thousands of pounds (Scott claimed he couldn’t remember the exact amount they paid Daghorn).
Either away, once dreams of distribution crumbled, tension between the brothers intensified, especially when Jered began posting fake music reviews for Saetith online. In early 2012, after yet another argument, the band split for good and Jered fled to Los Angeles with Kelsey, his high school girlfriend, cutting off both their families in the process.
Over the years, Scott said, his parents tried repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, to reach out to Jered. It wasn’t until November of last year, when reports surfaced about a fake heavy metal band and their disastrous European tour, that Donna and Jerry finally discovered what their youngest son had been up to over the past six years. Amid the cheesy music videos and amusing anecdotes dredged up by bloggers in the wake of the story going viral was a comment on Threatin’s Facebook page from Jerry, which read: “Love you both, call, miss you 2 alot (sic). Lost touch, anyone who knows Jered or Kelsey Eames have them give family a call.”
This writer contacted Threatin – aka Jered Eames – earlier this year, not long after he returned to California to lick his wounds. In an effort to appeal to his fabled ego, it was suggested we meet at the Sunset Marquis Hotel in West Hollywood, a two-hour drive from Jered and Kelsey’s home in Hesperia. While waiting for him to arrive I studied the music memorabilia lining the hotel’s walls and watched Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe take a lunch meeting in the corner of the restaurant.
Eames eventually turned up a rock star-ish 20 minutes late, strutting towards the restaurant with his long hair rippling behind him like a shampoo commercial. He was indeed clad entirely in black: sunglasses, T-shirt, leather jacket and cargo pants, with black rings and bracelets dangling from his slim, pale wrists. Kelsey, in jeans and a floral top, was by his side, wielding a camcorder with the red light blinking. Although she agreed to turn off the camera for the interview, Eames then produced his own audio recorder, which he placed carefully next to mine.
After Davis and Prunera walked out in Northern Ireland (followed by Carney a few days later), alarmed by Eames’s deception and the vitriol it had generated online, Eames cancelled the rest of the tour and went sightseeing with Kelsey until it was time to return home. He insisted the controversy hadn’t ruined the impromptu vacation. If anything, he said, the backlash was “really fun”.
In the immediate aftermath of the story going viral, however, both Eames and Kelsey locked down their social media accounts, deleted most of the YouTube videos and rewrote the biography on Threatin’s website. After five days, Eames finally broke his silence, tweeting: “What is Fake News? I turned an empty room into an international headline. If you are reading this, you are part of the illusion.” He has since stuck resolutely to the claim that he planned to make a series of deserted gigs go viral, although he seems unclear as to why, alternately suggesting it was an attempt to expose the music industry and a piece of performance art. Either way, “The intent was always to show up and play to empty rooms,” he insisted.
It’s hard to trust anything Eames says. He claims he bought his house in Hesperia, although property records show it’s owned by a woman in her 80s, and he says he paid for the tour – which is estimated to have cost him upwards of £30,000 (he won’t confirm the exact figure) – from money that was “just sitting around”, although he doesn’t seem to have had a job in years. Still, some claims are undoubtedly true. Documents show Eames graduated with a college degree in psychology (he says he’s studying for a Masters), he apparently does only wear black, and his criticisms of the record industry – that it’s too reliant on social media numbers, too obsessed with image – are accurate, if not exactly groundbreaking. “You play shows, you put together a demo, you send out the demos, nothing happens,” he said, alluding to the more traditional route he tried with Saetith. “So I had done all that and to me it was just, why do I need to do this? The record labels are basically irrelevant at this point anyway. I can just do it my own way better.”
But his own way still required a music industry, albeit a counterfeit one. Rather than struggling to persuade managers, promoters and agents to represent him, he simply conjured his own. “I created a backstory for the entire universe of what Threatin is,” he explained. The entire enterprise only took him a couple of weeks, with some help from Kelsey. He designed the logos and websites for each fake company himself, a symptom of his self-professed inability to work with other people. “If I need a drummer then I gotta get good at drums, you know. If I need a website then I gotta figure out how to make a website,” he said. He is credited with playing all the instruments on his solo album, also called Breaking The World. “You know, like, even now, while we’re doing this – ” he gestured to the audio recorders – “I’m learning how to be a journalist.”
Despite his crash-course in journalism, Eames seemed offended when I suggested he had never intended for the tour to go viral: “I mean, if it doesn’t make sense that I would do it for any other reason then [how] does it not make sense?” He wanted the kudos of being able to say he’d toured Europe, I countered (others suspect he had hoped the scam would lead to legitimate gigs in the U.S.). He looked put out. “Sure if you want to believe that, that’s fine.”
He was equally irritated when I pointed out that the stunt had left both his bandmates and the venues out of pocket. Eames claimed he reimbursed the venues and offered to pay for his band’s flights home: Davis and Prunera said they were told to email the (fictional) promoter to ask for the money. They have since won a court case against Eames in the U.S. after suing to recoup some of the thousands of dollars they spent on the tour, including food, return flights and extra luggage allowance for their instruments, none of which were covered by the $300 tour fee they were each paid. Davis, 26, also shelled out for clothing, per Eames’ insistence the entire band wear all-black, while Prunera, a 36-year-old struggling musician who moonlights as a casino audio-visual engineer, splurged on a back-up guitar for the tour. Some of the venues, meanwhile, such as Trillians, had only recently been saved from closure. In Bristol, The Exchange had to hold a charity gig to cover the losses they had incurred as a result of Eames’s charade.
It was Kelsey who pretended, in telephone calls with the venues, band members and support acts, to be both tour promoter Casey Marshall and a manager from Aligned Artist Management called Lisa Golding. Some have speculated she is the Svengali behind Threatin, but those who have spent time with the couple say Eames is the one with the big ego and short temper. Kelsey merely enables her husband, shopping, cooking and cleaning for him, cutting up his food and, occasionally, brushing his long hair. Prunera, who spent (unpaid) months rehearsing with Eames, suspects the tour was funded through a combination of Kelsey’s wages (she works at a healthcare company in Hesperia) and loans.
After almost two hours, my interview with Eames ended on an awkward note, with a waiter asking us to vacate the table for a private event while Eames repeatedly told me he didn’t care what I thought before launching into a Trump-inspired rant about the media. When I emailed him the next day to reiterate I was happy to take a look at any evidence showing he intended for the tour to go viral he sent back a one-line response: “What you should be asking for is proof that the person you spoke with was, in fact, Jered Threatin and not a hired lookalike.”
What is not in question is that Eames has had a taste of the fame he used to fantasise about while sitting at home and writing fake fan comments under his own YouTube videos. After spreading through social media and alternative music websites, the story of Eames’ failed tour was soon picked up by global news outlets intrigued by what was being dubbed heavy metal’s answer to Fyre Festival, the disastrous luxury music event that only ever existed on Instagram. Eames’ tale has since inspired a parody musical, countless YouTube covers and even, in a development some might consider meta, knock-off merchandise on web retailer Etsy. On social media, Threatin has become a meme, the internet’s gold standard of virality.
Like all viral sensations, the problem he now faces is how to convert ephemeral fame into something with longevity and, more importantly, cash. A number of people I approached in the music industry to weigh in on Threatin’s career prospects refused to participate in this story. Some suspect he’s been blacklisted although, when I met him, Eames claimed he had plenty of opportunities lined up. “Film producers, documentaries, major motion pictures, [I’ve] been approached by some people to do an off-Broadway play, been approached by colleges to come in and speak about the anti-marketing techniques I used – just anything you can imagine,” he reeled off. “Books, everything.”
Almost a year on from the con, however, his only confirmed appearance is a return to The Underworld in November, on the first anniversary of the Breaking The World tour. “I find it hilarious,” said the venue’s in-house promoter, Patrice Lovelace, of Eames’ stunt, although she admitted she’s been excoriated by the British metal community over her decision to invite him back. She also admits she has no idea whether he’ll actually turn up.
Even if he does intend to return to The Underworld, the bigger question now is whether Eames can find any musicians willing to accompany him. “Who wants to go to London?” he recently posted on his Facebook band page (now up to 39,000 likes). “Threatin is seeking another guitarist for his upcoming tour to the United Kingdom this November.”
The band behind “metal’s Fyre Festival moment” returned to London and played to literally dozens of fans.
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