Bands beware. The Dabbagh brothers — a.k.a. Toronto band The MacHams — can tell you that U.S. border authorities are strictly enforcing visa rules, which forced them to cancel an appearance that they thought could have been a huge break: opening for Creed.

The website sonicbids, which posts gigs and tour slots for musicians, recently put up for tender a slot preceding the reunited, multi-platinum band last Tuesday at the Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Centre in New York on Tuesday night. The MacHams jumped at the chance despite the paltry appearance fee of $500.

But LiveNation, the event promoter that selected them, neglected to ensure they had the necessary paperwork — a P1 visa — and the brothers spent more than three hours being interviewed, fingerprinted and having their mug-shots taken before being turned back.

“We were crushed, not being able to play this simple gig that was not even going to cover our gas and hotel. We were not doing this for the money, we were doing it for the experience,” said Noel Dabbagh, 27.

In fact, the band spent more than $300 in upfront costs to buy matching outfits and additional equipment, as well as renting a van.

George Dabbagh, 28, said he did receive an apology from a LiveNation representative.

In the file-sharing era, low-profile bands like The MacHams can’t even dream of a big payday from a hit record; earning a loyal, paying following for live shows is the biggest remaining objective. (Record labels have responded by signing artists deals that give the labels a chunk of touring revenue, too.)

George said the band has played to some acclaim at various bars and nightclubs throughout Toronto, but “this was an opportunity to play in front of 10,000-plus people.”

Greg Bennett, spokesperson for the U.S. Customs Service, said Live-Nation should have known that getting a P1 visa to perform in the U.S. can take several weeks or even months to process.

Canadian performers can download an application for a visa through the service’s website, file it along with the appropriate fees and then wait for it to be approved, he said.

Bennett said well-established bands have agents in the U.S. who routinely file paperwork on their behalf but he noted newer Canuck performers have had the same disappointing experience in the past.

The band of brothers, which also includes youngest sibling, J.P., 22, has been performing since 2003 and has recently started to get serious about taking their act on the road. They’re in the process of producing their first CD, slated for release in October.

But George worried the recent border experience might prove problematic in the future.

“Now it’s like we’ve been flagged. Every time they check our passports, it’ll be, ‘Oh, I see that you were prohibited last time,’” he said.