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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

SHOWBIZ


He was wearing a tie as classy as his pointy shoes. It was too dark to see the dandruff on his shoulders but I did notice he had a blotchy dermatological condition. His name was Gari and he was just another manager of yet an another exclusive Tbilisi nightclub.

Gari was not jacked up on crank, he just talked like he was. We showed up at 7 for a sound check and waited an hour for the sound man to come and bitch that nobody told him he would need microphones. It took him another hour to find some. In the meantime, Gari told us that we needed a manager. For two hours, Gari rambled about how a good manager could get us to Kiev, Moscow and money.

“Show business,” he affirmed.

We had a separate gig to get to and the sound man's lack of inertia was grating on my nerves. While he played with the wires I noticed a wad of gum had stuck to the bottom of my shoe. The gum was Gari.

“How do you like the sound?” he asked.

“I don't know Gari, he hasn't turned anything on yet.”

Later, at midnight, we filed through the metal detector at the entrance but Gari grabbed me by the arms.

“No, you can't walk out there,” he says. “It's not professional. Showbiz.”

He ushered me into a dressing room by the kitchen. The room smelled like toe cheese. Gari told me to wait. I said I'd wait better with a beer.

I left the door open and watched Gari walk around in zig-zags. “Your band does not look professional,” he said. “They are dressed like alpinists. It's showbiz, you know.”

“Well you tell them how to dress if you want,” I muttered. That's when I noticed how his black coat was a collector of bits of skin that had flaked off his face.

Then Gari instructed me on how to address the audience when we start – so that we appear professional. Gari went on and I tuned him out. The band came in and Gari told them how they should dress. As we were were preparing to go on stage Gari stopped me and unbuttoned one of my coat buttons.

It was a pretty decent stage, but if the management had invested as much money into sound as it did into lighting, the scene would have been a lot better. Yet despite all the fancy lights everywhere, the club remained dark, except for the intermittent floods of spotlight in my eyes. I could only make out two blond hookers at a table right in front and Gari, sitting in a chair next to the stage. Although the club looked empty from the stage, there were people in the shadows.

Thirty percent of Tbilisi is officially unemployed, which means if you are a parking attendant making 10 lari a day, you're not a statistic. But this is a city full of restaurants, expensive cars and exclusively cheesy nightclubs, like the one we were playing in - facts I will never understand.

We watched people dance to our music, which for a blues band in a land unaccustomed to such music, is always a particularly extra positive stroke, especially when the dancers are female. The problem was we couldn't hear what they were dancing to. There was only one monitor on the stage and we had to put it in front of the kick drum to keep it from sliding across the floor. The callouses on David's fingers began to split from the beating they took on his bass strings.

After the first set, Gari escorted us to the stink room.

“Hey Gari, no beer for the band?” I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. “But Gari, it's showbiz.” I reminded him.

Gari told me that Giorgi Baramidze, the Minister of European Integration, was in the house and asked me if I could go out and personally thank him for coming. I would have preferred to thank the two hookers.

“No, Gari. I'm not going to go out there and thank him. But here's my phone, if you want to call him.”

“OK, OK, well when you start your next set, thank everybody for coming. It's professional, you know. Then thank me, the manager, Gari.”

I thanked the hookers for coming first and then thanked Gari for the beer I hoped he would buy the band. We played through our last set and the sound cut out about a half-dozen times. But people were drunk and they danced. I thanked them at the end of the night, for if we had been playing to an audience of chair huggers hiding in the shadows, this gig would have been murderous.

In the end Gari did not sport us a round of beer but he did pay us in medium notes, which was the most professional thing he had done that night.

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