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Promoting Gary Valenciano Concerts at the SENTRUM

About a decade or so ago, when I worked in a small unit of the school called External Services, we would occasionally be asked to handle school-promoted concerts, the proceeds of which would then be set aside for the benefit of scholarships and other school projects. Each time Brother Rafael Donato – that was how we used to affectionately refer to our boss – seemed to be carrying that concert itch, I would always be overwhelmed by the sort of dread one feels when one is far from excited about the task at hand but also has very little in the way of choices.

Promoting concerts – this I say without fear of contradiction – is a right royal pain inside the rectum! I mean, as External Services, it went without saying that part of the reason we existed was for promoting peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind – at least as far as the school was concerned in its relationship with the outside world.

But selling tickets? Inang…

This is Batangas; and whether it’s a concert or an out-of-town PBA game, everyone – bar none – wants a free ticket! As the event nears, the most commonly used word in conversations with even people one encounters along the corridors is this shortened version of an English word: compli.

Over the years, we did learn how to effectively promote concerts and other events. After some growing up pains, we learned that the suitable promotion period was for as long as three months; that we needed to have posters and other collaterals distributed all over the place to stir up public interest; that we could go into ex-deals with radio stations to whet up the listening public’s appetite; that we needed to convince commercial sponsors to part with their money; and that we needed to obtain all sorts of permits just to be able to stage the show.

The most painfully difficult part was – needless to say – the actual selling of the tickets. The most ideal situation for a promoter is to have all tickets sold out weeks in advance. That, regrettably, is more often the exception rather than the rule.

By and large – unless one has a really big artist visiting for the first time – ticket selling is something akin to childbirth before the invention of ultrasound machines. With the latter, you left it to God to unveil upon childbirth what the gender of the unborn child was. With selling tickets, unless you sold out early, you cannot tell until the day itself if you are going to come out on top or soundly beaten.

Break-even with a week to go is fine, if still unnerving! At least you know you will not lose; and whatever other tickets you sell is the icing on the cake. But one week to go with the investment still not recovered, one is left totally to the whims of the buying public…

And there’s the rub… Sometimes, the whim of the public is just impossible to predict! There was this one time when a promoter – not us, but at our venue – was at the mercy of a tropical disturbance. If I recall things correctly, I believe the night of the concert was under Storm Signal Number One.

If there was ever a recipe for disaster – at least, in terms of promoting concerts – this was definitely it. Yet, instead of the public being kept away, they actually came in droves on the day itself and just about sold out the show!

Brother Rafael's favorite artist was a personal friend – Gary V! I think, in my time at External Services, we had him here for a total of no less than three times!

The first two shows were a piece of cake. I mean, Gary V was Gary V and his name alone could convince a herd of cows to buy tickets if they had any money. I think both shows fell just short of capacity.

For the third show, though… Well, except for the undyingly loyal fans, who really wanted to see the same dances and hear the same songs for the third time in such a short period of time? All my instincts rebelled at the very thought of a third show; but then, who could really argue with Brother Rafael?

The third show was still far from nilangaw, but the gaping spaces up in the bleachers hardly did Gary V any justice. We still made a little over after all the tickets were accounted for; but it was a pittance compared to the first two promotions. And I don’t believe I heard as many pleas for complis the first two times as I did this third and last show…

Just as a footnote to this story, for the third and final show, Gary V’s handlers wanted a surprise entrance for the artist. This time Gary V, surrounded by policemen and some volunteer escorts, would enter through the side gate and – hopefully – mingle with the crowd unrecognized on his way to the stage.

Brilliant idea! [Sarcasm alert! Sarcasm alert!]

He was instantly recognized, of course, despite the hood he wore over his head. As the audience pushed forward against the Gary V’s protective wall of bodyguards, unfortunately, one of the policemen’s guns went off. The gun was not locked, of course!

We learned of the accident quickly because my secretary had been asked to act as one of the escorts. When he returned to the office after the grand entrance, we noticed that there was a streak of red on one of his thighs showing through his denims. When he dropped his pants, we saw that his thigh appeared to have been grazed by a bullet and came to the conclusion that one of the police escorts’ guns must have gone off.

We all scampered inside to see if any of the concert-goers had been hurt. Thankfully, the concert was going on without a hitch and the audience was dancing and applauding as Gary V audiences are more or less expected to do.

Unfortunately, for the owner of the gun, there was a hole on his foot left by the bullet as it made its way to the floor.

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