The Guitar Is Heard Again, Behind Closed Doors

The difficult market conditions and the unfortunate security situation sometimes create opportunities. In recent months, local rock have been doing quite well.

The difficult market conditions and the unfortunate security situation sometimes create opportunities. In recent months, local rock have been doing quite well.

Impresarios, producers and artists find consolation in an audience that comes to performances, in spite of everything. Almost every evening there are performances in Tel Aviv at the Barbie club, the Temuna Theater, the Patiphon and Hamehoga, and in the two Camelot clubs (one in Herzliya). In Be'er Sheva the Forum club is operating successfully, and there are performances at the City Hall club in Haifa, whose owners even opened another place recently, designed for intimate rock performances.

In Jerusalem, the Yellow Submarine club is crowded, and even Ha'uman 17 is now having rock performances, and not only bringing in DJs from abroad for a brilliant hour at an exorbitant price.

True, guitar rock is regaining popularity all over the world. In Israel, the phenomenon is reinforced by the new recordings recently issued by beloved artists such as Muki, Barry Sakharov and Hemi Rodner. There some nostalgia here. Almost every decade, there's an Israeli band that wants to play together just one more time. In recent months, several such bands have got together for performances, including Carmela Gross Wagner, Eifo Hayeled [Where's the Boy], Tislam, and Ilan Virtzberg and Shimon Gelbetz for the show "Batzir Tov" [A Good Grape Harvest], after the album was issued in a new printing. Even "Me'ahorei Hatzlilim" [Behind the Sounds] with Matti Caspi and Shlomo Gronich is filling the halls again.

Winter, by its very nature, encourages closed events inside clubs, but apparently even when winter is over, there will not be many mass open-air performances. Producers and impresarios know that in the present political and economic climate, the chances of filling a nightclub are much higher than those of bringing thousands of spectators to Caesarea.

"There is a tendency to return to the clubs and to rock, but the situation in Israel is so deceptive and so fragile, that is difficult to plan more than a month ahead," says Yael Margalit, owner of the Hamon Volume agency. Margalit started out over a decade ago as the manager of Carmela Gross Wagner, and was a witness to the flourishing of Israeli rock in its previous incarnation. Today her office represents Aviv Gefen, Barry Sakharov, Shalom Hanoch (together with Yehuda Tallit), Dana Berger and Hemi Rodner, Eran Tzur and Evyatar Banai, among others.

"The performance market in Israel is a gamble, but as all over the world, here,too, rock clubs are coming back," she says. "I see it in the new performances of our agency: Barry Sakharov opened this week with a performance tour in the wake of his album "Ha'aher" [The Other]. It's a rock performance, which is less electronic.

"Sakharov wanted to maintain an intimate and warm atmosphere, and therefore asked especially to have the performances in Barbie and in City Hall, which hold 400 people, rather than in the Hangar at the Tel Aviv port, which can hold about 2,000 people. Aviv Gefen is also completing a new album, and afterward will be performing, and so is Dana Berger. Even Assaf Amdurski, who was identified with electronic music, has now done an acoustic performance tour, based on instrumentals. The audience, it turns out, always wants to hear music, and is not afraid of small shows." Now Margalit's agency is planning performances for Pesach, Independence Day and the summer. "We want to bring Sakharov and Muki to open performances, outside the clubs," she says, "but that is mainly a sign of great optimism, because it's hard to plan ahead."

This summer, the local performance scene will miss the Cinerama club, which had 3,000 seats and was closed after the owners went bankrupt. An office building will apparently go up in its place. Many impresarios also say that it's not certain whether there will be performances in the Caesarea amphitheater. The reason is not only economic - the reception halls built nearby, with their loud sound systems, simply disturb the performances.

The artists who in the past filled Caesarea are appearing in small clubs. The most prominent of them is Shlomo Artzi, who is continuing his performance tour at Tzavta in Tel Aviv, which has 300 seats. "Every winter, for nine years, Artzi has performed at Tzavta," says Ronit Arbel, his publicist. "But whereas we always made plans for the summer, including reserving dates, this year that is not the case, and things are very fluid. Limited performances are more suitable for this period. Artzi has seven instrumentalists with him, even at a Tzavta performance, and after subtracting expenses, there simply is no profit. But that's the right thing to do now, and that's the only consideration."

Performances in small venues are not very profitable. The gate from the performance of a leading artist who fills Tzavta can reach NIS 39,000 (at NIS 130 per ticket). The price recommended by the musicians' union is NIS 6,000 per evening ($400), amplification and lighting cost an additional NIS 8,000, and renting the hall costs at least NIS 2,000. If there are more than two or three instrumentalists, the profit is relatively small.

In a large hall - if it's full, of course - profits are large: With an audience of 3,000, the gate can be as high as NIS 360,000. Even after subtracting NIS 100,000 for expenses, the artists and producers are left with over NIS 200,000.

But Osnat Shiloah from the Shiloah Agency, which represents Ehud Banai, Izhar Ashdot, and the Ru'ah G'lileet [Galilee Wind/ Spirit] ensemble, says that the audience today definitely prefers club performances: "Ehud Banai, for example, is now coming out with a performance at Barbie, because there is a hunger for places of that size. I hope that we will be able to leave the clubs soon, and to put on performances in the open this summer.

"I like to discover new places: Shuni fortress near Benyamina, Tzel Tamar in Kibbutz Ashdot Yaakov, Habayit Bektzeh Hanof near Amuka, among others. We hope that a large audience will come, and are preparing for intensified security. The days when we conducted security checks to prevent people from bringing in alcohol or bottles seem very naive to me now."

The owner of the Caspit agency, which represents Yehudit Ravitz, Gidi Gov, David Broza, Sarit Hadad, Ethnix, Leah Shabbat and other, says that her artists, who aren't necessarily rockers, adapt well to club performances. "Naturally, during the past month-and-a-half, there has been a significant decline in ticket sales because people are afraid to go out - but smaller performances sell very well, because people don't want to give them up.

"The municipalities have ordered large events for Independence Day - performances by Ethnix, Aviva Avidan and Sarit Hadad - but for the time being they exist only on paper. Performances in Tzavta and Camelot, on the other hand, take place all the time. I want to think that plans go on: After weeks, a David Broza album is about to come out, as well as a triple collection by Nurit Galron. Immediately after these albums, performances are planned as well. But we are preparing only two months ahead, rather than half a year."

Roni Arditi, Ivry Lider's manager, is sure that the change in the audience is significant. "There's something about an intimate performance that fills a need of the artist, which a large performance cannot provide," she says.

"Even when Ivry [Lider] performs in a rock club, because that's what suits the new show he is doing in the wake of the album `Ha'anashim Hehadashim' (The New People), we check the box offices all the time. We work at a lower volume, which is measured according to the place. We used to differentiate between big cities and the periphery. Now we concentrate on big cities and expect people to come from the periphery."

Meanwhile, Rami Kleinstein and Rita are almost the only ones who continue to perform on relatively large stages. Naomi Alsheikh, their personal manager, reports that "the show is popular, but sales are slower. People don't plan even two weeks ahead, and sales increase as the date of the event nears.

"If we want to open for sales two dates in advance, we think twice."