Two weeks after WW named Berbati's Pan one of its "Venues of the Year" (WW, Dec. 27, 2006), the downtown club earns our Rogue of the Week honors for snubbing a local children's literacy charity.
Here's what happened: Last September, three local bands—Bauman, Ficken & Sparks, Adam Gnade & the Confederate Yankees, and Hello, Damascus—thought they'd arranged to put on a Dec. 1 charity show at Berbati's benefiting SMART, a local nonprofit that helps kids learn to read.
Based on Berbati's 500-person capacity, the bands could have raised at least $1,000 by earmarking half the $5 cover charge for SMART, says musician Brian Smith, who helped to organize the event. But Berbati's booking agent Anthony Sanchez, didn't respond to the bands' further attempts at communication after the initial scheduling, says Smith. The uncertainty left the musicians feeling like the deal was off, so they agreed to another performance elsewhere on Dec. 1.
Sanchez ended up offering the bands a later date, but again bumped that second offer to Dec. 16 to make room for a bigger artist, Smith says. The Dec. 16 benefit was listed in November ads, but Sanchez emailed the bands to say he was bumping the show a third time—to make way for a private show sponsored by Camel cigarettes featuring Sir Mix-A-Lot, the genius behind the 1992 hit "Baby Got Back."
Sanchez asked if the bands could play Dec. 22. No, Smith says, because the bands had already printed posters for the Dec. 16 show, and because many members had already made other holiday plans. The bands had to eat nearly $100 in promotion costs, and say they never got an apology.
Sanchez responded in an email to the Rogue Desk that he's just the booking agent, which makes him "part of a bigger corporate structure which at times leaves me with little control over certain situations." Berbati's owner Ted Papaioannou says smaller bands are occasionally bumped for mass-appeal performers, but says "something should be done" for the bumped act. But in this case it was too late. The bands played Holocene on Jan. 6 and raised about $250 for SMART, which Smith says "still buys a lot of books."