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On the G.I.G.'s slipping quest for relevancy

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

The G.I.G. on the Strip, located on 2803 North St. Mary's, is somewhat of an anomaly in a music scene ruled by booze and noise. Its owner, Ruben Garcia, refuses to sell alcohol or allow it into the all-ages venue. Consequently, smaller crowds are drawn, and the G.I.G has perennially been in financial turmoil. But Garcia first blames a bum market for his current state of affairs. "I probably would not have opened if I had known the market would crash the week after I signed the lease," Garcia told the Current. But how much blame should the market, or alcohol policies, hold for his recent decision to start passing the hat for donations he says he needs to stay afloat?

He opened the venue on March 8, 2008, and for the last four years the singer-songwriter-oriented G.I.G. has hosted open mics, poetry nights, and local and touring bands. Garcia's goal is to provide a safe haven for good music to all ages. And while the public's perception seems to be that an alcohol-free, all-ages venue and good music are mutually exclusive, local artists are ready with Garcia's defense. Marcus Rubio, a singer-songwriter who has performed at the G.I.G. (and reviews albums for the Current) thinks otherwise. "[The] G.I.G. is special because it allows for a real chance to be absorbed and moved by music alone," he told the Current via email. "It really is a true listening room (perhaps the only venue of its kind in San Antonio) … and it overall creates a pretty intimate environment for the performer and audience."

People want alcohol, the G.I.G. doesn't allow it, thus people don't go, resulting in subpar exposure for the artists and diminished returns for Garcia. Which leads us to this most recent cry for help. "I can't cut anymore," Garcia said. "I've cut it down to the bone. So I'm now asking the public to help me out."

He opened a PayPal account where people can donate money for the venue. He's hoping that CD sales and door charges will help with the rest, as those are primarily what has kept the doors open so far, along with cutting personal expenses to focus on the venue.

Gordon Raphael, who famously worked with the Strokes and stayed in San Antonio for a time last year producing local musicians, thinks that more can be done. "There has got to be creative ways that a team could help him connect with extra organizers, a better, bigger more sound-proofed space and outside funding to continue his great work," Raphael told the Current.

If that team does exist, is G.I.G. deserving, especially considering that even Garcia admits his promotional efforts are limited to online social networks and word-of-mouth?

"I stopped sending media releases about a year ago and am totally relying on Facebook and band promotion," Garcia said. "I'm the only one running this place and I found the time invested in creating and sending the releases and the minimal result I was getting was not balanced with the time invested in creating those releases." He's looking for interns that will help him with publicity, he said. But even if he gets his interns, another problem has been that so many of his bookings are last-minute affairs. Bands are slow to commit to play at G.I.G., because, he added, "nobody wants to play to an empty house."

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