The concert producer teeters atop the cab of a pickup truck, flyer in one hand, staple gun in another. She needs the truck, because that’s the only way she can reach prime visual real estate — territory that begins about 10 feet up a telephone pole. That’s the spot where both pedestrians and drivers can see the flyer: a yellow sheet announcing a Wednesday concert with the dreamy Jorge Drexler, a Uruguayan musician who won an Oscar for his songwriting for “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
Nairem Morales and her partners in La Bohemia are bringing him here. If that sounds glamorous, it’s an illusion. There is no glamour in the life of a small producer — no slick street team, T-shirts or billboards. It’s all done by Morales and a network of local friends and music enthusiasts that she’s woven around her and La Bohemia.
The Wednesday concert at the Mezzanine, a venue in the South of Market Area, is one of the biggest they’ve handled: a 1,000-seat capacity compared to half or even less for their normal concerts.
Filling 1,000 seats, even with the likes of Drexler, is no easy task. Three weeks ago she was in Colorado, her partner Yeibas Cano in Venezuela, and Carlos Disdier, her other partner, had just received the event flyers — two weeks late. They’d sold only a few hundred tickets.
Crisis calls went out, flights were booked, a game plan hatched. Last Thursday, Morales recounts, she stayed up until 1 a.m. handing out flyers at a concert, woke up at 5:30 a.m. to appear on Univision, continued to UC Berkeley to put up flyers, then made two more broadcast plugs. In nine days, sales had doubled.
As she packs up her staple gun and drives away from the telephone pole at 25th and Alabama, half a sandwich on the dash, she says, “This is an easy day.”
“I could have had a call from the musician saying someone in the band can’t make it and they’ll have to cancel.”
The day started with coffee and a coconut-flecked donut at 11 a.m., relatively late for her typical concert crunch time. She was up until 4 a.m. moving, she says, half apologizing, half explaining.
She doesn’t mind the pace — not for this concert. It’s taken months of planning and networking, but it’s personal. Drexler’s music once pulled Morales out of a personal crisis. “I was brokenhearted, jobless, having to move into my own place,” she says. “His songs really helped me.”
She sits at a table inside Philz, but not for long. “Nairem’s mobile these days,” jokes Dipti, a friend who flew in from New York late last night to help with the concert.
“I can’t sit still, not even in a freaking chair,” Morales agrees.
What’s the first order of business? “Coffee,” she says, glancing at her travel mug, and then, “Where the heck is my cap?” After retrieving it, she rattles off the rest of the day’s tasks: post flyers, attend a meeting to wrap up their last concert, buy the flowers that will be delivered to Mr. Drexler’s hotel room and pick up a rental van for the event’s reception. Oh, and check ticket sales.
“A day like today — a normal human being couldn’t do it,” she says, putting her comment of an easy day into context.
La Bohemia, which began in 2008, brings local singer-songwriters and artists from Latin American countries to Mission venues. As with many Internet startups, local cafes and restaurants serve as their office space.
Instead of algorithms, her business is about relationships — more Hollywood than Silicon Valley.
Later in the afternoon, sitting outside at L’s Caffe, no less than half a dozen community friends — artists, authors, radio hosts, musicians — stop to greet Morales with hugs and cheek-to-cheek kisses. They laugh, they gossip, they trade information about the latest concert news or her upcoming lineups.
“Our secret, our strategy,” she says, “is we have real relationships with people. The DJs are our friends, people in the media are our friends, so that when we call them up, we can get somewhere…. We build horizontal relationships instead of vertical ones.”
The network, which sounds more web-like than horizontal, includes personalities she’s befriended over years with somewhere between a gift and a hunger to relate. We’ve made another stop, this time at Mission Pie, and she says with bravado: “Pick anyone for me to approach.”
What about the two women with strollers?
Without pause, she’s cooing over the pint-sized passengers in the strollers.
“Hey!” she says to their mothers, and launches into an explanation of the flyer, with plaudits for Drexler’s musical talent.
She pauses and frowns. “Looks like it might be hard for you to come unless you find a sitter.” The women happily engage anyway and take her flyer, along with assurances that she’ll attempt to create a “moms and babies” concert series.
“There’s something so beautiful and magical about these relationships,” says Morales, who has a Masters in psychology.
Even when she’s working 18-hour days, even when she has to make her social life revolve around her production schedule, Morales maintains it’s worth it. “Every time I’m around people who are enjoying themselves, I feel alive.”
Alive and, it appears, successful. At last count, Morales and her partners had sold more than 800 tickets to Wednesday’s concert.