George Dalaras: Getcha yia-yias out
The tour manager for the Dalaras tour of Australia reflects on visa stresses, accommodation woes and keeping a sense of humour
"If it wasn't for weirdos, homosexuals and Jews we would not have an entertainment industry!"
- the famous Mel Brooks.
I am writing this from my Sydney hotel waiting for the George Dalaras troupe to arrive and start their Australian Encore concert tour. But this is a temporary moment of serenity compared to the real costs, both in human and money terms, of rolling together this extravaganza on the road.
In the weeks and days leading up to the event, production and technical staff had to work not only during the day but in European time as well. People were furiously Skypeing and emailing away to their European counterparts at 2am or 3am to achieve a professional concert tour production.
All I know is my espresso machine at home worked overtime while two of us (my moggie was sitting on the computer desk and I) were checking and double checking all of the arrangements for the tour.
Think accommodation bookings, flight details, freight, contracts, venues, logistics, technical manifests, advertising, artwork and media arrangements.
To add a little spice to the mix, one also had the joys of battling the incompetence of the Australian Immigration Department till the eleventh hour despite the fact that visa applications had been lodged months earlier. There are times when going ballistic and loosing one's professional demeanour gets results.
So what does it take to put the seven day Dalaras show on the road?
To get an idea of the scale think 12 technical personnel, a couple of
semi-trailers, six production staff, at least four production assistants, 20 riggers in each state and over $100,000 a day!
Yes, it's a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll (expensive too)!
Travelling with Dalaras are support performers Melina Aslanidou and Mihalis Tzouganakis, four of his own technicians, a band manager, his agent and fourteen musicians.
The show is really huge and if rumour has it, this will be his very last big production in Australia.
The best way to describe the 76 odd platinum album Dalaras experience (sorry Jimmy) to Aussies - Greeces' answer to Johnny fartpants.
By now you realise that having so many people travelling by air at the same time, including the local technical staff as well as production and promoter staff, can quickly become a logistical nightmare. This is where co-ordination or logistics becomes complicated, especially when you throw in the odd blow in, on-again, off-again post production holidays, and no-show flight tickets an hour before boarding.
The work on a tour of this scale is relentless and in a state of constant flux. Changes to line-ups, cancellations, new musicians being added, special diets for meals, back stage catering, shopping requests, special meet and greet opportunities requested by sponsors… It never ends.
Let me give you a sense of how complicated it can be. One change in the travelling party from Greece would result in one day's work for at least four people.
First and foremost the Department of Immigration had to be notified in writing with a new 25 page visa application mailed by overnight bag. Then you had to wait for an answer which was so slow in coming you would think it had been sent by carrier pigeon.
Frankly, it would have been quicker getting visas if we brought our guests over on a boat and landed them on Christmas Island for processing!
The local unions also had to be notified and changes would also need to be made to international and domestic flight ticket details and to accommodation bookings.
Media conference schedules were often torn up and reworked, sometimes on a daily basis.
About a month ago we had three of these changes to make in about 10 days; it is a miracle any of us have any family and friends left.
One of the major challenges when it comes to putting a show like this together over a span of ten months is to keep one's humour intact. I can say that our production staff have come up quite well in this department.
We did however take
all the sharp objects out of the
office, got rid of the teeth marked carpet and screwed all the suicide windows down.
In those mad 'I'm going to jump off the Westgate' moments, seeing the funny side of things and not losing sight of the bigger picture got our team through the day - Although I now sport a nuclear hairdo and look like a freaked out version of boxing promoter Don King.
George Dalaras' Encore Tour has played all over the world and is one of the very best Greek productions ever assembled. It is musically and technically of international mainstream quality.
The production isn't a carnation throwing, spumante popping, tacky table, charge me a fortune for booze 'n' food concept.
It stands alone as a proper sit down major concert experience.
Dalaras may not be as popular with the younger third and fourth generation Greek kids, but their mothers, fathers and grandparents have listened to him for four decades and it is fair to say he is
a contemporary Greek icon.So getcha yia-yias out!
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