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Carmen Milagro

“HoSPITality” has been redefined and become a four-letter word to me thanks to the owner of Servino’s Ristorante in Tiburon. The way in which my band was treated this past Saturday night was the equivalent of getting spit on. They say when you are seething with rage not to write and send or in my case, write and post anything you might regret. They say write it so you’ll feel better but sleep on it before you send it. Well it’s going on 48 hours and I am ready to hit send.

Here’s a first-hand account of how I was talked down to, demoralized and taken advantage of, not to mention disrespected and dehumanized by Angelo, as he sat at his desk counting his $$$ from the evening’s dinner & bar receipts. Here’s a look into the dark side of the live music scene at Servino’s, a place where I used to love to perform.

For many musicians, playing a regular gig where they feel respected and appreciated and where a decent meal is provided is a good enough gig, even if the pay is well, let’s just say slightly less than fair. For other musicians, that ONE meal a day is all they have to eat, many times because in order to make ends meet they are rushing from back-to-back gigs and they have no time or they rely on that ONE meal because that is the only food they will have that day, period. Others like me, simply cannot eat for at least 8 -10 hours before and during a show.

We used to play every month at Servino’s from 2005 to 2007. We had a routine. We’d come in, set up, sound check, start on time, play for two sets, eat our meal, play the final set, break down and head home. I then moved to Tokyo for a while and later in 2008, took my band to Germany. After my return from Frankfurt, it took us a while but at the end of 2009 we were back in contact with Servino’s and scheduled to play again in early 2010. I was happy to be back. Why? Because once upon a time, I LOVED the ambiance there, ESPECIALLY the audience! It was a great vibe; dancing, smiles and we were always so appreciated. We felt surrounded by their love!

Sometime during my absence, they instituted a new “meal” policy as well as a new budget but we worked it out. Because Servino’s small music budget got smaller I was forced to downsize to my trio (http://www.milagromusic.com) But no worry, I work with several phenomenal multi-instrumentalists (some who’ve traveled the world with the likes of Mariah Carey & Boz Scaggs) so the QUALITY and CALIBER of
musicianship would never be compromised. We were all good! My trio LOVED playing for the Servino’s audience as much as I did. Even after driving across a bridge to & from the gig, the wear & tear on our cars, the gas expense, the $6 bridge toll, not to mention the hours of rehearsals and preparation for each gig in Tiburon, we were still willing to do 3 sets worth of Carmen Milagro original, traditional and modern Latin music for the joy of the experience, a plate of pasta, some salad and maybe if we were lucky some bread.

In January 2010 for our 1st gig back at Servino’s, I was told we could no longer order our food in between the 2nd and 3rd set and would have to wait until the end of the show (10:30pm) to eat. The food would be set out for us at that time. My band was now forced to work for over 3 hours before they could eat, but we had no choice things had changed. New policy I was told.

On Saturday February 20, 2010 after we set up and started exactly at 7:30pm, took exactly the allotted breaks (no more, no less) played with all our heart & soul, gave it all we had and ended a little past 10:30pm…we were told there was no food. Dumfounded, I talked to a staff member and he suggested I speak to Angelo myself.

Undaunted, because I was certain it was merely a misunderstanding, I walked over to his office
excused myself and asked about some food for my guys. I was told in no uncertain terms, there was no food. When asked why, Angelo said to me in a tone that was unapologetic, dispassionate and condescending, that his staff was gone (they weren’t), there was no one to cook (he’s a chef), that we never placed our order (we were told we couldn’t) and that the band earlier in the week had walked out saying they didn’t want any food. “What does that have to do with us? I am not that band and we were told that we were not allowed to order our food anymore but that we would be fed at the end of each show”. His response? “Too bad, YOU failed to order your food”

It seems that my kindness, my polite demeanor, sometimes reserved manner as well as my tolerance and patience are viewed by many as a weakness. I find that very interesting. Very interesting. I can assure you it is not weakness that has founded my international Internet radio show (Women and Legends Who REALLY Rock!) with fans tuning in and downloading from all corners of the earth including all of the Bay Area. It is not weakness that has created a following of 5000+ (and growing) LOCAL fans. And it is not weakness that allows me to reach countless others by writing reviews for clients and blogs for over a dozen social networking sites including Facebook (with a reach of over 3000+ friends and groups).

After a few more words spewing from Angelo's mouth, I will confess, it took every single ounce of restraint and upbringing in every fiber of my body not to tell him to “_uck” himself. Had I been a lone performer, believe me when I tell you, I would have. No measly couple of bucks and a cheap plate of pasta are worth my dignity.

However, we had not been paid yet and I did not perform alone. Would he have withheld payment for our performance? I honestly do not know what reason would I have at this point to TRUST that he would pay us? I had two musicians who had worked extremely hard that evening bringing the music to our guests. I could not compromise their pay and so I remained silent turned and walked away from him with jaws tense and hands clenched into fists.

As I walked towards my musician to explain & apologize to him for the humiliation of having to beg for a piece of bread, I heard one of the servers (bless his heart), offer to jump back in the kitchen and make some pizza for us. Angelo’s response? “Stay out of this. It is not your concern”

So there you have it. I don’t know of any other musician who would willingly go to play for this man Angelo, owner of Servino’s Ristorante, but if there is anyone out there that likes to get “spit upon” and treated this way, then more power to you. Needless to say, this is not about a plate of food that was refused my band, it’s the principle of the matter and lack of respect for musicians. I’ve canceled the 3/26 gig at this establishment. I cannot speak for anyone else, but Carmen Milagro does not plan to EVER set foot in this place again.

I would like to state for the record that my professional decision in no way reflects or diminishes my sincere appreciation for Bernard Brehier (Manager). He was a joy to work with and was not present on 2/20/10. I would also like to reiterate my appreciation and affinity for the rest of the staff (especially those who tried to help) and all of Servino’s patrons who always made us feel so at ease and valued. It was lovely to be back although it was such a short run this time. Thank you for all the fond memories. As for the owner, nothing more for me to say but “shame and such disgraceful behavior go hand in hand”.


I WILL continue to nurture my relationships and work on my gigs in No Cal, especially my relationship with Maria Maria Restaurant, just a few miles away in Mill Valley where the food is almost as fabulous as their respect and treatment of their musicians! And of course, I am also looking forward to 4/30/10 for Latin Rock Inc.’s Cinco de Mayo Show at Slim’s (another venue with a fine reputation for their treatment of musicians) Doors open at 7pm. Contact carmen@milagromusic.com before 4/15/10 for advance tickets
Only $14 for 3 bands (Carmen Milagro, Lava and Mestizo) Woohoo!

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