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When the House of Blues opened in June, some wondered if the smaller venues in town could survive. This month the Belly Up scored with two choice bookings: the Pink Martini orchestra from Portland, Oregon, and kosher rasta singer Matisyahu. Both sold out weeks in advance.

Pink Martini, known for mixing rumba, classical, and carnival disco, has been around for ten years. Before their September 11 Belly Up show (their first in San Diego), the 11-piece band played two consecutive nights at the Hollywood Bowl. The first night they drew 14,000; the second night, 17,000 (a sell-out).

Toward the end of the Belly Up show, Pink Martini lead singer China Forbes said the band would come back to play the venue. The promise seemed unlikely because of the band's popularity; the Belly Up has a capacity of 600.

Pink Martini manager John Brodie was at the Belly Up. I told him that was a remarkable promise for Forbes to make.

"She didn't consult the band," said Brodie. "She is only speaking for herself."

Belly Up talent buyer Jeff Gaulton said he wouldn't try to hold the band to its singer's promise, but he would love to have them back. "We could do three shows if we had to." He said he'll understand if Pink Martini plays a larger theater venue next time, such as Spreckels or Symphony Hall.

When Gaulton booked the Bacchanal in the '80s and '90s, he was the first to bring Garth Brooks, Tracy Chapman, and the Smithereens to San Diego. "That's the nature of the job, to break new talent. Any of us [talent buyers] have stories like that."

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