December 10, 2018

Gal Niv: The Star Behind the Rock Stars

Gal Niv

Gal Niv can solve any problem. She’s just the type of person you know can handle it — whatever “it” is.

A missing cable connector a half-hour before showtime? No problem. Coordinating a sound check in the middle of a festival in the summer desert heat? Don’t sweat it. Missing merchandise? Moody door team? Overlooked journalist? Niv’s got it. And that’s why she’s the rock star behind the rock stars, the fixer, the handler, the master of the moment — the show manager for one of Israel’s most dynamic bands, Full Trunk.

Niv, a tall and striking 30-year-old with boundless energy, whose first name means ‘wave’ in Hebrew, was born and raised in Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra. “You know Lebanon? We’re just below it,” Niv says of her hometown on the far-too-active northern coastal border of Israel. A true kibbutznik, Niv grew up on this breathtaking pastoral mountainside overlooking the Mediterranean, in a tight-knit group of girls, roaming barefoot from house to house in the extended family of the 1990s kibbutz. Her father, Shimon, is an archetypical old-school kibbutznik. He spent his career doing artificial inseminations of dairy cows throughout the western Galilee, traveling Europe in an Israeli dance troupe and, after his mandatory military reserve duty was finished, volunteering for the municipal police force. 

Her mother, Cookie, a retired emergency room nurse, made aliyah to Israel from Montreal at the age of 18. “A typical Polish mother,” as Niv says, “she makes enough food for the whole army and worries like crazy.” 

Shimon and Cookie started taking Niv to concerts when she was 3.  These days the roles are reversed, with Niv bringing them to shows — but as VIPs.

Niv lives in Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan with her boyfriend Hani and rescue dog Russell. “I was never one of those people who couldn’t wait to get to the big city,” she said. “I love where I grew up. I love the North.”

But, alas, Tel Aviv is where the music industry is, and the industry, it seems, has long been calling.

It’s hard to imagine Niv not being fully immersed in the world of rock ‘n’ roll.  Niv’s day job is working for a boutique booking agency for established Israeli bands. Like many in the small Israeli music industry, she has a side hustle — traveling around the country as Full Trunk’s show manager.

Niv took her time finding her way, as only an Israeli could be allowed to do. She went into the army. She worked abroad selling beauty products in Edmonton, Alberta. She followed a boy to a remote island in Thailand. She worked in a tattoo parlor, a record store and a plant nursery. She milked cows. But as much as she might have thought she was lost and lacking direction, Niv had a constant North Star guiding her way: music. 

Niv met Ofer Vayner, the bassist of Full Trunk, in 2009 when she was bartending at a local bar named, fittingly, Hendrix — as in Jimi. They became best friends. In 2014, Full Trunk released their first studio album. Niv was, perhaps, their first groupie. She hung out at practice, she was in the front of the audience at every one of their tiny first shows. She toured with them throughout England. She worked the door at their first show at the Barby, the legendary Tel Aviv Israeli music venue.  After their last album exploded on the Israeli music scene, they begged her to join the team for their fast-paced tour. 

If you’re ever in Israel and make it to a Full Trunk show, you’re in for a treat. The band members have a playfulness among themselves that they generously share with their audience. They get you on your feet from the first chord. They make you smile and dance with wild abandon. They give 110 percent to the music and to the fans.  And they can do all of this because they have the rock star behind the scenes making sure they can just play. They have what it takes to make it in the competitive Israeli music scene.

They have a ton of talent, and they have Gal Niv.