I’m not referring to the heat of the air when I talk about getting warmer. I’m talking about tonight’s visit to The Warbler, a bar that those Irish guys at Maguires had directed me to. Turns out that it’s two minutes walk from my hotel and located in another hotel, called Baisan International Hotel. I was well advised to go there, sort of.
It was a tiring day at the track for just about everyone as the media and the teams scrambled about trying to set up their first day chores – collecting accreditation for the media, doing interviews, setting up office in the media center. Trying to figure out where to catch the shuttle back to Bahrain (since the circuit is around 40 minutes drive outside the city).
So by the time I got back to my hotel and collected my guitar, it was already 9:30 at night and that did not leave much time for finding a venue. I was delighted learn that The Warbler was two minutes walk away.
Again, when I arrived I was told by the security guard that I could not enter with my guitar. And this time there was no playing around. No was no. So I left it in the cloakroom at the entrance.
Entering the bar I found a massive pub with a dance floor, and tables spread out all over the place on different levels. There were also different segments, different rooms for escaping the music, etc., for example, the Sherlock Holmes room for reading and eating.
The band played loud and clear and cool. A cover band made up, once again of perhaps up to seven musicians. When I arrived they launched into the last song of the set, “Hotel California.” The two guitarists played the solo together very well.
I ordered a Tetley’s draft beer and waited for the song to finish so I could immediately go after a band member about playing.
I first went for a guitar player with a weird braided beard. Made my usual mistake:
“You from Australia?” I asked after hearing the accent.
“No, New Zealand,” he said.
Okay. Never get it right. But this time I had been influenced by the fact of there being the Australian band at the Dublin Club, and so I was beginning to think there was some kind of Australian music mafia in Bahrain.
“I loved the duo solo on ‘Hotel California,'” I said.
“Yeah, that’s nice, but it’s the only one we know together like that – too bad.”
I asked him how long he had been in the city and he said he and several of the other band members had only been here two months.
“After this, we’ll move on to another place,” he said. “We’re doing the Middle East circuit. You know, before we came to Bahrain we were in Dubai….”
I told him I was looking for a place to play and asked if he knew of any open mics. He said he did not, but he referred me to the keyboard player and said he had lived here for years, although he too, I would hear by the accent, was either from New Zealand or Australia.
So I went to speak to the keyboard player, who was more conservative looking with no crazy braided beard, and he wore in fact a blue suit jacket and white shirt.
I started on him immediately about finding a place to play.
“We want to do an open mic on Saturdays,” he said. Then he added, “The Dublin Club does one on Saturdays.”
I told him I’d been there, and he said he’d been friends with the bass player there for years.
“Oh yeah,” I said, “the cool five-string bass.”
“He’s a great player.”
So I kept on talking for a while and eventually, although he said he knew of no other place for me to play in Bahrain, he said, “Maybe we could get you up playing with us…”
Wow cool. This was moving somewhere. It wasn’t the first time. This was nearly the mirror image conversation I’d had in Sao Paulo in the penultimate race of the season last year at Finnegans Pub in Pinheiros. I’d ended up playing “Stand By Me” with the cover band and it went over really well. Had a riot.
“So what can you do?” he said. “Maybe we can get you in tomorrow night.”
I forgot to mention that he reminded me that the reason there was not much in the way of open mics on Thursday and Friday nights is that in this country, Thursday is Friday for us and Friday is our Saturday. That’s why by the time you get to Saturday, you’re actually on Sunday and there’s nothing much doing! So no wonder the jam session is a Saturday night…. If you understood all that.
So anyway, the negotiation began.
“You do any Elvis kind of stuff?”
“Jeez, no,” I said.
“Ah, how about some early Beatles, like, say, ‘Twist and Shout’?”
I crunched up my face and said, “No, no real hard rock and roll stuff. It’s mostly your sort of Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and my own stuff.”
He looked at me dubiously.
“Hmm, you know, here they’re really interested in entertaining people….”
Right, I get it. I knew what he meant.
“Ah, okay,” I said. “How about, ‘Stand By Me.'”
“Naw, too slow.”
“How about ‘Crazy Love’ by Van Morrison?”
I should have told him that it wasn’t too slow the way I do it, but I didn’t argue.
“You do ‘Moondance’?”
“No,” said. “Okay, and ‘Jealous Guy’ would be way too slow too right…”
“Yep, no way. Look, why don’t you give it some thought and see if you can come up with something really fast and rock ‘n roll.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Okay.”
And then he said he had to go to the bar for a minute. I understood.
When the band went back up to play, I could see that the room was really made for fast, rock ‘n roll and dancing kind of music. They did… ‘Twist and Shout,’ they did “La Bomba” with it, and they did everything upbeat, jumping and rock ‘n roll. This was clearly not the kind of place for my more folkie and folk rock.
I had to admit defeat. I’d come close, I’d negotiated and I’d been offered a chance to play with the band. I knew that when that happened, the man who made the offer was really going out on a limb and being nice – since he had never heard me and was always taking a big risk that I could be an embarrassment. So I felt good about the guy and realized that this really was a bar that wanted people bopping.
But he confirmed to me, at least, that on Saturday, I could really expect to play at the Dublin Club. And he also said that he thought the band would be delighted if I decided I wanted to play all on my own – as I had asked him about that – because he said they’d love to take a break, no doubt.
So, day two and I continue to look forward to Saturday. I also, by the way, discovered yet another open mic in Bahrain that I had missed. Running about once a month, the next one is on 23 March and it is run by the Elham arts group in order to encourage local talent. Anyone wanting to take part can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 39416121 and check out the Elham web site.
Well, when you put it all together, I suppose it was a pretty fruitful day, what with understanding more about the composition of the local weekend, the discovery of another venue and another open mic I could not do and the offer of playing with this band at The Warbler. It turned out I saw a woman there from the F1 paddock too, a woman who deals with paddock logistics. And the keyboard player had told me that they were all going off to see the track action on Saturday too. So there was an interesting sense of the F1 community in the middle of this little night out.