Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Letdown at BluesLive, Istanbul

May 29, 2010

I mentioned earlier that we would go to the BluesLive bar in Beyoglu on Friday and possibly Saturday. I had found this cool basement bar last year over the Internet because it appeared to have a jam session. In fact, it did have a jam session, but unfortunately that was on Mondays, when I would leave the country. But Mohammed Saad and his partner – whose name I am afraid I have forgotten or never learned – allowed me to play with the band and the band then invited me back again. It was a fabulous success.

I was excited after we dropped in on Wednesday after arrival in Istanbul and both Mohammed and his parter recognized me. She invited us to come on Friday and play a few songs before the band – called Mustang – played their first set at 10:30 PM. Vanessa had found a fabulous restaurant near the blue mosque, called, Balikci Sabahattin, where we ate a wonderful dinnner outside on the hilly terrace that was no more than a sidewalk. (The restaurant is well known as a place where the intelligentsia eat, and I can see why: The beautiful setting amongst old Istanbul houses and much greenery made it feel as if it was in the countryside, and the food was fabulous – I had sole and Vanessa had sea bass.)

So we rushed off in a taxi to BluesLive and arrived at 10:00 PM after the taxi dropped us off far from the destination and required that we walk nearly a kilometer up Istiklal Street. Upon arrival, BluesLive was empty of clients and a video showed on the screen in front of the stage with the drum set and amps. We were both really hot to play, and Vanessa suggested we set up and try the mics and sound system. But I told her this was not an open mic and that the jam was on a different day and that Mohammed and his partner were just allowing us to play out of kindness. IE, I didn’t want to push the matter with them, despite our being invited to play.

To make a long story short, the band did not start until probably 11 PM, but by then we were so tired of waiting that we finished our drinks and went to a neighboring bar to pass the time with chicha, which will probably be the last time I do it, since it is poisonous for the lungs, voice and head. We then returned to BluesLive to find the band playing, and it was not as good as last year’s. The singer had a fairly unappealing voice, although he played guitar quite well.

I had told Mohammed I had a blog now and that I had a cool Zoom Q3 video camera that I used around the world to put up videos of my musical journey on the blog. He thought it was interesting when I showed it to him. This I had shown him at around 10 PM. So finally, now that the band played, I decided to start doing a few videos. I did one of their first song, which I forget. Then I did one of a Hendrix song, “Little Wing.” I was very careful to keep out of the way of the view of any of the people watching the band – and the bar was now quite full of clients – and I took several different angles of the band, each time making sure that I did not obstruct anyone’s view in the audience.

It was now after midnight and we still had not been approached about playing, and the band was still playing. But I figured it would be good for BluesLive and good for my blog to have some video footage of the band. But when I stepped outside to the terrace to have a sip of my beer, Mohammed said, “When you take a picture, don’t go near the stage because it’s not good for the spectators.”

This was the first time I had ever had any comment made to me about my handheld camera, which is slightly bigger than a cell phone camera that people use all the time at bars to record bands. And suddenly I felt very unwelcome. Maybe it is a flaw of my character, but I simply said, “okay.” Then I asked for the bill and Mohammed told me to wait for his partner to ask for that. So I did, and then paid for the drinks. And she said, “Aren’t you going to play some music?” I said, “No.” And we left.

Temperamental? Maybe. But I did not feel welcome, and it was already after midnight – would we be there until 1 AM before we played? In any case, there is no way I will put up on this blog the videos I did of Mustang at BluesLive….

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