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The Open Mic I did not do in Valencia, and a Visit to the Black Note Club

June 25, 2010

This is a story for the Internet age, I think. Or maybe not. Let’s just say that I went from being ecstatic to finding a place to play in Valencia, Spain, a port town on the Mediterranean coast that is hosting the European Grand Prix this weekend, to being gutted when I finally realized I had made a terrible mistake.

The advantage to Spain is that the open mics don’t start usually until very late, since dinner doesn’t begin till very late, since everyone takes a siesta and avoids the heat – right? Probably. In any case, I should jump back a bit and mention first a funny meeting at the airport in Paris yesterday on the way to Spain, because it is relevant to the story.

As I chatted with some Formula One racing journalist colleagues of mine I noticed a familiar face at the airport. It was Pepe, a Spaniard I had met at the Baroc open mic in the Marais several months ago. I have then run into him at the Pop In and at Ptit Bonheur la Chance. Pepe is a student of contemporary East Asian history in Paris, but he comes from Valencia and was returning for a wedding. He plays guitar and sings when not studying.

So I asked him if he knew of any place for me to play in an open mic or jam in Valencia. He said I should go to the Black Note on Monday. I told him that I was not going to be here Monday, that I was leaving for Paris again, but that I had learned that the Black Note was also doing a jam session that night, last night, on Thursday.

Pepe was very puzzled about this, but I brushed it off. The Black Note is one of the top places for rock music in Valencia, and on Mondays it has an open jam session.

In my fatigue – the French strike meant waiting nearly five hours in the airport and on the plane for my flight to leave Paris – I mistook the Black Note for a club I had found called Steinway’s Jazz y Blues Club. Kind of hard to imagine how I did that, but I did.

Anyway, now back to Valencia. No, wait, let’s take ANOTHER step backwards in time: On Wednesday in Paris I had called up Jon Turner, who runs the Steinway’s jam, as he indicates on the Internet that we should call in advance. He told me it was more karaoke on Thursdays and an open mic on Mondays. But I then told him I was coming to Valencia only until early evening Monday and that I could not make it on the Monday. So he kindly offered to allow me to play last night anyway, with my guitar and my voice, despite it not being entirely the right night for it.

NOW back to Valencia. So the bits of the puzzle start fitting together. I had a nice meal near my hotel in a restaurant in the center of the city – Spain’s third largest city – and then I headed just down the street, for what I assumed would be no more than a 10 minute walk to the address of Steinway’s: Calle del la Mar, 16. I used a map and my iPhone above all, to see exactly how far and what route to take from my hotel to the venue, and it looked simple.

When I arrived, however, I could not find No. 16, or if I eventually did, there was nothing much there that looked like any musical venue, bar or even club. I went into a neighboring restaurant and they didn’t know what I was talking about with any open mic or music or bar named Steinway’s.

I then asked people out on the street and they told me I was on the right road, but they didn’t know the club. I walked all around the area, back and forth, up and down, and it was sometime near midnight that I did another internet search on my iPhone and the terrible truth suddenly occurred to me: I had the address right, I had the name of the club right, and I had the day right. The detail I had not noticed on the web site where I found the information – a web site devoted to information all about Valencia – was that the venue was located in a distant, distant suburb or something or other town on the sea called Denia. It said clearly on the second link offering the full details of the event that it was located in Denia, but I must have taken that for a neighborhood of the city of Valencia. In fact, it was a town 106 kilometers away.

Decompression. Fatigue. Horror. Not to mention a city that looked thoroughly dead and asleep at only midnight!

So I then decided that I would go to the Black Note and see what was happening. There I found a cool club, bought a beer, listened to a cover band, and then it turned out that at around 1 AM there was a stripper doing a burlesque act. I left after that, and realized that I had been so close to learning time after time that my venue was not in Valencia after all, but in Denia, but the information never quite got through. Not with Pepe, not with Jon Turner, not with anyone in the street, and not even on that web site that advertised the open mic.

My feeling of foolishness was only slightly smaller than my feeling of anger and upset that I may well not find a venue to play in here in Valencia, since I find nothing else for the moment, and no one knows of anything else. If this happens, it will be the first time at a Formula One race that I fail to find a place to play. Which tells you something about Valencia, I think.

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