Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

A New Twist in the Open Mic in Melbourne

March 16, 2012

As I looked around the web for open mics to attend in Melbourne last night I saw the familiar name of “Felix Bar.” But I was not sure why it sounded familiar. I also saw that it was located within walking distance of the Formula One race track, where I work in the daytime. So I thought it was the ideal place to go – a place I had heard of, and nearby. All the connections eventually made sense…

It turned out I had to go all the way back to my hotel in the center of town – near Spencer Street station – to pick up my guitar and then return to the Felix Bar. But that didn’t take very long and it gave me the chance to warm up my voice with a couple of songs AND the great pleasure of playing with my own guitar in the open mic.

Bob Robertson, MC of the Felix Bar, open mic in St. Kilda, Melbourne, interviewed by Brad Spurgeon:

The Felix Bar’s open mic, it turns out, is quite new. So I still could not figure out why I had heard of it, and in fact, I was certain I was “friends” with the bar on Facebook. So anyway, I ended up loving the place and the atmosphere, despite the fact that it was not exactly bursting at the seams with spectators last night. The stage was fabulous, the spotlights warm, and the sound system, operated by the interestingly named Bob Robertson (Robbie Robertson is that?) was excellent.

In short, I felt very comfortable performing there, and I knew that my voice was also being projected out a speaker in front of the place to passersby. As the bar is located in the trendy St. Kilda neighborhood facing the ocean, all was bliss. The bar tself is quite massive, and is apparently the only one in St. Kilda that specializes in renting itself out to groups without a fee – does lots of birthday parties, for instance….

There was a wide cross-section of performers, and Bob Robertson was very adept and low key in running the show – just allowing people to go up and do long sets and making sure it all worked. Just a great vibe.

So, here we get into the connections. During my set I sang my song “Lara, Lara,” and I introduced it by saying that it was about a woman I had met in Melbourne three years ago. I wanted to mention that I had met her at an open mic at the Softbelly bar, but I had forgotten the name of the bar for a moment.

After the open mic ended – and I did my interview podcast with Bob Robertson, my second of the new series – I then got into a conversation with the owner of the bar, Lloyd. During the conversation the first connection happened: Last year I knew there was a problem with a number of open mic and other live music venues having to close down in Melbourne, but I had thought it was only because of the usual problem of sound pollution for local residents. I learned that there is another angle: It turns out that bars are required to hire three security guards when there is live music, in order to prevent rowdiness. (!!!!) Of course, what bar can afford to pay three security guards on the earnings of an open mic?

Anyway, as I left, I handed Lloyd my personal calling card.

“I know you,” he said. “I remember your name…the Softbelly!”


“I used to own the Softbelly,” he said. He added that he had taken all the Softbelly friends on Facebook and simply transferred them to the Felix Bar after he sold off the Softbelly business and started up the Felix Bar.

So he remembered me from three years ago, he had been the man behind the Softbelly…where I had met the woman behind Lara, Lara.

It was amazing to think that three years had passed, I had continued the open mic adventure, the Softbelly was the first bar I played in on that adventure (after the Blues Room in Shanghai the previous fall), and here I was three years later alighting in another bar at the beginning of the new year’s adventure and finding a “friend” from the previous joint….

PS, unfortunately, as with yesterday, my internet connection has been so slow today that I only have one video to put up so far. I will continue uploading the videos and put them all up later.

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