John Murphy was as good as his word from the day before, and last night I took to the stage in Becketts pub in Budapest and played two sets and a total of seven songs. Even better, I played with Murphy and his Hungarian lead guitar player, the dynamic Daniel Kovago. It was a fabulous evening, even if Becketts was not quite as full of audiences members as it was the last time I played there, in 2009.
But for me the most important part of the exercise – aside from having fun – was to continue recording myself playing with local musicians in every country I visit this year, and once again I got that chance. My only regret was that I played only cover songs, and none of my songs. But playing along with Daniel on lead and John on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, with me on another acoustic guitar and the lead vocals, was definitely cool. Especially since the only song I had rehearsed with Daniel was “Mad World.” And it also turned out I was not the only guest to take to the microphone, as a new client at the bar, Winnie, also sang some songs. She recently moved to Budapest from England, although she is from Northern Ireland originally.
John Murphy has been playing in Becketts for at least seven years, both solo, and with his full band. He has an exceptionally good voice and his rhythm guitar playing is forceful. The ambiance of the pub is very much the Irish pub thing, and the place once rocked to the sounds of Eddie Jordan’s drumming – Eddie being a former Formula One team owner. Apparently, before the financial crises hit, Becketts was a central meeting place for Formula One people, particularly from the Jordan team.
Lately, it has become more quiet in that area. I met one colleague there last night, although he left before I played. What has happened in Budapest at the same time as the financial crises are the opening up of several far out bars and pubs of the Szimpla kind, with multiple bars, rooms, activities and a massive young people population. They are the equivalent of the Berlin kind of place, although apparently with fewer rules…. In fact, John is persuaded – and I suspect he may be right – that Budapest has overtaken Berlin in cool nightlife for the young.
We visited another of these bars – Instant and Szimpla being others – last night after the music at Becketts, and found the place rocking. It was called An Kert, and is located near Szimpla. Kert means a garden or courtyard, and that is where most of them are located, mainly in abandoned buildings. The closest thing to them in Paris that I have found are the squats that have opened occasionally in recent years, and closed within weeks each time…. Yes, Budapest is booming, culturally. Even if there are not that many open jam sessions and open mics….