So it was that I set out toward a specific, cool restaurant from my hotel, and I let my internal GPS and open-mic sniffing device lead me through the streets. I decided at one point that I was on a main boulevard and would never find any music unless I got off it. That led me into a very cool area where I found a lot of bars, and ended up completely by accident passing in front of the most amazing one of the city, the Szimpla Kert, a multi-level, multi-media, collection of bars, studio, smoking rooms and garden, where I played in the past in the most amazing jam session in Budapest, and possible in the world.
While it was not happening there last night – or even last year – I still hope that I may find it happening on Sunday. Suffice it to say that last night I just glanced in and then kept on my route. I decided to follow the most interesting streets right toward the center of town near the restaurant where I was headed, and I heard some musicians in bars along the way.
Stumbling Upon Dick Doyle’s Irish Pub in Budapest
As I arrived at V. Pilvax koz, 1-3, and thought I should turn right to get to the restaurant where I was going, I heard some music on the sidewalk ahead. I also saw it was one of the streets leading into the tourist trap road of Vaci Street. But then I noticed on the corner a pub called Jack Doyle’s, and I wondered if the music was coming from in there.
It turned out it was NOT coming from inside there, but in my exploration, I found that it was announced on a sign on the side of the pub that every Thursday night there is an open mic! So I entered the pub, asked at the bar, and found that it was indeed an open mic on Thursdays. If I came after 11 PM, I’d get a chance to play.
On Friday nights it has traditional Irish music and on Saturday nights a mixed night of a band and also, apparently, a fairly open stage….
So I returned after eating my meal at the restaurant, and I found the musicians who animated the evening playing, and they asked when I wanted to play, and I said any time after them. So I took to the stage around 11:30 and the lead guitarist stayed up with me and we played around six or seven songs or more, and while I played, a work colleague saw me from the street and came in and had a beer and we listened to the music together after my set.
Budapest and its Hard to Find Musical Open Stages
Then there were other singers who took the mic and sang, and the band returned, and having a very busy weekend ahead, I left well before the end of the open mic. But what a lesson: I have continually said that Budapest is not a great open mic and jamming city, but in fact, I continually find places to play. The key is never to give up, keep the eyes and ears open, and explore the most likely small streets with bars and restaurants with live music. I have a sense I may have passed another open mic at one point too, but it looked a little too dreary for me to find out….
In any case, it was a night to remember and led not only to a place to play and hear other musicians, but a discovery of a wildly animated Irish pub – yes, yes, another Irish pub! But this was run by Hungarians, with a Hungarian duo playing mostly western pop music, and a mix of expat, foreign and Hungarian clients. Check it out!