So I went first to The Envy Lounge on the 12th floor of the Premier Hotel in Juffair, and found myself in a Thailand food restaurant/bar/music venue. A big stage, a fair sized crowd of people, but few looked like they were there for the music. The band announced on Facebook was The Blur. But when I spoke to the band members as they set up, I found that while they were indeed The Blur, they had no idea that it was open jam/open mic night.
One of them went off to speak to one of the bar managers, and that man came back to greet me and he agreed that it was indeed the jam night! “Welcome to jam night!” he said. We then established that although I was the only one showing up to play in the jam, and although the idea was to play along with the band, well, I could set up the guitar and mic and just play some songs myself.
More band at Cloud 9
None of this looked very promising, right? Well, the moment I hit the stage, found a great sound system and caring soundman, and an interested audience, I felt pumped up. In fact, it was a gigantic room, there were pools of people eating or drinking in various spots to try to pull into the music, and as I saw interest pop up, I got more into it myself. Soon, the drummer from the band came onstage. Then the bass player. Then a man behind the sound console started playing keyboards, and pretty soon we were bopping, rockin’ the house down.
I did something like four or five songs and felt like a rock star with my fellow band mates. It was sublime! In fact, in the meantime, there was this photographer guy there who had invited me over to another bar to take the stage as well, right after my time on stage at The Envy Lounge. Never one to turn down a musical adventure, I agreed immediately. And it helped that the second bar, called “Cloud 9,” was no more than a 10-minute walk from my hotel as well.
Band at Cloud 9
Off we went in a cab paid for by the photographer to the Cloud 9 bar on the first floor of another hotel, in a very funky room celebrating the Formula One race with checkered flags all over the place, including on the costumes of the Filipino band that hosted the evening. The stage ran the length of the room, and the band consisted of three women singers, a man singer, a keyboard player, lead guitarist, bassist, drummer and someone else whose role I could not quite figure out.
This was not a formal jam session, but once introduced to the band by my photographer friend – Ahmed – I was invited up to play with them with open arms. The room was quite large and filled more with expats than the first place was, but also with lots of Filipinos. The only downside to the whole thing was that my repertoire was not quite as high-octane as that of the house band, so it may have been ever so slightly off the scales. But we ended up doing the fastest songs I had – at Ahmed’s request – with me doing my singing and guitar playing, along with the drummer, keyboard player and bassist.
In Cloud 9, I must say, the clients can be very much of the Cloud 9 kind, providing warmth and singing along like I would never have been able to imagine when I went out with Envy and ended up on Cloud 9. And I ate the most amazing Filipino noodle meal as the band played, and just before and just after I went up.
Oh, and my Seagull S6 served me perfectly in both venues. It has survived the trip and seems set to fly another time around the world….