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“We’ll Back You” – or Joining the House Bands at Two Venues in Baku

June 19, 2016

Finnegan's Baku

Finnegan’s Baku

BAKU, Azerbaijan – Unfortunately the European soccer championships in France that are currently dominating television channels all over the continent interfered with what I heard was the best open mic in Baku. Yes, many bars place people kicking balls around a field as higher entertainment than live music! But that did not stop at least a couple of bars in Baku last night from putting on live entertainment as well as the images of the soccer on their television screens. And that meant that I could try to party crash the house bands in these places and see if I could scream my heart out in Baku again. Thanks to the open arms attitude of the Baku house bands at both Finnegan’s pub and the same place I went to last Wednesday, Pancho’s Mexican etc., I got to play with two mean house bands, and fabulous full-house crowds.

And to forget about the soccer tournaments. Finnegan’s is a typical Irish pub, and the house band was a very mean all-rounder with a keyboard player, sax player, two lead guitarists – one who reverted to rhythm while the other did lead – a drummer and bass player. And although it was not classified as an open mic, they did seem to let up others who were not actually part of the band, that included me and a woman singer.
Cool house band at Pancho’s

They were a very, very hot band, so tight, with a vast repertoire of pop, from blues rock to Pink Floyd, and even some kind of 60s bubble gum stuff in between. I felt I got off to a bit of a slow start with “Mad World,” but after the Dylan and then “Wicked Game,” it was pretty much full swing. It was one of those situations I just love, with a full house of appreciative listeners packed right in up to the stage area.
First with house band at Finnegan’s

Later, well after midnight, I decided to check out Pancho’s Mexican/Adam’s Curries, where I had played in an open mic on Wednesday. There was a very cool sort of “new wave,” laid back, slightly techno-sounding band that mixed their own songs with some original versions of covers, including an upbeat version of “Wicked Game”! I took them a bit by surprised when I asked at around 1 AM if I could do a song, but in the same spirit of openness as the band at Finnegan’s, they let me play, and they all played along.
guitar and sax at Finnegan’s

I started with “I Won’t Back Down,” then did the same Dylan as at Finnegan’s (You Ain’t Goin Nowhere) and then I decided to push the limits by doing my “Borderline.” It was all a fabulous moment, and I will leave Baku in a couple of days feeling very warm about the music scene and musicians here, even if I have barely scratched the surface…. And even if they should not get rid of open mics in favor of soccer – but that happens everywhere in the world, or at least in Europe….

more at poncho’s baku

second at Finnegan’s in Baku

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