Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Barcelona Open Mic Adventure Consolidated:

A micro trailer from the film: From the Barcelona segment of “Out of a Jam.”

A song from the album:

A podcast: with an open mic MC during my year of podcast making with MCs of open mics in 2012. This is Matt Kemp, the MC of the bar Ese EFe open mic in Barcelona:

The Thumbnail Guide: Thumbnail Guide to Barcelona Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music

A link to a favorite blog item from the past: PRAYING – SORRY, PLAYING – IN SALA MONASTERIO IN BARCELONA

A favorite video: When I get cursed at by a classical violin playing busker beneath a church in Barcelona, because I did not have any money to tip him:

An excerpt from the Book: from the Barcelona chapter of OUT OF A JAM: An Around-the-World Journey of Healing and Rebirth Through Music:

On the Friday evening, as I returned from a restaurant, on the port I found a couple of guitar players packing their instruments after busking. Obviously Spanish, I thought they might be good to ask about where I could go to play. Their answer was the “Jazz Si” club. So there it was yet again!

I looked it up on the Internet and found that on Sunday nights it held the rock and blues night, which fit my plans perfectly. The page also gave it an inviting description: “Jazz Si is run by the Contemporary Music School situated nearby, and as such has a scholarly take on the usual smoky Jazz bar. It has unfathomably high ceilings and light brick walls, and in the day is patronized largely by students delving deep in lively discussion. At night, the lights are dimmed and some great live music ensues.

“In spite of the name, jazz isn’t the only variety of music represented here; schedules vary according to which performers are in town, but on an average week, one can expect to choose between flamenco, blues and rock as well as the compulsory jazz nights. On the rare occasions that there is an entrance fee, the blow will tend to be softened by a free drink waiting upon entrance.”

It was less than 10 minutes walk from my hotel, which was near University Square, on the Gran Via de la Cortes Catalane. The George Payne Pub was also only 10 minutes walk, in the other direction.

So on Sunday after the race I headed over to Jazz-Si, knowing that if it didn’t work out or that I was not accepted to play, I at least had the traditional Irish pub open mic on Monday. Arriving at close to 9 PM after eating a small dinner of fish, potatoes and beer at a nearby bar, I was not too late, even though the jam had started around 7:00 PM.

The bar did have a loft feel to it. In front of the stage sat several rows of chairs as in a theater, and the most striking feature was a staircase that led high up to the rafters to a narrow scaffolding mezzanine on which people either stood, or sat with their legs hanging. That gave a wonderful feeling to the musicians on stage of being surrounded by a crowd as in an old fashioned, goldfish bowl opera house or theater.
The place was packed when I arrived, and the crowd was rocking hard, rowdy and hot – stomping and chanting with the music. A ticket woman saw my guitar bag and asked if I was going to play. I nodded, so I was exempt from paying the cover fee of 5.50 euros. I was obliged to buy a drink, however, and I took a beer, paying 3 euros for it.

It was a young crowd, and as it was associated with the school of music, I assumed many were students. But the atmosphere had nothing to do with school. It was underground and hip. Yet there was too much happiness and joviality in the air for it to feel threatening as “in” places sometimes did to me.

What struck me immediately was another kind of threat: This atmosphere was nothing like the often dull, quiet and heavy atmosphere of the worst open mics. This felt like a well-oiled machine of a group of musicians and an organizer and an audience who all knew exactly what they wanted musically. And while I liked what I found, I felt instantly that this particular form of open mic was not what I had been hoping for, and not what I was suited to.

On stage was a drummer who played with heart and energy, a keyboard player who hammered away and sang in a gruff voice, a good electric guitar player, an electric bass player and a harmonica player. This was rock ‘n roll, and it was rolling. The songs were well-known covers from the 60s, 70s, the standards. The slowest number was “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Barcelona | Brad Spurgeon's Blog

  2. Nice stuff, Brad. I loved Barcelona when I was there, and have had that “I’m in town, what do I do now?” feeling before. Wish I had been there. I’ll look it up next time I’m i Barcelona…

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