Budapest Open Mic Adventure Consolidated:
A micro trailer from the film: From the Budapest segment of “Out of a Jam.”
The Thumbnail Guide: Thumbnail Guide to Budapest Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music
A link to a favorite blog item from the past: AN OPEN JAM SESSION LIKE NONE OTHER ANYWHERE, AT THE SZIMPLA KERT IN BUDAPEST
A favorite video: John Murphy and Daniel Kovago at Becketts Budapest:
An excerpt from the Book: from the Budapest chapter of OUT OF A JAM: An Around-the-World Journey of Healing and Rebirth Through Music:
I decided to walk back to my hotel. It would be gratifying to have achieved a walk of an entire loop of the city. My feet hurt, but I had done well so far, and I felt physically ambitious, though I had given up hope of finding a venue. The city was almost entirely closed now, the roads nearly empty. It was after midnight, and I saw that in a city with little nightlife, and on a Sunday, it was lifeless.
I came to the massive intersection of the Oktogon metro station and decided to take the underground tunnel to traverse it. As I descended the stairs I began to hear music. I came into the large underground mall area and found homeless people sleeping on one side, and congregated against the left-hand wall was a group of young people. One had an electric guitar with an amplifier. He had a CD deck attached to it and while the CD played a song, he picked along on his guitar. He also sang and the young people sitting around on the floor surrounding him sang along. It was in English.
I stood against a pillar, a little outside the group, and I observed. Another man had an acoustic guitar and he too strummed along. He was the spitting image of Eugene Hutz, the rugged, yet charismatic, leader of the gypsy punk band, Gogol Bordello. Hutz was originally from Ukraine, and I always felt he was cashing in on a Pogues look and sound, but with traditional Eastern Europe gypsy music instead of traditional Irish music. I didn’t like it. The Pogues I loved, but they were not manufactured – they were true – whereas these guys I always felt were cashing in on an unexploited vein of punk. This man in Budapest, with his droopy Lech Walesa walrus moustache, his teeth projecting through it, and his yokel hat and clothes, reminded me of Hutz.
But here they played popular pop songs, rock songs, regular stuff we all know. It wasn’t great music, but I loved the sit-in. Here, late at night after the city had gone asleep, were kids under the streets of Budapest, in a metro station, in a wide-open space, playing music and camping out. There was no violence, there was no dirtiness, no vagrant aspect to it. Some dressed like Gothics, with pierced noses, ears, lips, eyebrows, etc., dirty black clothing, dyed hair different colors, etc.
The more I listened, the more I wanted to play. The more I also felt my age grow. I was certainly the oldest there, so I hesitated.
Eventually, the guitarist with the amp, looked at my guitar case and motioned that it would be good for me to play. I had decided the same at about that moment – as if he had read my mind – that I wanted to play because I had not played that day and I had not played the day before. I wanted to play my guitar and sing for the sake of that alone. I also liked the idea of playing with this gang of young drifters in the metro in Budapest, along with the homeless people, the tramps, the poor, who were sleeping on the floor of the underpass on the opposite side of the hall. Memories of Istanbul. Here I had discovered that if there was no musical thing happening in Budapest, if there were few live music bars that allowed just anyone to play, here under ground the need for music had burst the boundaries and the young had come to play in a place where they would not bother anyone. And the police apparently left them alone.
As I unzipped my guitar bag and put the guitar strap over my shoulder and began to tune my guitar, one of the Goths walked jauntily up to me. Her hair was streaked several colors, predominantly black. Her face was white, she had piercings all over. She had black boots and black top, pierced nose and lips and ears. And she also had a very big smile.
“Remember!!!” she said.
“Huh?” As I tuned the guitar she tried to speak to me with this big smile and she was trying to tell me something. I did not pay full attention as I thought it seemed strange behaviour.
Mammut. Mammut? Oh, oh yes!!! The Mammut store – all the way over on the other side of the river Danube, on the other side of Budapest, four nights before at about the same time of night.
“YES!!!! I remember!!! Yes!!!!”
It was the girl who came up to Louis and me after that long evening of drink and song, outside the Mammut shopping center as we sang.
“Wow! Of course I remember you! Amazing!”
“He is good,” she said to the others. “Good!!! Sing!!! Yes, sing!!!! Watch=young and tattooed and entirely dope-oriented, strung out.
I decided to sing songs that I had not sung at the Mammut. I started with “Crazy Love,” I later sang “Father and Son,” I sang several songs. But not too many. Together with the other guitarist we played and sang “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” (Back to Istanbul busking with the gypsy.) They sang some others and I tried to play along. Together we spent about 45 minutes playing in the underground metro area. The girl left briefly with her friend and then returned. I received strong applause. Soon, we broke up into two groups, with the guitarist with the electric guitar playing his thing, and me playing mine.
And so I had met at 2:30 A.M. on the Thursday a Goth girl of 22 or so whom I would meet four days later in the Metro underground passageway in a completely different part of Budapest, in a musical environment, a musical subtext in the deep of the night. This was the true meaning of Jac Holzman’s “Follow the Music.” Look where it had taken me; the adventure had led to a meeting of minds, of generations, an underground, bizarre connection between a man and a woman of a completely different cultures and age.