It was the first time that during my attendance at the Monaco Grand Prix I actually stayed in Monaco. I had regularly stayed in St. Jean Cap Ferrat, once in Menton, and many times in Nice. Nice was my town of choice since starting the open mic adventure. But last week I had an offer to stay in Monaco, right near the entrance to my office – the track. So I decided to accept this wonderful offer and for the first time really check out as much as I could the music scene. What music scene? Well, not really an open mic scene, no. But I did, with a real bit of persistence and good luck, finally find a place to play in Monaco.
I was disappointed by my two visits to the now somewhat changed McCarthy’s Irish pub, as it did not feel welcoming to a guy with a guitar in off the street – me. There were a couple of musicians doing a gig for the three nights preceding the race, and I felt that I was definitely not the happily received guest jammer. That’s fine and normal, but it was a bit of a let down, since I had played there in the past thanks to the open arms of the giggers.
Another option was the Stars ‘N’ Bars right next to the Formula One paddock. Now this is a bar that actually DOES have open mics sometimes, although I’ve not been able to find out how often. I dropped by and asked if they were holding one that weekend, and as is often the case around the world, I was told, “No, not during the Grand Prix weekend.” I was, however, graciously told that I might want to inquire of the woman who was running the entertainment for the weekend. But I never did. I just didn’t feel it happening – although that’s a lame excuse.
In any case, on Saturday night, wandering around with my guitar, I decided that upon arriving back at my apartment near the Place d’Armes, that I was not ready to finish my evening. And I decided that there was actually this funky looking bar tucked away on the Place d’Armes that I had seen in previous days, and which I had an intuition might be the sort of place open to music. It did not look like a typical Monegasque bar. And it seemed to always have an atypical young crowd in the tables outside, just bursting the terrace seams of the place.
So I decided I would check it out. Upon arriving sometime around or after midnight, I was told they were closing. But I then noticed a guitar in the back room of this tiny place, and I said, “You have music?” I was told they had lots of musicians that night just playing and jamming, including some flamenco, some Dutch musicians, something else. And I said I was hugely let down, that I had been looking for a place to play, and that this totally controlled city state where musicians seem only to gig – rather than do impromptu jams and open mics – had let me down…but there here it was, my salvation right under my nose the whole weekend.
I was served a free beer and told I could return Sunday to play, if I wanted to.
Overjoyed, I was. Another case of never giving up. But of course, this was not an organized open mic. In any case, I returned to the place on Sunday night after the amazing race, the place which, by the way, is called La Bodeguita, and I found there were musicians playing. But the same man who invited me back, the manager, told me that the musicians were hired for the evening and that I should, in fact, go down the stairs behind La Bodeguita to another bar owned by the same proprietor, because those Dutch musicians were down there, playing, and that I would no doubt be able to play there.
I was a little let down, because I loved the environment of this La Bodeguita, with its graffiti covered walls, its tiny little square bar, the back room that is big enough for about five people, and the main terrace area where every drinks. It has an authentic Spanish feel to it, including images of heads of bulls, and other Spanish bits and pieces – the fresh ham!!! – and it was just a great vibe. The crowd is young, as I mentioned, and it is indeed a bar where young people who don’t want to be seen at other rich Monaco places go to find cheap beer and a laid back environment.
But anyway, I went down to the other bar, called, 3 Tapas, and find the Dutch guys, guitar sitting on the bar, and another man with an accordion. They were no longer playing, and the Tapas bar was not entirely full of clientele, but there was a nice group of people. I immediately got into a conversation with one of the Dutch friends of the two Dutch musicians, and he asked me to play some music.
So began at least 45 minutes of playing songs acoustically, and having the two Dutch musicians join in on guitar, accordion and vocals. It was a riot. The clientele gathered around the bar, we drank, played, caroused, and for 45 minutes, we forgot we were all in Monaco.
And so it was that my feelings about the musical side of Monaco changed. There is always something available, if you look long enough for it!!! And I had so much fun doing it, that for once I forgot to make any videos of the moment for this blog…!