Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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One Step Better in Abu Dhabi, at PJ O’Reilly’s Pub

November 11, 2011

I complained yesterday in my post about how I found a music bar that refused me entry with a guitar and camera. Last night I managed to get a step closer to Nirvana in an expat bar called PJ O’Reilly’s, located within the compound of the Royale Meridien Hotel in downtown Abu Dhabi.

I say I got just a step closer because I managed to get into the bar with my guitar and my camera and no questions were asked. And I also managed to sit there for some time contemplating how, when and why I would approach a member of the house band to ask about places to play at jams or open mics in Abu Dhabi.

But as I sat and listened to this cover band and the music was very loud, and the full-house of clients dancing, laughing, joking, talking and moving about in cramped quarters, and as I used my Zoom Q3HD camera to try to get some of the music and atmosphere on video, I felt a tap on my shoulder from behind after only my third video. It was a security guard who told me I had to turn off my video recorder.

“No videos,” he yelled.

Well, this was all a step closer to my goal of finding my musical jam, open mic or other venue to mark my musical territory in Abu Dhabi. But, of course, there still seems to remain a very large hurdle before I get there. On the other hand, with two venues in a row that don’t like cameras, I’m beginning to form an interesting picture of music in Abu Dhabi. Hope it’s the wrong one….

In the end, the bar was so jam-packed, my welcome less than that, and when between sets I sought out a band member and found I could barely move and that even if I did find a band member they would not hear my voice over the loud piped in music, I decided to leave PJ O’Reilly’s and call it a failure. I’ll try another couple of ideas tonight.

Singing the Abu Dhabi Blues

November 10, 2011

I arrived in Abu Dhabi last night for the first of four nights in this sandy Emirate on the Gulf, and despite it being almost midnight before I got all settled, I decided to ask at my hotel if they knew of a place I could go to play music – an open mic or a jam session, or just a warm and cosy live music joint. They responded so quickly and easily and enthusiastically, that I just had to take a cab and find this place, despite the late hour.

In any case, they said the Rock Bottom Cafe at the Capital Hotel was the place I needed to go, and I went, ate a chicken burger at a joint across the street and went right to the second floor of the hotel to the bar. Actually, no, I found two other music bars in the hotel first, one a Filipino music place and the other something else, but neither looked promising.

I arrived at the door to the Rock Bottom Cafe to find a couple of security guards and a man between them behind the desk.

“What kind of music is there here?” I asked, since all I received from them all was stares.

“American black music, pop, rock,” the man behind the desk said, after exchanging looks with his friends the guards.

“Ah, cool,” I said, advancing.

“But guitars and cameras are not allowed and there is a cover charge of 100 Dirhams,” he said, looking at my guitar bag on my back and my camera bag at my side.

“Sounds like this is definitely not my kind of place,” I said, and turned to leave. I heard a “yeah,” as I walked away.

Okay, I have a list of potential bars that I will go through the next three nights, and despite being told by several local expats that this is the worst place in the world for what I’m looking for, I will continue boldly forward…. I actually like being here for the rest of the vibe, by the way – nice, warm, sunny temperature, clean streets, big hotel room…a large contrast to India, but India has that music thing!

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