Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Boogieing at Mr. Boogie Man Bar in Melbourne

March 12, 2015

Mr Boogie Man Bar

Mr Boogie Man Bar

MELBOURNE – Oh, the jet-setting life! So I got to Melbourne yesterday by way of Dubai, and during my brief stop-over in the UAE airport, I get this email message from an Australian fellow traveller who happened to be passing through Melbourne and who remembered meeting me at an open mic last year at the Great Britain hotel. He so kindly told me that the open mic at the aforesaid joint no longer exists, but that he knew of a great new one that also took place on Wednesday nights, would I like to go? If so, I should write the guy who runs the open mic, and who also runs the bar, and ask for a slot. So I did, and I went, and it was great. But that’s not all….

So I get to this new venue that has been open for a year now, called Mr. Boogie Man Bar, and I find Fender Stratocasters papering the walls, and I find stuff like a poster for a Bob Dylan concert in Greenwich Village in 1960, and Rolling Stones photos, and Hendrix photos, and signed guitars, signed albums, all sorts of memorabilia, and a big stage at the end of the bar and a mic and a woman singing. And David, the guy who runs the place.

Mr Boogie Man Dylan gig poster

Mr Boogie Man Dylan gig poster

So I find I’m signed up for 22:40, and I have plenty of time to listen to the music – including by my considerate acquaintance from last year, another man named David – and I ask David – the one behind the bar – where I can go to eat. He had pizza, but as I ate pizza on the flight that day, and then a panzerotti in Melbourne (in the only shop that sells them in Melbourne), I was not so keen on pizza. So David directs me to a fish and chips joint down the street. And as I make my way down to the fish and chips joint, and I’m remembering how last year I had attended an open mic on the Thursday night – the Acoustic Café – and went to a fish and chips joint, and so wasn’t life similar so often?, I find myself approaching this fish and chips joint and saying, “My God, it’s the SAME fish and chips joint as last year!” but I’m approaching from another direction.

So then it is that I realize that I am indeed in the same neighbourhood as last year’s Thursday night open mic – which no longer exists, and is not to be confused with the Wednesday night open mic that no longer exists – and here I am going to the fish and chip joint where I had such terrible fish and chips last year. So I go around the corner and get a plate of duck meat rigatoni to go from Rita’s, a hip restaurant.

Mr Boogie Man Dylan scrapbook

Mr Boogie Man Dylan scrapbook

I return to Mr. Boogie Man’s bar, order another Shiraz – under the Mr. Boogie Man label – and I sit and listen to David – my friend who invited me. And boy am I glad he invited me. This is a very cool open mic, more than enough to replace the Great Britain hotel, and much of its greatness comes from David – the owner behind the bar. A well organized open mic, great sound system, funky bar, great feelings.

My only criticism? Most of the musicians booked their slot, came, played their three or four or five songs, and then left, without listening to the other musicians. That’s a bit impersonal. But for those who did stay, it was a fun, warm and celebratory night. I’ll definitely return – as long as Mr. Boogie Man does not go the way of the Great Britain hotel and the Acoustic Café come next year!

Hello and Goodbye to the Soon-to-be-Defunct Funky Cool Acoustic Cafe in Melbourne

March 14, 2014

MELBOURNE, Australia – Just when I was getting all excited about experiencing a new open mic in Melbourne last night, just when I was thinking I had another catch to add to my Thumbnail Guide to Melbourne Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other live music, I learned that this most amazing open mic is going to close down at the end of the month after four years of existence. And so it is that I find myself writing an obituary for one of the great open mics I’ve gone to anywhere: Acoustic Cafe, in Melbourne.

I remember seeing that this place existed in years past, but I’m not sure why I never managed to get there until last night. Even then, I was lucky to get on the list, as by the time I had called up the list was full. But because the Acoustic Cafe on at 187 Johnston Street in Collingwood has the truly great open mic spirit, Glenda – who runs it along with Ian, the instigator of the Acoustic Cafe – told me to come along and she would try to fit me in. As it turned out, there were some who had put their names on the list and did not show up. I will be eternally grateful, since this was one of the great open mic experiences, as I just said.

Located in a very funky little bar with the mic setup at the front window, and with a long corridor leading to a back terrace, the Acoustic Cafe has one of the ingredients that makes for a great open mic in the small size of the room. It is so intimate that everyone kind of has to conform to the attitude of listening to the music more than talking. Another ingredient is the great attitude and approach and openness of Ian and Glenda. Another ingredient is that it attracts some wonderful musicians of all ages, but very clearly it is open to and encouraging of the youngest generation.

It has another thing going for it that I have never seen before anywhere: It’s not an open mic with one guitar for people to use, but rather a whole museum of vintage guitars hanging on the walls high above the main room, any of which is there for a musician to ask permission to use, and then use. And not just guitars, but I think I saw a mandolin or two or a bouzouki, although I didn’t really check it out. Oh, and it turns out that if you want to buy one of the guitars, you can do that too. They’re for sale!

Another cool thing is that Acoustic Cafe records a video of your performance, and they’ll make a DVD for you if you ask for it. I was so nervous that I don’t think I want to see mine, but I was pleased that I got to play something like five songs in total despite the full list! (My songs: Crazy Lady, Borderline, When You’re Gone Away. And also the cover songs: Cat’s in the Cradle and Year of the Cat.) I liked that aspect of this place too, which is that they did not set the number of songs to a fixed quota, but let you go on or encouraged you to go on depending on the feel of the vibe of the music and the moment in the spectators.

There were a number of interesting singer songwriters, and that was the emphasis. Cover songs were in the minority, but not banished. It ranged from a mono-chordal Japanese woman of haunting melodies and lyrics to a guy with an eye patch – he said it was the result of a battle between him and a contact lens, and he lost – to a boppy Chilean and a local “many-friends-in-the-crowd” songstress singing (cool) songs about her friends….

The End of the Line for Acoustic Cafe in Melbourne

So after four years, why is the Acoustic Cafe stopping? They only announced the news for the first time last night, and the reason given was that the owner of the building also owned buildings on either side, and he wants to knock them down and put up an apartment building. (I kept thinking of the Joni Mitchell song about putting up a parking lot….)

So there are going to be two more open mics at the Acoustic Cafe before it closes at the end of March, on the next two Thursdays starting at 7:30 PM, and if you are in Melbourne, I cannot recommend highly enough that you attend, whether it is to play or to listen, or both. Glenda tells me that they will not be seeking to start up a new open mic, but I had some sixth sense that told me that I would not be surprised to see that she and Ian end up finding a new location – but can it be as good as this funky place? Well, if anyone can make a success of any location, I suspect they could….

Because it is the end of the line for the Acoustic Cafe I decided to get a few bits of atmosphere in my videos of the place, and not just music. So check out the atmosphere videos – I loved how the cash register had a number of guitar picks sitting on it….

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