Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Bar Hopping, Open Mic Playing, Austin Living – a Few More Days in the Live Music Capital of…

November 5, 2014

End of an Ear store

End of an Ear store

AUSTIN, Texas – On this trip to Austin, I’ve been discovering musical joints both with live bands in concert, and open mics for me to play. In the past I would always try to find ONLY places for me to play. But this time, I decided to relax a little and find out what else exists. That has led me from a dive bar to a record store to a cool open mic I did not know in the center of the city….

The dive bar is the Longbranch Inn on 11th street, and the music was about as raunchy as the bar. I was pleased that I brought my earplugs from the racetrack, since the music was so loud I could not really hear it. So I managed to record some of the set and take the recording back to the place I’m staying in, and there I heard the band for the first time. Liked the guitar, and the harmonica – and great rhythm too. But you’ll hear the singer’s voice was too low through the amp and we can’t make out much.

That was Saturday night, by the way. Sunday night I spent the whole evening writing my race report of the U.S. Grand Prix. So last night, I attended two different events, in fact. The first was at a record store that is reputedly one of the best two in Austin. And I can confirm that “End of an Ear” is a great shop. Not only full of CDs, but mountains of vinyl. I went to the record store because there was a photo vernissage by a friend of the friend I’m staying with, as well as a band.

We got there too late for the band, but I enjoyed looking at the photos by Renate Winter, the photographer. It was photos of bands, young people, musicians, from around the U.S., some from Austin, some in Atlanta and elsewhere. In some ways it reminded me of a world I know in Paris…. Check out my short video of the photos….

And Then Off to the Ten Oak Open Mic in Downtown Austin

It was my host who told me about the open mic at the Ten Oak bar on Colorado near Fifth Street, and boy was I happy to discover this relatively new open mic, which began nearly two years ago. Run by Ronnie Hall, who has a fabulous duet called Thomas and Hall, it’s worth going to just to hear them play!

But ultimately, the real pleasure is playing through the nice sound system on the terrace of this bar in downtown Austin where other musicians and music lovers can hear what you’re doing, as does the appreciative audience within the bar. Singing in the live music capital of the world, you feel a different vibe to many other places, like being part of a secret club run by musicians and music lovers.

The level of the musicians was so high at one point that I was begging in my head for someone crap to go up just before me, but that never happened!!!

Gotta run now to another couple of musical events….

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Austin Edition

December 6, 2013

austin pubFor my 21st city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Austin page. As a reminder, it all started with my now very popular Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and due to that guide’s success, I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

Austin’s Open Mic Scene in the Midst of the Musical Capital of the….

Austin likes to call itself the Live Music Capital of the World. My own feeling is that it is certainly the live music capital by square mile of the U.S., and but I think there are other amazingly equally vibrant live music places, like Istanbul. Whatever, the truth is, there is music everywhere in Austin. Of that there is no doubt. On the other hand, there are so many musicians and so many concerts of every level and in every kind of location, that the open mic scene itself does not necessarily profit by the musicality of Austin, in my experience so far after only two years’ brief visits. The city has so many locations for musicians to play, in other words, that it has less need of open mics as entertainment spots, and there are more places for musicians themselves to play. That said, Austin is a cornucopia of open mics! One open mic organizer told me that she thought there were five to 10 open mics on any given night in Austin. I think it might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there are certainly lots. My problem is that in the limited time I have been there, and with my job responsibilities, I have not played in that many.

Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy

The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other more than 20 cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Austin Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on venues.

Weird Stuff in Austin, Followed by Stompin Open Mic at the Stompin Grounds

November 20, 2013

stompin grounds austin

stompin grounds austin

AUSTIN, Texas – I wrote quite extensively during my visit to Austin last year about how this amazing city really does live up to its “weird” name sometimes. So last night’s open mic adventure added another little chapter to that impression….

I set out for an open mic at a place called the Waterloo Ice House, which is a bar in a mall in south Austin, an open mic that has existed for around five years and is hosted by a woman named Julie. So first of all, par for the course, the car’s GPS decided that it did not want us to get to the correct address and did all it could to prevent us from getting there, as it seemed to have done last Friday when I wrote on this blog about getting lost in Austin and never finding the open mic we set out to find.

So the lesson having been learned, my friend who was driving decided to turn off the car’s GPS and use his own knowledge and his telephone’s google map. Bingo! We found the Waterloo Ice House. My immediate impression when I entered, though, was that there was no one there in the way of either musicians or spectators. But my friend told me the open mic was taking place in the garden in the back. So we went to the garden in the back and there found that the open mic was indeed going to take place there, as all the equipment was set up: A couple of speakers, mic stand, the usual stuff. Looked really professional.

Still, there was a table of about three people, and that was it. And there was music from speakers from the bar and music coming from the inner park of this mall structure, too. Julie approached immediately, and I was relieved to see her hospitable attitude and she said immediately that her feature band had not shown up, so if I wanted to play, I could.

I agreed, sat down, took out the guitar and waited for Julie to return, since she said she’d gone off to turn off the above mentioned music. She was gone for around 10 minutes, and when she returned she bore bad news: “Sorry, but we can’t turn off the music, so I’m afraid the open mic has been cancelled.”

I told her I’d come all the way from Paris, France for this open mic, and so she offered me a beer and an apology. It turned out, she said, that the owner or manager or something of the mall had changed and they suddenly realized they did not have access to the room wherein they could turn off the music in the park outside, and so they could not very well hold the open mic with background music on top of the performer’s music. As I was the only performer, and my friend by then the only audience, it didn’t ultimately matter that much.

I accepted the beer, and spoke a while with Julie. It turned out that not only has she been hosting this open mic for around five years, but she also hosts another on Tuesdays in Austin at another location. And as with many other open mic hosts, she knew about the other open mics in town. In fact, she told me that there were something like 5 to 10 open mics every night of the week, although they were not always easy to find….

She then asked if I wanted to go to another that very night, and when we found out there was another one about 10 minutes drive away, we jumped on it. Julie then actually sent an SMS to the host of this other open mic to ask if it was going strong and if I could still take part. The answer – from Raul – was positive, so we set off to the other open mic, at a bar called Stompin Grounds.

So I left the Waterloo Ice House feeling ever more like Austin really is weird… but I was enjoying it!

So when I arrived at this very cool and warm bar called the Stompin Grounds and I introduced myself to Raoul, he was ready for me. I got to go on within a half an hour and listen to several other acts. The only downer there was that the Stompin Grounds, last night, anyway, was one of those places where the audience listens to its friends, and then when the friend is not on stage, the audience goes outside on the terrace so not to hear the other musicians, and so to smoke cigarettes and consult laptops etc.

So it was that even at the Waterloo Ice House I ended up playing for an audience of two: My friend and a woman who stayed for one song, and when she left there was this other musician who had played before me…. Now I will refrain from saying that is weird, because it happens all over the world from time to time. I was simply happy to get behind a nice mic and sing my heart out in weird Austin again, finally!

In a conversation in the car as we returned home, my friend and I discussed about how Austin is chock full of open mics, but because it is also chock full of professional musicians doing gigs all over town in a city with more music per square mile than probably anywhere else on the North American continent, the open mics are not necessarily the biggest winners in all that. There is just no real huge need to seek out the open mic to play or hear live music….

That said, I hope I get another chance here next year….

Lost In Austin

November 17, 2013

Lost'in Austin

Lost’in Austin

AUSTIN, Texas – There has been a gap on this blog not because I’ve been up to nothing lately, but because I’ve been up to too much! Travelling from Paris to Austin, Texas, attending the U.S. Grand Prix for the last three days in preparation for watching tomorrow’s race, catching up with a friend who moved to Austin, catching up on a massive number of stories to be written for my job, eating a goat’s meat burger and other Austin food… the list goes on and on. But for the moment, the only open mic news to report is my failure to make it to the open mic I set out to attend last night, because we got lost.

This is not the first time I have got lost trying to find an open mic in some obscure place like Austin, Texas 😉 but it is always still disappointing. I’d found out about this open mic on Friday night presented by the Austin Songwriters Group at a place called the Mockingbird Café. I’d discovered the announcement through a Facebook page that announces open mics in Austin, called the “Austin Open Mic Music Network.

Unfortunately, however, in driving to this place using the GPS in the car of my friend, we came to an area of what looked like closed businesses and warehouses way out in the middle of nowhere. So we decided that the address was a mistake of the google maps. We looked up the Mockingbird Café on google and found a completely different address. So went to that one, only to find ourselves in the middle of nowhere again – or almost – but at some kind of half-dead mall. We decided to go into what was the only business that appeared still open, a Mexican restaurant, to ask if they had any idea where the Mockingbird Café was located.

At the bar I asked someone who looked like a manager and I also asked a customer. The manager kind of guy had never heard of the Mockingbird, and the customer told me that she had lived in the area for 10 years and had never heard of it either. Then a waitress spoke up: “This here restaurant used to be called the Mockingbird Café,” she said.

So we had our answer: The Internet had likely failed us for the second time that night, as we had found an old reference on the web to what used to exist, and we went there and found it gone.

It was clearly time to give up, and forget what looked like it could be a great open mic. Maybe I’ll be able to update at a future date once I find out where the joint is!

Conclusion on Austin as Live Music Capital of the World

November 23, 2012

I’ve been off the blog a bit as I had to travel from Austin, Texas to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Then I spent some time playing music with my friend Bruno Santos in Sao Paulo as I tried to hold back the grip of the fatigue of the lack of sleep on the flights from the U.S. to Sao Paulo. But that gave me time to digest the Austin experience a little bit in order to come good on my resolution last week to write on this blog my conclusion about whether Austin really is the live music capital of the world, as it likes to call itself.

I think my last night in Austin, on Tuesday, greatly filled out a very important aspect of the whole puzzle. I went from one open mic Internet listing page to another seeking out open mics on Tuesday night in Austin. I read the notes I had taken in Paris through Austin friends, as to where I should go on Tuesday night. I then walked the streets of Austin to find these places…. And one after another of the five or six or so choices that I had recently closed down or had not existed for a long time.

Even some of the most highly recommended open mics, such as the one at the Ruta Maya Coffee company and the one at the strange place called Whip In, no longer exist. Ruta Maya found itself being affected by high rents and it closed down its long-standing and legendary shop on Congress Avenue. Then, other places I visited either did not know anything about the open mic listings or had closed.

What does this mean? It means that in one sense Austin is either no different from everywhere else in the world with its fragile open mic scene – places rising and falling, opening and closing – or the economic problems have meant that it could no longer support a massive number of open mics.

Having said that, I was still able to find an open mic venue on Tuesday night, at a huge and interesting venue called Rusty’s, on 7th street. It turned out it is primarily a gay bar, but Tuesday night the majority of the audience was made of women – well, all right, mostly lesbians. That was absolutely no problem at all for me, and in fact, it was great to find yet another kind of open mic. Having said that, Rusty’s open mic has nothing to do with sexual predilection. Apparently the owner of the bar just loves music and so called for an open mic to answer to that need.

Unfortunately, there were not that many people present and not many performers. Those who were there were really interesting, though, my own personal favorite being the duo who call themselves “Baby Killers.” Nice name. I loved the dulcimer and cool vocals. I said it sounded a little like some kind of cross between early 70s folk and even progressive rock of that time – in fact, they consider themselves “Progressive Folk.”

Well, I just LOVED playing in Rusty’s. Standing on that huge stage and having this massive, voluminous room with a hugely high up ceiling, it was like playing in a concert hall. Beautiful – even if there were only a handful of people listening… at least they WERE listening.

So what about it? This boast of being the live music capital of the world? I learned that there is a special health coverage system for musicians in Austin. Venues, instruments, musicians, they are ALLLLL over the place. But the boast is really difficult to judge. In the end, I realize that there cannot be any live music capital of the world. There are only cities that have a more or less large musical culture. For me, few cities beat Istanbul for that. But if you look at the small size of the Austin population – under a million – and if you look at the small size of the downtown area and the concentration of live music, it is massive.

And it is great. And musicians seem to congregate there, and the city loves its musicians. So I would have to conclude that Austin is definitely one of the great music cities on earth – but there is no such thing as a live music capital of the world anywhere, in my opinion. It makes for a great marketing ploy, and a great statement of intent and love, in any case.

B.D. Riley’s Open Mic on 6th Street in Austin – and an Obnoxious Bartender at Friends

November 21, 2012

Austin continued to give me reason to believe it is both the weird capital and possibly the live music capital of the world. The good news, or rather, the GREAT news, was the fun, laid-back and simple open mic at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub on 6th Street. The bad news was the “Friends” bar next door – or rather, the bartender woman who proved to be very obnoxious.

I decided to go to B.D. Riley’s for no other reason than it was close to my hotel and located in the crazy center of the weird town, the vibrant 6th Street. I checked things out around the corner to find that the well-known and recommended “Hideout” open mic at 617 Congress was closed for the month for what appears to be renovations. But as soon as I walked into B.D. Riley’s, I felt welcome and ready.

It is just a classic Irish Pub of the kind you find all around the world. But the open mic takes place on a big stage at the front of the pub, overlooking the street. And with the large windows wide open, you know that you are playing not just for the pub patrons, but for the people walking by in the street.

Brad Spurgeon interviews Chris Olson, aka Johnny Fargo, the MC of the BD Riley’s open mic in Austin, Texas:

It is hosted by Chris Olson, aka Johnny Fargo, who used to host an open mic for around five years in L.A., and has now hosted this one for 5 years too. Check out my podcast with Chris, another in my ongoing series of podcasts. Unfortunately, because my computer broke down over the weekend, I lost my Audacity sound editor, and I just do not have the time to download another and do a proper edit of the interview. But aside from a few hesitations on my part, I think it holds together well as it is – it’s just a little heavy in bytes since it is high quality .wav and not the usual mp3….

I enjoyed several of the performers at B.D. Riley’s and I even managed to continue on my challenge of playing with a local musician in every country I visit. This was thanks to Chris being kind enough to ask Joe Gee if he would play with me, and Joe being kind enough to accept. We did Mad World, and it went over pretty well. Joe plays guitar and sings, as you can see in the video I did of him. But he is also a good jazz pianist.

It seemed that the night was just too good and without problems for this to be Austin – and judging by my experiences of the previous days. But that would soon change. As I left the pub with Joe I heard suddenly the sound of a guitarist in the bar next door, called Friends. The guitar caught my ear as it was Hendrix. But what caught my ear more, was that it was not JUST Hendrix. It was a great rendition of Hendrix, note and detail perfect…before it suddenly moved into a kind of Stevie Ray Vaughan sort of Hendrix. And of course, this is the home town of Stevie Ray Vaughan, and there is even a statue to him here.

Well Joe told me that this guitarist was named Eric Tessmer, that he was 30 years old, and that he could be playing anywhere all over the world if he wanted to, but tended to stay in Austin. Joe and I departed company, and as I started toward my hotel, the Tessmer guitar playing was just mesmerizing me. So I thought that with that Stevie Ray connection, I just HAD to get a bit of this on video for the blog. AND I just wanted to hear more.

So I quickly turned on the Zoom recorder and walked across the street, heading back toward Friends. I stopped in the door and recorded a lot of Tessmer from behind, before I decided I might as well enter – nothing held me back. So I went to the bar, holding my recorder all the time recording the blissful music, and when I found myself at the bar I thought I should do the decent thing and order a beer. (Remember that “fuck you!” violinist in Barcelona who was not happy I didn’t tip him? I had no change.) So I turned to the bartender woman and said I’d like a beer. All the while, I held the camera pointing at Tessmer, and recording.

“You know, that bag of yours is a little obnoxious,” said the bar tender woman.

You can hear this on the recording if you go right to the end. I was slightly in shock, because my guitar bag – she was referring to it being on my back – was not blocking the view of anyone standing at the bar. Of course, I had no plans to keep it on my back the whole time I was there, but it was clear that I was recording the guitar solo and would take it off when I finished that – or rather, when he finished.

“Ah, yes,” I said. “Well, I’d like an obnoxious beer, please.”

“When you take that bag off your back I will serve you the beer,” she responded.

I said, “Okay,” and I closed off my video recorder and walked out of the bar. I will not return. And once again I have found Austin WEIRD! I mean, HOW on earth can this be the live music capital of the world if a musician is treated like shit and insulted because he enters a bar with his guitar case on his back, and is clearly making a video of a performer – a fellow guitarist – so has not yet had a moment to remove the bag?

I have never in my life been spoken to with such arrogance and disdain because I had my guitar bag on my back in a live music joint!!! Or anywhere else, for that matter! (Except on flights when nervous stewardesses are convinced it’s a machine gun.)

It was rude, arrogant and above all obnoxious. And such a huge contrast to the style of the bar and above all the great music played by Tessmer, and the reputation of Austin as the live music capital of the world. Oh, it fit in perfectly with its status as being “weird.”

Don’t get the wrong impression by this post. I am not angry and frustrated by the woman’s reaction and nastiness. That’s more her problem and that of giving a bad image of the city. But I thought it was very much par for the course so far in terms of my strange mixture of experiences in Austin!

Tonight I head off for my final open mics in the city. I hope I find some, since the two or three best of them all that I had been recommended no longer run as of recent weeks or months. So I’m stepping out into the dark again….

Weird Adventures in Austin Continue

November 20, 2012

The original challenge on this blog last week was for me to find out if Austin truly is the live music capital of the world, as it calls itself. I had no idea that over the full three next nights of my stay here I would not find out anything about that fact due to Austin ALSO being what it likes to call, a “weird” place, with a city motto of: “Keep Austin Weird.” I can now conclude on that part with a definite YES.

Austin is weird all right. But I’m hoping to establish over the next two nights whether it is the live music capital of the world. The weird bit got in the way on all three nights, although last night I finally, finally began having indications that this COULD be the live music capital of the world.

Weird? Well, the thing is this: Although I had basically resigned myself to the fact on Friday that I had missed the most likely open mic for me to do – a thing at a coffee house from 5 PM to 7 PM, because it was too early, I did nevertheless have an errand to run also. That errand was for myself and it had to do with going to the airport to pick up my passport, which I had left on my flight from Dallas to Austin on the Wednesday night, and which had finally been found.

Standing in the lobby of my hotel in downtown Austin, the reception desk people called the taxi dispatcher and ordered me a cab. After 20 minutes, and no cab, the reception called again. Each time they had been assured a cab would be sent – after all, this was a dispatcher for a cab company. They called a third time after another 20 minute wait. No cab, in fact, ever came in response to the call. That said, I did get a cab when one dropped off another person at the hotel. So I did get my passport.

That seemed a little weird, and what seemed weirder was that the reception people thought I was weird for thinking that was weird. It seemed it was normal in Austin. Okay, fine. So the next night, Saturday, I found the most wonderful looking open mic, at the Cigar Room in Lakeway, a suburb of Austin.

The deal was that the musician who got the best crowd reaction to his or her music actually would win $150!!! It is a weekly thing, and if there are four musicians or more, the prize money is there to be won. I was really, really excited about the challenge, and keen to try my crowd-pleaser songs (What’s Up!, Mad World and Father and Son seemed right.)

So I went to the hotel lobby and booked a cab.

Yes, you got it. You understand. No cab. Same deal as the night before. Exactly the same deal. Same story. Now I knew that Austin was definitely the crappiest cab capital of the world, no doubt. But again, the reception person in the hotel seemed to think I was the weird one, expecting a cab to arrive once it had been ordered. Was I in the Addams Family show, I wondered?

Anyway, the open mic was located 20 miles outside the city, it started at 9 PM, and it was already after 8 PM by the time I had spent an hour waiting for the cab. I decided to kill the idea, thinking that if I ended up in Lakeway with no cab at the end of the night I’d NEVER get back. Oh, I forgot to mention that during that hour wait I did also go out in front of the road and try flagging down a few of the empty cabs that passed by on the road out front…none of them stopped. I think they might have been scared of my guitar case on my back, but I’m not sure I understand. It was weird. I gave up.

So I asked where there was a good Mexican restaurant. And as I walked there to where the reception people had recommended, I passed by the coffee house that runs the open mic on Friday night that was too early for me (as I was at the race track at that time). I decided to ask them about their open mic. I then told them about my taxi cab story.

“Hey, we called a cab last night for a man here, and it didn’t come either,” said one of the women.

Okay. Austin is weird.

So anyway…. last night I finally decided to defy all cabs in Austin and walk into the downtown area to attend an open mic at the 311 Club located at 311 East 6th Street. From my hotel across the river it was only a 15 minute walk at the most, and I wanted to finally see Austin and see if there really was live music all over the place. To say nothing of my desire to play in the open mic.

So I navigate my way across the river and as I get to the center of the town I hear music everywhere and I begin to get excited. I am so looking forward to doing my own music at the 311 Club – which had several listings on the Internet for its open mic every Sunday night – that I don’t stop to listen to any of the bands.

I get to the 311 Club to find it all closed down and looking like it is out of business. Yes, well, that was kind of weird too. So no open mic.

Oh, and just before that I had run into Lisa, the MC of the Flipnotics open mic from Thursday as she drove up 6th on her pedicab. She offered me a free lift, but I said I could walk. Small city, Austin, I thought. And I was reminded of the only good night I had thus far had in this musical city.

But I decided just to walk down 6th and see if I could find any action, and taste the live music sounds. In fact, it started feeling a little like Istanbul, which I consider the live music capital of the world, with all the various kinds of music pouring out of the bar facades and a kind of wall of sound hitting you in the face in the street.

A few doors down from the 311 Club a guy outside a bar called Agave sees my guitar and asks if I want to go in and jam. I look inside, and there is a man at a mic singing a karaoke.

“With my guitar?” I ask.

“Yeah, just ask the man on the mic.”

That was it, I go into the long, dark bar with around 10 women standing at the bar and only one or two guys, and I get a beer, listen to the karaoke and ask the guy who was singing if I can plug in and play and sing.

“Yeah, go ahead!”

So I do. And then a couple of women want to use my guitar and play – it’s the birthday of one of them – and then I do another song. So we have a karaoke that has become an open mic in the most relaxed manner I have ever seen outside Istanbul. And I begin saying to myself, “This COULD be the live music capital of the world.”

But whatever it was, and weird is certainly part of it, I liked it. More adventures to follow!

Super Cool and Sometimes Weird Flipnotics Open Mic in Weird Austin

November 17, 2012

It was a sign. Definitely a clear sign. I was pressed for time and got back into downtown Austin at 7:20 PM. I had about six choices of open mics to attend, but a reader of this blog – the nicely-named Christy Moore – had suggested to me that I attend one called Flipnotics. I checked a list given to me by two Austin musicians in Paris, and Flipnotics was also one of the two best suggested for Thursday nights. So I looked for the address and found… it was 10 to 15 minutes walk down the street from my hotel, without even turning a corner…. Furthermore, it had been suggested that I show up by 7:30 to sign up, although the open mic starts at 8 PM. Could things be set up any better than that?

So, yes, I saw it as a sign. A freaky, really cool sign that the first open mic I should attend was a neat 15 minute walk from my hotel without me planning it. I went, got to this funky cafe-cum-bar called Flipnotics, and found the very cool Lisa setting up the stage. A few minutes later, around 7:45, she came out to the terrace where all the hippie-like musicians stood around discussing open mics, and told us the list was open. Oh, but first, she made sure that two or three musicians who did not get a chance to play the previous week were first to choose their spots on the list.

I knew from then on that I was in good hands, this was a class act, that Lisa was a true blue open mic MC. I would see that even more as the evening progressed. Oh, I almost lost faith when once she had got those first names on the list she basically said the list was open, go at it…. and it was each man, woman and weirdo to him or herself as we all descended like crazy people on the list to try and write our names in the 20 or so open slots. (I think there were 17 musicians.)

My mention of weird is NOT an insult. Austin, you should know – if you do not already – has as its motto: Keep Austin Weird. So I would have been disappointed, I now see in retrospect, if there was not some weirdness and weird musicians at this open mic. I was to be rewarded with weird!!! But only two of the 17 could really be called weird. So it was not in any way an impediment to the beauty of the evening. It was fun.

In fact the whole evening was fun. There was a real broad cross-section of musicians, songwriters, and even a bit of rap-type stuff. The place has a fabulous cozy feel to it – funky like I said – and Lisa is very strict about keeping the audience quiet to listen. And if you want to talk, you can go out a little beyond the terrace, or porch, and speak and warm up. Or you can go through the doors into the bar area and talk at the bar, order a beer or glass of wine – and some kind of Mexican food I do not recall the name of, but which I ate for dinner. It was okay.

It turns out that there has been an open mic at Flipnotics for years, but it had ceased to exist for a few years too before Lisa took it over a few years ago. Lisa is one of these special breed of open mic MCs who has a style about her that is really pleasant, and a basic openness and love of the musicians who come to perform. A real, cool, traditional open mic worth the visit. And that sign of it being just down the street could not have been more clear. Hope I do as well over the next few days….

Is Austin, Texas Really the Live Music Capital of the World

November 15, 2012

I arrived in Austin, Texas last night late and had a problem at the airport and no time to go out and play in my first open mic. But I will have plenty of time in the coming week to do so, and I just wanted to put up a quick post to lay out the challenge and set the stage for the coming days. On my worldwide adventure of attending open mics and jam sessions over the past four years I have found lots and lots of musical cities and made new discoveries. I had never been to Austin before, but I knew that it called itself “the live music capital of the world.” Naturally, my reaction to that was: Prove it.

My feeling was, this is another one of those American boasts that if it happens in the United States, it must be the best. The center of the world. The “World Series of Baseball Syndrome,” you might say. But two things have led me to believe that I might, I just MIGHT have my mind changed over the course of the next week as I taste the music scene and perform in the open mics in Austin.

That feeling not only has to do with the massive number of open mics and music venues that I see listed on the internet and in the local papers. It also has to do with the small taste of the city I have had in my first couple of hours there this morning before heading out to the race track.

And ultimately, can you imagine my enormous surprise when I went to the baggage claim belt at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport and found a bunch of statues of guitars above the baggage belt?!?!?! I had my own guitar on my back, and a feeling of come “home” was huge. I could not believe it! I almost felt comical, like someone who has show up by accident at a Halloween party in bizarre costume one usually wears out of eccentricity.

That may be pushing for metaphors, but it was an amazing and odd feeling. Keep tuned to see how things progress.

Having said all that. While I am seeking my own answer to the question, what do you think? Answer my poll question:

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