Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Clubby Jam at Club Buffalo in Bahrain

April 7, 2014

MANAMA, Bahrain – Second night in a row of playing in an open jam at a bar in Bahrain last night made up for the two previous barren nights in the desert. And last night was worth the wait: A jam at the Club Buffalo bar in the basement of the Ramee California Hotel.

I had not heard of this one before, for the good reason that it had not yet existed when I was in Bahrain last year. It was the same night, in fact, Sunday night, where I had a very bad experience last year at another open jam night, so I went to the Buffalo Club a little wary about another bad experience, even though it was not the same hotel or bar at all. My fears were allayed the instant I entered the bar when one of the band members approached me immediately upon seeing my guitar and asked if I was there to jam.

So I was put on the list and got to play as the first jammer of the second set of the band – i.e., when the jam proper begins. Saturday night I was really hyped up about playing solo for the first time at the Dublin Club, but last night, I was hot on the idea of playing with the band. It just felt so welcoming, I felt that any mess I might make of it would pass off without a frown.

In the end, it was great, as I started with Mad World and then did Wicked Game, and much to my surprise, the former turned out to go better than the latter, despite that Wicked Game on has three chords! But both went well, and I enjoyed singing on this cool large stage with a good sound system, with a bass player, keyboard player, drummer and lead guitar player. I used the house acoustic Takamine guitar, and that was just fine too.

The other musicians of the jam were really good, ranging from a guy who did blues on an acoustic guitar to another singing Michael Jackson, and another an African with some really fine guitar playing with a sort of World Music edge to it. After I saw these people, I was very relieved to have been the first performer of the jam, or I might have had a bigger dose of stage fright than I did.

The house band was quite together, and often the three singers – two women and a guy – added backing vocals from the wings as jammers played. They call it a jam, but it’s pretty much an open mic, open jam kind of thing – it seems just about anything goes. I was given the OK to do a solo bit before doing the song with the band, but I just opted to play with the band, as I said.

The bar has a Wild West theme to it, which is where that Buffalo thing comes in, and it is shaped a little like some kind of coral or some other Western style setup, with the stage in the center and the tables in a kind of circular surround of the stage and its dance floor in front. It was not as packed tight as the Dublin Club always seems to be, but this was a night and respectably sized audience.

In all, I had an excellent weekend playing music in Bahrain. I still long to find something outside the expat hotel scene, though. But it’s not the easiest country to navigate and explore in terms of the local culture while being there in fact to cover a Formula One race…. Excuses, excuses….

P.S. And speaking of excuses, I had so much I wanted to get up on the blog about Bahrain – including a post coming up tomorrow – that I decided I could not wait to arrive in Paris to do so, and I since I am on a long flight back on an Emirates Airlines place, I knew I could have no excuses and decided to buy a bit of the onboard wifi time – so that’s where this item is coming from, 30,000 feet above the Gulf….

Crappy Time at Rocky’s in Bahrain – and the Thumbnail Guide to Open Mics and Jam Sessions in Bahrain

April 22, 2013

Well, I beat my record Saturday in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, by playing in two open mics/jam sessions, in this tiny country in the Gulf. I was all set to pulverize my record by playing in a third jam session on Sunday night. But then it all went wrong.

I had heard about the jam session at Rocky’s Café when I was at the Dublin Club in the Ramee Palace hotel and I asked about other jam sessions or open mics. I had been told it was a little like the same jam session that I wrote about last night, at the Dublin Club. But when I got to Rocky’s Café, which is near the Dublin Club and Bennigan’s, I found a completely different environment, and little by little it all fell into disarray, and I decided to leave without playing.

Here’s what went wrong:

      – arrived to warm reception by security guards outside who saw my guitar and said, “Here for the jam session?” “Yes.” They let me in. No problem here…but…
      – enter reception and a greeter sees my guitar and says: “Here for the jam session?” “Yes.” He watches me enter the bar… then comes and grabs me and says, “You can just check in your guitar and then come out and get it again when you play.” I don’t want to leave the guitar at the coat-check, as I want to tune it and keep it near me, and I complain a little that it is full of: Wallet, Zoom video recorder, telephone, reading material – Mojo, Uncut, etc. -, spare batteries for recorder, jacket and one or two other things. To no avail, I remove them and put on jacket and pile full the pockets of the paraphernalia and enter the bar again.
      – look at menu and ask for lamb chops for around 5000 local whatevers. “You like lobster?” “Well, yes.” Waiter points to the lobster and it costs 24000 local whatevers. “No, lamb chops, please.”
      – “To drink?” “A beer.” “Huh?” “A big one.” “Oh, ok.” So next thing I know, a waitress, instead of bringing me a “pint” of beer – my meaning of “big” – brings a jug containing about five pints, or five litres of Guinness, which ever amount is bigger. I nearly fall off my chair and send her away with the oil barrel of Guinness and tell her to bring a pint, but she’s not happy at all. Next comes the waiter returning to nearly threaten me and tell me I asked for a big beer. “Yeah, but not that massive thing!!!” He pretends he does not understand what a pint of beer is when I explain, until I start to go and show him one on another table. So he accepts….
      – at the break I go to the band’s singer and ask about the jam, and she sends me to the guitarist. He asks what song I want to sing, and I say “Mad World.” “Don’t know it, any others?” “Wicked Game.” “Don’t know it.” I explain that I would like to play my guitar and sing, and he says I can use his, but that they don’t like playing songs they don’t know. I say I’d like him to play lead with me, and that the songs are really easy. He says, “I’ll speak to the band and see.”
      – as I see them prepare to go back up on stage – I thought – I go back into the reception to take my guitar. Now the man behind the reception tells me I cannot bring my guitar into the pub. “But your colleague told me I could do it before I play!” “No!” “OK, I’ll tell you what, I’m going to leave. You win.”
      – I return to tell the guitarist I am not going to play, I hate the place and the people running it, and I’m leaving. Turns out he’s from Quebec, we have a great little chat, he offers me his guitar to play. He’s a great guy, and I have no complaints about the band – as they seem very cool indeed.

But I still had a bad, bad impression of Rocky’s and although it did not happen during the time I was there, I was sure I would be accosted at some point by one of the 15 or so women hanging around the bar – as they had visibly been doing with the 80 or so men at the tables….

So, no, not my favorite evening, and I was glad to get out of Rocky’s. Still, I’m sure it all just got off on the wrong foot. But I do, I do very much hate open mics or open jams where you are not allowed to bring a musical instrument into the bar where they take place.

In the meantime, while you think about that tale, check out my Bahrain installment of my quickly developing World Wide Open Mic Guide: The Thumbnail Guide to Bahrain Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

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