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Three Open Mics in Barcelona in Four Days? I Must Be Dreaming!

May 17, 2016

Big Bang Bar Barcelona

Big Bang Bar Barcelona

BARCELONA – PARIS – I just got back to Paris from five nights in Barcelona, and it was such an active five nights and days that I relegated reporting on it in this blog to the back shelf of my life. Arriving in Paris at dinner time, I decided to come directly from the Gare de Lyon – I took the train to Barcelona – to the Latin Quarter, a meal in a brasserie, and now directly to the Galway Pub, the upper floor of which is my office as I write, the wifi of which is my connection to the Internet. But whatever tonight may bring, the five nights in Barcelona were sublime. Something is happening in Barcelona now….

I remember in my first years in Barcelona I had a hard time finding a decent open mic of the kind where a musician goes up on stage and plays his or her songs with their instrument and has an audience listening with silent worship-like regards. In the last five nights, I did three of those classic open mics, and I could have done more. I did not attend a single jam session, which Barcelona specializes in, and which I used to do regularly here – at Jazz-si and elsewhere.

Nick at the Big Bang Bar Barcelona Open Mic

As it turns out, one of the best venues I used to attend for its back-room jam session now has a classic open mic, and I attended this on both Thursday and Sunday night. I’m talking about the Big Bang Bar, located in one of the coolest parts of the city, with all its old, winding, dirty streets, and the name of which I do not know. Laziness and the fact this blog is a blog means I will not look up the name of the area.
Last One at the big bang

But the open mic was much more to my taste than the former jam session. I’m of mixed feelings that the back room where the jam took place has been closed off. As I understood things, that jam session had to be closed because the neighbors were complaining too much about the noise. So now they have set up a stage at the back of the main bar area – opposite the photos of famous jazz musicians – and put a piano and small drum set there. And started an open mic of the classic kind we know, and which attracts more calm, quiet music than that of the typical jam session.
Another Amy at the Big Bang

The evening was hosted by Oscar, a Spanish singer songwriter, and I was pleased that there was a mixture of people singing in both Spanish and English. It was by no means just another anglo thing.
Oscar Closes at the Big bang

I could have attended another open mic on Friday night, late after a concert, but I decided to do one on Saturday night, at another very cool venue, called Belchica, near the Urgell metro. This had a fabulous high stage in a back room, with, guess who, Oscar again running the show. What makes the venue a great one for an open mic is the back room with the stage is intimate, but then there is the front room where people can go to talk. So you really have those who want to listen, listening, and those who want to talk, talking….

Another at the Big Bang

By the way, it is now Tuesday, and I ended up stopping writing this post in order to meet with a friend and then to perform at the Galway. It turned out to be a great night too, especially since there was a lead guitar player from the U.S. who joined me on stage and played the hell out of the place to my songs, “Mad World,” “Crazy Love” and “Borderline.” Huge fun!
Second at the big bang

But back to Barcelona, in fact, the last night, Sunday, I returned to the Big Bang Bar, since there is also an open mic on the Sunday night! And guess what? It was even more full of participants and spectators than the Thursday night open mic. Barcelona is just kicking big time with open mics. Even worth the trip down for a week to do them all, if you’re trying to figure out which European city to go to for an open mic experience….
Third at the Big Bang

Another at Belchica in Barcelona

Last at Belchica

Praying – sorry, Playing – in Sala Monasterio in Barcelona

May 10, 2013

blues society of barcelona

blues society of barcelona

BARCELONA – One thing leads to another, and had it not been for striking up a friendship with an interesting and unique bass player and singer songwriter name Sergi Carós Massegur at the Big Bang Bar in Barcelona last year, I’d never have ended up playing in the monastery last night.

Well, what I mean is that this venue, called Sala Monasterio, is in the basement monastery room of what was obviously formerly a monastery – and if you pray to the sounds of music, then it still is a monastery, if last night’s jam was a good example of what it is all about.

Coming to Barcelona I contacted Sergi, and learned that the Big Bang Bar is now closed, its jam gone. (Something to do with fire escape problems and loud music isolation problems, if I understood correctly.) Sergi told me that he and his band were running a blues jam session last night at the Sala Monasterio, and why not come along.

Freaky, it turned out that the hotel I chose this year – a piece of crap – was located around three minutes walk from the monastery, so I could go an pray to the powers that I might sleep the night in the crap hotel.

Sergi’s band, in fact, was just a guest band for the venue, as there is a different band running the jam each week – if I understood correctly. The jam happens each Thursday, though, and it has its regular performers and spectators, and the level can be very high.

Sala Monasterio: A Venue With Character

The Sala Monasterio as a venu is fabulous! It is in the basement, made up of several rooms, two of which are quite large, but not so big that they cannot be intimate too. The ceiling is curved, low, and the stage is neither too small nor too large – and it has great lighting, a good sound system – with a sound man on the board at all times. The jam is part of the Barcelona Blues Society, or something like that, if I understand correctly.

You may have realized by now that I don’t speak Spanish. In fact, Sergi’s English is excellent, and he has written some wonderful songs and had some good national television air time, too, lately. In fact, his band, Ed Tulipa, has played internationally, the most exciting gig of the last year being at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.

The Sergi Carós Massegur Story

That was cool for Sergi, because his music sounds very much like The Beatles, and he’s a fan of George Harrison. Unfortunately, one of the reasons he has had this big surge of creativity in recent years is that three years ago he had a very dangerous scare and battle with skin cancer, and he came out a new man – and musician. The Ed Tulipa album came from that period, and contrary to the darkness you might expect, its positive, bright and hopeful – full of life.

Last night, it was not the Ed Tulipa band, but the Neirak Blues Trio, made up of musicians from the Ed Tulipa band, but playing blues, since it was a blues jam. After I listened to a few acts, I realized that it was not 100 percent blues all the time, and I figured I could fit in my “Wicked Game” and my “Mad World,” and after doing that with the Neirak Blues trio – with Sergi on bass – they asked me to do a third song, so I did “Crazy Love.”

Something about playing in that great room with those cool musicians and that great, packed house of an audience meant it all went down very well, and I was in heaven…so to speak….

David Sam’s Singing Keyboards, Ed Tulipa’s Pop Terapia, and My Own Bits ‘n Pieces at the Big Bang Bar in Barcelona

May 14, 2012

After there was a big bang in the Williams Formula One team garage after the Grand Prix I had to stay later at the race track, so whatever may have been my thoughts about where I might go to play music in Barcelona last night, it whittled the choices down to one as far as I was concerned: The Big Bang Bar. That, of course, was where I had intended to go anyway, since it has a very cool Sunday evening rock and pop jam session. So I went, I played, and I especially enjoyed – oh, and made a few discoveries.

The open jam session is run by David Sam, who sings and plays keyboards, and its the style where you go up with your instrument and play with other musicians. Mostly rock and pop. David did this fabulous thing using the synthesized vocals on his keyboard. I got it on video, so check it out here; it is on the video that starts with a long bass solo – which is cool too – and the scat singing keyboard kicks in around the 55-second point.

I got to play two songs, and David played along on keyboards, someone else played drums, and a performer named Ed Tulipa played bass. I did “Mad World” and “Wicked Game.” Oddly, I blew both of them, forgetting key moments of the vocals. But it went over pretty well, and I had an amazing time. Ed then came over later with David, and gave me his latest CD, which is called Pop Terapia. I have listened to half of it already, and have it waiting for me to accompany my exercises tomorrow morning.

But what I have heard of Ed Tulipa’s album so far is very good, and very Beatles. The story behind the CD is that Ed’s Dad died, then at the same time basically, Ed got cancer, and during his chemotherapy treatment, his girlfriend left him!!! Holy crap! So he did this album as therapy, naming it Pop Terapia. But what is beautiful is that it is not sad, down, and depressed. Very nice stuff, and Ed plays a wicked lead guitar and sings well. The songs are catchy and nice pop. One of the songs is brilliantly entitled, “I’m Only Here for a While.” That one, in fact, was written by, and played with and sung by on this album, the so-named Rory Gallagher of The Revs.

I could write all night about this place, this music, and my time last night – which was incredibly brilliant in more ways than one. But if I did that, I would find myself compromising tonight’s open mic in Paris. I had to travel back from Barcelona today and that took a while, and now I’m in Paris and looking forward to some of my own Pop Therapie…. return tomorrow to hear about that…..

Hard Rock at the Big Bang Bar Barcelona Jam

May 23, 2011

I mentioned the jazz jam at the Big Bang the other night, well, the rock jam is the one that started this bar off a couple of decades ago when Jesus de Kalle, a rock guitarist, decided he needed a place for him and other musicians to jam. So last night, like every Sunday, it was the rock jam night. I took that as my cue to go and play some of my songs, but there was a biiiiiiggg difference between my songs and most of the stuff last night. I mean, AC/DC, Deep Purple et al ???

Jesus was on hand to start out the night playing lead guitar, and it turned out I would be the first non-employed performer – ie, the first jam victim – and I would play with the house drummer and that house bass player. I was a little disappointed that both Jesus and David Sam, the keyboard player who is in charge of the rock jam, left when I was called up. But they had been playing for a while, so they needed a break. I played Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” and then I went into “Mad World,” and as I started the first chords of the latter, David Sam ran back into the room and did some greet backing for me on the keyboards and some nice solo stuff during the break between verses and at the end.

He later told me he liked this kind of music and that’s why he came back, to play along. I suddenly realized that I had already played with David before, around the corner two years ago at the JazzSi club on my first ever time playing with a full band. That was such an odd experience for me that time, and it took me telling myself that I would do it purely for the book I was writing about open mics, just like a George Plimpton experience playing with the Detroit Lions or something. But it was my baptism by fire, and since then I’ve grown to love playing with other musicians, and I no longer tremble at the thought of it being weird for me to be caught dead in the company of “real” musicians.

Speaking of real musicians, there were a number of them last night. There were some great bass players, lead guitar players, keyboard players, sax players and a singer or two. Check out the guy singing the AC/DC! He did some other stuff that sounded even more heavy metal….

Anyway…off to a blues jam tonight. I had two other places lined up last night, but in the end I decided to get the best taste of one place only that I could. Interviewed David Sam for the documentary, and also managed to get my performance on video, but it was too long to put here and I don’t have my video editing software on the laptop to cut the video shorter….

A Jazz Jam at Big Bang and a three-course, 10-euro Meal with the Intellectual Mario M. Perez Ruiz

May 21, 2011

mario m perez ruiz cooking in his restaurant

mario m perez ruiz cooking in his restaurant

Barcelona is full of jamming venues that shift musical styles from one day to the next, most serving up blues, rock and jazz at one moment or another. Sunday is the busiest day for these jams, which are like open mics but usually like to have musicians join other musicians they may not know, playing in a jam session. Last night I dropped by one of these clubs, called Big Bang, even though I knew it was a jazz jam and that I would not be able to play along.

But I will probably return to the Big Bang tomorrow when it is rock, pop jam night. In any case, last night there was a jazz concert before the jazz jam, and I caught a bit of it on video, and I decided to make a couple of videos just absorbing and showing the venue to the readers of this blog. It is a very cool, old-style, almost 1950s feel kind of place. Set up in 1992 by a musician named Jesus de Kalle who played in the nearby Catalunya Place and decided to create a venue for bands to play together.

It turns out it is just around the corner from the JazzSi jam bar too, which also runs on the same principle and which is associated with a music school. Tomorrow, I might play at both.

One of the advantages to this area, near the Sant Antoni metro, is that just up the street from the Big Bang is a very unusual restaurant run by an unusual owner, Mario M. Perez Ruiz, who is a poet, author, and television and radio personality who owns and runs and cooks in his own restaurant. I discovered this place last year when I met some people at the Big Bang session and they took me to the restaurant afterwards.

In addition to the interest of the restaurant having bookshelves, paintings and drawings and other cultural artifacts – in addition to the poet-chef’s own books and large personality – there is the fact that the food is very tasty, filling and cheap as hell. I was looking at other nearby restaurants with menus at around 30 euros and I opted for Perez-Ruiz’s place. When I saw there was a three course meal with more than a quarter liter of red wine and an espresso coffee offered at only 10 euros, no tax, I was out of my mind with joy. So I ate my salad, paella, crema catalana, red wine and coffee and read my “Chronicles” by Bob Dylan, and then went off to the Big Bang, feeling pretty good.

Check it out!

Big Bang Jazz Jam Barcelona

May 9, 2010

That lead I mentioned on a place to play yesterday turned out to be a very cool place, the Big Bang Bar, and the music was fabulous. I was even invited to play by the organizer, since it was an open jam. But I had to turn down the invitation since the jazz music they played at the jam was just light years away from the kind of music I play. But it is music that I love and appreciate, and I took a number of videos with my Zoom Q3 – which was recognized by one of the audience members who said he had read about the Zoom Q3 and he owned a Zoom Q4, the sound recorder.

But what was interesting is that the Big Bang Bar is a place where in principle I WILL be able to play tonight, as they have a rock/pop jam on Sunday nights after the Jazz-Si jam. So I’ll head over there and check it out.

But I will put up a video of the jazz jam last night with a very cool sax player:

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