PARIS – For the last four days, my life suddenly took control of me, led me where it wanted, swept me up and down off of my feet and … well, it has just been four days where I have not been able to get down and grounded. So many great things have happened that I did not plan for. But the focus of this post will be what I should have written about upon my return to Paris on Monday night: The fabulous and unexpected open mic of the Big Texas Barbecue & Waffle House in Bahrain. Sunday night was the first of a series of nights where I was inexorably called forth by the open mic and gig Gods to appear onstage, whether I wanted to or not. (Although I invariably want to.)
I had filed my Formula One race report in record time – 40 minutes – and took the shuttle back to downtown Manama. I had missed one of my favorite open stages the night before – the Dublin Club’s jam – because I’d spent an hour trying to extract a contact lens from behind my right eye. (Which I discovered later had actually ended up under the sole of my right foot.) So on Sunday, I was really keen to play again somewhere, and I had seen earlier in the weekend that there was an open stage, open jam, open mic, at some bar I did not know about.
But after leaving the circuit and getting back to my hotel fairly late, close to 10 PM, I decided that because I had not yet once again found the location of the open mic on the Internet, that I might as well say, “OK, another missed occasion. It’s too late.” But as I walked into the lobby of my hotel – the Best Western Olive – I heard the distinct sound of live music coming from a door on the left, which used to be the breakfast room. Clarissa killing it at Big Texas BBQ
I decided to investigate, with the idea that where there was live music there was also a stage, and who knew? Maybe a chance to play? So I go through the doors and I find myself in another world: The Big Texas Barbecue & Waffle House. And you could not get much more American than this! In downtown Manama. All done up in your typical kind of wood-panelled ranch style Texas Barbecue decor, and a beautiful kitty-cornered stage with a great sound system, and a couple of performers, one of whom had a distinctly American accent.
I immediately inquired of the waitress if she thought I might have a chance to play on the stage if I brought my guitar down from my room in the hotel, and she answered in the affirmative, but said I should speak to the musicians. Well, guess what? It turned out that this was the open mic night at the Barbecue, and I was not just warmly welcomed, I was encouraged to get on stage and then warmly celebrated and accepted by the fabulous house band consisting of the man on the keyboards, and the woman singer, Clarissa Malpass, not from Texas, but from what I would dare call the Texas of the UK…. up north Manchester way…. Duet at Big Texas BBQ
But let me tell you the surprise I had when I learned that this American country-sounding musician on the keyboards was none other than Rusty Golden, part of one of U.S. country music’s most illustrious musical families. Rusty has had a long and interesting musical career, and I managed to get a copy of his latest album, called, “SOBER,” and I gave him mine. Rusty, in explanation, is the son of none other than William Lee Golden, one of the members of The Oak Ridge Boys, who were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last year.
So how the hell could this happen in Bahrain? No, even better, how could it happen that I walk into my hotel where I’ve been staying for several years on my annual visit to this desert kingdom, and there I am in the middle of Texas. AND I realized later, this was the very open mic, open jam, open stage, that I had been intending to attend, but had not found the time to look up its address! Can there be any better sign that it was all meant to happen?
Big Texas BBQ ad on wall in Bahrain
And it led to the fabulous discovery, also, of Clarissa, with her fiery presence and flamboyant, smokey soul, bluesy, pop voice. I’m finding words difficult to find to describe it. So just give a listen to the badly filmed – but good sound – snippet I have of her. She also did some back up vocals for another singer who took to the stage in the open mic, as you’ll see in the second video.
All in all, it was a night to remember. And I will eventually write about Rusty’s album on my roundup in my next “Morning Exercise” music post….
Oh, and back to the beginning: It was also the first of a couple more nights of inexorable movement through unexpected situations in Paris open mics, and a last-minute gig offer. Having got all that out of my system, I’m starting to feel grounded again….