Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Creation of my 26th Thumbnail Open Mic Guide: Copenhagen

March 31, 2017
bradspurgeon

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

I have just created my 26th open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Copenhagen Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. I have managed to list four open mics that I attended, and many others that were recommended to me by a local musician and open mic organizer.

This makes it a very rich start to a new open mic guide for me, and I hope that I will be able to return again soon to try some of the places on the list that I did not get a chance to try. Copenhagen was a really great discovery for me as a city, a lifestyle and as a musical experience in my worldwide open mic adventures. So here is my 26th city thumbnail open mic guide (Copenhagen), representing most – but not all – of the cities around the world where I have played in open mics and decided to share my findings. (Let’s see, I’ve also played in Nairobi – years ago – New York, Toronto, Ottawa, London, Heidelberg and other places – without making guides for those cities. Maybe I will soon!)

A Crowning Moment at the Café Retro Open Mic in Copenhagen

March 26, 2017
bradspurgeon

Café Retro

Café Retro

I had almost reached my limit at the open mic I attended that I last reported about on this blog, in Copenhagen, but the temptation to try another one that was sitting as bait before my eyes was just too great. It was Thursday night, I had a film to attend until around 8 PM or so, and then another film to attend at 10 PM or so (see my previous post about The Inertia Variations), but I had heard some intriguing things about the Café Retro open mic. And I had therefore, a period of an hour, basically, between when I could arrive for the beginning of the open mic, and had to leave for the next film. So I decided to see if that hour could be filled with my fourth presence behind a mic at an open mic in Copenhagen in seven nights in Denmark. Eureka! And boy did I not regret the effort and gamble to go….

My experience at the previous open mic was so bad, waiting three hours to play one song, that I worried that I had already seen the best of the open mics in Copenhagen, and why push my luck. But, in fact, during that previous open mic I had met some Spaniards who had told me that the Café Retro open mic – which I had heard of elsewhere – was really a cool, different, open mic that was worth trying. So I pushed myself, going to the place in the heart of downtown Copenhagen without my guitar even, and hoping for the best.
Another Henrik Berg at Café Retro in Copenhagen

I had been told that the Café Retro was a non-profit establishment in which all the people working were volunteers. The money the venue earns goes to various social projects in Africa. That in itself sounded promising – but who knew?

So I found the place with no problem, entered, and discovered a really neat atmosphere of small rooms or cubby holes, coolly decorated, and an upper mezzanine floor where the open mic takes place. It was cozy, cool, and clearly made for both listening, munching, drinking and socializing. I arrived at precisely 8:30, and I was introduced to Henrik Berg, who runs the open mic. I told him that I was really keen to play. He outlined to me the program for the night: He would play a set until 9 p.m. and that would be followed by a feature act – or was it “acts” – until 9:30, at which point the open mic would begin.
Henrik Berg at Café Retro in Copenhagen

I told him that I supposed that ruled me out, since I had a film to attend at 10 p.m., and even if he put me up as the first person in the open mic, it was doubtful I could play precisely at 9:30 and still get off to the cinema…. He said of course we could do that. Then he gave it a little thought and said, “Listen, I have an idea: I will play my set until 9 p.m., then I will slot you in at 9 in between me and the feature act. Then you can get out of here after that, easily early enough to get to your film.”

I could not believe my ears! What openness, what consideration. There are so few open mic MCs that know how to be flexible. And so many times when I have been in similar straights, they say: “Come back next week.” And they say this despite me telling them I don’t live in the country, I’m just passing through and may never return. Not Henrik. His way of dealing with me was consistent with what feels like the entire zeitgeist of this volunteer organization and its great staff.
Onimo at Café Retro

I then set another hurdle for him, telling him that my guitar was in my hotel. “No problem, use mine.”

So Henrik played his set, and he immediately introduced me, and I got up on stage at 9 p.m. and found myself behind a fabulous, fabulous sound system, with lots of reverb on the mic, and his guitar – a Takamine – sounding great and feeling as good to play. And there I was, up there in that perch above the ground floor looking down, and looking also over at the clients in the various cubbyholes of the mezzanine.
A final Henrik Berg at Café Retro in Cph

And so began a close to half an hour set for me as I played song after song of mine with Henrik giving me the thumbs-up from the floor below, indicating I could continue…. I have not felt that good at an open mic for a very, very long time. And I managed to leave just after 9:30 and arrive in plenty of time at the film, which I was therefore feeling completely relaxed and enthusiastic to see.

So I highly, highly recommend the Café Retro in Copenhagen. I also, generally, highly recommend Copenhagen for people looking for one of the best open mic scenes in the world. I could have played just about every night, I think. And I will confirm that soon with a new Thumbnail Guide for Copenhagen’s open mic scene….

Four open mics in seven days, I could not have dreamed of anything better when I set out of the CPH:DOX film festival the week before….

A Seminar, an Interview and then a long wait followed by an explosion of emotion – Day Whatever at CPH:DOX

March 23, 2017
bradspurgeon

Tjili Pop

Tjili Pop

COPENHAGEN – Just about the only really good thing that comes out of a three-hour wait at an open mic to get behind the microphone and be “allowed” to sing only ONE song because there’s no longer any time left in the evening at just after 11 PM is that you have a very good reason to want to put your whole heart and soul and physically being into the song you sing. And that is what happened to me last night as I sang “Mad World” at the Tjili Pop open mic, called Speake’s Corner, in Copenhagen.

I was the first or second musician to arrive for the open mic at 8:30 p.m., but the open mic takes place after a “concert” of four different bands or musicians from roughly 8:30 to what ended up being after 11:00 p.m., and buy the time I got behind the mic it was 11:20 and I was told that I could only do one song. All the participants of the open mic only did one song. Then, of course, my Seagull guitar failed to work through the sound system – the only place it has worked out of the three open mics I’ve done in Copenhagen so far is at the first, and best of them: CPH Listening Room. I wonder if there is a reason for that!
First at Tjili Pop in Copenhagen

Anyway, the Tjili Pop bar is otherwise an absolutely fabulous room, cramped, cool, hippie-like, and broken up into different sectors, so if you want to talk you can go to another room, away from the music room. Not that many people did!

I did managed to fill my time waiting with three beers – I really only wanted one beer and three songs, but … – and a fish and chips meal that was not bad at all.
Fourth at Tjili in cph

The place was crammed with people, and by the time I got behind the mic and belted out Mad World – I think I was the only person to sing a cover song all night, but I did that as a rebellious statement (!) – I was really not happy, and really ready to take full advantage of the pulpit and go crazy. All the alcohol helped too….

It had otherwise been a great day at the CPH:DOX film festival. In the morning I had attended a conference about the question of whether or not to serialize a documentary film – i.e., turn it into several films – with the highly experienced and interesting Thom Powers, who selects the films for several important film festivals among many other things.
Another at the Tjili open mic

I also did an interview with the man who selects the films and music for the CPH:DOX festival, Adam Thorsmark. I will be posting that interview in the form of a podcast very soon in a separate post….

Anyway, despite my frustration with the crazy Tjili joint, I have now done three open mics in Copenhagen, and there are plenty more available. So ultimately, I am absolutely delighted with what this city has to offer in the way of open mics, and I never expected so much.

The Calm, Cool and Rarified Atmosphere of the CPH Listening Room Open Mic, in Copenhagen

March 20, 2017
bradspurgeon

CPH Listening Room in Rahuset

CPH Listening Room in Rahuset

COPENHAGEN – I came to Copenhagen for a film festival, because the film festival has a very strong music category to it called Sound & Vision. But I also, naturally, wanted to piss on another territory in my worldwide open mic adventure. But I was very worried I would not find any open mics in Copenhagen, after many internet searches seemed not to entirely guarantee anything. I should have realized that any city that can have as strong and cool of a music side to it film festival is also going to have a strong musical culture, and open mics. Not only did I attend the most amazing open mic Sunday night – between films (!) – but I have now heard that the city is apparently swarming with open mics and jams.

But let me step back to the CPH Listening Room, located in the Rahuset building. The open mic has existed for around 10 years, and has been run for the last three years by Martin Tomlinson, a British expat – not to be confused with the musician of a certain strangely named UK band that reminds me of yesterday’s post about the Bunch of Kunst film. Tomlinson is a gentle, warm host, with gentle warm songs, that sets the tone for the evening.
A walk (with lousy sound but cool image) of the CPH Listening Room in Copenhagen

As he said, the open mic is also of a style that follows the name of the venue: People come to listen. You can hear a beer placed on a table during any particular act, so quiet and attentive are the listeners. Also as Martin said, this is a listening room with a bar in it, rather than the usual open mic venue that is a bar with a listening angle to it. Located in a cool, loft-like building in a kind of community center not too far behind the main train station, the ambience of the room itself is fantastic.
Bjorn feature act

The stage is beautifully lit, the sound system is excellent, and there are a couple of videographers on either side of the stage there to immortalize every performance.

I was also absolutely delighted to hear several musicians playing songs they had written in Danish. Yes, it may have an Englishman running it, and there may be a lot of musicians singing in English, but this is a Danish open mic all right. And one of the best song writers of the night was the feature act, who is Danish, but whose songs – the three I heard before I had to go to the next film – are written in more than impeccable English.
Fifth at CPH Listening Room open mic

That was Bjørn Stig Møller, but there were other interesting writers and as I say, the Danish side made this like a gold mine for me on my international open mic travels. And I am looking forward to finding and playing in other places on this trip. Oh, my only criticism? We only got to play two songs each, and I was just starting to feel better and better up on that stage, and would have loved to stay all night!
First at CPH Listening Room

It’s no surprise that there is also a Copenhagen Songwriters’ Festival that takes place in the CPH Listening Room and a neighbouring building.
Fourth at CPH Listening Room

Oh, by the way, I decided to try out my Osmo camera again, and did a walk around of the venue so readers can see it all. I also decided to test for the first time my new mic method of the Osmo. After finding that my old Sony voice mic was not very good for recording music with the Osmo, I set out to find a better method before coming to Copenhagen. In the end, I decided to use a Zoom recording device as a mic, and feed it directly into the Osmo. I was too uncomfortable with the idea of recording the acts at the CPH Listening Room with my bulky and impressive looking Osmo, but the small test I did with the Zoom as mic is more than promising. Compare the sound on the brief test to the sound of the Osmo’s built-in mic during my walk around. The difference it mind boggling.
Second at CPH Listening Room

Anyway, I ran off after the open mic to see a fabulous, and extremely important film, which I will write about later….
Sound test of Zoom on Osmo at CPH Listening Room


Third at CPH Listening Room

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