Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Update of Thumbnail Guide to Budapest Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music

July 30, 2016
bradspurgeon

chain bridge budapest

chain bridge budapest

I have updated my Thumbnail Guide to Budapest Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. I’m happy to be able to say that I did not remove any open mics from the list, as all the ones I know are still running. On the other hand, I only have three nights on the list….

I did, however, find a fabulous new link to a list on another site, which I have added, and if I ever get to Budapest on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, I’ll be able to try those places.

So take a visit to my Thumbnail Guide to Budapest Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

So check it out!

A Sure-Fire-Thing at Jack Doyle’s in Budapest

July 29, 2016
bradspurgeon

jack doyle's budapest

jack doyle’s budapest

HEIDELBERG, Germany – I may be a week late writing about my night at the open mic in Jack Doyle’s Irish pub in Budapest, but there was no way I was going to let this one slip away. Budapest is not the greatest city for live music, unless you like double bass, guitar and violin players in chintzy restaurants coming up to your table and interrupting a deep and loving conversation. But open mics and open jams have become increasingly present compared to just six years ago when I started looking for them in Budapest in my around-the-world open mic journey. And about four years ago, maybe, I first found the Thursday night open mic at Jack Doyle’s, just off Vaci Street, and I’ve attended every year since.
Wild voiced lead player at Jack Doyle’s in Budapest

This is by no means a hugely successful open mic by the standards of the kind I often write and rave about on my blog. But it has been animated by the same MC – with the very cool voice and repertoire – since I’ve been going, and he is always accompanied by an excellent guitar player, this time being no exception. In fact, it was an exception this time in that the lead guitar player also suddenly decided to sing at one point, with the most amazing, unique bass voice! You have to hear it on the video.
MC at Jack Doyle’s in Budapest

There are never that many musicians present, but there is a steady flow, and that means you can have a chance to do more than just the usual two or three songs at the mic, if you’re lucky.
Great not dire lead

The bar staff is great, and what I’ve found incredibly, is that the clients of the bar are really happy to listen to music too. It’s not one of those Irish pubs where clients are present for anything BUT the music.
third at Jack Doyle’s

So all in all, it’s an excellent night at Jack Doyle’s in my experience, and last week was no exception – it was, in fact, exceptional. I got to sing and play to my heart’s content, and the guitarist played along with me, adding much value.
Fourth at Jack Doyle’s

The rest of my weekend got derailed by personal things I don’t need to get into right now. Suffice it to say that I did not get to attend my other favorite open mic/open jam at the Szimpla Kert, but I know someone who did, and so I do know that it was still happening. I also heard that there were mountains of people waiting to get in this jam-packed beer garden complex in what looks like a squat. So it remains as popular as ever….

I’m now in Heidelberg, and so far so bad, in terms of live music. The university town decides to turn off for the summer…. But I will continue to explore…. I ended up at another Irish pub last night, and who knows….

Playing the Open Stage at the Szimpla Kert in Budapest, and Thinking About the Noctambules Fun in Paris

July 25, 2015
bradspurgeon

Szimpla Facade Budapest

Szimpla Facade Budapest

BUDAPEST – Timing was everything at the Szimpla Kert open stage in Budapest last night. I had only previously ever played in the open jam session at the Szimpla Kert on Sunday nights, but I had noticed this trip that there is an open stage on Friday. So, figuring it was another one of these open nights that starts around 9 PM and closes early, I decided to check it out before eating dinner. Good thing I did….

The Szimpla is a fabulous garden bar place that looks like a squat, and is made up of all sorts of different bars, rooms, chicha smoking areas, a recording studio, everything. It has always been one of my favorite places to go at least once while in Budapest, and it gets absolutely packed tight with thousands of people in the various mazes of the rooms and halls.

The stage for the open jam and open stage is a wonderful, quite large, end-of-a-long bar room and last night there was a pretty sizeable and receptive audience, and a could of guys who were running it, jamming throughout. I showed up in time to get on the stage as the next performer and played a number of songs, with one of the guys accompanying me on bass and the other on a drum. The mic was great, so I enjoyed the singing.

After my set, unfortunately, I had to make off pretty quickly to find a restaurant. Crossing the street from the Szimpla I immediately heard a gypsy band playing in a restaurant, and a crowd around the outside, in the street. I filmed a bit but did not go in there. Instead, I found a great little Hungarian food restaurant, a traditional one, a few streets over, completely abandoned of clients – all of whom wanted to get robbed paying for crappy food where the tourists congregated.

After dinner, well before 11 PM, I returned to Szimpla, but as I expected, the open stage was finished already.

The Noctambules open mic in Paris a success again

During this time I had received some messages from Paris and the the Place Pigalle, however, hearing that Raphaëlle’s weekly Friday night open mic at the Noctambules bar was yet another fabulous one; one, in fact, it turns out that was among the best, with probably the biggest crowd yet. I regretted missing it, but it is not possible to be in two cities at the same time, unfortunately, since I love both Budapest and Paris…. But I’ll be at the Noctambules next Friday…(and thinking about Szimpla?!!).

Hot Night at the Jack Doyle Pub Open Mic in Budapest

July 24, 2015
bradspurgeon

jack doyle's budapest

jack doyle’s budapest

BUDAPEST – It was a real hot night at the open mic in Budapest last night, at Jack Doyle’s Irish pub. Unfortunately, I mean that literally! It was so hot – like around 37 or so inside the pub, and only a few degrees lower outside – that I think the usual open mic crowd got scared away. Well, that fell very much to my advantage in two ways.

It meant that I could sit back and listen to a very long set by the duet that has hosted this open mic for a few years, and really appreciate their stuff. It also meant I could give them a big break and do a long set of my own, which lasted at least half an hour.

The MC duet band at Jack Doyle’s open mic – first song.
Oh, and of course, it also meant I could enjoy the cold Kilkenny even more than I usually do….

The MC duet band at Jack Doyle’s open mic – second song.
Stay tuned for more hot stuff in Budapest!

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Hungary Edition

August 10, 2014
bradspurgeon

chain bridge budapest

chain bridge budapest

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Budapest, Hungary since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Dancin’ in the Táncház (Dance House) in Budapest – To the Rhythms of Transylvania

July 26, 2014
bradspurgeon

Táncház

Táncház

BUDAPEST – In yesterday’s post I said that open mics and open jams were not really much part of the culture in Hungary. I have to take it all back. Or, rather, I have to redefine what an open mic and open jam session is, and say that they are very much alive and well in Hungary. I stumbled into one last night in a kert in downtown Budapest, but this is strictly, totally, a Hungarian form of what my blog is all about.

I heard the music from the street, violins, a bass fiddle, some smacking and stomping. So I entered the kerf – a beer garden of a kind that Budapest is full of, using mostly ruined buildings or the foundations where buildings used to be – and followed the sounds of the violins into a small sub-bar off the edge of the kert. There I saw a fabulous vision of three young guys in their 20s and a young woman in her 20s playing what sounded to me like Hungarian folk music. In front of them danced a man in a crazy body slapping dance I’d already seen in a completely different context.

I took a beer and sat and listened, and when the band stopped, I decided to ask if it was an open jam session, even though I knew that if it was, it was strictly Hungarian traditional music. I asked the right violin player of the three present – the woman played the bass – because he immediately launched into an explanation of the entire history of the location AND the music, and told me what it was all about.

The Hungarian Dance House Craze, Part of a Folk Revival

It’s called a Dance House, and Budapest has five or six ones that run different days of the week, according to this violinist. The music comes mostly from Transylvania – yes, yes, Dracula and all that – and is part of a Hungarian and Romanian folk tradition that goes back hundreds, and even thousands of years. In more modern times, Bela Bartok, the great Hungarian composer, began collecting the music and preserving it, and soon the phenomenon of the Dance House, or Táncház, was born basically from the 1970s onward, in a Hungarian folk revival period.

The musicians now get together to play this traditional music, they share the songs amongst themselves, and they play it in the many Dance Houses around the country. But it is essentially a kind of gypsy music played in villages. My interlocutor – who is a music student from Transylvania, by the way – told me that even the gypsies that play gypsy music in the cities do not necessarily know this kind of music, which is different.

He said that in some villages the musical sessions usually at peoples’ homes Dance Houses and at weddings can go on for days on end, with dancers and musicians even taking shifts – going off to sleep while another group returns to celebrate.

Last night several other musicians showed up, more and more dancers joined in, then some people began singing to the pieces, and for once I did not take my guitar out of my bag, but rather hit the dance floor and spun my partner round and round – or rather, I think that she spun me.

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