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A Szimple Little Jam at Szimpla Budapest

July 29, 2013

Szimpla Facade Budapest

Szimpla Facade Budapest

BUDAPEST – For my last night in Budapest last night (watch out for the Gertrude Stein repetitions of phrase), I was delighted to discover that the Szimpla jam was back in action. Szimpla is one of the hippest alternative spots in Budapest, and I had taken part in one of the most amazing jam sessions I ever experienced there two years ago when I discovered it (and they put up my video from that night on their site). Then, last year, the Szimpla jam was szimply closed in favor of some boring band of some kind.

But last night it was back, and has been for a few months, now run by Zsolt, an IT professional in his day job, who likes to use the other side of his brain in the jam in the evening…. It was a little different formula than two years ago, in fact a lot different. This time the accent was more on free jazz, rock fusion sort of stuff. But that may only have been due to the particular musicians who showed up – a guitarist, drummer, saxophone player, bass player.

My problem was that I showed up far too late. Two years ago it started late and went to beyond 3 AM. Now, it seems that pressure from neighbors means that it runs from 9 PM to 11:30 PM. I had stayed late at the race track for various reasons, and then I went out for a pizza after first confirming that the jam was happening. But by the time I got there to play, after my meal, it was almost 11:30. Zsolt, however, keeps the spirit of the Szimpla jam as I knew it open. He invited me to play anyway, despite the lateness, but also deciding not to use the electric guitar and bass. And after the drummer began on drums, he turned to bongos.

I did not want to abuse their kindness, so I only played two songs – my guitar plugged into an amp and my vocals going through a mic. In any case, the vibe was great, and I enjoyed the two song jam immensely. And the audience was pretty big and applauded, so the whole thing was a great capping off to my weekend open mic foray, especially as the first two had been in Irish pubs, and this one in a bona fide Hungarian kert (beer garden thing).

Szimpla: Part of a Hungarian Phenomenon of Abandoned Buildings Becoming Bars

The Szimpla garden bar area is located in a building that used to be a factory and was slated for being torn down. It then got turned into a series of bars, a recording studio, a beer garden, a place for films and lots of music and the jam session on Sunday nights.

Here is a great description from the web site: “The opening of Szimpla Garden in 2002 has been literally and also symbolically a milestone in the alternative life of Budapest. Converting an old factory into a huge open-air cinema and pub, we were able to create a unique framework for hosting concerts, theatre shows and many different cultural events. Szimpla defines itself as a ’cultural reception space’, indicating our intention to embrace genres and performers off the mainstream, presenting them in an informal atmosphere. Moreover, with constantly supporting initiatives for urban sustainability, Szimpla has been serving as an ultimate incubation house of green ideas from the very beginning.”

The jam has been on and off, so don’t get your hopes up. But if it is on, don’t miss it. An open stage where anything goes; sing your own songs or join into the free-for-all with lots of musicians on all sorts of different instruments.

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Budapest Edition

July 28, 2013

szimpla kert budapest

szimpla kert budapest

BUDAPEST – For my 11th city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Budapest page. As a reminder, it all started with my now very popular Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and due to that guide’s success, I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

The Musically Interesting Budapest is Not a Great Place for Open Mics

Budapest is a musical city with lots of folk music and classical music and some popular music, and one of the biggest rock music festivals in the world: Sziget. But it is not a city that is strong on the tradition of the open mic and open jam. Having said that, it is the location of one of the best open jam sessions I have ever attended, at the Szimpla Kert, and it has its mainstay Irish pubs that have open mics, or open MCs and bands.

Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy

The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other 20 and more cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Budapest Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on venues.

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