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….
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.
BUDAPEST – Budapest is one of the coolest, swingingest and musical cities I know of. It is one of the cities with the seemingly youngest hippest populations. There are sectors of the city that look like Berlin ( – or rather, what I imagine Berlin to be like, since I’ve never been there!!!!). But there is the weirdest thing about this city: I have a hard time finding open mics here, year after year. Open mics and jams and their venues last such a short period of time that they disappear fast. Or maybe it is just not in the mentality of the place – but that seems unlikely, since the open mics I HAVE attended have always been great.
Last night, therefore, I was really pleased to see that the open mic I discovered last year – or whenever it was – and that takes place at the Irish pub called Jack Doyle’s, right near the busy pedestrian tourist trap street of Vaci, still exists.
Jack Doyle’s is a pretty typical Irish pub, with the nice touch of a little library and reading area at one end, and a small stage located centrally in the room so providing great viewing and excellent sound for all spectators.
In fact, the sound system last night was really amazing, and I don’t remember it being that good last year. The vocals came through so crisp, so clear, and you could even hear yourself singing and playing. The guitars might have done better to be a little louder, but that was ok.
It turns out that the Irish owner/manager of the place used to work in the Coolin in Paris! It turns out he is friends with John Murphy, the once upon a time MC of the musical activities at the once upon a time Beckett’s Irish pub in Budapest, that was closed in January. So it is a small, small world – well, especially in the international world of Irish pubs!
BUDAPEST – Just when I thought I understood the Budapest open mic and jamming scene, after coming here now for my fifth year with my guitar and looking for places to play, I learned a new lesson. My feeling last night after I arrived in this beautiful city that I have always said does not have an open mic, open jamming scene, even if it does have a lot of music, was that I probably would find one or two places to play maximum in the four days of my time here. But as I set out to eat my dinner, I decided not to despair that I had no place to play on Thursday night, but take my guitar, keep my eyes, and above all my ears, open. And who knew?
So it was that I set out toward a specific, cool restaurant from my hotel, and I let my internal GPS and open-mic sniffing device lead me through the streets. I decided at one point that I was on a main boulevard and would never find any music unless I got off it. That led me into a very cool area where I found a lot of bars, and ended up completely by accident passing in front of the most amazing one of the city, the Szimpla Kert, a multi-level, multi-media, collection of bars, studio, smoking rooms and garden, where I played in the past in the most amazing jam session in Budapest, and possible in the world.
While it was not happening there last night – or even last year – I still hope that I may find it happening on Sunday. Suffice it to say that last night I just glanced in and then kept on my route. I decided to follow the most interesting streets right toward the center of town near the restaurant where I was headed, and I heard some musicians in bars along the way.
Stumbling Upon Dick Doyle’s Irish Pub in Budapest
As I arrived at V. Pilvax koz, 1-3, and thought I should turn right to get to the restaurant where I was going, I heard some music on the sidewalk ahead. I also saw it was one of the streets leading into the tourist trap road of Vaci Street. But then I noticed on the corner a pub called Jack Doyle’s, and I wondered if the music was coming from in there.
It turned out it was NOT coming from inside there, but in my exploration, I found that it was announced on a sign on the side of the pub that every Thursday night there is an open mic! So I entered the pub, asked at the bar, and found that it was indeed an open mic on Thursdays. If I came after 11 PM, I’d get a chance to play.
On Friday nights it has traditional Irish music and on Saturday nights a mixed night of a band and also, apparently, a fairly open stage….
So I returned after eating my meal at the restaurant, and I found the musicians who animated the evening playing, and they asked when I wanted to play, and I said any time after them. So I took to the stage around 11:30 and the lead guitarist stayed up with me and we played around six or seven songs or more, and while I played, a work colleague saw me from the street and came in and had a beer and we listened to the music together after my set.
Budapest and its Hard to Find Musical Open Stages
Then there were other singers who took the mic and sang, and the band returned, and having a very busy weekend ahead, I left well before the end of the open mic. But what a lesson: I have continually said that Budapest is not a great open mic and jamming city, but in fact, I continually find places to play. The key is never to give up, keep the eyes and ears open, and explore the most likely small streets with bars and restaurants with live music. I have a sense I may have passed another open mic at one point too, but it looked a little too dreary for me to find out….
In any case, it was a night to remember and led not only to a place to play and hear other musicians, but a discovery of a wildly animated Irish pub – yes, yes, another Irish pub! But this was run by Hungarians, with a Hungarian duo playing mostly western pop music, and a mix of expat, foreign and Hungarian clients. Check it out!