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Three Open Mics in Austin on Monday Night – Mixed Reviews – And An Update of My Thumbnail Guide to Austin Open Mics

October 28, 2015

stompin grounds austin

stompin grounds austin

MEXICO CITY – I’m now writing this from Mexico City, my next step along this particular foray into the open mic world … or the world of the open mic… or the world of F1…. In any case, before I move on to talking about doing open mics in Mexico City, I want to just put the final touches to the visit to Austin, Texas. Monday night, my last night there, I managed to let loose and make up for all the lost time on the first night there: I performed at B.D. Riley’s on 6th Street, then dropped over to the Speakeasy, just around the corner, but found the usual open mic there had been moved to Ten Oaks, around the corner from that; then finished off at the famous, “Stompin Grounds” on South Congress.

But I’m running way ahead of myself here. The visit to B.D. Riley’s confirmed my feeling about this mainstay open mic in Austin: It is a lot of fun to play in front of the open window looking out onto the sidewalk on 6th Street and seeing if you can attract passersby into the bar. As far as trying to attract the attention of the pub crowd itself, well, it’s hit or miss. B.D. Riley’s is a massive pub that has a large section in the back behind the bar where people tend to go to eat a meal. But it also has tables, bar and chairs in the front of the pub, where people go usually to drink, carouse, maybe listen to music, maybe eat, maybe contemplate life.

There was a lot of all of that going on while I played, No. 5 on the list, and not really sure how well my sound was reaching the rest of the establishment. But the temporary fill-in host, Jake, did a great job, and I was really pleased and flattered to be asked to do a fourth song, since it had been three songs up to then. I was surprised a lot because at one point, in my frustration at feeling that I wasn’t reaching people – for one reason or another – I decided just to enjoy the situation, the location, the unique moment, and I turned my back to the audience on my second song and looked up into the sky and out into the street, almost playing IN the street, out that huge front window that borders the stage.

Anyway, from there I moved on quickly – after my fish and chips and Kilkenny meal – to the Speakeasy, which is located just around the corner, on Congress, down the street, and where I had noticed earlier in the day that there is an open mic every Monday at 8 pm. But when I got there, I found a private group of tourists or something heading into the place and I asked the concierge if there was an open mic.

“Not tonight,” he said. “We have a private event. It is moved around the corner to Ten Oaks for tonight.”

So off I went to Ten Oaks, to discover that I had already played in an open mic at this bar either last year or the year before – and had not put it on my open mic guide list, because I was just too lazy to update and then forgot! – and that it was the same MC. The guy recognized me too, in fact, and said he is a subscriber to this blog. He said that he used to run the open mic there, but had dropped the work and was now just filling in since it was not running at the Ten Oaks.

It was already 9:30 at night, and he had a list of at least eight people, and he was only just setting up. So I was worried about my timing, and the possibility of getting on to do the Stompin Grounds open mic. So I told him that, and he suggested that I must NOT miss the Stompin Grounds, and he decided to send a text message to his friend, Raoul, who runs the Stompin Grounds open mic, to get my name on the list!

This was such amazing service, such a great way to feel welcome in the Austin music scene. I took a video of one of the musicians setting up at the Ten Oaks, and then I moved on to the Stompin Grounds by taxi.

When I got there, the place was just full of musicians, someone was playing, and the feel was one of the best I’d had all week in terms of a turnout at an open mic, and in terms of the quality, the vibe, the youthful enthusiasm… the hipness of the place, the presentation by Raoul… everything was just so RIGHT at the Stompin Grounds.

Until I got up on stage. In fact, until a guy before me got up on stage and half the people cleared out to take a cigarette because their friends had already performed. And by the time I got up, well, that huge audience of hip ‘n cool people had cleared out almost entirely to all the various places that are provided in order to escape the performer. (I’m talking about the terrace, the bar in the other room, another part near the door….)

So, yes, there were actually two people who remained for my second song: The guy due up after me, and the girl who had performed just before me. She may have seen that I was watching and listening to her closely, and taking videos, and maybe she felt the need to support me. Or maybe it was because she found it a better place to stay to send messages on her phone. Not sure why. I stopped singing my song for a moment and told her she was welcome to leave the room like everyone else, but I’m not sure she understood….

But what I realized when I looked back at my report about this place last time I played, is that now I can confirm that Stompin Grounds may be one of the coolest, hippest places to play in Austin, but if you don’t bring your fans, get ready for feeling pretty alone….

Of course, maybe I just sang and played total crap. But that’s not the way it felt.

Anyway, so ends my week in Austin, and I’m now also going to update and add a link here to my Thumbnail Guide to Austin Open Mics, Jam Sessions and Other Live Music.

PS: My internet connection at my hotel in Mexico City is too slow to upload the videos I took on my last night in Austin. So those will have to wait until I get a faster connection. Keep posted.

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

March 14, 2015

Melbourne Skyline

Melbourne Skyline

MELBOURNE – I was hoping to do more open mics in Melbourne, but the travel, heat, cold, air conditioning and who knows what all else mean that I caught a bad cold and will be spending the next days while not working, sleeping. So I doubt I will try any new open mics before I leave on Monday.

I have, however, now added some new open mics to my Thumbnail Guide to Melbourne Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and removed some that have ceased to exist since I visited last year.

So check it out!

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Barcelona Edition

May 11, 2013

BARCELONA – For my sixth city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Barcelona 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 popularity I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

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.

More Experience Than Existing Open Mics

Unfortunately, given the ephemeral nature of open mics – and bars themselves – in virtually all of the cities in the guide my own personal experience of playing open mics in the city in question usually goes way beyond the number of venues listed, since they things arise and close very frequently.

Mostly Jam Sessions in Barcelona

There are far more jam sessions in Barcelona than open mics as such – but the jams act as open mics too, and this is a guide to venues of both philosophies.

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Barcelona Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on the venues – i.e., especially if they close down!

Crappy Time at Rocky’s in Bahrain – and the Thumbnail Guide to Open Mics and Jam Sessions in Bahrain

April 22, 2013

Well, I beat my record Saturday in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, by playing in two open mics/jam sessions, in this tiny country in the Gulf. I was all set to pulverize my record by playing in a third jam session on Sunday night. But then it all went wrong.

I had heard about the jam session at Rocky’s Café when I was at the Dublin Club in the Ramee Palace hotel and I asked about other jam sessions or open mics. I had been told it was a little like the same jam session that I wrote about last night, at the Dublin Club. But when I got to Rocky’s Café, which is near the Dublin Club and Bennigan’s, I found a completely different environment, and little by little it all fell into disarray, and I decided to leave without playing.

Here’s what went wrong:

      – arrived to warm reception by security guards outside who saw my guitar and said, “Here for the jam session?” “Yes.” They let me in. No problem here…but…
      – enter reception and a greeter sees my guitar and says: “Here for the jam session?” “Yes.” He watches me enter the bar… then comes and grabs me and says, “You can just check in your guitar and then come out and get it again when you play.” I don’t want to leave the guitar at the coat-check, as I want to tune it and keep it near me, and I complain a little that it is full of: Wallet, Zoom video recorder, telephone, reading material – Mojo, Uncut, etc. -, spare batteries for recorder, jacket and one or two other things. To no avail, I remove them and put on jacket and pile full the pockets of the paraphernalia and enter the bar again.
      – look at menu and ask for lamb chops for around 5000 local whatevers. “You like lobster?” “Well, yes.” Waiter points to the lobster and it costs 24000 local whatevers. “No, lamb chops, please.”
      – “To drink?” “A beer.” “Huh?” “A big one.” “Oh, ok.” So next thing I know, a waitress, instead of bringing me a “pint” of beer – my meaning of “big” – brings a jug containing about five pints, or five litres of Guinness, which ever amount is bigger. I nearly fall off my chair and send her away with the oil barrel of Guinness and tell her to bring a pint, but she’s not happy at all. Next comes the waiter returning to nearly threaten me and tell me I asked for a big beer. “Yeah, but not that massive thing!!!” He pretends he does not understand what a pint of beer is when I explain, until I start to go and show him one on another table. So he accepts….
      – at the break I go to the band’s singer and ask about the jam, and she sends me to the guitarist. He asks what song I want to sing, and I say “Mad World.” “Don’t know it, any others?” “Wicked Game.” “Don’t know it.” I explain that I would like to play my guitar and sing, and he says I can use his, but that they don’t like playing songs they don’t know. I say I’d like him to play lead with me, and that the songs are really easy. He says, “I’ll speak to the band and see.”
      – as I see them prepare to go back up on stage – I thought – I go back into the reception to take my guitar. Now the man behind the reception tells me I cannot bring my guitar into the pub. “But your colleague told me I could do it before I play!” “No!” “OK, I’ll tell you what, I’m going to leave. You win.”
      – I return to tell the guitarist I am not going to play, I hate the place and the people running it, and I’m leaving. Turns out he’s from Quebec, we have a great little chat, he offers me his guitar to play. He’s a great guy, and I have no complaints about the band – as they seem very cool indeed.

But I still had a bad, bad impression of Rocky’s and although it did not happen during the time I was there, I was sure I would be accosted at some point by one of the 15 or so women hanging around the bar – as they had visibly been doing with the 80 or so men at the tables….

So, no, not my favorite evening, and I was glad to get out of Rocky’s. Still, I’m sure it all just got off on the wrong foot. But I do, I do very much hate open mics or open jams where you are not allowed to bring a musical instrument into the bar where they take place.

In the meantime, while you think about that tale, check out my Bahrain installment of my quickly developing World Wide Open Mic Guide: The Thumbnail Guide to Bahrain Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

Another Thumbnail Guide, This Time for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

March 23, 2013

Kuala Lumpur Skyline

Kuala Lumpur Skyline

In my fifth year of my worldwide open mic adventure, I have decided as I said in the post at the start of the travel, to publish a Thumbnail Guide to the local open mics and other venues, as I did a few years ago with my Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

Following on the introduction of my guide to Melbourne last week, this time it is for the capital city of Malaysia: Thumbnail Guide to Kuala Lumpur Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

Lot’s of people around the world would not imagine that Malaysia is a very, very musical country, and it’s open mic scene is very vibrant at the moment, and growing. There is some fantastic vocal talent in the country, and for most world travelling musicians, it is also a great city to visit to have a taste of Asia but with English as a language spoken and sung by almost everyone….

Launch of the Multiple Thumbnail Guide Open Mic Pages – First Stop, Melbourne, Australia

March 18, 2013

Before embarking on my fifth worldwide tour of open mics and jam sessions last week, I announced on this site that one of my projects for the year would be to expand my popular “Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics,” by adding making a collection of such pages, by adding a new page for each of the 19 other countries I visit around the world this year.

Today I have taken the first step, by putting up my guide to Melbourne, Australia open mics. I have also rearranged the blog to simplify and make sense of the new series of thumbnail guides. The Paris guide and the Melbourne guide and all future guides will be located in a new menu item at the top of the blog page, called “Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide,” which has a page with a full explanation of the project.

As I explain, the new pages will not be as exhaustive as the Paris page, since I live in Paris. But I hope they will help travellers and locals, and I also ask for locals and travellers to provide me with any open mics they think should be listed, by sending a word in the comments area on the relevant page, and I will add it to the list.

Updated Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics

November 11, 2012

Didn’t go out last night, just chose to play some music at home and get my life in order. Failed at the latter, but did play music. Today, updated the Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. It is easy to let such a guide fall to the wayside and get out of date. The problem is, I frequently meet people at open mics who use it and thank me for it – and ask if it is up-to-date. How could I face them if it was not?!?! (At least to the best of my ability and knowledge.) Anyway, the bad news is the dropping of the “Be There” bar open mic – which I think has been gone a year – and the Truskel open mic, which took a summer break and has not apparently returned…. The good news is the addition of L’Arte Café open mic on Fridays and the Vieux Léon open mic on Wednesdays. On the other hand, who knows how long those will last?!? Or any of the others, for that matter.

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