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Cool Time at Jack Doyle’s Open Mic in Budapest

July 25, 2014

jack doyle's budapest

jack doyle’s budapest

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!

Becketts in Budapest – Another Irish Night on the Danube

July 27, 2013

becketts budapest

becketts budapest

BUDAPEST – All right, all right. My worldwide open mic musical adventure is not supposed to be the worldwide Irish pub tour. But when all else fails in a city where there seems to be no open mic, open jam scene, sniff out an Irish pub. On Thursday I played in one as mentioned in the previous post, and last night, thanks to my friend John Murphy (guess what, he’s Irish), I played on the neat stage at Becketts Irish Pub, named after the Irish playwright Samuel….

I first discovered Becketts and met John Murphy in 2009 on my first year of travelling the world and playing in open mics, and we have met up every year but one – I think – since then. And each time, John has offered me the stage for a few songs, despite Becketts not really being an open mic.

John himself, and sometimes in duet, and sometimes with his band, plays Becketts, entertaining with his powerful voice, his emotional renditions of all the popular modern hits, and a few Irish songs thrown in for good measure. Last night, with just his guitar and vocals, he really got the crowd moving at Becketts – despite the horrendous heat that has descended upon the city.

I took to the stage during his break – after his first set of more than an hour – and I did four or five songs. It’s a pleasure to play in Becketts, with its high ceilings, vast windows onto the boulevard, and receptive crowd mixing expats and locals in an Irish pub atmosphere. In fact, it turned out there was a couple visiting from Ireland for a few days in the table next to mine, and we spoke much of the evening.

Tomorrow I hope to put a break on this Irish pub stranglehold of my visit to Budapest, performing in a Hungarian jam. But for the moment, the Irish pub is always a great old friend wherever I go in the world….

Tiny Scene Setter for Budapest Jams – I Hope

July 28, 2012

I have not updated the blog in a few days not out of laziness, but because I did not attend any open mics or do anything spectacular in the last few days. That said, I flew to Budapest and spent my first two nights either seeking or dreaming about where I would find a place to play music here. My two previous best experiences were at an Irish pub called Becketts and at the extraordinary Szimpla Kert, a wild alternative world of a bar complex.

So last night on my first real free night – after I attended a dinner on Thursday night – to go and chart out future territories, I decided to check out both Becketts and Szimpla. In fact, I had not been to Becketts since 2009, and I feared it might not even exist anymore. Thinking I might be wasting my time going there, I almost did not go. Thinking I had dinner at a place closer to Szimpla, I decided first I would check out Szimpla first.

Then I said, “no, try Becketts.” It was the kind of decision that may have made all the difference to the success of the weekend, as I arrived just at 22:00 and found a jam session on the terrace just ending. I managed to film the last two words or so of the song, and I watched as the guitar player and singer ran into the pub as if seeking shelter.

I decided to follow him, and when he re-emerged from the back of the pub I realized it was John Murphy, the very man who had given me the microphone in 2009 for a full set of my music, on the break that he had taken with his guitarist. John has been living in Budapest for something like a decade now I think, and he plays music regularly at Becketts. He invited me to return tonight where he may be playing in full band mode, and where he said I could probably play a song with his Hungarian guitar player as part of my effort to play and record with a local at every country I visit this year.

Imagine if I had arrived two minutes later? I’d never have recognized or even seen John Murphy, no doubt.

Well anyway, from there I went to Instant, another bar, and checked it out, but found no music. Then on to Szimpla, where a man behind the bar confirmed that there would be a jam session on Sunday night as there was last year. But his English was so bad, I am not convinced I will find a jam.

So after two nights in Budapest, I keep my fingers crossed that this will not be the first country where I fail to find a place to play….

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