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Why I Did Not Play at Flanagan’s Karaoke in Cologne

July 25, 2011

I had some unfinished business in my last night in Cologne. Two years ago when I did my first world tour of open mics and jams I spoke to a busker in front of Cologne Cathedral asking him where on that Sunday night I could play my guitar and sing. “Any open mics?” “No, but you can play your guitar and sing at Flanagan’s Pub in the karaoke they have on Sunday night. You just need to bring your own guitar cable.”

I had a cable, I went, and I sucked out. I regretted it since then and thought I had indeed simply chickened out. But there was another feeling, and that was , that it just was not the right place. And no one else played an instrument and sang. It was just a karaoke.

I went back last night, having had only one open mic since Thursday in Cologne. This time I realized why I did not do it, and that I would not do it this year either: I hated the atmosphere. In Mannheim last year I attended another karaoke and they allowed me to play guitar and sing and it went great. It was a wonderful break for the other performers too, after three hours of karaoke. But I just didn’t dig Flanagan’s! The place feels a little like a cafeteria, not an Irish pub. So I left and said, that’s it for Cologne. The open mic I DID do at the Tankstelle, was so good that it didn’t much matter anyway….

Missed Opportunities in Valencia

June 26, 2011

Since last year all I have done is complain about how Valencia, Spain is the world’s crappiest city for open mics and jam sessions and live music. It was the only place in my two and a half year journey three times around the world where I failed to find a place to play. This year so far, although I played a few songs on a restaurant terrace – thus marking my territory, unlike last year – I must say that I can blame myself for a little failure this time.

First, I learned on Thursday that there was a massive beach party on Thursday night where someone at the F1 circuit told me I should go to play – that people would be playing music on the beach – and later that night the waiters at the restaurant said the same thing. That is not at all an open mic or jam, but it is a place where music is played in public.

Okay, I could swallow that one. But last night, I met some buskers on the street in the old town and asked if they knew of a place to play, maybe a jam session. They told me there was the French Institute of Valencia that held a jam on Sunday night and that I should not miss it. They said it was not far from there, so I set out to find the address immediately, to ensure that I wasn’t going to miss anything.

In fact, I never found the institute. But today when I decided to look into its exact address and confirm there was a jam, I saw that the jam took place last night. In fact, it might well have been finishing up while I was walking up and down Ca. Moro Zeit looking for the place.

That was two potential places to play that I missed out. Of course, coming from Paris to play at the French Institute makes little sense. But I still feel as if there must be some hidden jam or open stage in this city that I have missed.

I got so desperate last night, in fact, that I looked up on google for karaokes in Valencia hoping that maybe they would allow a guitar player/singer, if there were any karaokes. Something led me to believe also that they may use the same word for karaoke and open stage. So the first place I went, not far from my hotel, was entirely empty. I spoke to the manager of the place, and she said they hardly ever have karaokes because it disturbs the neighbors…. She sent me off to one on the other side of Valencia, however, which she said definitely happened, at the place Canovas del Castillo.

I walked through the entire city, found the square, and searched all the side streets and the square itself, and found nothing at all. I walked back to the hotel, having walked in a complete circle of several kilometers, with a stop for a cheap paella dinner. They may not specialize in music here, but they do specialize in paella. It was invented here.

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