The last two nights in Kuala Lumpur were spent tramping the streets with my guitar on my back searching in vain for another place to play. The city has a vibrant night life, lots of bars, restaurants with music and clubs. All in a rickety sort of half-desolate, broken and tilted sidewalk kind of world with cars and motorcycles spinning through red lights. But the venues are all booked up with professional musicians.
So it was that I am very pleased to have found the Malayas Bisrtro for the first night. It shows that you cannot let your arms down and say, “oh, I’ll find something tomorrow….”
So finally, all I got out of the music trip was a final morning of singing in my hotel room in front of the twin Petronas towers. I did Al Stewart’s 1970s hit, “Year of the Cat,” about a guy having a fling with a woman while on a bus trip to some foreign country. It felt fitting – minus the fling.
I arrived at my hotel in Kuala Lumpur at 11 PM last night, dead tired, wiped out, demoralized, plane-flighted out. But I remembered that in this city last year on the Wednesday night, I found a fabulous place to play, a bar called Urban Attic, which had a huge stage and was partly inside and partly outside. So last night, despite sending emails to the Urban Attic blog – which I noticed was terribly out of date – and I received no response, so I decided to head over, with my guitar, to see what the action was like. I was delighted to find that it was only 10 minutes walk from my hotel over to CapSquare, where the Urban Attic is located.
So I walked through the heat and humidity and found my way there…only to find the Urban Attic closed and lifeless. What a shame. It does not look closed down, however, unless they’ve left everything in it, the bar, the sign for Ladies’ Night on Saturday, etc. But compared to last year, this was a real downer. So I returned to the hotel with no answer as to what’s happening with the Urban Attic in general, but the knowledge that I’d done all I could to find a place to play on my first night.
I will also retrace my steps from last year to another venue, and that is the Hard Rock Cafe Kuala Lumpur. It turns out the Hard Rock is also right next to my hotel. Last year I went to the Hard Rock Cafe to listen to Eddie and the Robbers, the band of Eddie Jordan, the former F1 team owner. I blogged about Eddie and the Robbers on my NYT F1 blog site. When Eddie told me in the paddock in Australia that he was returning again, this time with a trio, and he invited me over, I decided to go a step further. I later wrote to him and asked if I could play one of my songs with his band at the Hard Rock Cafe tonight. He said yes. So in principle, that’s what I’ll be doing tonight. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it. If the Urban Attic turned out to be a downer compared to last year, the Hard Rock Cafe experience – which was also enormous last year – could turn out to be even bigger this year!
It’s so depressing when you write a nice long blog post and then the computer eats it before you get a chance to put it up. Especially at nearly 1 AM. So I give up. In short, today was not a fruitful evening on the musical front. But it was not entirely without – for as I walked from the circuit shuttle drop off point at the Gulf Hotel back to my hotel I ran into a Hard Rock Cafe just down the street from my hotel. It reminded me of the evening I had at the Hard Rock Cafe in Kuala Lumpur last year when I went to listen to Eddie Jordan’s band there, and I did a blog post on Eddie and the Robbers at my F1 blog at the NYT.
The neon guitar of the Hard Rock Cafe in Bahrain appeared on the horizon of the cityscape....
So tonight, I went into the Hard Rock Cafe and had a beer. The place was bursting with people and at the bar where I sat were about five men dressed in the traditional white Arab garb – not sure what they were drinking. I asked a nice blonde barwoman if she knew a place to play music, like in an open mic or jam, and she knew nothing. She was from South Africa, but had lived here for some time. She said, though, that the woman at the door, the greeter, had lived here a lot longer and she might know about places to play.
So I left and on my way out, I asked the greeter woman – who looked Filipino – if she knew where there might be a place for an amateur musician like me to play.
“You know, an open mic or jam session,” I said. “Just some place where they might allow anyone to go up and play a little music. I’m here for a few days and brought my guitar and I’d like to find a place to play.”
“At all the bars in all the hotels,” she said.
“Okay, thanks,” I said, and got out fast.
That was it. Back to the hotel. Play a little music all by myself with the knowledge that I may have had a down day today, but there was definitely an open jam session at the Dublin Club tomorrow and I was told they’d fit me in.
So I went back to the hotel itching to play. I’m like a violinist I remember reading about when I was a teenager. It was either in a radio and TV announcing course I took or it was in a ventriloquism course, I cannot remember which, but the quote was very interesting. The violinist said: “If I don’t practice for one day, I notice it. If I don’t practice for two days, my family notice it. If I don’t practice for three days, my audience notices it.” Well, I may be the only one who notices it when I don’t practice for a few days, but I’ve still begun to get a little itchy if I can’t play every day.
So I went into the bathroom in my hotel room since it is well insulated from the other rooms next to mine, and also because it echoes nicely and gives me that feeling you get when you sing in the shower – or just a bigger sound. And I sang two cover songs I often sing, “Father And Son,” by Cat Stevens and “Just Like A Woman,” by Bob Dylan. I set up my handheld recorder that I use for my interviews in the paddock, propping it up on the towel rack in a way that Jac Holzman had me do (not in the bathroom but on a towel on a table in his hotel room in order to absorb and deflect any bad sound vibrations from the glass-top table) in Amsterdam a few years ago when I interviewed him, the founder of Elektra Records for a story. Anyway, I thought I’d put up here the results of those two recordings I did in the bathroom of my hotel tonight and leave the musical adventure at that for today as I wait with anticipation for tomorrow. You can click on the songs below to hear me singing them in my hotel in Bahrain tonight: