Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Creation of my 25th Thumbnail Open Mic Guide: Madrid

June 18, 2016



I have just created my 25th open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Madrid Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. I have only managed to list two open mics on this guide, as I have only so far attended two in the city. But I hope to update as I go along, and you have to start somewhere!

And when you are passing through a city and need to find a place to play in an open mic, you don’t care how many listings there are, as long as you find a place the night you happen to be there, right? So here is my 25th city thumbnail open mic guide (Madrid), representing most – but not all – of the cities around the world where I have played in open mics and decided to share my findings. (Let’s see, I’ve also played in Nairobi – years ago – New York, Toronto, Ottawa and London, and maybe some others – without making guides for those cities. Maybe I should!)

Thursday Night at the Triskel Tavern in Madrid

June 8, 2016

Triskel Tavern

Triskel Tavern

If it is Thursday, I must be in … Madrid? No, well, yes, well, was there. Now in Wakefield, Quebec. But that’s another story. I want to leap back by one week to the Thursday night I spent at the Triskel Tavern open mic in Madrid, Spain. This is one of the biggest, coolest open mics in Madrid. It can also have its drawbacks.

Let me backstep for a moment more: I left off with the very cool, laid back, quiet and hip open mic at the Collage in Madrid for its Tuesday night open mic (now on Wednesdays). Fast-forward two days and you find me at the Triskel Tavern open mic. The Triskel is in a fabulous neighborhood at the Tribunal metro station where there is one hip bar after another, one hip little concert venue after another, rock ‘n’ roll, people playing guitars in the park, Mexican restaurants and tiled facade joints in the dirty, tiny streets of an old part of Madrid known for its nightlife.

Enter the Triskel Tavern, an Irish pub of the most traditional kind, and you find, an Irish pub of the most traditional kind. It has been there more than 20 years and it has a great long bar, snug sitting areas, sports television, darkness… everything you expect in an Irish pub, including a large number of Irish people drinking pints. A good sign.

Then, you descend the stairs to a basement room that is quite large, multifaceted, brick and stalactites – or it is the other ones – hanging from the ceiling. A large stage kitty cornered, another little bar, and a vastly full couple of rooms with spectators listening to the open mic.

No, let me step back a bit for the one little difficulty of this mainstay open mic of Madrid: It’s fabulous to have massive numbers of spectators, but the environment here at the height of the evening – two songs per performer – is mostly one of chatter, talk, yelling, carousing. Listening to music? Well, if the performer is friends with a large number of spectators, then they will quiet down and listen. I took to the stage, a complete unknown, and after doing my Mad World, which was a little raucous – to match the talk and chatter – I decided to see if I could quiet the spectators with my Bob Dylan, “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” No chance. No amount of waiting for quiet, no amount of playing the guitar softly with some nice quiet fingerpicking would calm the ardour of the chatterers.

Who cares? I just had fun playing to a full house, on a fabulous stage, with great host – Richard Harris, of England – and to hell with all the rest. As the room cleared out through the evening, the chatter died out, and soon there was a devoted group of spectators there to listen.

In any case, I cannot recommend this open mic enough, if you happen to be in Madrid – but be prepared for the chatter!

Oh yes, and keep posted for the reason I’m in Wakefield, Quebec. A report from an open mic here in the coming days….

Playing at the Collage Micro Abierto in Madrid

June 1, 2016

Collage Micro Abierto

Collage Micro Abierto

MADRID – I cannot imagine that I could have done much better than the Collage “Drink & Arts” bar in Madrid as a location for my first ever open mic in Madrid – or what they call here, “Micro Abierto.” I had been in Madrid a couple of weeks ago, and just failed to attend any open mics. Last night, I found a couple that were happening – Tuesday being a great day for open mics in almost any major city around the world – and I chose the Collage because it was within 15 minutes walking distance from where I am staying. But the world I found, and the musicians I heard, really made me feel it was the right decision.

I have written extensively about my open mic experiences in Barcelona, but this is the first time I’ve done one in Madrid – the biggest city in Spain. When I arrived at Collage, there was an almost entirely empty ground floor – just five or six people waiting to be served a meal at a table – and I thought I was in the wrong place. But then I noticed the staircase to the basement, went down, and was immediately greeted by the MC, Lui Sinese, in a warm manner, and saw that someone was already up on the fabulous stage playing music and singing.
Third at Collage open mic in Madrid

This is a unique basement room. It’s in the style of so many in Paris, a vaulted cellar ceiling, bar at the back, stage at the other end. But the room is so big, the ceiling so high, the room so long, that it feels almost like a cathedral. And a cathedral of open mic music it is indeed. The stage is actually reminiscent of some New York comedy or music open mic place – the Improv, the Bitter End – with its brick wall backdrop. The sound system was great for the spectators, but a little more difficult for the performers, in terms of the monitor.
Sixth at Collage open mic in Madrid

I was most delighted, though, by hearing so many Spanish performers! In Barcelona it has been rare for me to hear as may Spanish musicians singing in Spanish as here in Madrid last night. And they were all quite unique. There were two or three expat who sang in English, of course, and a fourth counting me. In fact, I got so excited and nervous that when I decided to start with Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” I completely began screwing up the chords, and then forgetting the lyrics as a result of that. I stopped after just two verses, it was so painful.
Lui at Collage open mic in Madrid

The only drawback is that each performer has only two songs to do, so once I’d thrown away those two verses, I was very worried that I might find myself having only one song left. And that’s what happened, as the MC came towards the stage. But when I asked if I could please do another, since I’d only done two verses of the first, he took a vote with the public, and I was allowed to do another song.
Fourth at Collage

Another reason I was so nervous was the quality was so consistently high – that fingerpicking guitar player singing the American old time stuff with a Spanish accent, was great – that I felt I fell far below the required level. In the end, I was told it went well.
First at Collage

Anyway, I highly recommend this Collage open mic … sorry, Micro Abierto….
Fifth at Collage

Second at Collage

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