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Hello and Goodbye to the Soon-to-be-Defunct Funky Cool Acoustic Cafe in Melbourne

March 14, 2014
bradspurgeon

MELBOURNE, Australia – Just when I was getting all excited about experiencing a new open mic in Melbourne last night, just when I was thinking I had another catch to add to my Thumbnail Guide to Melbourne Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other live music, I learned that this most amazing open mic is going to close down at the end of the month after four years of existence. And so it is that I find myself writing an obituary for one of the great open mics I’ve gone to anywhere: Acoustic Cafe, in Melbourne.

I remember seeing that this place existed in years past, but I’m not sure why I never managed to get there until last night. Even then, I was lucky to get on the list, as by the time I had called up the list was full. But because the Acoustic Cafe on at 187 Johnston Street in Collingwood has the truly great open mic spirit, Glenda – who runs it along with Ian, the instigator of the Acoustic Cafe – told me to come along and she would try to fit me in. As it turned out, there were some who had put their names on the list and did not show up. I will be eternally grateful, since this was one of the great open mic experiences, as I just said.

Located in a very funky little bar with the mic setup at the front window, and with a long corridor leading to a back terrace, the Acoustic Cafe has one of the ingredients that makes for a great open mic in the small size of the room. It is so intimate that everyone kind of has to conform to the attitude of listening to the music more than talking. Another ingredient is the great attitude and approach and openness of Ian and Glenda. Another ingredient is that it attracts some wonderful musicians of all ages, but very clearly it is open to and encouraging of the youngest generation.

It has another thing going for it that I have never seen before anywhere: It’s not an open mic with one guitar for people to use, but rather a whole museum of vintage guitars hanging on the walls high above the main room, any of which is there for a musician to ask permission to use, and then use. And not just guitars, but I think I saw a mandolin or two or a bouzouki, although I didn’t really check it out. Oh, and it turns out that if you want to buy one of the guitars, you can do that too. They’re for sale!

Another cool thing is that Acoustic Cafe records a video of your performance, and they’ll make a DVD for you if you ask for it. I was so nervous that I don’t think I want to see mine, but I was pleased that I got to play something like five songs in total despite the full list! (My songs: Crazy Lady, Borderline, When You’re Gone Away. And also the cover songs: Cat’s in the Cradle and Year of the Cat.) I liked that aspect of this place too, which is that they did not set the number of songs to a fixed quota, but let you go on or encouraged you to go on depending on the feel of the vibe of the music and the moment in the spectators.

There were a number of interesting singer songwriters, and that was the emphasis. Cover songs were in the minority, but not banished. It ranged from a mono-chordal Japanese woman of haunting melodies and lyrics to a guy with an eye patch – he said it was the result of a battle between him and a contact lens, and he lost – to a boppy Chilean and a local “many-friends-in-the-crowd” songstress singing (cool) songs about her friends….

The End of the Line for Acoustic Cafe in Melbourne

So after four years, why is the Acoustic Cafe stopping? They only announced the news for the first time last night, and the reason given was that the owner of the building also owned buildings on either side, and he wants to knock them down and put up an apartment building. (I kept thinking of the Joni Mitchell song about putting up a parking lot….)

So there are going to be two more open mics at the Acoustic Cafe before it closes at the end of March, on the next two Thursdays starting at 7:30 PM, and if you are in Melbourne, I cannot recommend highly enough that you attend, whether it is to play or to listen, or both. Glenda tells me that they will not be seeking to start up a new open mic, but I had some sixth sense that told me that I would not be surprised to see that she and Ian end up finding a new location – but can it be as good as this funky place? Well, if anyone can make a success of any location, I suspect they could….

Because it is the end of the line for the Acoustic Cafe I decided to get a few bits of atmosphere in my videos of the place, and not just music. So check out the atmosphere videos – I loved how the cash register had a number of guitar picks sitting on it….


Great Australian Experience at the Great Britain Hotel Pub or Whatever….

March 13, 2014
bradspurgeon

great britain open mic joint in Melbourne

great britain open mic joint in Melbourne

MELBOURNE, Australia – So here I am at the nighttime of the second day of my time in Melbourne, on a clock time of I don’t know what, since there is a 10-hour difference to my homeland of Paris. But I do know that I have now actually taken part in TWO open mics. And I do know that both experiences were astounding. OK, that’s hyperbole. Wait until I write a bit about tonight’s experience tomorrow. For the moment, I’m writing about yesterday’s experience today. If you find that confusing, imagine how I feel going through all the time differences….

Anyway… last night it was another visit to the mainstay Melbourne open mic of the Great Britain Hotel and/or pub. I say and/or because as far as I can see this place is not a hotel but only a pub. Still, there may well be a hotel upstairs – but if there is, I wouldn’t want to go there. Having said that, the open mic is well worth it.

It’s a well organized one with a great little stage, a nice sound system, excellent lighting, and an all together cool experience. And it has been going for years. I think this was my third or fourth year playing here, and each time I have actually had different experience. So anything I say about it today, will probably be out of date tomorrow….

But after last year I thought it had taken a little turn for the less crowded and interesting, this year suddenly there was a nice sized audience and a number of very cool and interesting musicians. There were also about four or five comics, which I don’t think I had ever seen even one of before.

So expect anything at the Great Britain open mic in Great Melbourne!

And stay tuned for tomorrow at the open mic I attended tonight, because it was a real winner…. (As you can probably guess by the inebriated state of my prose….)

A Tuner, A Jobs Book, and a Spirit of Friendliness and Openness at the Empress Hotel Open Mic in Melbourne

March 20, 2013
bradspurgeon

In all my four years visiting open mics and writing about the experience, I don’t think I have ever had an anecdote to tell that says so much about the ambience and general coolness of the open mic as the following one.

Last night in my last night in Melbourne, I returned once again – for the third or fourth time – to the great and intimate Empress Hotel open mic on Nicholson street in North Fitzroy. The hotel is a well known music venue, and Robin and Frank have been running this open mic on Tuesdays for around six years, although an open mic existed before that. It is an excellent venue with a warms stage, hot lighting, back outdoor terrace, laid-back feel, and spectators who respect the other musicians, listening and generally staying to listen after their own sets.

I recounted on this blog last year how I was in such a state of nervous spent-ness just before leaving for my flight to Malaysia but also needing to interview people for my series of Podcasts, that I walked out of the open mic and went off to the airport having left a great guitar tuning device that I had just bought, AND the huge copy of the Steve Jobs biography that had recently come out. I was halfway through the Jobs book, and loving it, and I had just bought the tuner.

So imagine how upset I was. Well. After posting on the blog about leaving my belongings behind, Robin wrote me to say that they had recuperated the tuner and the book and would keep them for me. For me, this was the end of the story. I completely forgot about the tuner and the book, and yesterday I returned to the open mic a year later without warning Robin and Frank (who operates the soundboard so deftly) that I was returning again this year to play some more music and hear more music at their great open mic.

I got there early to get an early spot on the list in order to get out earlier this year to catch the same flight with less stress…. And when Robin and Frank arrived, Robin marched right up to me and gave me the book and tuner! The battery in the tuner is fully charged, as it was when I left it last year, and the book was in the same condition as well.

This was EXCEPTIONAL! It says all you need to know about this great open mic.

By the way, I here include my first video of me singing my song, “If I Only Had You,” because it was a song that until now I was not supposed to sing as my own. I had written it for someone else. But it has now been months since I gave it to them, and I’ve heard nothing back for many months. So I have decided to re-appropriate the song for myself.

I was filmed last night by my friend Emily Brown, who used to run the great All Nations U-Bar open mic, and as it turned out, she liked the song and said SHE might do something with it! So we’ll see if it has a life beyond me after all. The Empress Hotel certainly will have!

Well Armed at the Cornish Arms

March 19, 2013
bradspurgeon

It was the first time I had been in the heart of this Brunswick area of Melbourne, and when I took the tram from near my hotel on Spencer Street downtown out to Brunswick Road, I thought I had arrived at the edge of the earth. The houses in this area look like they are sitting on the Bayou in the deep south of the U.S., and the store and pub facades look like cowboy movie set facades. But I was assured when I entered the large, cavernous and cool Cornish Arms pub that I had arrived in the hip and cool hot part of town in Melbourne.

OK, OK, I know my observations of the way things look could get me grilled somewhere, perhaps fed to the alligators. But I would say the same thing of certain parts of of my home town of Toronto – or similar reflections on places like Jerhico in Oxford…. But anyway….

The Cornish Arms was another of these very cool Australian pubs with a fabulously cool stage with lighting and a good sound system and practically a proscenium arch. I would love to know the history of why so many of these neighborhood pubs have such cool stages built into them. Perhaps it’s from when the prisoners were required to make their own entertainment before the days of television and radio….

The place was great too for its wide open space, terrace, vast bar and decent meals available on the menu. So I ate dinner, signed up right at 7:30, got a slot for 10:15 – although I think I was probably within the first three or four to arrive, and it’s a rush for the sign-up – and did my songs. It’s a 15-minutes slot, which comes to three songs.
(more videos to come shortly, as they upload…)
My only criticism of this open mic, really, though, was that like that of the Great Britain pub last Wednesday, it was another of those situations where people came, sang and left. I did not really get a sense of a scene, a happening, or support of fellow musicians the way I do in so many of the best open mics, and in so many in my “home” town of Paris.

But I know those have existed in Australia – like with Emily Brown’s open mic in the past at the All Nations U-Bar, or a little at the Arthouse, and definitely at the Empress Hotel – and apparently it exists at the Artcafé, but I missed that one.

From that point of view, my evening was once again saved by the amazing singer Aarti, who did this great a cappella song that I videoed, and with whom I spoke much of the evening. I had met her at the Great Britain last week, remember. But this time you can see the image of the video much better, thanks to the great lighting. And the sound is better too – so check it out….

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

March 18, 2013
bradspurgeon

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.

From Bad to Good at the Great Britain Pub in Melbourne

March 14, 2013
bradspurgeon

Last year in Melbourne I had a great time at the open mic of the Great Britain pub on Church Street, at Swan.  So last night on my first night in Melbourne when I searched around for places to play, I immediately decided to head for the Great Britain again.  This time, it started off by clashing with my memory, entirely.

Oh, I found the place buzzing with life and activity as usual, with the bar in the front having a few clients, another few playing pool on the table off to the side, and a steady stream of conversation coming from the outdoor terrace in the back.

It was the middle area of this pub where things seemed desolate and deserted, to start with.  I got there at almost precisely 8:30 and found myself lucky to be able to sign my name on the second to last available slot for the open mic.  The evening is divided into 15 minute slots for each performer from 8:30 to 11:30.

So I had avoided one of my worst open mic nightmares on this worldwide adventure – ie, travelling to the other side of the world and arriving on the very same day jet-lagged out and finding myself unable to participate in the open mic because the list is full!  Having got my spot, I went off to eat in a Greek restaurant on Swan, where I had an excellent glass of red wine – Shiraz from Adelaide – with a less than excellent kebab.

I got back to the open mic by 9:30, thinking that with a completely full list like that I would find the place just buzzing with energy and activity.  What I found upon arrival, was once again the bar itself and the rear outdoor terrace bubbling with life.  But the room in the middle, where the open mic takes place, was dreary, dreary, deserted, lifeless, unmanned, all except for the duo on stage and maximum three or four spectators.

The room itself, is wonderful:  sofas, chairs, tables, and best of all, a great sound system and an actual stage.  I mean, a real stage with curtains and lighting, the whole deal.  Very beautiful, if worn at the edges.

But what was missing was one of the most important aspects of an open mic:  And Audience.  And so proceeded the open mic.  Act after act went up and took to the mic, and as they did so, segments of audience entered the room to listen to their friends while other corresponding segments left the room once their friends had played.  I mean, this was grave….

As I was the last one on the list, I was pretty sure I would be playing to an empty house.  I mean, this was dreary!!  I know from experience that open mics are better some weeks than other weeks.  But I wondered if I had had a faulty memory on this one.

Then things changed a little, even a lot.  What happened, at least concerning me, was that when I heard one of the performers, named Aarti Jadu, singing her songs, I loved her voice and songs, and I decided I had to tell her that.  For me she was the stand-out performer of the night.  So it was just natural….

Well, it turned out that she was there with friends and family, and so she very kindly said that they would wait to listen to my set.  Hey, I had spectators!  But I also ended up talking to her a little more, partaking a little of the ambience that existed, and then finding myself once on stage, actually feeling committed to singing to expectant ears.

That changed the dreary situation into something quite fun, and made the open mic worth it.  Then during my songs, a few other people came in to listen, notably two or three guys, one of whom asked me afterwards if he could use my guitar to sing and play.  So he and his friend made up the last act.

All of which meant, human exchange, taking part in the evening, not feeling so cut off, and ultimately “meaning” had been given to the open mic – at least for me, the jet-lagged foreigner who had suddenly parachuted in from nowhere.

But I hope that the Great Britain open mic – a mainstay open mic of Melbourne – has a little more atmosphere than this on most other weeks.  The idea of having people go in and out of the music room depending only on whether their friend is playing, is one that while I can understand it, is not the greatest in open mic styles….

Melbourne / Kuala Lumpur Polarities, or Bye Bye Empress, Hello Backyard (Part I)

March 23, 2012
bradspurgeon

On this worldwide open mic adventure I prefer to write about each place I play and discover in a post dedicated to that place. But I have been so active and so busy travelling and working that I have had a bit of a backlog. So today I decided I will write about the last two nights where I played – and I realized that, actually, given that the one on Tuesday was in a classic venue in Melbourne and the one on Wednesday was in a classic venue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that contrast in itself was significant enough to give the post its own character.

Interview with Anthony Young, musician at the Empress Hotel open mic in Melbourne:

It is pretty representative of how wild and crazy this adventure can get, in fact, so worth writing about both together. My flight from Australia to Malaysia was not set to take off until 3:40 AM Wednesday morning. So I realized that I actually had another evening in which I could do an open mic in Melbourne. And even better, it was the classic open mic at the Empress Hotel, one of the longest lasting and finest open mics in Melbourne.

So I went there, ate a kebab – the messiest but one of the tastiest I have ever had – and watched the evening unfold in this wonderfully atmospheric pub, which I think has nothing to do with a hotel. I had discovered it two years ago, and wrote about it on the blog, but last year I was not in Melbourne on the Tuesday during the Grand Prix weekend, so I could not take part. I missed it.

The Empress is one of the most popular in the city, and it is very well organized – with an early sign-up in which you get to choose your playing slot – and an excellent sound system. You can play three songs, and the pub is laid out in such a way that you can sit at the small round tables and listen to the music, or you can duck out into the outdoor garden terrace and drink and talk a little while keeping an eye and ear on the music. There is also another room off to the side where you can go to talk, and still hear the music.

I recognized one of the acts from two years ago, but most of the people seemed entirely new. One of the very best of the performers came on near the end of the evening, and that was Anthony Young with his bright blue guitar. He played a kind of blues based first song in which the guitar playing and vocals really stacked up to a marvelous marriage of original sound and feeling. His second song was equally as good, both were his compositions.

In seeing him I was inspired suddenly to interview him for my podcast series. I decided that my original idea of interviewing the people who run the open mics should expand into interviewing everyone surrounding the open mic – musicians, spectators, beautiful bartender women…. Why limit it to the same thing all the time? That could get repetitious for the internaut. So I interviewed Anthony, and I’m glad I did – he had some interesting things to say about his music and the Melbourne music scene.

So eager was I to interview him that I ran out into the terrace area in the back and then ran after him at the bar and basically ran all over the place like a man out of control, with the result that when I found myself at the airport straightening out my guitar case for travel, I realized that I had left both my 60 euro guitar tuner and my 32 euro Steve Jobs biography – the great one by Walter Isaacson – in the Empress Hotel on the table where I had sat most of the night.

The biggest pain in that was that I was hugely taken by the Jobs book and only a third the way through. It would all turn out okay in the end, though, as the Jobs tome would have tipped the weight of my cabin luggage over the allowed 7 kilograms and I’d be in trouble. As it was I had to put some of the stuff into my suitcase to get through. THEN I found they were selling the Jobs book on the other side of customs, so I bought a new copy before boarding the flight. And I picked up where I left off.

This post has grown far, far too long, especially for the good of the next venue, which is the Backyard Pub in Kuala Lumpur. The Backyard is one of the top music venues in the city, perhaps THE most interesting of them all. I first played there last year, and so I immediately contacted the man in charge of booking acts there, Edmund Anthony, upon my arrival in Kuala Lumpur.

I had had a lousy night’s sleep on the flight, but nothing would stop me from visiting the Backyard. Edmund had seen me last year at an open mic in KL, and he invited me to do a set at the Backyard. This was a huge honor, given that the Backyard does NOT have an open mic, and that it features some of the best musicians and groups in Malaysia.

So yesterday, Edmund offered me a set and I took him up on it instantly. I managed to have a nap in the afternoon, woke up fully recharged, and I charged off to the Backyard. One of the interesting things about this place I s that it is quite far outside of the central downtown part of the city where most of the music venues exist. And yet people make the pilgrimage to this neighborhood pub to hear the great music and soak up the festive feeling.

Interview with Edmund Anthony, the artistic director of the Backyard Pub in Kuala Lumpur:

There was a good crowd there last night, and I started by having a wonderful noodle meal before performing my set on the splendid stage between about 8:55 and 9:55. After my performance there was a very cool three-piece cover band, called Bongga Bongga, that manages to produce some wonderful versions of all the songs we know, with two equally interesting vocalists, one on bass and the other on lead guitar.

Interview with Albert Sirimal, Malaysian musician, at the Backyard Pub in Kuala Lumpur:

The evening provided me with far too great an opportunity to miss in terms of my podcast project, so I interviewed Edmund and then I interviewed Albert Sirimal, a guitar player and vocalist for the five piece band that plays on Thursday nights. I wanted more of a feel for the Backyard within KL and for the music scene in Malaysia in general, and Albert gave me that.

In all, it was a fabulous night I will not forget, and I look forward to returning at the very latest next year – if the adventure continues – and maybe even this weekend. On the other hand, I seem to have two more gigs line up in the next two nights in KL so….

PS: For some reason of brain drain, in both of my interviews at the Backyard Pub I unrelentingly called the place the Backyard Cafe…. I cannot figure out why!

An Open Mic, an Intercontinental Meeting and a Free Pizza at Bertha Brown in Melbourne

March 21, 2012
bradspurgeon

My intention today had been to report on both the Monday and Tuesday night open mics that I did in Melbourne. But time has caught up with me, I am now sitting in my hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and while I have a great Internet connection again FINALLY – after a week of crappy connections in Australia – I also now have a gig to perform tonight at the Backyard Pub in Kuala Lumpur. So time presses and I will only be able to report on my Monday open mic at Bertha Brown in Melbourne – but it’s worth it!

Interview with Shane Walters, MC of Bertha Brown open mic in Melbourne:

Had it not been for the slow Internet connection in my Best Western hotel in Melbourne I’d have had this up long ago…. But anyway…. I learned about the Bertha Brown open mic when I was performing at the Felix Bar open mic. That is the way these things go. You do one, you meet people, they tell you about other ones. One of the fabulous things about the Bertha Brown open mic is that they are VERY musician-friendly: They offer the performers a glass of beer and a wonderful pizza that makes a full meal.

The stage is wonderful, fairly large and high and well-lit; the bar/restaurant is huge, with two different wings; and the sound system is great. The open mic is run by a different person every month, but all the people who run it – the guest MCs – belong to a kind of musicians’ cooperative called Songwriters in the Round.

I did an interview with the MC, Shane Walters, as part of my series of interviews with the people involved in open mics around the world. But it was only after the interview that we made a connection. Shane had been practicing his French with me several times through the evening, even when presenting me on stage. And later I told him that one of my good friends in Paris was an Australian from Melbourne who ran an open mic, a guy named Stephen Prescott. (I added that Stephen had since moved to another European city.)

“Was that in an Irish pub?” said Shane.

I said it was, it was in the Galway. Shane then said that he not only played in the open mic at the Galway a couple of years ago when he went to Paris, but he stayed while in Paris at the home of a friend of Stephen’s. Man, talk about a small world!

And there were a lot of interesting acts, including an original guy who I had to equate in my mind as a “punk Bob Dylan.” That was Jack Gramski, and his songs for the most part were incredibly influenced by Bob Dylan, but with a cool angry punk delivery. (Just realized that the video I put up is not the most representative of that, though!)

A New Twist in the Open Mic in Melbourne

March 16, 2012
bradspurgeon

As I looked around the web for open mics to attend in Melbourne last night I saw the familiar name of “Felix Bar.” But I was not sure why it sounded familiar. I also saw that it was located within walking distance of the Formula One race track, where I work in the daytime. So I thought it was the ideal place to go – a place I had heard of, and nearby. All the connections eventually made sense…

It turned out I had to go all the way back to my hotel in the center of town – near Spencer Street station – to pick up my guitar and then return to the Felix Bar. But that didn’t take very long and it gave me the chance to warm up my voice with a couple of songs AND the great pleasure of playing with my own guitar in the open mic.


Bob Robertson, MC of the Felix Bar, open mic in St. Kilda, Melbourne, interviewed by Brad Spurgeon:

The Felix Bar’s open mic, it turns out, is quite new. So I still could not figure out why I had heard of it, and in fact, I was certain I was “friends” with the bar on Facebook. So anyway, I ended up loving the place and the atmosphere, despite the fact that it was not exactly bursting at the seams with spectators last night. The stage was fabulous, the spotlights warm, and the sound system, operated by the interestingly named Bob Robertson (Robbie Robertson is that?) was excellent.

In short, I felt very comfortable performing there, and I knew that my voice was also being projected out a speaker in front of the place to passersby. As the bar is located in the trendy St. Kilda neighborhood facing the ocean, all was bliss. The bar tself is quite massive, and is apparently the only one in St. Kilda that specializes in renting itself out to groups without a fee – does lots of birthday parties, for instance….

There was a wide cross-section of performers, and Bob Robertson was very adept and low key in running the show – just allowing people to go up and do long sets and making sure it all worked. Just a great vibe.

So, here we get into the connections. During my set I sang my song “Lara, Lara,” and I introduced it by saying that it was about a woman I had met in Melbourne three years ago. I wanted to mention that I had met her at an open mic at the Softbelly bar, but I had forgotten the name of the bar for a moment.

After the open mic ended – and I did my interview podcast with Bob Robertson, my second of the new series – I then got into a conversation with the owner of the bar, Lloyd. During the conversation the first connection happened: Last year I knew there was a problem with a number of open mic and other live music venues having to close down in Melbourne, but I had thought it was only because of the usual problem of sound pollution for local residents. I learned that there is another angle: It turns out that bars are required to hire three security guards when there is live music, in order to prevent rowdiness. (!!!!) Of course, what bar can afford to pay three security guards on the earnings of an open mic?

Anyway, as I left, I handed Lloyd my personal calling card.

“I know you,” he said. “I remember your name…the Softbelly!”

“Huh?”

“I used to own the Softbelly,” he said. He added that he had taken all the Softbelly friends on Facebook and simply transferred them to the Felix Bar after he sold off the Softbelly business and started up the Felix Bar.

So he remembered me from three years ago, he had been the man behind the Softbelly…where I had met the woman behind Lara, Lara.

It was amazing to think that three years had passed, I had continued the open mic adventure, the Softbelly was the first bar I played in on that adventure (after the Blues Room in Shanghai the previous fall), and here I was three years later alighting in another bar at the beginning of the new year’s adventure and finding a “friend” from the previous joint….

PS, unfortunately, as with yesterday, my internet connection has been so slow today that I only have one video to put up so far. I will continue uploading the videos and put them all up later.

Launching My New World Tour of Open Mics in Melbourne, and Introducing the Open MIc Podcasts

March 15, 2012
bradspurgeon

Last night I played at the old and venerable open mic at the Great Britain Hotel in Melbourne (Richmond), and launched the first of my latest tour of the world’s open mics. This is the fourth year that I travel the world with my guitar as I report on the Formula One races for my newspaper, but moonlight in the bars and other shady places of the world where open mics take place. Every year I have launched a new project in conjunction with the trip, and this year I have a couple in mind, although I will mention only the one you will see on this blog.

Podcast interview of James Fitzpatrick, MC of open mic at Great Britain Hotel in Melbourne, by Brad Spurgeon:

That is my decision to do podcasts with the MCs – and sometimes musicians and spectators – of all the open mics around the world that I visit. I will try to keep the podcasts as close to 3 minutes long as possible, in order to not try your ears, patience and download bandwidth. Last night I failed at that, having my inaugural interview podcast with James Fitzpatrick, the MC of the Great Britain open mic for the last 10 years, go on for seven minutes. Still, it was fun and he had some interesting things to say.

The first year of my adventure I began writing a book about the journey – which is almost finished – and the second year I began the blog. Last year I worked on doing a film, which I am now editing. This year, I have an idea I do not yet want to mention as I’m unsure it is reasonable (!) and I will introduce the podcasts.

I will also continue to put up videos of the open mic performances, as I travel the world – this year I will do open mics in 22 countries – including my home of France – and all the continents except Africa and Antarctica, in what will be a record year of travel for me.

The Great Britain was a very cool, English pub type of place, with a back room with a lovely stage. And James is by profession a sound engineer, so he was hard at work on the vast sound controls at the back of the room, and the result was very good, clear, excellent sound for the spectators. It was very laid back, and at the same time, well-run, with a variety of musicians. I will definitely return – if I get to continue this quest and adventure for a fifth year!

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