This is Oxford, right? So the fact of going up to perform in an open mic and finding yourself facing a battery of art sketchers and writers, and why not professors, is not really that surprising, right? Well, last night at the Harcourt Arms pub in Oxford, I was a little taken aback by it all. And I had the greatest time in the world. Not just singing, speaking to the artists – who were sketching the musicians – and taking in the local beer, but also listening to a nightlong lineup of wonderful musicians.
This IS Oxford. It means it is full of interesting people, loads of musicians, open mics, and great pubs. The Harcourt Arms is a mainstay, located in the highly sought after Jericho – I’ll have to check that spelling – district of Oxford. A friend of mine told me they used to have a weekly or monthly Gothic night there, but lately the pub was bought by a new owner and it happened at just the same moment that the Bookbinder’s Pub around the corner went through some change of hands or renovation and got rid of its four-year-old open mic. That highly successful open mic was run by Nigel Brown, and somehow he and the new owners of the Harcourt Arms connected and came to an agreement about having an open mic on Sundays. Thank goodness they did. This was very cozy, warm, well run, and there is even a backyard area where you can escape to think of other things, if you want.
But you won’t want. If you like open mics. The sound system is great, the room is convivial, and the night was full of musicians and spectators. And as it turned out, I felt like I was an art school model, but when I asked the artists if they were a group belonging to a school, they said “No.” They were just there for the fun of it. I also noticed a novelist or memoirist writing during the music; so it was that I felt more at home than ever doing my videos of the performers and then my interviews with spectators and Nigel Brown, for my documentary.
Loved some of the performers, the last two – Sam Quill doing a John Martyn song and Kasra – being particularly interesting, but also Jon Soul of the JJ Soul Band, with his Tom Waits voice….
Oh, and someone very kindly offered to do a video of me singing Borderline – second time in a week – and I accepted, and I’m glad I did. We get the artists here too, and it’s not a bad video….