Links to useful open mic/jam session guides to Bahrain:
I only discovered this Facebook page, Bahrain Jammers, on my fifth or sixth visit playing at open mics in Bahrain, and I’m not sure how old it is – but it is active as I write now, and it is very helpful, and includes a list of places that have jams, that is up-to-date.
Brad Spurgeon’s findings on Open Mics in Manama, Bahrain:
Friday – The Envy Lounge – Atiram Premier Hotel, Road 2420, Block 324,Building 1188, Juffair, Al Juffair, 324 Manama, Bahrain. They may advertise this as “Jam Night Friday,” but when I arrived at The Envy Lounge for the jam, the house band was unaware there was such a thing! Still, after they inquired of the management, they learned the stage was indeed open. And what a stage. And what a band. I had the stage to myself to start with, along with a fabulous sound system, and a great big audience in the great big room, which serves multiple purposes: dinging, drinking and socializing. The band later came up and joined me while I played, and it turned into … jam night Friday….
Saturday – Dublin Club – Ramee Palace Hotel, Juffair, Bahrain, This is a very lively Irish bar in a very international hotel, called the Ramee Palace hotel. This is the first place I played in Bahrain, and I have played here several times now. The house band of five or six or more musicians is an expat cover band that plays most nights the rest of the week, and that reserves Saturday night for jam night. The band is usually quite high quality, but it works on a residency basis, and so therefore it changes after a few months of hosting the evenings. The band plays a set starting at 9 PM, and then starting with the second set, around 10 PM or later, it invites musicians or singers from the audience to join the band and play and sing – like an open mic, but with the rest of the band playing along with you. The stage is big, the room is vast, it is loud and you cannot really expect for the audience to be there to hear your singer songwriter talent. But it is great to play with the band and for that audience. You usually only get to do one song at a time, but can often play more than once in the night. The last time I played here they opened the format and allow musicians to play solo with an acoustic guitar.
– Bennigan’s – A Filipino couple plays most of the week and opens the stage on Saturday night after 8:30 to other musicians – you can join the couple and play your stuff, or go solo. The venue is divided into two parts, a restaurant on one side of a glass barrier where you can see through to the band – and hear them vaguely – and the pub on the side where the band plays. Great fun, more intimate than the Dublin Club, but with a smaller stage and not the advantage of the big band. Al Safir Tower, Juffair, Bldg. 670, Road 2411, Blk. 324, Manama, Al Fateh
Sunday – Rocky’s Café – another jam session-style evening like that at the Dublin Club. This vast bar is also part of a Ramee hotel, this time, the Ramee International Hotel. Again, a house band that plays a first set starting at 9 PM, followed by the invitation to take the stage for any other musician who would lie to try it out. My own experience was not favorable. Whereas I could get into the Dublin Club with my guitar, Rocky’s cafe security guards did not want me taking the guitar into this joint. The waiters were not nice or good and pushed consumption. For the jam, the band members were nice and friendly – but this is more of the live karaoke kind of jam than an open mic. Ramee International Hotel, Juffair, Manama.
– Club Buffalo – at the Ramee California Hotel in Juffair, it’s another jam night like those mentioned above. The band is welcoming, and you can play acoustic or with the band. A great room with a kind of western, cowboy theme. Two songs each seems to be the way, and it starts fairly late. The night I went I arrived around 11 PM or so, and got on the next set.
– Downtown Bar – open jam, open mic, at the Intercontinental Regency, InterContinental Regency Bahrain, P.O. Box 777, King Faisal Highway, Manama, Bahrain, +973 1722 7777. As I said in my report on the jam of the Downtown bar in Manama, this is the place I have had most fun so far in a jam in Bahrain. It’s a classic hotel band jam, like most of the others in Manama, where the regular band that plays the rest of the week opens the stage for anyone wanting to get up and sing with them, or play solo, or play in a group with the instruments available – or their own instruments. The Downtown bar room is fabulous, with a great stage, wonderful sound system, and three or four different choices for spectators to sit: At the bar at the back, off to the side on a raised area at tables overlooking the stage; way in the back at tables still with a clear sight of the stage, or right down on the floor at tables at the lip of the stage, where there is a dance floor as well. What made my experience so good, too, was the hosting of the jam by the Over Nite band. My only complaint? Take a look at this list and you see that pretty much all of the hotels and bars want to run their open mic and jam the same days, on the weekend. There are enough here for each night of the week, and exclude the weekend….
– Big Texas Barbecue & Waffle House – located in the Best Western The Olive hotel, Building 507, Road 2408, Block 324, Juffair, Al Juffair, 199 Manama, Bahrain. This was an unusual surprise for me to find in a new bar in the bottom of my hotel, when I had no idea there was an open mic there, let alone a bar. What makes this unique in Bahrain is that it is quite intimate, very much open to singer songwriters, just guitar vocals, or keyboards and vocals, whatever you have. Most open mics in Bahrain are done in the company of the hotel house band, often as a kind of live karaoke. This is a class open stage, and the key word here is “warmth.” The bar staff, MCs, managers, everyone is open arms in this typical U.S.-style bar. The stage is a neat, high, corner stage with a good sound system. Highly recommended.