Who dat? N’awlins dat!

Howdy Heartstringers! So I thought I’d contribute a piece to our musician community of my recent experience in one of the live music capitals – New Orleans. In this chilled southern city by the Mississippi you don’t ask yourself “if I should go out”… But rather “where will I end up?!”

The eclectic scene here has something for everyone. You’ve got Bourbon Street, where ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ is chanted throughout the bars whilst scantily-clad women offer you an  unforgettable 5 minutes for $5. This is more of a commercialised Vegas strip and whilst definitely worth the walk-through for the amusement factor, isn’t the place to go to see what this city has to offer.

“Ya’ll gotta head down to Frenchmen St…” exclaims the man behind the bar. And we follow his instructions – do as the locals do in New Orleans as I’ve found they know what they’re on about. Perhaps one of more well known joints is ‘The Spotted Cat’. The bar itself is the size of a lounge room and you definitely have the feeling you are surrounded by old friends in this place. It’s a bar of jazz and swing. This particular night had the ‘Smoking Time Jazz Club’ pumping out fast paced swing  tunes. Perhaps the highlight of this bar however is the audience participation. It’s not unusual to have some fully-fledged pro swing dancing kicking around in front of the stage whilst the onlookers gasp at the flexibility and endurance of these Louisiana folk.

Cafe Negril, New Orleans

Cafe Negril

After your swing fix, you can walk down to ‘Cafe Negril’. There’s generally always a party on in here and with no surprise, some college girl who just turned 21 is being sung ‘happy birthday’ by a reggae-hip hop group. The giant Bob Marley wall painting behind the stage sets the mood for this place. People are just having a good ‘ole time.

Perhaps one of my favourite venues – ‘Balcony Music  Club’ (BMC) – is one that prides itself on some killer acts. ‘Blues4Sale’ are definitely the band that make the crowd go wild as they effortlessly venture into a musical journey that resembles a Hendrix lovechild. The frontman Ed Wills is an absolute inspiration with his unstoppable guitar solos whilst creating a real connection with the audience through the bluesy tales of life in New Orleans. By the end of the night, half the venue are up and bouncing around at the front – definitely a night to remember.

Chickie Wah Wah, New Orleans

Chickie Wah Wah

Just north of the touristy district is ‘Chickie Wah Wah’ – a venue that seems to draw more locals to witness some truly unique acts. ‘Helen Gillet’ – a cellist, singer and loop-pedal extraordinaire happened to be on this night along with her 5-piece band. She took us on a musical journey that ventured from French musettes to orchestral fusion and it was an absolute wonder to watch and listen to. Aside from music, the food at this place is definitely worth the try for authentic southern cooking.

Whilst these are definitely the highlights I experienced, there are many other places to check out such as ‘Preservation Hall’  where you literally go back in time to the 1930s and ‘Apple Barrel’ where the audience are spilling onto the street, dancing the night away. Just walking through the streets of the French Quarter and you will come across some very talented busking. Violinist and Guitarist duo ‘Tanya and Dorise’ literally have people with deck chairs set up to watch their creative take on well-known covers. There are also countless free music festivals throughout the year that pack the city parks.

Tanya and Dorice, New Orleans

Tanya and Dorice

New Orleans is all about accessible live music. The compact city and 24-hour tram allow punters to get anywhere to watch almost anything. Most venues offer free entry with performers leaving tip jars at the front of stages for audiences to show their appreciation. Coupled with affordable drinks, it’s definitely cheaper than going to the cinema and way more exhilarating. It’s really heartening to see an entire city come together to support what they do best – everyone knows everyone and they all help each other out to maintain what makes New Orleans one of the great live music capitals.

By James Hallal | twitter // @jameshallal

Heartstrings Acoustic Showcase

“The live interviews helped me feel a stronger connection to the artists and their music.”


Heartstrings Melbourne proudly hosted its first showcase event on Sunday 15th June, and what a magical afternoon it was! We wanted to bring to life several of the musicians on our blog and showcase the amazing local music talent we Melbournians have at our fingertips. Nick Evangelou, Sabrina Salvatore, Sarlin, & Mario Demiraj definitely impressed and connected with our intimate audience at the Wesley Anne.

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With standing room only, the Heartstrings crew piled into the Wesley Anne along with other local music appreciators to claim whatever limited floorspace they could find. For those unable to attend, we were even able to stream the event live online, providing some of Melbourne’s best local talent with a rare opportunity to reach an appreciative international audience.

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Instead of listening to a parade of performers and a constant stream of music, we followed each performance with a live interview about their music and inspirations. Whilst each were fantastically talented musicians, we believe that it’s only once you get to know a bit about the person behind the guitar/piano that you truly understand what their songs are about and where they’re coming from. It’s only then that you gain true context for them as a musician.

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Acoustic Café owners, Ian & Glenda continued to show their unwavering support for local talent by lending their years of expertise at the sound desk. Their support for local live music has been unconditional and we can’t thank them enough for their assistance and sharing our passion.

Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon was the climactic collaborative closing jam, featuring all performers plus yours truly! For several weeks we had been preparing our unique rendition of ‘The Weight’ by The Band. Sharing verses, solos, harmonising choruses, and inspiring a bit of a sing-a-long from the crowd, it was truly a very special ending to the show, creating a wonderful sense of community.

Regardless of whether or not you made it on the day, we eagerly hope to see you at our next event which we are already excitedly planning for you!

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Bar Oussou

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“Anyone that comes to Bar Oussou by themselves always feels welcomed and can go up to any group of people and join the conversation. It’s a super-friendly place for all!”

Bar Oussou is a hidden gem. A welcoming little oasis neatly tucked away in the heart of Brunswick’s music district, this homely bar is like a home away from home.

Bar Oussou is not only a great place to unwind after a long day, it’s also a vibrant hub of artistic culture, great music and food. Walking through its doors into a lively bar and bandroom with live music and comfy booths, you will advance to discover a sensuous Eastern-themed chill-out room. Beyond this, you’ll emerge into a gorgeous candle-lit open beer garden overlooking a humble kitchen where one of their talented chefs prepares delicious, yet generously underpriced food. Fresh pizzas, tacos, burgers, steaks and crisp salads are available 7 days a week, and most menu items fall between $5 and $15. And if this wasn’t already enticing enough, the bar offers four back-to-back happy hours every evening from 5-9pm with imported beers on tap, a pint of which will set you back a mere $5, or just $7 for a quality house wine.

Indya Connley

Hang on, have you unwittingly followed a link to a real estate site? Maybe a food blog? No, this is (Sparta) Heartstrings Melbourne and all this ambience, lovely cuisine and inexpensive alcohol is merely a pleasant bonus. Bar Oussou is among the biggest supporters of local talent to be found anywhere in Melbourne. This place boasts an incredible entertainment program which showcases a diverse array of fantastic performers. Bar Oussou constantly features some of the best and brightest musicians in Melbourne.  Wednesday usually features local bands and evolves into a wonderful open jam session. You can check out some live jazz, blues, funk and soul every Thursday night, before an epic weekend of world music. To spice it all up, get ready for Latin music every Saturday in July!

Indya Connley

We discovered some of our favourite performers at the venue’s Tuesday night Open Mic sessions – if you’re an aspiring musician, there’s no better place to strut your stuff and mix with fellow artists.

As Oussou’s entertainment manager Danni says:

“What are you waiting for? Email me!”

Contact Danni now to book your place at Oussou’s famous Open Mic night. Email: danni.dragonfire@gmail.com  Ph: 0431 688 841

Bar Oussou is also available for private functions. Contact Mary for more information. Email: mary@baroussou.com.au  Ph: 9384 3040

baroussou.com.au
facebook.com/BarOussou

WE’VE CREATED A MONSTER!

_CI23806Open Mic Night Wednesdays @ Mr Boogie Man BAR

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The recent closure of the nearby Acoustic Café left a musical void in its wake. The future for local musicians looked uncertain. Thankfully, the newly refurbished Mr Boogie Man Bar has stepped up to fill the hole in our hearts. This cosy little bar will now play host to ongoing Open Mic nights every Wednesday evening!

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The first ever Open Mic Night at Mr Boogie Man Bar last week was a roaring success. In contrast to the crisp chill of the autumnal evening, the welcoming atmosphere of this place could not have been warmer. The groovy décor and rock memorabilia inside creates a sense of happy nostalgia which complements that amazing electric vibe which comes only from live music. Enthusiastic musicians and punters turned up in droves and the resulting community spirit was a joy to behold. The place was buzzing with infectious energy and positive vibes and we were all treated to a dazzling showcase of non-stop musical brilliance from some of Melbourne’s best underground talent.

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If you dabble in the Performing Arts, you’re unlikely to find a more encouraging audience than the patrons of Mr Boogie Man’s Open Mic. So don’t be shy: secure your 15 minutes of fame with Mr Boogie Man’s super-friendly owner (and get a free drink too)!
Call David on 0406 797 644 to book a slot, or just come down and enjoy the show with us!

We can’t wait to see you there!

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The Great Britain Hotel

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“It’s got the vibe where you don’t need to impress anybody; it takes such a long time to get to that point.”

The Great Britain Hotel (or The GB) is very special to me as it was where I played my first Open Mic Night. This was my first introduction to the local music scene, and I’ve been back time and time again. The best way I can explain the GB is it’s like your living room – if you had a full bar and beer on tap in your living room! Unfortunately, this venue’s lease expires in the end of June this year and no one quite knows what the future holds for this decades-old rock n’ roll venue.

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The GB has played host to the likes of Magic Dirt, Checkerboard Lounge, as well as the Cat Empire (who held a 2-year residency at this pub playing every weekend; the lead singer was even living in accommodations above the pub!).

Whilst having dabbled in Open Mic Nights earlier in the 90s, it wasn’t until the early 2000s when James Fitzpatrick (now veteran staff member & sound engineer at the GB) approached the venue and offered to host an ongoing Open Mic that it became what we know and love today – particularly borne out of the fact that there were plenty of students/musicians living in the area who simply wanted to play.

“My favourite thing about the live music at the GB would be the community – the people.”

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Of course the audience plays a significant role in the building of a community, but the musical talent talent is what’s most humbling for James.

“The ‘diamonds in the rough’ – it’s abit unrefined but you know there’s something in there that you find totally inspiring. It’s that moment when you realise you’ve been performing for years but you’re nowhere near as talented as they are.”

Being the sound engineer for many years at this fantastic venue, James recalls many occasions of coming across extremely talented musicians.

“A lot of the locals would come up to me afterwards and say – ‘who was that?’ ‘they were amazing!’ ‘can you get them back in?’”

At the same time, he has a wealth of advice for local live musicians:

“Remember who your audience is – try and cater to who is in front of you and engage with them. If you can get people to turn around from their conversation from your first song, you’ve got them.”

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And it doesn’t take much – eye contact, abit of banter, background to your songs/yourself, etc. Read our 7 habits of highly effective open mics for some tips.

It is unfortunate to see this venue go however for the short term after June 30, it is likely to remain open as a pub, though for how long and whether the new owners will continue the live music tradition remains to be seen.

“It’s not just the building – it’s the staff and the locals. It’s got the vibe where you don’t need to impress anybody; it takes such a long time to get to that point.”

Mr Boogie Man’s Open Mic – The Backstory

About a month ago I was seeing a friend’s band (Mass Rejection) play a show at the Mr Boogie Man Bar on Hoddle street. It was a Saturday evening and I had never been to this joint before. I instantly fell in love with the bar’s décor and its set up, as well as the lovely and down-to-Earth owner, David.

I was speaking with a fellow Heartstrings Melbourne-ite at the bar about how well this venue would suit an Open Mic Night – already having a killer sound system installed along with a funky and inviting stage. Draped with Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and other rock memorabilia, this venue was perfect. Especially with the unfortunate closure of the Acoustic Café, the area needed a platform for local talents.

We managed to speak to the owner about this prospect and, while he was very keen, he wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it as he had never held an Open Mic Night before.

Being a seasoned Open Mic performer both in Melbourne and overseas, I’ve been meeting with the venue owner over the past couple weeks to help him establish his very own and very first Open Mic Night.

We are all excited to announce that the first one will be held on this Wednesday 7th May. Musicians can book anytime from now ’til the night itself by calling David on 0406 797 644.

Hosted by yours truly, both David and myself hope to see you all there!

Sarlin

0_16Open Mic Night @ The Balaclava Hotel
 

“Don’t be afraid to not fit the template.”

It’s Thursday night at The Balaclava Hotel and the room is filled with musicians and live music lovers. Sarlin’s magical voice and array of instruments, which make up her a one-man band, brings the room to utter silence.

Originally from Sale, Sarlin moved down to Melbourne to study Exercise Science and pursue music-related opportunities. Aside from focusing on her studies and music, she currently works at a café on Sydney Road.

“I really enjoy the contrast, I love it. Music is really taking over a lot though.”

Sarlin won The Balaclava Hotel Open Mic competition in 2013 and has been invited back to play as a featured act. She also played at the Moomba Festival this year.

Her pre-gig ritual is going for a run earlier in the day. She finds that even a brief run clears her head and warms up her body for the performance.

Drawing inspiration from folk and acoustic music, she’s still experimenting with sounds. Moments of significance and observations fuel her songwriting.

“It’s times when you step out of your body and look at situations; the feeling of hunger/drive and pure bliss – those types of moments.”

Her advice for musicians is to surround yourself with creativity and not to be afraid if you don’t fit the template. Be around like-minded people and get behind a microphone as much as you can.

Sarlin performs at various locations throughout Melbourne, but your best bet at finding her is up and down Sydney Road (Bar Oussou, The Cornish Arms, The Brunswick Hotel, etc).

“I’m definitely going to continue music, but I’m not going to rush.”

Sarlin cautions readers that she has not uploaded the recent material she’s been working on, but when she does you’ll be able to find it all at the following links: https://www.facebook.com/sarlinmusic   https://soundcloud.com/sarlinmusic   http://www.reverbnation.com/sarlinmusic

Henry Ridgway Brooks

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Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“Commit to what you want and verbalise it with you actions.”

Passion & Intensity. These words spring to mind when I think of Henry’s performance. Playing mainly folk/pop/blues/rock originals Henry says:

“[Open Mics] are great practice to help work out the kinks in my originals.”

Working as a bartender whilst finishing his Arts degree at Monash University, he ultimately wants to take his music further, but for the moment he is just a casual performer.

Speaking to other local musicians:

“I think it was the Black Lips who said in an interview recently: ‘commit to what you want and verbalise it with your actions’. Basically, tell people about it and do it.”

Henry agrees that Open Mic nights generally don’t attract the huge crowds, but that this is not necessarily a bad thing as it keeps the atmosphere intimate.

Regardless, he encourages you to:

“Come on down and listen to some good tunes”

You can catch Henry playing at Club Voltaire on Thursdays.

Keep up-to-date on his music at https://soundcloud.com/henryridgwaybrooks

Cameron Lee-Brown

Cameron
Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“It’s sad to see live acoustic music dying off.”

With a harmonica around his neck and his guitar pumping out his folk/blues originals, Cameron (which incidentally looks abit like Jim Morrison) is a veteran on the local music scene. Having performed growing up at various venues, Cam has always loved playing one instrument or another.

“It makes me feel alive to perform.”

Cam is looking specifically to set up some regular gigs for himself and his music but for the moment:

“Open Mics are a way to get my confidence up and get my music out to audiences.”

For other local musicians on the scene:

“Keep doing it [playing music] so it doesn’t die off anymore than it already has. I used to play Open Mics growing up as well and those venues have started dropping off or stopped hosting live music altogether.”

To encourage more people to attend Open Mics to watch the performances, Cam says:

“You get to hear a range of music. Instead of just listening to the radio which has a bunch of dance music and international acts, search for what else is out there.”

“There’s so much talent [on the local scene] you wouldn’t even hear about.”

Cam will be playing at the Cornish Arms on Monday nights and Bar Oussou on Tuesday nights.

Keep up to date with his originals at www.soundcloud.com/cameronlee-brown

Stevii Hill

Stevii
Open Mic Night @ The Cornish Arms
 

“I love writing songs and I want to get my music out to people.”

Just recently moved to Melbourne from New Zealand in December, Stevii, armed with her guitar and her originals captured the audience’s attention early on in the evening.

Interested in a career in music, Stevii spends her time working for a record label, writing original music in the genre of folk/pop, and drinking alot of tea. She also plays the good old fashioned tambourine.

Heartstrings Music Fact #1: No musician is complete until they play the tambourine or triangle.

Speaking to other musicians on the local scene:

“Play more originals than covers.”

Encouraging people to check out live music at the grass roots level:

“Come along for a relaxed evening – have a drink, sing some songs. Bring your tambourines or harmonicas.”

She immediately followed this up with:

“Next week there’ll be like twenty people here with tambourines, won’t there?!”

You should bring your triangles, tambourines, harmonicas, etc. to the Cornish Arms next Monday night and play along with Stevii’s songs!

Be sure to check out her facebook page for updates on her music: https://www.facebook.com/steviihillmusic