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.”

Darius Pranckunas

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Open Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel
 

“I do it [music] as a serious hobby… but if anyone wants to pay me, they’re very welcome to do so!”

Full of energy, charisma and puns (and an impressively large repertoire of songs to suit all occasions), Darius is your piano man & he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke.

With an upbringing of primarily classical music – generously seasoned with the golden pop/rock tunes – Darius has been playing piano for 19 years and has attained his Certificate of Performance.

He has a Bachelor of Commerce degree under his belt and is currently working towards getting his CPA whilst job hunting.

“I do it [music] as a serious hobby; I feel I have got other talents I can make my money out of… but if anyone wants to pay me, they’re very welcome to do so!”

Having played Open Mics on and off for a couple of years now, Darius feels that they’re a great opportunity to express himself in a very understanding and inviting atmosphere where everyone’s in the same boat.

“Get on down to the Open Mics and the venues will be encouraged to keep them going! You get to have a good night out with friends, beer and free live music. “

He recalls one particular embarrassing experience when he performed at an interstate talent show and he had a complete mental blank on a jazz piece he had only just begun to play. He stopped, turned to the audience and said “I’ll start that again”. Thankfully the second time through he aced it!

“Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t be afraid to have a go. People are understanding when it comes to our musical abilities.”

You can catch Darius performing red-handed at the Great Britain Hotel or (for the Lithuanians in the audience) at the Melbourne Lithuanian Club. In the meantime, jump on his Facebook group – Daz’s Random Fact/Joke of the Day – guaranteed to have you raising your eyebrows or rolling your eyes.. or both!

Monique Shelford

IMG_1226Open Mic Night @ Bar Oussou
 

“Writing is a cathartic process for me. I’m always inspired by some sort of feeling or emotion that I need to express.”

Amidst the clinking of drink bottles and the waves of muffled conversation, a small acoustic guitar quietly begins to play. Mellow, familiar chords wash comfortingly over the room, complementing the warm atmosphere of Brunswick’s Bar Oussou.

Then, Monique Shelford begins to sing.

The background noises gradually fall silent and fifty smartphones plop forgotten into the laps and handbags of their stunned owners. Monique’s voice seems to emanate from some higher plane, as if imbued with some magnetic power to raise the hairs on the napes of necks.

She is most in her element when performing to smaller audiences in intimate settings such as this. Monique has that rare ability to effortlessly draw an audience into her world and hold their attention.

“It’s all about the exchange of energy, I think. I get a bigger buzz out of playing to an intimate room full of people … receiving and listening.”

As her performance progresses, she paints a montage of musical imagery expressing a broad range of emotions from anguish to hope. A quietly confident, yet humble performer without a hint of pretention, Monique Shelford is refreshing in her authenticity.

“I’m up there bearing my soul and I’m not ashamed of that.”

Although gifted with a unique, resonant vocal timbre, it is clear that Monique has been honing her talent from a very young age. Growing up in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, she commenced classical vocal training at the tender age of seven, but truly found her voice at a Catholic Maori girls’ high school. It was here she discovered the soul power of gospel music. These two huge musical influences have gelled beautifully with modern contemporary styles to form a very special and unique talent not to be missed.

An artist after our own hearts(trings), Monique actively promotes her fellow musicians, running regular acoustic sessions at the Woodlands Hotel in Coburg. She is an absolute gem! We urge you to look up one of Monique Shelford’s appearances and lose yourselves in her soulful tapestry.

Until Facebook creates an ‘Adore’ button, check out the links below and smash that ‘Like’ button.

facebook.com/MoniqueShelfordMusic  |  soundcloud.com/beady-little-i

Lee Greens

Lee

Open Mic Night @ The Acoustic Cafe
 

“I’ve gotta try and write some happy songs; it’s easier to write sad songs, isn’t it?”

No live music night is complete without a rendition of Wonderwall, Lee delivered! But not just with a classic cover, but with his ‘mellow melancholy’ originals which were unique and heartfelt.

“What I love the most in life is being on stage and playing music. I’ve had a few different jobs but I think [music] is the most fulfilling.”

Fronting a band for 7 years, Lee has performed across the UK and in Croatia (The band is called Orange Room and they’re well worth the look up!).

“The amount of times we got called The Orange Room, or Orange House…”

This being Lee’s first solo gig as an acoustic singer & guitarist, he was a bit nervous being up there by himself.

“When you got a band behind you you’re more confident. You have a couple beers together before you go on stage, it’s like a little army.”

“[As a solo performer] I can get my personality across more, whereas with a band it’s more of a formula; does the drums fit with the bass, etc. If it’s just acoustic you’re literally just telling a story with your guitar.”

By trade, Lee is a barista (“it’s a bit indie I know”) & a trained locksmith.

“I can pick your locks and also make your coffee.. I make a nice latte!”

For the local musicians:

“Don’t get disheartened if you feel that the crowd don’t get into it. As an audience people here are alot more self-conscious but they’ll probably go home and look you up on YouTube.”

Check Lee out at the Acoustic Cafe Thursdays or at The Evelyn in May – Details at www.facebook.com/leegreensmusic

Laura Taylor

Laura
Open Mic Night @ The Cornish Arms
 

“One day I’ll be brave and sing from my own pocket of life.”

With soothingly gentle tones and simple sounds radiating from Laura’s guitar, her acoustic pop originals commanded the undivided attention of the crowd.

“When I write my songs it’s rarely about myself, I always find myself taking on experiences of those I love around me and a way of processing this is through songwriting. I write for and from them.”

She truly loves singing and performing in general and whilst this was her 2nd open mic night ever, she has played regularly for café crowds.

Laura is set on a career in the music industry, not only as a musician but also in terms of working for music magazines. She completed her Bachelor of Pop Music, and is now studying a Bachelor of Communications, whilst working part-time in retail.

Speaking to other musicians on the local scene:

“Don’t be put off by people talking.”

To encourage people to listen to live music at the grass roots level:

“Come down and experience something you wouldn’t normally.”

Unfortunately she’s only visiting in Melbourne and is returning to NZ for studies, however you can keep up with her awesome tracks on her soundcloud account: https://soundcloud.com/laura_taylor-1

Richard Batty

RichardOpen Mic Night @ The Great Britain Hotel

“Give new talent a chance and be open-minded. Always be looking for new music and musicians.”

I was captivated by Richard’s charismatic performance and highly talented guitar playing and singing.

He plays originals which are in the folk/pop genre, with inspiration from the likes of Bob Dylan and Tim Hardin.

He is actually visiting from the UK where he is a self-employed musician. Music is literally his life with steady gig schedules 4 days a week.

“It seems you’re pretty well established in the music scene. Why do you play Open Mics?”

“To take it to the next level and forward my music career.”

It seems Open Mic nights cater to musicians at all levels in their careers. From hobby-musicians right up to the artists with EP’s recorded and tracks available commercially.

On giving advice to other musicians on the local scene:

“Have confidence! Play your own material as much as you can.”

On commenting about people who don’t check out live music at the grass roots level:

“Give new talent a chance and be open-minded. Always be looking for new music and musicians.”

Be sure to check out his talent on his website –  http://richardbattymusic.com/