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

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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Ibrahim Shiham

DSC01784Open Mic Night @ Bar Oussou
 

“I had a dream to perform with the saxophone.”

And it was a dream come true for Ibrahim, having only played the Saxophone since June last year!

Originally from the Maldives, Ibrahim has been playing music for around 25 years drawing influences from Latin, Jazz, Reggae, and Rock, with guitar being his weapon of choice.

It’s always refreshing to come across performances that aren’t simply guitar & vocals, and the crowd at Bar Oussou was certainly intrigued by the uniqueness.

Whilst he was apprehensive about the performance, Ibrahim performed like a pro; we had no idea this was his first saxophone performance until he told us.

He plays Open Mic Nights to iron out the kinks and smooth out any musical mistakes.

“I feel very happy when I see people dancing – that’s when I know they like the stuff I’m playing.”

His advice for musicians starting out is to have balance:

“Most young musicians are very talented, but they have no concept of having a balanced sound when playing in a group.”

Playing live for so many years, Ibrahim says with a hint of resignation,

“Live music is dying.”

So make sure you help sustain the culture by swinging through Bar Oussou’s Open Mic night – you might just find Ibrahim’s catchy jazz-influenced tunes on the saxophone.

The Cornish Arms

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“You get the opportunity to see some great acts and chat to people who love live music.”

Situated in the musical heart of Brunswick on Sydney road, The Cornish Arms have always supported local live music. Speaking on behalf of the venue, veteran barman Lachlan Lane explains that over the years, the venue has hosted music ranging from 70s soul/funk, local Melbourne grunge, DJs, blues, etc. but these days you’ll find more acoustic acts with afew rock bands thrown in the mix as well.

“The Cornish Arms was the place to go and get your music fix.”

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The venue complements its music reputation with a focus on good food. People come down for a good feed and stick around for the music acts. You can expect free live music on Fridays and Saturdays, including their Open Mic on Monday nights – a stage I’ve had the pleasure of playing on myself.

“Every Monday night [since 2009] there’s always been an Open Mic – I can’t remember a single Monday we haven’t hosted one.”

The Cornish Arms stage sees comedians, first-time music performers, travellers new to the area, etc. From a performer’s perspective it is a delight to play there – perfect amount of fold-back and a well-balanced sound for the audience.

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Many performers have gone on to bigger things such as ‘Busy Kingdom’ playing the Sydney Road & St Kilda festival in 2014, and even a 70s soul/funk band ‘Electric Empire’ playing the prestigious Glastonbury festival in 2011!

At the same time, the venue has played host to some… interesting acts. A notable one that Lachlan recalls was a musician who would plug his iPod in his ears and play along to songs that only he could hear in his headphones. All the crowd could hear was monotonous singing and 2 notes on the guitar over and over. Some comic relief though surely for the audience, but as Lachlan rightly states:

“Good on him for having a crack”

Musicians need to be sensitive about adapting their style for the venue or choosing venues with a crowd who appreciates their style.

“Here [Brunswick] you wouldn’t really put a cover band on.”

In closing, Lachlan expressed concern about Melbourne’s dwindling live music scene:

“It’s all about getting to the gigs. I know budget-wise it’s easy to get blind at home and then go to the gig, but it doesn’t support the pub. They’re spending money to put the band on.”

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Reuben Duffy & Joe Baarda

Reuben & Joe
Open Mic Night @ Station 59
 

“My aspiration is to have a full crowd.”

I was struck by how these two musicians worked so well together. The charismatic and engaging blues/folk singer & guitarist (Reuben) was complemented perfectly by a more subdued jazz saxophonist (Joe).

These two blokes, playing both originals and covers were such a hit that they were asked to stay on for an encore.

Reuben: “I’ve been unemployed for a year and a half, so I spend my days as a hands-on Dad for my 7 year old son, as well as writing songs/poetry.”

When asked about his musical aspirations, Reuben contently replied with:

Reuben: “I don’t waste my time thinking about fame or fortune. So I’ve never had that crushed heart that some of my friends have had. My aspiration is to have a full crowd. That’s as big as I dare to dream.”

Giving advice to other local musicians on the scene:

Joe: “Don‘t play anything by half measure. Throw your whole self in. Genghis Khan said: if you’re afraid, don’t do it – If you’re doing it, don’t be afraid

Reuben: “Discover your musicality. Wake up to the fact that you are born to play. People say ‘I’ve got no sense of rhythm’, but they walk ok, don’t they!” 

You can catch Reuben and Joe playing at Station 59 on Thursday nights.

Interview Bloopers:

Joe: “I’ve got 800GB of music. The only thing I’ve ever deleted is Guns n Roses. Ever.”

Reuben: “but the power of nostalgia..”

Joe: “No. NO! At the time, the first time I heard them I liked GnR. Ever since I’ve hated them.”