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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.
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.”
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.”
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.”