I … apparently … made a right tit of myself last week. I’m still processing it. I know I can get a little OTT when I meet someone or something I like – and like a lot. I’ve been known to enthuse a tad. But apparently this time I was positively gushing in my groupieness. I may have even used the word to describe myself. BLUSH. MEGA BLUSH. I just don’t do well when awed.

I still squirm when I remember being at a gig at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. A chance encounter with a fave author (Pat McCabe) complete with a witty throwaway line that he asked to borrow (the man using my words – I was in awe-city), was blown to smithereens when I asked the dumbest of dumb questions during his interview with Neil Jordan. Mortified. I’m still mortified.

Last Wednesday’s performance lacks the mortification element as it was only witnessed by four others, not four hundred. And while I’m still getting ragged about it, they’ll forget in time.

Three days after I was born, Ludwig (Lutz) Knoglinger was celebrating his 11th birthday in Linz, Austria. Little did he know that half a century later, in a bar in Budapest, our paths would cross and that I’d feel driven to tell him just exactly what I thought of him.

These days, he goes by the name Ripoff Raskolnikov (remember Crime and Punishment?) and while not nearly as famous as Dostoevsky’s main man, he certainly deserves to be.

It was a cold Wednesday evening in May. He was playing in Kobuci Kert, one of my favourite BP venues for live music. The crowd wasn’t as big as it could have been, had the weather been cooperating. We had a table near the front, as all three guitar-playing friends wanted to watch the man play. Me? I was happy enough to sit and listen.

I like my blues to have lyrics that make me think. And Ripoff writes beautifully. Everything is temporary. Lenin Street. And a favourite – It’s not easy.

I like it too, when I don’t matter. When I know that whoever is on stage would be giving it welly even if there was no one listening or watching. The way blues takes you inside, that visible inward folding, that’s what gives it soul.

I wish, though, that he didn’t speak Hungarian, that he stuck to English, as I was only getting a smattering of his between-song commentary, which, by the crowd’s reaction, was as funny as all git out. No. No. That’s stupid. Of course I don’t wish that he didn’t speak Hungarian; I just wish that I did. My bad.

It’s beyond me why he’s not world famous. He’d give Tom Waits a run for his money any day. I’d heard tell that it was more choice than circumstance and that I’d quite believe. He seems too laid back to crave the limelight. He said though that fame had passed him by. Or at least, that’s what I think he said. It was all a bit of daze. I was gibbering. He looked bemused. And as I said, I don’t do well when I’m in awe.

The good news is that he’s a regular to Hungary and is playing in Zala County on 2 June. And I can’t very well pass that up. [I’m sure I invited him to drop by for dinner.] The lovelies are in from Ireland that weekend so it’ll be an airport-gig run. Whatever I can do to introduce the world to Ripoff Raskolnikov I will do – I’m on a mission.

WOW… I’ve just noticed that he plays Kobuci Kert in August, on my birthday. Well, that’s that sorted, SJ. We’re staying put. For other gigs in Europe this year, check the website.






2014 Grateful 23

Edward de Bono once joked with me that I could have a case for the Court of Human Rights. He reckoned that between the whole Murphy’s Law idiocy and the old ‘Murphy was an optimist’ mantra, I could claim just cause for the occasional bout of melancholy that besets me – i.e. the pressure of the world’s expectations that I be miserable.

I wonder, too, if this inate melancholy is one of the reasons why, although tone deaf and musically illiterate, I simply love the Blues (…and Country Music, but that’s another story).

20140724_222359_resized_2In search of some live music in Budapest the other night, I consulted the Oracle, she who is one half of the Cool Colours duo. She recommended a Blues band that goes by the name of Turnaround; they were playing at Old Man’s.

I’d not been there in a while and had never heard of the band. YouTube searches came to nowt but confident that the lovely PH knows what she’s talking about, I went along.

Hideg Csaba, Donyán Andrász, Rókusz Andrász, and Szkórits-Tala Gábor are quite the performers. So engrossed were they in their music, that I felt at times as if I was watching a bunch of lads playing in their front room. Some musicians play for the money; others, like these, play for the sheer love of the music. They were completely absorbed. The music was in them. Their accents for the most part were faultless. And not for the first time I marvelled at the ability of musicians to sing songs in English and yet barely speak the language off stage.

Hearing  Let the good times roll without any brass was a little different. I always have Ray Charles’ version in my head but even with three guitars and the drums, they did it justice. Ditto with Willie Dixon’s I just want to make love to you, made famous by Muddy Waters. After a while, I stopped missing the horns and the double-bass. BB King’s Rock me baby was my favourite cover of the night. The years fell away and it was Dublin, 1985 and BB King was playing at the National Stadium. I was there, on a date, with a chap called Eoin. Magic. My first ever Blues gig. Thank you, Eoin, wherever you are.

20140724_222215_resized But perhaps what made the night for me were two songs in particular – Sweetie Kitty and Cherry Festival, both penned and sung by Mr Donyán himself. As the lads swapped out guitars and took their cue from Csaba (Mr Cool), the night rolled on and two hours passed in a flash.

Old Man’s has a curious policy that if you sit to the left of the room, you have to eat. You can sit to the right and just drink. And you don’t know this until you sit down. Our table was up front. Loathe to move, I ordered a Caesar salad. A quiet note to the management here: A Caesar salad should have anchovies,  Parmesan cheese, romaine lettuce, and croutons. Adding croutons to a bland tomato and lettuce salad does not make it a Caesar.

Food aside, it was a great night. Watch out for these lads and MH/DT, put them on your list of people to see when you’re back in town.

This week, as temperatures soar and my temper shortens, I’m grateful for music and musicians, for those who are passionate about what they do, who sing just to sing and play just to play. Thank you for restoring my equilibrium. Know that you are saving lives 🙂