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2016 Grateful 3

I’m gullible. I can be easily persuaded and often times find myself committing to stuff I really don’t want to do. Take last week, for instance. I had something to do and some place to go on Friday but I let myself be talked into going to a gig on A38 as well … for two reasons. (1) I’d never been and (2) my crush of 2016 was playing.

a38On the night, we ran around like the proverbial blue-arsed flies trying to do all we had to do and still make it to the ship at a reasonable hour. Yes, A38 is a boat, anchored by Petőfi híd, in the Danube.

On stage tbdhat night were the magnificent Braindogs. The collection formed to play a tribute night to Tom Waits back in 2004 and have been doing gigs together every so often ever since, and always on Tom Waits’s birthday. What a line up. London-based Soul-blues singer Ian Siegel (whom Tom Waits seemingly holds in very high regard, ranking him up as one of the best around); the brilliant Ripoff Raskolnikov from Graz (who some say could have been one of the greats worldwide had he had the ambition – now there’s a man who has mastered the meaning of ‘enough’); the ever-so gorgeous and talented Kiss Tibor from the Hungarian band Quimby and a regular with the Budapest Bár; Varga Livius, who also plays with Quimby; the mad pianist Nagy Szabolcs; and of course, my man Frenk, who this time left down his guitar and took up his drumsticks – so talented that man, so talented. It was a great night, despite my misgivings. And to think that I’d nearly cried off and given my ticket away. What I’d have missed!

A little into the gig, the penny dropped. We had tickets to another gig on Sunday night at Muzikum Klub to see a blues guy I’d never heard of (no surprise there, given how musically illiterate I am) – and it turns out that it was the very same Ian Siegel.

1060Word has it that had Siegel been born into a different generation and been gigging in the 60s, we’d be talking about him in the same breath as Van the Man and Joe Cocker. But the 70s were his playground.  Two years after he was asked unexpectedly to sing with this cousin’s band one night (he was a roadie with them at the age of 16) he picked up a guitar.  He was bitten. After  dropping out of art school and busking in Berlin, he started doing the circuit. His was a slow burner. Opening for Bill Wyman in 2003 finally got him the attention he deserved. He toured with Muddy Waters’s son Big Bill Morganfield and finally made it to the states in 2006 after topping the Soul/Blues/Jazz charts in Holland the previous year.

Of all the gigs he’s played, it was his guest appearance with 92-year-old jazz pianist Pinetop Perkins and some of the other remaining members of Muddy Waters’s band at London’s Jazz Café in 2005 that stands out. Later, at a festival in Norway, the boys returned the favour and joined him, unplanned, on stage. That I’d have loved to see.

This week, I’m grateful for the music – again. Last weekend it was Tchaikovsky, Schubert, and Bártok. This weekend it was The Braindogs, and Ian Siegal. You can’t say I’m not doing my homework. I’m grateful, too, that it’s all so affordable, so plentiful, and so much fun.

And, as an early resolution for 2017, I’m going to continue experimenting and call on my music-heads in Budapest (you know who you are) to keep me posted on stuff I might find interesting.

PS Ripoff Raskolnikov plays Muzikum on 22 December and I’m RAGING I’m missing it

 

2016 Grateful 4

Sometimes, life gets a little overwhelming. Twenty-four-hour days aren’t nearly long enough to do everything that needs to get done. And when my to-do list spirals out of control and spills over onto a third page, I have a tendency to sing my theme tune more often than usual.

Until this past weekend, I didn’t even know I had a theme tune, an utterance that has been popping out of my mouth with little bidding for years, usually when things are in danger of getting on top of me. Mine is simple – it goes something like this: oi, oi, oi-oi-oi. The inflection and the tone might vary but the words never change.

During the week, I took myself off to Kuplung (a great little venue on Király utca) to see Frenk – a Hungarian singer I’m particularly fond of. I first saw him play with Budapest Bár at Sziget a few years ago and have been a fan ever since.

One of my favourites of his is a duet he does  – Where the Wild Roses Grow – it’s guaranteed to improve my mood, no matter what state things are in. But the song on his playlist that is a tonic for all my woes is his version of Iggy Pop’s Tonight.

And it would seem that his mood determines how he sings it, too. I like it best when it’s just him and his guitar. There’s not much to the lyrics but there’s a verse that resonates and speaks of a quiet that is all too elusive.

No one moves
No one talks
No one thinks
No one walks, Tonight

There’s lots to be grateful for in Budapest – and one that ranks up there is the sheer variety of things to do in the city. On any given night of the week, there’s someone (many someones) singing or playing music somewhere. The gigs are affordable (often free) and can be found in all sorts of weird and wonderful places. Last week, too, I finally got to see Tchaikovsky’s Nutcraker at the Opera House and for the first time heard Bartók Béla performed by the Budapest Festival Orchestra in the fabulously restored Lizst Ferenc Music Academy.

Wasn’t it Plato who said music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul? No matter – I had a mad week last week and this coming one looks even worse. The few hours I spent in good company with great music were restorative… and Lord knows, I’m in need of restoration.

 

You can never get too much of a good thing

I have a vague memory of something about diminishing marginal utility – a vague recollection of my Economics teacher trying to convince us that the more we had of something, the less we’d enjoy it. And yes, there is an argument for seldom being wonderful. And there might well be a case to be made for delayed gratification. Personally, though, I’m all for the never getting enough of a good thing.

Last night was the fourth time I’ve seen the  wonderful Budapest Bár. Twice this summer alone. And they’re brilliant. They’ve yet to disappoint. I’d go even further and say that they could never disappoint, but I know better than to say never – it has a habit of biting me in the ass.

We had three newbies with us – three mates who had never seen the lads before. Okay, so I might have gone a little over the top in my enthusiasm about Frenk, and perhaps in their eyes he didn’t live up to his billing, but hey, taste is personal. I still think that he’s God’s gift to creation.

And he did his fab duet with Németh Juci – The Wild Rose- made famous by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue. That’s a song I can’t get enough of. Last time I saw them, I got to see Kiss Tibi from Quimby live in action and subsequently went to one of his gigs – brilliant. This time I saw Szűcs Krisztián from Heaven Street 7. I might well be keeping an eye out for those boys, too.

Last year, I saw them in the Zoo. Last night’s gig was in the courtyard of the Petőfi Literary Museum. And that’s just part of what makes summer in Budapest so special. These outdoor gigs. Popping up in courtyards and parks and kert bars all over the city. Everything from the more cultural venues like museums to the down and dirty Budapest Park (scene of my unfortunate accident some weeks ago – and yes, I’m still in pain). And when you’re dealing with concert tickets ranging from €5 to the €12 we paid for last night’s gig, there’s no limit to the number you can try out. So if HS7 aren’t all that Szűcs might seem to promise, I won’t be too disappointed.

So my mates were more impressed with Juci than with Frenk and in fairness, the woman certainly has a set of lungs. And that’s the beauty of the Bár – there are so many of them that there’s always going to be someone there for everyone.

I reckon I could fit at least one more BB gig this summer. As I say, you can never get enough of a good thing… and yes, the ‘never’ here is intentional 🙂

Monkeys, by any other name, are still monkeys

Could I have two tickets for tonight’s concert, please?
It’s sold out.
No tickets?
Yes, there are tickets. But it’s sold out.
So, can I get two tickets?
Yes, but you will have to stand.
That’s no problem.
Can I go in now to see the zoo?
No. You’re standing. You can’t go in until the concert starts. Only those with seats can go in early.

IMG_4158 (800x600)I had come to Budapest Zoo to see Budapest Bar in concert. The website said that with your ticket you could enter at 7 pm, check out the animals, and then see the gig. But only if you got a seated ticket, apparently. If you were standing, then you couldn’t go in. This made no sense. If I was wandering around looking at the animals, I wouldn’t be sitting in a seat? But hey… I was tired. I’d had a bad day. And I really wanted to see Budapest Bar.

So I bought the tickets and then killed an hour in the local IBIS bar. Not the most fascinating place I’ve ever had a drink in, but the wine was wet and came in a glass and I’d had a bad day. I said that already, didn’t I?

Those of you paying attention will remember that Budapest Bar was the band that impressed me most at Sziget. A gypsy band with six musicians who play the cymbol, keyboards, violin, double bass, drums, and accordion, they attract a who’s who of Hungarian contemporary singers. The craic they had on stage had the audience in stitches and us mono linguists wishing for the billionth time that we had the Hungarian to get the humour.

IMG_4153 (800x600)And the joy that is Budapest Bar is that they open up a completely new world of new voices. I now have a major girl crush on Németh Juci. And a major boy crush on Frenk. Together, their rendition of Wild Rose was mindblowing.

My second favourite song of the evening was Frenk – again – with the Alabama Song… this was the one that converted me to Budapest Bar in Sziget.

And in third place was a version of Purple Rain that was, to my mind, better than any one I have ever heard, including the original. Frenk and a girl called Sandi… who in her own right was bloody amazing, too. The talent… the talent…

Fourth place (after this I gave up ranking) went to Rutkai Bori for Mr Alkohol. But you need to see her in action to appreciate the animation. As the inimitable MLB said: I’d wrap her up and take her home.

They played everything from the Pulp Fiction opening number to David Bowie’s Everything will be alright tonight. It was undoubtedly the best 1900 huf (€6/$8) I have ever spent on live music.

These lads love their stuff. The singers, all of them, are animated, acting as well as singing. The audience of about 800 souls chilling out (literally) in the low twenties open air at the zoo on a Thursday night in Budapest were with them all the way. Sure what else would you be doing?

Next door, in Gundel  (perhaps the most expensive restaurant in the city) patrons sitting on the terrace had a great vantage point and a free gig. But it would be hard to begrudge them, seeing as some entrées on that particular menu go for 40000 huf (about €125 or $175).

The booze wasn’t cheap cheap… but the setting more than made up for it. It was a gorgeous evening. Great music, good wine, scintillating company. What more could a body ask for?

Well, I’d have liked to have seen the monkeys!

PS They’re playing a gig in the synagogue on Sept 3. If you’re in town, it’s well worth trying to get tickets.