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.
On 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 that 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.
Word 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
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 🙂
It seems ages ago now, but it was only last week that I battled the rain and stood with hundreds of others, partially shielded by umbrellas, watching the wonderful Budapest Bár in action at Kobuci kert over in Buda. I’ve seen them a couple of times before, but I was still excited. And I had convinced a visiting friend to come with me, so my reputation, in a way, was on the line. I’d been banging on about them so much that they’d better be good!
When bandleader Robert Farkas put together Budapest Bár in 2007, he wanted to create a first-class ensemble that would exemplify Central European urban Gypsy music at its best, rather than what had become its commonplace kitschy-nostalgia worst. The result is a professional music group at the heart of a tight – knit collaborative miscellany of performers that transcends ethnic, musical and generational boundaries.
Budapest Bar is an intoxicating music cocktail of Gypsy virtuosity, infused with rock’n’roll energy. The wildly popular Gypsy band teams up with a rotating roster of singers drawn from the creme de la creme of the international and Hungarian rock, underground and jazz scene, swinging between the sultry and rollicking. Their repertoire stretches from Liszt through 1920s European songs to Michael Jackson covers.
We ran into a couple of other friends and spent the evening in their company. The lovely D was particularly up to date on the current happenings of the band and filled me in. Each of them plays or sings with another group and they get together on occasion for nights just like this to do the ‘oldies’ music. That must be why I like them so much.
For the seven or so years (nearly eight! where does time go?) I’ve been in Budapest, I’ve seen posters for two other groups – Quimby and Magna Cum Laude. Seeing both of them live is high up on my list of things to do this summer (as it was last year and the year before and the year before – the road to heaven is paved with unbooked concert tickets). So when Kiss Tibi (the gorgeous guy who fronts Quimby) came on stage, I swooned alongside the rest of the ladies (and a few of the men). What a bonus.
Shortly after Frenk (am a tad smitten by him, too) did his stuff, I got another surprise. Mező Misi, him who fronts Magna Cum Laude, also appeared. And at one stage, both Misi and Tibi were on stage together. So, although I haven’t seen both groups in action, I’ve seen their front men and have had a taste of what’s to come. ‘Twas well worth a schlep on the HÉV over to Buda for that particular night out.
I’m bound and determined the the summer of 2015 in Budapest will be one to remember. It looks as if I have at least two straight months in the city without a flight to anywhere else and for that I’m grateful. Already this week, I kicked off my Summer Cultural Odyssey (a joint initiative with the inimitable ZE) with a long-promised trip to the Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum (Hungarian National Museum). And I ate, not once, but twice, as a great Vietnamese place over in Buda – Hanoi Étterem (fresh spring rolls to die for). For someone whose metaphorical baggage includes a Northside/Southside discrimination, I’m spending a lot of time on the other side of the river lately but have lived to tell the tale.
So as the temperatures rise, and work continues unabated, I’m full of good intentions to see out the summer in Budapest – or the next two months at least. All it takes is a little planning. [Sweet Mother of Divine Jesus – did I use the P word? I must be growing up.]