There are interesting things happening right now in the music clubs and ruin bars of Budapest: it’s quite a lively time. To gather information for this piece apart from my experiences, I sat down with László Sallai – a hungarian singer-songwriter, who’s also a frequent visitor of these places and also a graduate of ELTE – to talk about the hungarian music scene and how it’s intertwined with the bars and clubs the fans, journalists and musicians spend their time in.
It’s no surprise I’m also one of the familiar faces of these places – in fact, I met Laci in Beat On The Brat a few years ago. As a music journalist and bar enthusiasist, I feel it’s the best way to see (and hear) what’s really happening in Budapest’s music life. Also, it’s really, really fun.
We started talking about a statement I often make in conversations – that there is some kind of renaissance this scene is experiencing. He was quick to point out that I’m both right and wrong: that yes, there are periods when suddenly new bars pop up, but they slowly go bankrupt as the years go by and some get closed: for example, Gozsdu Manó Klub, a live music club located in Gozsdu Udvar, near Király utca, a really buzzing part of the city. GMK closed it’s door last summer and left a big hole after itself: there aren’t many medium sized clubs with a great sound system for musicians to play in, apart from Kuplung, another club with the same profile. But even if there aren’t many options for bands who prefer smaller venues, it’s clear that there is a crowd keeping the industry alive. He said if he had to recommend places to foreign people visiting the city and eager to explore the music scene, they should check the aforementioned Kuplung and Toldi, a cinema by day and a bar by night – on a random weekend or even weekday, there is something for everyone as Budapest’s local music scene offers a great variety of bands, ranging from psychedelic rock to folk and punk.
Apart from the concert-goers, a very close-knit group formed around these venues, and the so-called ruin pubs (although no native Budapester would call them that). A great example of this is Beat on The Brat, which opened in the autumn of 2013 and is named after a Ramones song. „I remember that day very clearly, as I had to submit my BA thesis that day… there were so many people, you could barely fit in” – Laci is still a frequent visitor of BOTB, whether he’s performing with one of the bands he plays in, DJing or just simply catching up with acquitances or fellow musicians. He calls it a „meeting point”, because in his opinion, this was one of the first places where local bands, their fans and journalists started partying, drinking and working in, side by side. This formed the community we both love and live in: some of the bartenders are from relatively known or underground bands, promoters, maybe journalists looking for some plus income and this mostly happened because their ever-changing schedule wouldn’t really allow a 9-to-5 job. He would strongly recommend visiting these places if you are a university student visiting or staying in Budapest: most of them also offer free or „pay as much as you want” concerts: Gólya and Klub Vittula are great examples of this, and you will surely feel like you are having the true Budapest experience. As for music festivals, smaller ones like Bánkitó or Kolorádó are also worth checking out – in just one week, you can listen to the most popular bands right now, have fun and support the hungarian music scene.
So, go forth, take his advice and meet the locals – you surely won’t regret it.