Tuesday, February 5, 2008

U Supa Country Saloon - Bluegrass Jam Night

"Bluegrass has brought more people together and made more friends than any music in the world.
-Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music
There's little I like more than going for a beer and listening to some good, live music. I'm an especially big fan of acoustic stuff.

A few years back, I fell in love with bluegrass after seeing the Coen brothers' film, "O Brother, Where Art Thou."

I got the soundtrack and then started to listening to more Alison Krauss and her work with The Cox Family and Union Station.

Just recently, I read an article on Radio Praha's website about a bluegrass jam every other Tuesday at U Supa Country Saloon in Smichov. The jams are organized by a guy known as Peter O. Ruby (Petr Oldřich Hrubý).

I called him up. Peter couldn't have been more welcoming and friendly. I told him I just wanted to come and listen. He told me to bring a guitar and join the fun.

U Supa is pretty easy to get to. It is up a steep side street, right across from the Betramka tram stop, which has tram lines 4, 7, 9, and 10.

The saloon looks like it has been around for a while.

Its log walls, wagon wheels, and saddles reflect a love for the old American West that is not uncommon in the Czech Republic.For some Czechs, a fascination with U.S. Western kitsch springs from the Winnetou books written by Karl May at the end of the 19th century.

The books were later made into popular movies in the 1960s, which were German productions with Croatia standing in for Apache Indian territory. Dubbed verions are still shown regularly on Czech television.

At U Supa, musicians gather in the back of the saloon. Around 14 people played when I was there. There were all really nice and just as welcoming as Peter.

They played banjo, double bass, slide guitar, mandolin, and violin. And they played them very well. It was more than just amateur hour.Peter has a website for his band, All Bells and Whistles, many of whom play at U Supa. On his website, he also talks about the magic of "high lonesome singing."

He does some great, high harmonies in this clip. Peter's the one with the moustache.

The saloon was not full. A few tables were taken by friends of players. Rosie Johnston, who wrote the Radio Praha piece, was also there.

One of the violin players was Lee Bidgood, who was mentioned in the web story. He's an ethnomusicologist at the University of Virginia, and he told me he's writing his dissertation on Czech bluegrass. He also plays in a band in Jihlava.

Lee plays in both clips, sawing fiddle, along with Peter and the gang.

I love finding interesting bits from one culture transplanted into unlikely places. U Supa reminded me a lot of the big fun I had last year at The CasHank Hootenanny Jamboree in Brooklyn, New York.

It's an open mic acoustic jam and anyone can play or sing, as long as it's Hank Williams or Johnny Cash.

I usually talk about food and drink, so I should mention that I had a few glasses of Staropramen beer during the jam. It was only 20 CZK for a half-liter. Pilsner Urquell was 30 CZK.

The kitchen served the usual Czech fare. One of the musicians had some fried cheese that looked OK.

But I didn't come for the food.

I came to hear some great music and to make some new friends. And that's what I did.I'd like to thank old Bill Monroe for that.

U Supa Country Saloon
Na Čečeličce 12
Prague 5
Tel. (+420) 774 031 377

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Anonymous said...

Dobrý den from America!
Great post. I came across it because I'm an songwriter/musician from Austin, TX who will be spending about a week in Prague this coming September. I was wondering if you could point me towards anyone who books Americana-type artists, either U Supa or others. I'm visiting Europe to attend a wedding in Germany, but I'd love to play a show or two while in town. You can check out my stuff and contact me at www.myspace.com/richrestaino. Just a shot in the dark.
-Rich Restaino

Brewsta said...

Hello Rich,

U Supa is really just a back room bluegrass jam. Some of the players are really good.

Usually only friends are there to listen in and have a beer -- most of the pub was surprisingly empty. It's not a big place.

The Prague music scene is heavily weighted toward blues and jazz clubs. Clubs with original performers are few and far between.

I listed to some of your songs. One suggestion is this place in the center: Club Vagon:

Or perhaps Club Bordo:

Try contacting them through their email address. All kinds of rock-type bands.

Good luck. I think you'll like Prague.


Jamie said...

Hey Brewsta .. at the suggestion of you a few months ago and more recently my friend Mike I went to the U Supa Jam tonight. You're right they are a friendly bunch and I found myself playing a Martin D18 belonging to a guy called Alex who i met moments earlier. Next time I'll take my own.
BTW they serve this small batch Bohemia beer for 20kc a half litre :)

Anonymous said...

"I fell in love with bluegrass after seeing the Coen brothers' film, 'O Brother, Where Art Thou.' "

That's kinda like, "I fell in love with the music of African Americans after I saw 'Ray,' or "I learned all about India from 'Slumdog Millionaire.'"

Brewsta said...

Mom! Stop leaving comments on my blog!