Opening Up a Space for Jazz, Blues and Flannel

Locals and foreigners show off their talents at Potvra’s monthly open mic night

By Haley Houseman

Under bright lights on a low wooden stage, a guitarist strums a few chords to tune up, and the audience cheers. The shy young woman next to him smiles through her nervousness. In a minute that shyness is gone as she belts out the blues in soulful English with a Czech accent.  The audience at the tables and at the bar is quiet, listening to the singer’s first-ever performance.

Prague Wandering Spring 2013 Issue Number 2 Open Mic Potvra

Jazmine Russell performers her original material.
Photo by Barka Fabianova, courtesy of Potvra

Dimly lit and filled with music and murmured chatter, Potvra evokes a cabaret, especially for its monthly open mic night.  This particular evening was open mic #62 of the series.

The bar, near Hradsanka metro in Prague 6, was full, with chairs crammed in every corner. A growing number of standing audience members arrived as the evening went forward. Unframed canvases line the walls in the small underground space. There is a small but well-appointed stage, with professional lighting and sound, plus a small upright piano for performers.

“Most were local students who chose to perform original material or covers of English or Czech artists, set to acoustic guitars and dressed in a uniform of flannel and t-shirts.”

One entertainer that evening was perched on a stool in the center of stage to read his own Czech prose. Most performers were local students who chose to deliver original material or covers of English or Czech artists, set to acoustic guitars. The uniform of choice was flannel and t-shirts. The acts were fairly mellow, but all were quite talented. One American student from New York University, Jazmine Russell, played a Red Hot Chile Peppers cover on the piano, prompting the evening’s only encore. The MC called her back to the stage at the end of the night to perform some original material.

The evening began at 7p.m. with a performance of the band Hope Astronaut, as well as the jazz singer Ilse Huizinga, who also gave a jazz/blues vocal performance and lesson before the open mic started at 8. Both she and two of her students performed. For the girls Huizinga had taught, it was the first time either had performed live. The audience was warm and supportive, a sure sign of a good open mic evening.

The crowd at Potrva’s open mic evening is diverse, from older couples with graying hair to college students supporting friends. The offerings at the kitchen and bar are simple, cheap and tasty, such as small salads and toasted sandwiches. Drinks from coffee, wine, beer or soda all hover around 30 crowns, with an offering of toasts, salads and snacks under 100 crowns.

Potrva Open Mic, Serbian 2, Prague 6

Tel: +420 222 963 707

Hope Astronaut

Ilse Huizinga

Haley Houseman is in the NYU Gallatin’s Class of 2013. Her hometown is Beverley, Massachusetts.

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Categories: Culture, Spring 2013 Issue Number 2

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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