Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

“Borderline” – Fifth, and final, Song and Video of the Melodium Sessions in Montreuil

August 17, 2014
bradspurgeon

Borderline music video

Borderline music video

PARIS – In recent months, I posted my first four videos and recordings of the songs I recorded in the studio in February, in the posts for “When You’re Gone Away” and my song “Crazy Lady”, and “Mad World,” the Tears for Fears song,
and “When You’re Gone Away,” another of my songs. As I said in the previous posts, I plan to do different style videos each time, and today, with my final song from the session, “Borderline,” I have again added several new elements as well:

As with the others of the five-part series of songs I recorded at the Melodium Studio in Montreuil outside Paris in February, I recorded this one with my favorite lead player, Félix Beguin and drummer, Jeremy Norris – both of whom are in two excellent Paris bands, The Burnin’ Jacks and the Velvet Veins – and also with Scott Bricklin – a Paris expat musician originally from Philadelphia – on bass. Together, as I mentioned, we spent three days in the studio.

The beauty of doing these recording sessions was the incredible cohesion and talent I was surrounded with in Félix, Jeremy and Scott and their wonderful arrangements and Félix’s mixing. All three have worked together extensively, and often at the incredible Melodium Studios, and of course, I have gigged with Félix regularly in the last five years. So it was all just so together.

So with the above song, “Borderline,” I complete the Melodium session recordings. But I still have a couple of other recent recordings and videos to add in the coming months – including a new song I just finished writing last week – so I’ll keep you posted.

Life Goes on at the Tennessee Bar Open Mic in Paris – And Bursts Forth at the Galway

August 14, 2014
bradspurgeon

tennessee bar facade

tennessee bar facade

PARIS – As with my report from the Highlander open mic last week, I made a visit to play music at the Tennessee Bar open mic the other day for the first time in many months. But unlike at the Highlander, the Tennessee does not have the same long-standing MC running the show, but has gone through a few changes in the last year.

The first thing that happened was that the longtime MC and Tennessee bar open mic organizer, James Iansiti, left the job after something like six or seven years running the thing. He was immediately replaced by Yaco, the organizer and MC of the Petit Bonheur la Chance/La Tireuse open mic, which was one of the best in Paris. Yaco went on to run the Tireuse on Tuesdays and the Tennessee on Mondays and Thursdays. That was a lot of Yaco, and for reasons I have not found out, he left the Tennessee job and the Tireuse ceased to exist as an open mic.

That brings us to today. I didn’t catch the name of the new MC and like every good journalist, I didn’t bother asking him his name. Some day I will, no doubt! But he was doing a pretty good job – except for the occasional mystery disappearance – and it is safe to say by this one experience that the Tennessee Bar open mic seems to have reborn, somehow, into something similar but different.

But then, up the street from the Tennessee the Galway was overflowing with musicians….

I had the feeling it was a younger crowd, and I had the feeling that the new MC is a hands-on guy, playing with other musicians on guitar and percussion when they want. He makes a list, and basically gives musicians more than just three or four songs if it feels like they are being well-received – he asked the crowd a few times if they wanted more from musicians….

All good so far. The Tennessee may have found its way into a new territory. Having said that, I really only ended up at the Tennessee because the Galway – near by on the Quai des Grands Augustins – was overflowing with musicians and I’d be about No. 25 on the list despite not really being that late to sign up. So, keep an eye on these two Monday night open mics in Paris and let’s see where they go….

Alison Young and Horse Raddish and the Limonaire

August 11, 2014
bradspurgeon

Alison Young

Alison Young

PARIS – I don’t usually write about something that happened a week ago, but the concerts by Alison Young and Horse Raddish at the Limonaire bar/restaurant in Paris have stayed in my mind for a week, and in fact, I always intended to mention it on the blog. So no matter that I’ve written other things in between. Today, I just wanted to talk about these three subjects, because there ARE three: The singer, the band and the venue.

I’ve never been to the Limonaire before, but this bar-restaurant with a small stage and two wings of tables of to either side is a place I will definitely return to: The vibe is just too cool and laid back, and the stage too fabulous, the music too good not to! My only regret is having eaten a meal before I showed up, worrying partly that it would not be good food, or it would just feel weird or something, to eat during the show.

As it turned out, the show ended after most people had basically finished eating. That’s when the lights went out, and Alison Young, an American from New Orleans, took to the darkened stage under the spotlight and began singing with only the tiniest bits of ukelele thrown in here and there. I was immediately struck by the interesting melodies, lyrics and a feeling that little by little I would associated with all sorts of different kinds of sources, with, oddly, a big dose of British folk-rock from the late ’60s and early ’70s. In fact, afterwards, I spoke to Alison, and told her a lot of her stuff reminded me of Fairport Convention, whose music she said she loved.

But it was her song-writing, her melodies, her very clearly defined musical world that really signals out Alison Young – oh, and another thing….

Introducing Horse Raddish, Alison Young’s Backing Band, and a Tour de Force on Its Own Too

One of the overriding – or should I be saying “under-riding” – things that made her set so interesting, and the music so different, was that her back-up band consisted of the guitarist, drummer and accordion player from the band called Horse Raddish, that was later to play their own set. (There was also a pianist, but I didn’t see if he was from Horse Raddish also.) This backup band gave often some eastern Europe kind of sounds to the music, even klezmer.

horse raddish

horse raddish


That, as it turned out, was no surprise, because the second set of the evening was the fabulous rocking, electric klezmer music of Horse Raddish, adding a clarinet and/or soprano saxes, violin and other unrecognisable – to me – wind instruments. This was romping, exciting, sassy mad klezmer stuff, and its musicians were so adept and having apparently so much fun going crazy, that it was more than infectious. It was superb.

And in the environment of the Limonaire, sitting at a table in the dark and sipping a wine – the manager was happy for clients who came ONLY for the music, dinner was not necessary – it was a real serious challenger to my own usual desire to pass any musical night out on the stage myself rather than listening to others play. I’ll be back for more….

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Hungary Edition

August 10, 2014
bradspurgeon

chain bridge budapest

chain bridge budapest

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Budapest, Hungary since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

High Times at the Highlander – Again

August 8, 2014
bradspurgeon

highlander

highlander

PARIS – This might be the first time I have ever used my own blog myself to check out the last time I sang at a particular open mic. I am having a very hard time believing what my blog is telling me! I just searched to find out that it is telling me that the last time I sang at the Highlander open mic, one of the best open mics in Paris, it was at the end of August last year! I went to the Highlander on Wednesday, had an amazing evening, sang, and it felt like I had last played there just the other day….

Well, no, not quite. I realized immediately upon entering at 8:20 p.m. that there were a lot of new faces amongst the waiting musicians. In fact, I recognized few of them. Oh, yes, there were a few of the regulars from the past few years. But there were lots of new faces. One face that was not new, the most important face, was that of Thomas Brun, the MC of this open mic that is also one of the longest lasting open mics in Paris. And thank goodness for that. The identity of an open mic is so tightly bound with that of both the location, and above all the MC.

Another thing that had not changed was that it was so popular that the list was probably too big for everyone who eventually showed up. So it was a full evening of song and music otherwise, until well after midnight.

Oh, I must add that my reasons for not singing at the Highlander in the last year – if my blog search is correct on that point! – has nothing to do with the open mic, and everything to do with my travels, personal situation, fewer open mics attended in Paris in general in order to make more time for my other music-and-writing-related projects, and just bad timing. The Highlander remains a must do open mic. You can see that in the videos….

PS, I also know for sure that I have shown up once or twice at the Highlander in the last year and NOT sung, since I’ve been too late to get on the list. So get there early….

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Germany Edition

August 7, 2014
bradspurgeon

paradeplatz mannheim

paradeplatz mannheim

My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

Germany is perhaps the only country in which my adventure alternated from one city to another, so I have had to tie them together into a single Germany page, uniting the trips to Mannheim and Cologne: So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Germany since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Budapest to Paris Transition, From Szimpla to Sous Marin: But a Common Problem Linking Both Venues

August 4, 2014
bradspurgeon

Szimpla Facade Budapest

Szimpla Facade Budapest

PARIS – I wrote nothing since my days in Budapest, which I left a week ago and spent two days driving back to Paris, via Vienna. But that does not mean I have dropped the open mic adventure. My final night in Budapest I dropped off at the fabulous Szimpla kert to see if one of my all-time-favorite open jam sessions still exists.

I had discovered the Szimpla open mic, open jam in 2011. It was also the year I discovered this now hugely popular phenomenon of the kert, which is a kind of beer garden, but very hippie, very ramshackle, temporary looking multi-space bar area part outdoors, part-indoors that looks a little like a futuristic, post nuclear holocaust meeting place. They are all over Budapest, often in ruined buildings, as is the Szimpla kert.

(This video above shows me playing a horrendously out-of-tune guitar and discovering that I would not be able to sing to my guitar playing at Szimpla, as the mic was turned off for the night due to noise problems.)

The problem, though, is that the jam session has never been what it was in 2009 since I have returned each year. At least it WAS happening this year, because I don’t think it was happening last year. The problem is, Szimpla has now put the emphasis on live bands doing gigs on the stage where the jam takes place, they play early, and when they finish the stage and its instruments is open to anyone who wants to get up and jam – until 11 p.m. Not much time. Worse, it is not possible to use a microphone for vocals once the band is off stage, as they do not want to bother the neighbors.

Szimpla is Not the Only Venue in the World With Neighborly Noise Problems – See Sous Marin in Paris

Bothering the neighbors is a leitmotif in open mics and jams around the world, in fact, in any bar live music venue just about anywhere around the world. So it was that I found once I had returned to Paris and on Friday attended the relatively new Sous Marin bar open mic on the Rue Mouffetard, that they had moved the “stage” from near the front door to the bar end of the room since the last time I attended.

The last time I attended – which was also the first time – I was a little pissed off when I got up behind the mic to find the manager turning down both my guitar and mic volume to the point that not only could the chattering spectators not hear me, but neither could I! A friend asked me to turn up the volume, but I felt I had to obey the manager. (Finally, the MC came and turned it up and things went really well after that, especially when the crowd was reduced.)

Friday, no such luck. The manager pushed me out of his path from the bar to the tables while I was in the middle of a song, and then he returned to turn down the volume of the guitar and the vocals. Given that the three musicians who preceded me were quite audible right to the back of the room, and given that I had been standing in precisely the same spot as one of them, I felt a little bit like my presence was not particularly welcome. So I stopped singing in the middle of the song and left, telling the audience that the great thing about not being a professional musician was that you did not have to be professional about what you do. (There are those who would argue with that – notably a quote I have in mind from a Hollywood mogul of the early part of last century who said something like, “Show me the star who does not give 100 percent all the time, and I’ll show you the next bit-part actor. Show me the bit-part actor who gives 100 percent in every role, and I will show you the next star….”

Anyway…. The bar manager told me that he constantly had problems with the police coming and relaying complaints about the volume of the music. So that was the reason behind putting a muzzle on me. Fair enough. But what good is an open mic where a musician cannot feel wanted, and especially, cannot be heard…? This same manager, by the way, clearly treats musicians well in other respects: It’s one of the rare open mics where performers all get a free beer! And despite my offer to pay my beer even though I had sung only half a song, he insisted it was on the house…. So check it out yourselves, and let me know if I’ve bad-mouthed a great place….

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