Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

The Lesser Visited – for the Moment and for Me – Open Mics in Paris

October 21, 2014
bradspurgeon

cabaret culture rapide in the snow

cabaret culture rapide in the snow

PARIS – I’m a little late in reporting about my open mic activities from last Thursday and Friday, but as so often happens, life intervened. But I just had to mark my marking of my territory in these two cool open mics in Paris where I have been in the past but rarely go to. Any other theme? Yes, both have recently had their MCs change, and both have taken on a new feel for it.

The first is in the bar near the Bourse called the Kolok. Every Thursday night now for two or three years there has been an open mic. I attended maybe only once in the past, and at the time I was a little disappointed with the wall of sound from the customers who did not seem to be there for the open mic, but just as a neat, cool, little bar alternative to the more busy Truskel, not far around the corner.

Last Thursday, though, with the open mic now being run by Guillaume, a rock-spirited guitar player and singer who uses and acoustic guitar, the feeling was quite different than my first experience there. I met several people I know from other open mics, and the evening closed off with a jam. Always a great sign. I will returned.

From the Kolok, to the Cabaret Culture Rapide

On Friday night I decided to venture forth to the Cabaret Culture Rapide, an open mic I have attended and written about a lot more than the Kolok. In fact, I often used to go to the Cabaret Culture Rapide Thursday jam session, even though it was not quite my style. But when I learned recently that the delightful Terrebrune has taken over running the Friday open mic, I went.

The one drawback and challenge of this open mic is that it is now, and always has been, completely acoustic. No mic for the voice, and no amp for the guitar or other instrument. So although the bar is postage stamp size, you still have to have a voice that carries – or you have to select your songs where your voice carries best.

Terrebrune has brought a great feel of organization and a warm personality to this open mic, and it was a thoroughly fun evening, again, playing a first set of two songs, followed by a final song near midnight, after the full list of performers for the evening had finished playing. Definitely worth the occasional visit, but keep in mind that lack of mic – both a disadvantage and a challenge…which has its advantages.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Istanbul

October 16, 2014
bradspurgeon

Istanbul

Istanbul

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.

Because the last race that I attended was in Sochi, Russia, and it was the first time that I have been there, I did not have any material aside from my weekend’s experience there there year to constitute a part of the Worldwide open mic multimedia thing. So what I have done instead, is to take a race that used to exist, and where I have a lot of material, and which no longer exists. In that way, I have fit into the multimedia adventure a race location in the place of Sochi, and made use of a major part of the adventure:

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

Jamming at the Bruderschaft Beer House in Sochi, Russia

October 13, 2014
bradspurgeon

The Bruderschaft is in the background.

The Bruderschaft is in the background.

SOCHI, Russia – Just when I thought I had finally failed for the first time ever in the last six years that I have been attending Formula One races around the world and vowing to find a place to play at each event, just at the last moment, the last night in Sochi, Russia, at the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, that’s when I left the restaurant, walked out the door and heard the sound of live music. Suddenly, I had a hope, a last ditch, last attempt, last offering, possibility of perhaps being able to play on stage in Russia.

So I looked around and saw across from the Russian restaurant where I had eaten – the Graf Orlov – and also across from the facing Italian restaurant where I had eaten on the previous two nights – the Il Bacilico – that there was a massive beer house called the Bruderschaft, and that the music emanated from within. It also turned out to be the same location where I knew some journalist colleagues had gone for a few drinks. So failing the possibility of playing music, there would at least be a bit of conversation to be had.

This whole complex, you must understand, is part of the Azimut Hotel on the site of the former Winter Olympics, now right next to the Sochi Autodrom Formula One circuit, where the inaugural Russian Grand Prix took place yesterday. The area was full of Formula One teams, journalists and other personnel, in addition to spectators and other Grand Prix related people. It was the same complex where I had played in my hotel lobby on the first two nights – only noted once on this blog – and while it was all very comfortable, I had realized that in choosing a location to stay near the racetrack, I had also found myself in a world without the kind of nightlife that was likely to spawn an open mic, open jam, or other open live music event. Wrong.

So I walk into the Bruderschaft, and I am approached by a woman manager, and she asks if I want a table. I say, “Well, I really want to sing, play music.” “Yes, of course, you can do that.” I looked at her in disbelief, and then looked at the funny little covered stage in the middle of the beer house bar, and on the stage were three musicians: A guitarist who also sang, a man on saxophone and another on keyboards.

It turned out that the man on guitar singing was just another client, and that the other two were the house musicians. It turned out, even better, that another one or two people from the public went up on stage afterwards, and when I asked if I could play and sing, the answer from the stage, too, was sure, of course.

And so it was that I had discovered, if not quite an open mic…yes, an open mic. And so it was that I played “Wicked Game” and “I Won’t Back Down,” me on the electric guitar and vocals, and the keyboard player on the keyboards and the saxophone player on the sax. And boy, was it fun. Playing Russia, just when I figured I had been defeated and would for the first time not play in a new country where I was visiting for my work.

I had not forced myself to take the train to the downtown, central part of this vast ocean front holiday resort area, the southern Russian holiday mecca. I had not taken the risk, despite going all the way to Russia, to go then all the way into the downtown area and spend hours searching the streets maybe only to either find nothing, or to play until it was so late I could not find my way back. After all, I had a job to do. But then, there it was, done, I’d found a place to play on stage with Russian musicians in Russia. What a blast! Hope I get to go again next year, and then I’ll search further afield.

I did, by the way, check out the beachfront area of nearby Adler, which was ten minutes away in a taxi. But it was so stretched out in area, also, that trying to sort my way around all the many bars and pubs and music joints, as just too bit a thing to do in a single night. I was in Sochi for around five nights, but the logistics after choosing the Olympic Village as my hotel area, were just not up to it.

In any case, there it was, on my doorstep from the beginning. At the Bruderschaft in the Azimut Hotel area in Sochi. And the open armed, open mic policy of the musicians and the management, was just like what I find everywhere else in the world, when it comes to music joints and vibes. Check it out!

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Japan

October 10, 2014
bradspurgeon

osaka

osaka

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 Japan since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Russian Musical Adventures, Day 1

October 9, 2014
bradspurgeon

Sochi

Sochi

SOCHI, Russia – Arrived in the former Sochi Olympic village late last night after a long day of travel from Paris – which followed 33 hours of travel the previous day from Japan – and found myself with a very limited amount of time to get a meal. So I ran over to the nearest restaurant, carrying my guitar on my back only because it contained my evening’s reading material and my computer and other bits and pieces that I had no time to unpack.

I ate a wonderful meal of beef Strogonoff and had some Russian red wine along with it. Had some nice conversation with colleagues and returned to the hotel, still with my guitar on my back, but at around 1 a.m., I figured there was no point at all in seeking out any kind of musical venue – especially in this former Olympic Village environment.

But as I entered the hotel lobby, I had to ask the man at the front desk if there had been any work done on my non-existent wifi connection in my room, and when he said “no,” I decided to sit there and do a bit of Internet stuff, since the wifi worked in the lobby.

That’s when that man asked me about my guitar. I decided to take it out and show him my guitar; then I asked if it was empty of guest rooms on the ground floor, and he said it was. So I decided to sing a song. We were joined by the security guard, and it turned out he is a bass player, so he wanted to see my guitar. SO then he played a bit, and then I played a bit more, then I played a bit more than that, and soon we were having a kind of open mic….

Well, better than that, much better, was that the two of them then started showing me some Russian music stars, and suddenly, I found myself, thanks to the guitar, feeling as if I was learning about Russian pop culture in a way that I had no idea of until then. I really liked this musician they kept on playing on the videos, and so I’m going to share one of his songs here:

The pop star’s name is Andrei Makarevich, and everyone knows him here. But what I did not learn about him until I got to the racetrack today and met a Russian journalist friend, is that Andrei Makarevich is now no longer well-loved by everyone, because he is considered far too pro-American…. And so just when I thought I was finding a place without politics….

Anyway, it was a fabulous first night, and a real eye-opener. And I was delighted to have a place to play, even if it was just the hotel lobby… and even if I was helped by the Russian red wine….

An Anniversary at the Amazing Plastic Factory, a Jam at the Fabulous Nanbanya – a Night to Remember in Nagoya

October 6, 2014
bradspurgeon

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

NAGOYA, Japan – It has been 10 years now that Heinz Senn and his Plastic Factory have been drawing people together for art shows, open mics, concerts, DJ dances, pole dances and just plain drinking at the bar. And on Saturday night, the Plastic Factory celebrated that decade of presence in the Imaike neighborhood of Nagoya with an all night party, pole dancers, a wild DJ and lots of dancing.

The great thing about the Plastic Factory for me, is that it has this absolutely perfect mix of Japanese people and foreigners from the U.S., Canada, England, Australia, Germany, Switzerland – Heinz’s nationality – and just about anywhere else you can imagine. But, yes, an expat venue that attracts local Japanese people as well.

I missed the open mic by a week, unfortunately, but it was an honor to be able to make it to the 10-year anniversary. To share a little bit of the feel, I did some videos of the pole dancers….

And from the Plastic Factory, off I went down the street to the Nanbanya jam

I had to work the next day, though, so there was no way I could stay very late at the fabulous Plastic Factory party. And yet, I knew that my walk back to the hotel would pass me by the entrance to the Nanbanya bar that is only about five minutes’ walk from the Plastic Factory.

I discovered Nanbanya two years ago and was unable to make it there last year. But I’m really glad I did this year. It was Saturday night jam night, but I arrived late enough that the music was not really in full swing anymore. The crowd had died out to a night comfortable 15 or so people maximum, and a handful of musicians. People were chatting, going to the stage area to play a bit, returning to chat, returning to play… it was a much more laid back experience musically, i.e., more acoustic than the usual more rock and blues kind of full band thing.

But at one point I had my guitar, vocals, a lead player, bass player and drummer playing along with me. It was bliss. I got to do a few songs with two different guys playing lead along with me, too. I love Nanbanya, because the people are very cool, there are some great musicians, the bar itself is underground, long, low, comfy, and the stage area is well lit, a good sound system, and lots of instruments available.

After leaving the party at the Plastic Factory in full raucous swing, it was great to cool down at the Nanbanya and relax and play some music before returning to the hotel and readying myself for the last, nearly tragic, day of work in Suzuka. (A French driver, Jules Bianchi, was seriously injure in a crash.)

Jammin’ at the R&B Melrose, Nagoya, Japan, Chapter 6

October 3, 2014
bradspurgeon

R&B Melrose, Nagoya

R&B Melrose, Nagoya

NAGOYA – Got nothing done but a pizza eaten on my first night in Japan, in Osaka, before I checked out a music joint only to find it was not open for another 7 minutes, and I was too tired to move. So I returned to the hotel and didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours. That’s travel. So last night in Nagoya, for the first night here, I decided that nothing in the world would stop me checking out R&B Melrose, where the open mic night happens on Thursdays, and which I have played in once a year for the last five years.

So it was that after a quick meal of fried chicken and noodles, I dropped by the R&B Melrose and got greeted in the usual fabulously warm and kind manner from the owners, and got my beer and took to the stage. I played I don’t know how many songs, many by myself, many others with a couple of the other musicians who were there for the open mic. The R&B Melrose is a basement bar the main purpose of which is to have live music. The stage is comfortable cool and there are instruments all over the place for the public: Drums, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, bass… you name it….

Did Mad World with one of them on the piano and the other on lead guitar. As I realized that it was my sixth time at this very cool and simple open mic with its devoted bar owners, here in Japan’s third biggest city, I realized just how much sake had gone under the bridge since then. (OK, water. I think I might have drunk sake once in Japan.) And I realized that I was using my same Seagull acoustic since that first visit to the R&B Melrose, and that it had been around the world 6 times now, too.

If I can, I’ll be back next year. But first, the rest of the weekend in Japan….

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