Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Facing the Face – Finally – and Chanting the Chansonniers (again)

December 21, 2014
bradspurgeon

Face Bar

Face Bar

PARIS – I have had a week of many open mics and little gigs, even if I have not much been present on this blog for another reason (the editing of a teaser that has sucked up all of my free time). But while I will not write about all the little gigs and shows and open mics that I attended, I do want to mention two that I did on Wednesday night.

I had heard of the very occasional open mic at the Face Bar on the Rue des Archives for what feels like at least a year, but I was never free and in Paris at the same time as the open mic. So I never attended. But on Wednesday evening, I had the time and was in the right place – Paris.

The Face is a tiny little bar that reminds me in some ways of what I think the Shebeen bar must have been like in its days as the wildest open mic in Paris in the middle and second half of last decade. And as it turns out, The Face open mic is run by a regular musician at the Shebeen and features others who go back to that period – or at least one other last Wednesday.

It is a free-for-all open mic with no list, and a pretty average sound system at the back of the room blocking entry to the toilets. So as you play, you get to move aside occasionally for the movement of clients going to the toilet…which is charming in its way!

The atmosphere is really cool and laid back, and it’s particularly “rock ‘n roll,” as was the Shebeen. It is run by Paul Hazan, who now has a band called Electric Discharge Machine, and was previously in Mister Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes. I’ve always been a fan of Paul’s raspy-voiced singing and the songs that sound like mid-1960s garage rock, and are strong on melody.

Unfortunately I missed Paul’s singing on Wednesday, and as it turned out, after I played several songs and listened to a couple of other performers, I decided to run off from the Marais to the once-per-month Chansonnier open mic in Menilmontant. There it was much more quiet and laid-back, and having lost its regular MC the open mic at this small hotel – in the lobby – has a completely different feel to it, and a completely different kind of “free-for-all.”

But the important thing was having fun singing, and that I did.

So that was my pretty short and insignificant blog post of the day – and unfortunately the week… but I’m hoping to show off that teaser at some point soon….

Bombarding the Bombardier and Midnight at the Oasis

December 13, 2014
bradspurgeon

Open Mic at Bombardier Paris

Open Mic at Bombardier Paris

PARIS – I finally got a real chance to attend and play at the new Bombardier open mic in Paris on the Place du Pantheon on Thursday. I mentioned it in a previous post, but that night was not the right one to go into a loud, raucous pub environment where there is often little interest by the clients in listening, and lots of interest in talking. In the end, on Thursday night, I didn’t care who listened, I just wanted to sing.

So it was that I went to the Bombardier, a cozy student pub in the middle of the Latin Quarter, and I sang a few songs, and several other people sang a few songs, and the crowd died out sufficiently at one point that there were even a majority of people listening. In fact, I am certain I will return to this open mic – run on Thursday by Brislee Adams, who also MCs the Tennessee on Mondays and the Café Oz Blanche on Tuesdays. It’s a good fun, relaxed environment, and the sound system was really fine to play on, even if the sound may not make it to the other side of the pub during the height of chatter. But that’s hardly unique to the Bombardier as far as the world’s open mics go.

And then to the Oasis 244 in Stalingrad for a Concert and a Bit More Playing

Last night, Friday, I had the idea to go and hear my music friend John Redford perform in a new weekly gig he has at a small bar in the Stalingrad neighborhood, called the Oasis 244, just around the corner from the Point Ephemere and near the Quais de Seine, Metros Stalingrad and Jaures. John was playing his electric guitar and singing, and accompanying him on sax was Stephen Saxo, from Pittsburgh.

It was a really small bar, this small Oasis, and apparently it has an open jam session every second Thursday. The stage is small and cute, and John’s small sound system actually was not that bad. After John played his crooning melodies of cover songs and personal compositions, he opened the stage to anyone who wanted to play. He was careful to point out that it was not an open mic, but he wants to open the stage from time to time when it feels right.

I was thankful for that last night, since that meant I could do some songs with Stephen Saxo, and also try John’s Stratocaster. I later played on a classical guitar. But when midnight arrived, the bar owner said that was the end of the music, for fear of bothering the neighbors. So get there early if you plan to go. (John has no further gigs there until 2015.)

All in all, two fun and rewarding musical evenings in Paris now that I finally feel that I’m coming down to the ground and landing two or three weeks after the sixth worldwide open mic adventure….

Bonus video!!::

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Abu Dhabi

December 10, 2014
bradspurgeon

bait al oud

bait al oud

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 Abu Dhabi since I first started.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Brazil

December 8, 2014
bradspurgeon

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

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 Sao Paulo since I first started.

The Musical – or Lack of It – Weekend in Abu Dhabi

December 7, 2014
bradspurgeon

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi

PARIS – So I am now back two weeks ago to the weekend in Abu Dhabi, the last weekend of my worldwide musical travel for 2014. This totally absurd approach that I’ve been taking in the last week of back-tracking through time in my web log of my life (remember where the word blog comes from, and what it is?), brings me therefore to the musical weekend that essentially was not.

In closing off my sixth year of travelling the world with my guitar – wherever my job as a Formula One journalist takes me – I therefore arrive at an uncharacteristically disappointing weekend. I’ve only failed to play in a bar or other venue in a country about three times in the full six years of the adventure.

But Abu Dhabi has never been one of the easiest places to find somewhere to play, and I now have a much greater understanding than ever as to why. But first the good news: I now know of two regular open mics in Abu Dhabi, but one of them – on Sunday night – was disappointingly cancelled on the weekend I was there, for the Formula One race!!! The other was not scheduled for that weekend anyway, as it is just once a month.

But the truth is that Abu Dhabi, which is a fabulous city in many ways, has amongst the world’s most Draconian laws for musicians wishing to play in public. I found this out firsthand two weeks ago when a contact in Formula One who was working with a client at a very big hotel in Abu Dhabi offered to me to do a gig at the hotel. He had learned that I play my guitar and sing wherever I go, and he very kindly offered me to play at this hotel.

I agreed. But then the hotel management got in touch with me to arrange the whole thing, and according to the laws in Abu Dhabi, we had to undergo a few formalities: Could I please send my passport, my mother’s full maiden name and a list of the songs I intended to sing. I felt a little peeved that it all came to so much work for the hotel people, but since they were nice enough to go this far to offer me a stage and a mic, and considering I figured it would all be a great adventure for this blog – and my life in general – I sent a scan of the passport, my mother’s maiden name and a list of the songs I intended to sing (as well as a link to my personal music site Brad Spurgeon Music, so they could hear my songs I would sing).

Back to a French Moment and “open mic” at the Mercure in Abu Dhabi

As I awaited their response and the day and time for the gig, I visited a Mercure hotel for a meal, and what should I find but a duet from France singing French classic songs. At one point, a man from the audiences asked if he could sing a song, and the couple accepted. So we had a kind of open mic. On the other hand, I did not bring my guitar to the meal and so had nothing to play with, and anyway, I figured I had my gig coming up, so I was not desperate.

The next morning as I went to the circuit for a day of work, I passed through the spectator area and there I found an Englishman doing a solo guitar-voice gig for the empty canteen area in the extreme heat of Abu Dhabi. He had a fabulous voice, I videoed him, and then went to speak to him. He lives in Dubai, was just doing the gig at the race, and told me how doing musical gigs in Abu Dhabi required a lot of paperwork – i.e., if I had any idea of playing on his stage, forget it!

So it was that the weekend slipped by, I played my guitar in my hotel room several times, but with no response coming from the hotel after I sent my passport, mother’s maiden name and song list, I never DID get a gig. And at the same time, I did not further press the poor management person at the hotel. It was, after all, my last musical adventure of the year, I had a massive number of articles to write about the exciting Formula One season, and when I thought about it, I actually DID have a kind of musical adventure to write about on this blog….

And a Trio of Performers at the Abracadabar

December 5, 2014
bradspurgeon

abracadabar

abracadabar

PARIS – On my exploration through time past, I have now arrived at last Thursday and an evening at the Abracadabar, with a trio of musicians performing a trio of sets in a single evening’s singer-songwriter concert format.

It was something of a perfect trio, in fact, with Ventru starting the evening with his probing style of lyrics and guitar, followed by Raphaëlle Pessoa with her eclectic, emotional and multilingual songs, to Shelita Burke, with her impressionistic vocal acrobatics.

The Abracadabar, is a mainstay of Paris singer-songwriters, being located near the Quais de Seine, in the Crimée area of Paris, and with an excellent sound system, soundman and comfortable stage, all separated from the main barroom by part of a wall and curtains (when needed).

I’ve attended concerts and the open mic they sometimes hold at this great little place off the beaten track, but the trio last week was one of the warmest times I’ve had so far.

And finally, as I stepped forward in time in my previous post, I want to just note in this one that the music-hall show that I mentioned in the previous post and put on by Raphaëlle Pessoa in her alter-ego, “Stella,” not only took place last night without a hitch and in triumph at the So Gymnase, but it also got a great review in a great French cultural web site called, Toute la Culture. The reviewer summed up the show and Raphaëlle’s talents perfectly, in a great story under a headline that perfectly sums up the show in a phrase: in “Stella dans tous ses éclats,” Raphaëlle Pessoa brings music-hall to the employment office!

Playing Acoustic at the 46 Pigalle and other Tales and Announcements

December 3, 2014
bradspurgeon

46 PigallePARIS – O.K., so where was I in my backwards step through time? Yes, yes, on Saturday, I attended a DJ night and open mic run momentarily by the inimitable Calvin Dionnet at a very cool microscopic bar of the kind I love, on the rue Pigalle.

This was the very new hole-in-the-wall bar called 46 Pigalle, located just down the street from the famous Place of the same name. Calvin, whom I have known for years – first meeting at Earle’s open mic at the Truskel in Paris – had a DJ night going at this very cool bar, and said that the first hour would be devoted to an open mic. Acoustic. No amp. Truth is, I don’t like playing without an amp most of the time. But at the 46 there was no problem at all, and I had no risk of being 86d.

In fact, it was a snug, fun, neat time playing for a crowd of expatriates passing through, and in a very intimate setting. The bar is really worth checking out, so keep an eye on the link I posted above, and especially if there happens to be another little impromptu open mic….

From there I went on to a crazy raucous evening at the Baroc – where I have frequently written about the Tuesday night open mic – where the musician who calls himself “SheMe” was celebrating one of his many birthdays…. It was crazy mad, with lots of music throughout the evening, and a kind of vibe that only the Baroc can drum up – something phantasmagoric in the barfly style.

Let’s Break the Rules and Make an Announcement or Two

As it turns out, right in the middle of trying to back pace myself in time and talk about my life over the last couple of “missing” weeks on this blog, I have decided to throw a spanner into the works and write about two events tomorrow that I am greatly looking forward to attending. One of them I will not attend, since I will attend the other – but since the first is just the first of many, I’ll attend in future….

So the first has to do with a meeting of a group of optimists on the Ile St. Louis in the center of Paris. I’ll be writing more about the location of this meeting in future, as it is a new cultural, event, optimist center on this great island in the middle of Paris, and I’m looking forward to returning. The point is, if you’re around tomorrow and want to check it out, I’m sure you will leave feeling more optimistic about life: It is a gathering of a group put together by Marie Deschamps, a leader among optimists. And it promises much more than just talk, if you can read French and see the invitation.

Stella dans tous ses éclats

Stella dans tous ses éclats

But I myself will be attending – and helping to put on – the brilliant show written, produced and performed by Raphaëlle Pessoa, whom I have no problem saying at once is one of the most brilliant young talents I know of in France at the moment. Raphaëlle’s show, “Stella dans tous ses eclats,” is a brilliantly written one-woman-show comprising dialogue, song and fun. She sings in English, French and Spanish, songs of her own composing as well as classic cabaret pieces like “Mein Herr,” or French popular songs by Dalida and others. In general, I’m no big fan of cabaret, but this is brilliant. It’s taking place at the So Gymnase Comedy Club, but it is not comedy, more every emotion possible….

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