Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

More Paradise at the Paradis Jam in Paris

September 26, 2016

Le Paradis

Le Paradis

PARIS – After a long summer break – I HATE THOSE THINGS – the open mic and jam session of the Paradis bar in Paris has started again. I attended on Saturday night, and I can say that this place just cannot put a foot wrong. This time, they changed the location of the “stage” area by putting it in front of the door. In the past, they’ve had it at the opposite end of the main room, and before the past, they had it in the middle of the room. It makes no difference: Once this open mic and jam gets going, it really gets going.

Located just a few steps away from the Barbès metro in one of Paris’s seediest areas, the ambience at this bar could not be better for an open mic. There are always good musicians, there is a manager and owner who loves to have the jam, and there are organizers who never let go.
Cool bit o Brice at Jam at Paradis

And the thing can go on so long that it can tire even me out, and I can arrive later, and still get to play. I really like this place. You don’t have the classic stage where you stand in front of the audience, but one of the things that makes this Paradis bar open mic and jam special is that you are in amongst the audience. Standing on the floor, playing the guitar or bass, or drums, or sax, or whatever you like, and you are not “confined” to a music area. Music is everywhere.
first at jam at Paradis

And then you can go outside and chat on the sidewalk out front.
fourth at jam at paradis

Or go in the back room and sit at a table and chat there. But mostly you’ll want to stand inside and listen to the music or take part. Everything from solo stuff to jamming with a bunch of like minded musicians.
funky rap type thing at jam at paradis

And the beer price is good too!!! Designed for poor musicians.
Nice intro we all know at jam at paradis

nother cool bit o brice guitar

Second at jam at Paradis
Third at jam at paradis

Slingapore Sing, or Poring Out My Emotions in the Heat and Humidity Over the Equator

September 17, 2016

prince-of-walesSINGAPORE – So much for the puns. Singapore is fun. At least for a few days. I’ve been here since Wednesday evening, and managed to attend an open mic at The Beast on Thursday night, and doing a set that must have been close to an hour long set last night at the Prince of Wales pub on Boat Quay. Funny enough, the two things were connected, as it was MB Spinks who invited me to do a set at the PoW, and it was Spinks who used to run the open mic at The Beast. In any case, I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable time in the extreme heat and humidity of this City State 80 or so miles from the equator.

The Beast is my first destination whenever I come to Singapore now, but I must admit, it was just a little bit more quiet than usual on Thursday and I wondered if it was because Mr Spinks was no longer running it. But I have been assured that it had to do with a big music event elsewhere the same night. In any case, the MCing was warm and professional, and I had a really nice night playing at The Beast, which is a kind of American whisky bar in the middle of this hot and humid … gee, I keep repeating that fact. But I have to wear about three shirts per day if I don’t want to be walking around in wet clothes.
First MB Spinks at Prince of Wales in Singapore

Last night, it was off to Boat Quay to the Prince of Wales pub to hear MB Spinks and his cool singer songwriter, slightly country, sound. The Prince of Wales is one of a long line of bars and pubs along the riverfront in downtown Singapore, in a part of town that still has lots of vestiges of the old style of the city – i.e., no skyscrapers.
Second MB Spinks at PoW in Singapore

The pub, like most of the others, opens out onto the quay, and pedestrians pass along the waterfront, walking down Boat Quay, and the “stage” is in the opening area of the pub facing out to the outside tables and the quay. So when you sing, you sing to the tables and clients of the Prince of Wales, but you also sing to the passersby, and hope they stop and listen, and maybe sit down and order a drink.
first at the beast

A huge amount of fun, and also one of the coolest parts of the pub, since there is an air conditioner piping down overhead – although I must admit that my sweat-covered body after the set had not realized until afterwards that there was an air conditioner there. But what would Singapore be without the heat and humidity? A pretty hot place for music and musicians. OK, no more puns….
second at The Beast in Singapore

fourth at the beast

Third at the Beast in Singapore

How the New Ville d’Epinal Open Mic in Paris Inspired Me to Fix the Pick Up of My Guitar – and Other Irrelevant Frivolities

September 12, 2016

Ville d'EpinalPARIS – It was a kind of quiet night on Friday and I had planned to stay home and do some work on my various projects, as I have all week. But I received a message from a Facebook acquaintance who told me he had a friend who was as fascinated with open mics as I am, and I should contact him. So I did, and then I found that he had recently started an open mic near the Gare de L’Est in Paris, and it was for Friday night – which is a pretty barren night for open mics in Paris. So I decided to go and check it out, and use some of my meal tickets to treat myself to a meal out, at what turned out to be an interesting, hidden-away old-time Paris café on a kind of lost street running parallel to the railroad tracks.

It turned out to be the third time the open mic had taken place at this bar restaurant, called the Ville d’Epinal. And it had a nice crowd of people eating, dining, and wanting to see what the even was all about. I ate in the opening of the café with a view of the Gare de l’Est on the one side, and the stage area on the other.
first at the Ville d’Epinal open mic

I then went up and played a few songs, but found that once again my Seagull guitar was lifeless in the amp. Ever since the guitar had been used as a dance floor, despite having the wood surface fixed, the electronics had ceased to be reliable, working only in some places and not others, and giving off a buzz in yet others.

b-band-pick-up-like-the-one-in-my-seagullThis was enough for me, being once again in a situation where I was taking my guitar to an open mic and it wasn’t working. So the next night, Saturday, I decided I would take the whole thing apart and see if I could fix it. The B-Band pick up was, it turned out, pretty cluttered with a furry substance – no idea where that came from – and the connection between the bridge and the pick-up processor looked suspiciously not quite entirely plugged in to its limit. So I unplugged that, then plugged it back in, straightened out some of the wiring, restrung the guitar and put it all back together, and… it worked in an amp and with a cable that half an hour before it had not worked from.

second at the Ville d’Epinal open mic in Paris

So I have concluded that the guitar’s pick-up is now fixed! But I’ll see this week if it continues to work in Singapore, that humid city-state where in the past the pick up has failed to work upon arrival due – I think – to the flight and humidity….

Anyway, this long and meandering post is all to say that I had nice evening out – eating home cooked food – at the new open mic of the Ville d’Epinal café restaurant in Paris near the Gare de l’Est and that thanks to my frustration over my guitar in that place, I have finally got up off my butt and fixed the guitar! Thanks Ville d’Epinal. And I hope the open mic continues, and prospers. Paris has always needed a good Friday-night open mic…as the success of the briefly run open mic at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle last year showed….

An Open Mic is its People – Hosts, Musicians, Bartenders, Managers

September 8, 2016

ant henson

ant henson

PARIS – That above headline is very long for what I am hoping will be a very short post. It’s just to say that I went to two open mics in Paris the other day – Tuesday – and found that the month of August was ALMOST over – despite it being the 6th or so of Sept. – and I had not been to an open mic in Paris for a month. And I found that the thing that really struck me was how everything about an open mic night depends on the people. So I met some good friends at the Féline open mic, played some songs, listened to some songs, but had to run off to meet another friend at the Café Oz open mic, as he was passing through just for one night. Turned out to be an amazing, amazing evening. And that was thanks to the conversation all round, and especially mixed with that, the music.

At the Oz, there were some mighty talented people, including of all places, the woman behind the bar. Suddenly, as one of the finer performers of the night was doing a song the barwoman recognized, she began to sing along. And he had the presence of mind and sense to let HER sing, while he took the backseat. That was Ash Orphan on the guitar – and the barwoman of the Oz. Check out that video.
Ant Henson’s fabulous antiwar protest song

And for me, the high moment of the night, musically, was Ant Henson, from England, passing through Paris after a long trip around this part of Europe and North Africa. His anti-war song, his protest song, that he had just written on the first part of the trip – or just before – is absolutely fabulous. He sang it on his first swing through five or six weeks ago. And he did it even better on Tuesday night. Just a fabulous song, a fabulous delivery, and I really wish he could record this protest song – for me, it speaks for his generation. And to me. He also did another new song, which was really great too – but the anti-war one had grown on me already. Check it out in my video here on this page.
Singing barwoman at the Café Oz

Well, there it is, the highs and highs of an open mic night in Paris, thanks to the participants. Oh, I really enjoyed myself when I did a couple of songs at the Oz too, and particularly when Ant Henson backed me up on “I Won’t Back Down,” on his harmonica.
Jules at the Feline

A new Ant Henson song at Café Oz

Seb MC opens Feline Open Mic

Another at Café Oz open mic

“Out of a Jam” Now Up on Bandcamp – With the Lyrics to the Songs

September 5, 2016

Out of a Jam

Out of a Jam

PARIS – Back in Paris after a long train ride from Milan, I’ve finally finished putting up on Bandcamp my CD, “Out of a Jam,” that I released this year. This is the first of what I’m planning to be many different releases for the CD on various sites – iTunes, etc. – and I really like this particular site, Bandcamp. Anyway, what is really really cool about the Bandcamp site is that it incited – no pun intended – me to use their feature to put up the lyrics of the songs too. So for the first time, I have put up the music – these are the mastered versions of the songs exactly like on the CD (my SoundCloud versions were not mastered) – as well as the lyrics, and where I feel I have some grasp of the names of the actual chords that I play, I have put up the chords too! So go check out “Out of a Jam” on, if you do not already have a copy of the CD. Well, what the hell, go check it out even if you do!

The Crazy Open Jam of the Spazio Ligera – Finally a Cool Music Scene in Milan

September 3, 2016

Spazio LigeraMILAN, Italy – The via Padova part of town in Milan, is apparently a little bit of the seedy corner of things. But I didn’t notice any of that last night as I took part in the coolest jam session I have yet been in in this otherwise not very musical – in the pop music sense – city. Oh, once upon a time I had another fabulous jam similar to this, at the anarchist’s club not far from the location of last night’s jam at the Spazio Ligera. And it should be no surprise, then, that the way I found out about this regular, if occasional, jam at this music bar/venue was thanks to my friend Emiliano Laurenzi – who plays the didgeridoo – the very man who had organized the anarchists’ jam at the Circolo Anarchico Ponte della Ghisolfa seven years ago!

Seven years between amazing jams? Of course, I’ve attended the blues jam at Frontera regularly since then, but that is a blues jam. The Chitarrata at the Ligera last night was a jam the likes of which I have only really run into before in Sao Paulo, with everyone gathering around a table and spread out throughout the café and playing whatever instrument comes to hand, with any song that they feel like. Last night I heard more Italian songs in one single night than I’ve ever heard anywhere, and they ranged from pop to rock to the song of the resistance against fascism. But there was also Bob Dylan, 4 Non-Blondes and everything you can imagine in between from the 60s on up to today.
Third at Ligera in Milan

Spiral DidgeridooEmiliano was there, too, with the most bizarre didgeridoo that I have ever seen: A mini, snail-shaped, or spiral, handheld didgeridoo that seemed to have a voice as big as the long, encumbering instrument we know so much better. There were at least four guitar players, a bongo, a kazoo and I don’t know what all else. And vocalists galore. Amazingly, I was never really intimidated by a situation that usually makes me feel a little ill-at-ease, playing with no microphone. But it was best to find a vocal that could be belted out very loud above the din of the joyous gathering of people at the Ligera.
Second at Ligera in Milan

The walls of this underground café are covered with photos and posters of crime movies, and other interesting pop culture phenomena – I also noticed some kind of Stratocaster hung up high on the wall above our head – and I regret that I missed my chance to delve into the cave to take a look at the regular concert space, which in the photos looks like a typical European vaulted cave room. (Think “Cavern Club.”) It is there that Ligera usually holds its gigs with local bands. On occasions when there is no gig lined up, they often decide to hold an open jam like last night’s on the ground floor of the bar.
Fifth at Ligera in Milan

Incidentally, the café is also called a 70s café, whatever that is. All I know is that it was a fabulous cross-section of people attending, and there was as much warmth coming from the jam as there was from the other people in the bar there just to talk, occasionally listen and occasionally sing. It completely and totally lifted my previous sense of Milan as a pretty stuffy place musically speaking into being as capable as any other city of having a very cool and musically vibrant scene.
First at Ligera in Milan

It also confirmed my desire NEVER to jump to conclusions about a city’s musical environment when I have a very poor grasp of the language and cannot therefore easily find the musical get-togethers. To say nothing of my unfortunate timing in Milan in early September when everyone and every venue is still contemplating summer at Lake Como or some cooler place. How could I possibly have found out about this “Chitarrata” without a little help from my friend….

A Musical Experience in Milan – or Rather, in the Paddock at Monza… Joan Thiele

September 1, 2016

Joan ThieleMONZA, Italy – So far so horrible on the level of my open mic experiences in Milan. Followers of this blog will have noticed – or not – that in the last few years I have mostly been playing on Thursday night at a blues jam in a bar/restaurant called Fermento. Well, this year, this very night in fact, that jam don’t exist no more!!!! But I have had a really, really fun and very cool musical experience in Italy in the least expected of places: In the Formula One paddock in Monza, where I do my day job this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix. How so? It gets kind of long and complicated, so I’ll skip that for the moment, but let me just say that the experience was all about a mini-concert given in the motor home of one of the Formula One teams, by an Italian singer-songwriter by the name of Joan Thiele. I’ll try to get the rest of that story down here in as few words as possible, but that won’t be easy….

So it turns out that the Formula One team, called Manor, has as one of its sponsors, the music app called Shazam. And it turns out that Shazam is doing few little mini concerts around the world in conjunction with Formula One. (Does that sound like an alternative to the tiny desk concerts on NPR??!! In a way it is!) And it turns out that they try to use a local musician each time. So, as the PR woman at Manor knew that I was interested in music, she asked me if I had seen they were going to have a mini-motor-home-concert in Monza tonight. As it turned out, a sucker for the image of a microphone, I had indeed noticed this playbill outside the motorhome not three minutes before.
Joan Thiele – Save Me

So I went to the mini motorhome concert and found that, on the top floor of the motorhome – henceforth to be called a hospitality suite – they had set up a beautiful little playing area for the musician. There was a Fender Stratocaster, a ukulele, a couple of amplifiers, a microphone, and a mixing table. I felt envy and desire to go and play. Until I heard the musician, and said, no, I just want to listen to this. Enter Joan Thiele. What a mix of everything: A father who is Swiss, Italian, Canadian, Colombian, and who knows what all else, and Joan’s mother also a mix from one or two of those areas, and Joan having grown up partly in Colombia, but living in Italy now, and having spent two or three years in England, and learning her trade at open mics etc., this woman of – I think – 22 years old, got up with her Strat and used it as a kind of electro-music surrogate, and her voice too. Vocals that reminded me to a degree of Lana del Ray, and a sound that goes in that same direction – that’s my feeling, but there’s much more (in fact, I had a colleague who thought one of the songs reminded him of, “Down on my knees, I’m beggin’ ya…) – I listened quite hypnotised to the five or six songs she played. (Another colleague said she had Brooke Shield’s eyebrows.)
Joan Thiele – Taxi Driver

And I suddenly found myself forgetting I was in the Formula One paddock. As it turned out, I need not forget this: The Formula One paddock is a hugely diverse place. And it also turns out, then, that in that world, another of the reasons that we had Joan Thiele – who is working on her first album, and her A&R person from Universal Music was there with her – is also represented by Trident Management, which is a management and promotions agency that also owns one of the Formula One support race teams in the series known as GP2, the Trident Motorsport team. So it all suddenly fit together, in a way. Trident also represents two very well-know Italian musicians, Eros Ramazzotti and Jovanotti.
Joan Thiele – Hotline Bling

In any case, the other thing that fits together is that this being within the Formula One paddock, I, as a print media man with a print media pass, cannot use the video I made of Joan’s hypnotizing performance. The Formula One promoter sells audio visual rights to the television and radio companies for huge sums of money, and that then means that print media journalists cannot use any audio visual footage – or sound files – that they gather in the paddock, without fear of huge problems.

So my recordings will have to wait for the future. But in the meantime, I’ve decided to cut and paste some of Joan Thiele’s music videos that I find on the web into the blog to show who it was I got to hear and speak to today in the Formula One paddock and feel that from a musical point of view, my trip to Italy, even if it wreaps no musical stage-time for me, will have been fulfilling in another way! A nice discovery. Check her out, Joan Thiele.

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