Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Update of Thumbnail Guide to Milan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music

December 28, 2016
bradspurgeon

Milan

Milan

I have updated my Thumbnail Guide to Milan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. I’m pretty disappointed that the moment I update this guide is also the moment I lose the mainstay listing of the Fermento bar, which stopped its open mic/open jam. But thankfully, I do get to add a new open mic, the even cooler one at the Bachelite CLab bar that takes place every second Thursday….

So take a visit to my Thumbnail Guide to Milan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

So check it out!

(PS: Update to the update!: I’ve also added the new quasi open mic/open jam of the Spazio Ligera, which I discovered in September, and which is one of my favorite bars in Milan now, although the open mic/open jam is not regular – as you can see by my description on the Guide.)

Another Visit to the Snug in Nice, This Time on the Ground Floor

December 20, 2016
bradspurgeon

snug pub nice

snug pub nice

NICE, France – Another of my great frustrations on my worldwide open mic travels is that I am rarely in Nice on a Monday, which is the night that one of the coolest pubs in the Old Town holds its open mic. The open mic at The Snug has been going on for several years now, and last night was only the second time I have been able to attend the Snug’s Monday open mic, again this time not because I was passing through Nice for the Monaco Grand Prix – my usual reason – but again for personal reasons, as I spent a night in Nice on my way back to Paris from Milan. The Snug, was very intimate this time, located not in the basement “cave” but at the back of the ground floor in a tight, small, intimate space.

I was fortunate enough to be able to arrive late and still take part, thanks to the kind hosts, as the open mic usually stops at midnight, and by the time I played just before midnight, there were still a few people to get up behind the mic.
First at the Snug open mic in Nice

Nice feels to me like it has a growing open mic scene, and while the open mic at The Snug was started by someone else a few years ago, it has managed to pass from one MC to another and remain alive, where often an open mic can only survive its original, founding host. In this case, I think it’s thanks to the cool, laid back management of this amazingly authentic pub, and the fact that the open mic atmosphere is fabulously warm whether it be performed in the basement room or the ground floor.
Second at the Snug open mic in Nice

A real winner, in a city that is clearly more lively during the summer than in the cool and wet of December.
Third at the Snug open mic in Nice

Finally, a New – for Me (and, in fact, its Patrons) – Open Mic Experience in Milan

December 17, 2016
bradspurgeon

Bachelite CLab Milano

Bachelite CLab Milano

MILAN – It has always been one of my greatest frustrations in my worldwide open mic travels that my annual visits to Italy coincide with the Italian equivalent of the French month of August vacation. That is to say, I always arrive in early September, when Milan is still in its annual June, July, August, September and October annual vacation. This is the period when all of the open mics and jam sessions in the city are closed down for the festive half year of inactivity that affects the entire city. Added to that is the fact that there just are not that many open mics in Milan. But now that I am in Milan for personal reasons in the month of December, I have finally been able to attend an open mic of a kind that I would never have attended before.

Having said that, the new open mic at the Bachelite CLab bar has only been going for a couple of months or so. But last night’s edition showed me that this must be one of the most fun, best open mics in the city. The bar is a lively, cool, stylish and easy going joint in the middle of a bunch of apartment buildings near the Porta Vittoria metro. The stage is not on the ground floor, but in a highly perched mezzanine above the bar and drinking area. This makes for a kind of area for the musician – complete with piano – that allows for a feeling of both complete freedom on your own as you perform, but also a contact with the audience below, any time you choose to connect with them with your eyes.
Italian song at Bachelite CLab

And you know they are listening when you see them looking up at the perch. The sound system is devotedly taken care of by the Doc – the guy who runs the open mic – and others, and there is a mic, a board to plug in several instruments, and it was no holds barred in terms of the kind of formation of musicians and the music. Both Italian stuff, and the usual U.S.-Brit-Canada whatever pop rock folk blues stuff….
Another bit at Bachelite CLab Milano open mic

Although it is completely an open mic, it is also totally open to the jam style of event too, where several musicians can go up and play with each other, as happened with me in a second set with a guy on a cajon.
Although I think that the open mic is supposed to go on officially until only around 11:30 – starting at 9:00 PM – last night they decided there were enough musicians and enough enthusiasm to keep going until 1 or 2 AM. The great sign of it all is that I cannot remember until what time we played. If that is not the highest accolade to an open mic, I don’t know what is!

Paris Photo Shoot and “Out of a Jam” on all Music Download and Streaming Sites

December 11, 2016
bradspurgeon

Brad Spurgeon by Pierre Nguyen

Brad Spurgeon by Pierre Nguyen

PARIS – At about the same time in the fall, I had a fabulous day in a hot, Indian Summer in Paris in a park and on the Seine River shooting with a photo group that wanted to do photos of musicians, and I released my CD, Out of a Jam, online.  

With the photoshoot, a Paris “meet-up” that I found on Facebook, I jumped at the opportunity and it resulted in some nice photos.  It felt more special with that coinciding with the release of my album, “Out of a Jam,” on all the usual online music sites, a few months after the album came out in CD format. I finally got the photos up on my personal music site, and BradSpurgeonMusic.com in a gallery.

Check out the gallery and check out the album at all the usual suspects: iTunesSpotifyBandcamp, and who knows how many others!

Mad World – around the (mad) world

December 9, 2016
bradspurgeon

The World

The World

PARIS – Regular readers of this blog will know that one of the songs I sing most often on my world travels is the now classic Tears for Fears song, “Mad World.” I really don’t know how this came to be a staple of my open mic stage repertoire. Well, except that I like playing it, everyone seems to know it, and it turns out to be one of the few songs that I feel really comfortable playing impromptu when I’ve got other musicians on stage, none of whom I have ever played with.

With the recent absolutely MAD events around the world – such things as the Donald Trump election, Brexit, Italy, who knows what in France, and goodness knows how many surprises to come in the future – I thought it was a good moment to make a video of as many of the “Mad World” videos that I could find of me playing in open mics and open jam sessions around the world. The idea was to join them all together at the lip, and use as the common thread the recording of “Mad World” that I have on my album, released this year, “Out of Jam.” (Which is available now on all the basic downloading sites, such as iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp, and who knows how many others!)

I also decided to let slip into the video the occasional “live” sound from the actual recordings at the open mics, where it seems to fit O.K. without too much disruption.

Needless to say, this compilation of “Mad World” moments from early 2010 up until last month in 2016, is only a small sample of the hundreds of times, and dozens of countries in which I have sung the song solo or in a group, due to the fact that I’m usually not the subject of the videos for this blog, but the recorder of the videos. This video represent some of the few occasions in which someone actually did record me – and I have so many other musicians around the world to thank for the times they played “Mad World” or other songs with me, that it would take too long here – and be too boring – to name them all.

So check out the link above, to my “Mad World – Around the (mad) world.”

A mad idea in a mad world, for a Mad World.

Another Great Jam at the Mood Indigo in Abu Dhabi

November 27, 2016
bradspurgeon

Mood Indigo Lounge

Mood Indigo Lounge

ABU DHABI – I was greatly relieved to find that one of the rare open mic, open jam events in Abu Dhabi, one that I had found last year, still exists this year, and was as fun and open as ever. This is the Friday night jazz night at the Mood Indigo Lounge in the Mercure City Center hotel, in downtown Abu Dhabi. It is hosted and led by the genial and talented Rob Millner, who plays piano and sings, and he had a drummer and bass player backing him up throughout the evening. It is organized by Bruce Olsen. It is mostly geared towards jazz, as I say, but like any great open stage, just about anything is acceptable. But what I did find out to my great disappointment is that if I had gone directly there on Wednesday night upon arriving in Abu Dhabi, I’d have found a similar evening devoted more to folk, acoustic music, with this time Rob Millner on the Irish fiddle!

And I can confirm by what I heard through a short snippet of a recording, Rob is as adept on the fiddle as he is on the piano! In any case, the stage was certainly open on Friday, and although this might be one of the best kept secrets in Abu Dhabi, as the place was no overflowing with jammers, there was a very agreeable saxophone player who joined in, and I had my moment behind the mic, with the band, too.
First at Mood Indigo Lounge jam in Abu Dhabi

I kind of get tired of always playing the same standard songs in my repertoire whenever it is a jam situation – i.e., playing with musicians I’ve never played with before on songs they don’t know – so I decided to try something a little new. I felt confident with Rob’s piano as well as the drumming and bass playing, so I decided to risk doing Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat,” which has two, three, maybe even four different chord structured parts to it and can take other musicians by surprise if you don’t know it. I also did a couple of Bob Dylan songs, and of course, “Mad World.”
Second at Mood Indigo in Abu Dhabi

To my amazement, it went over just fine – at least I’m judging by the way I felt we only went off the rails a couple of times, and by how a number of people in the audience were dancing away to it. It was a great pleasure, especially in this oasis of a night club in Abu Dhabi, which is not dry of musical joints, but has only about three other open mics from what I can make out – and none of the others took place this weekend….

If I can get back again to the Mood Indigo Lounge, I will!

Quintessential Brazilian Music Night at the Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

November 13, 2016
bradspurgeon

Bar do Julinho

Bar do Julinho

SAO PAULO – As so often happens in my worldwide travels to find open mics and jam sessions around the world, I make discoveries thanks to the people I meet from year to year in previous jams and open mics. Sao Paulo is one of the most difficult places for me to find such places, partly due to the barrier of language, and partly thanks to a completely different musical culture compared to many other places around the world.

I have always managed to go to the open jam session of the Lua Nova, as I have mentioned in almost all of my visits to Sao Paulo on this blog, and every year almost the location of the Lua Nova jam changes location. Last year I found a fabulous open mic near my hotel, but that open mic has ceased to exist.
First at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

So last night, just as I was resigning myself to being in yet another city with a reduction of open mics, and maybe even not being able to play in Sao Paulo at all, I was in touch with one of my friends from Lua Nova. She told me that not only is Lua Nova happening on Sunday night as usual, and not only has it again changed location, but guess what? There was last night an open mic at the same new location where Lua Nova takes place.

Fifth at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

This is a fabulous bar devoted to music and located in Pinheiros, near Vila Madelena, where I have most often played on my visits to Sao Paulo. The bar is called Bar do Julinho, after the man who owns the bar, a musician named Julinho.

Fourth at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

So I decided to make my way over there, despite the late hour of past 10 PM, and I found that not only was the location a warm environment with guitars and other musical instruments hung up on all of the walls, with photos of Brazilian musicians and others, all over the place, with a nice stage area and a great sound system, but ALSO, there was a feature act playing when I arrived.
Second at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

It was a fabulous feature act, the fabulous woman singer, Iion Papas, with a guitar player, drummer, and bongo player. She and her band played Brazilian music until about 11:45, when the open mic began.

Sixth at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

And in fact, it was all Brazilian music. And fabulous Brazilian music. Nothing but wonderful accoplished musicians and singers. I found myself feeling that familiar sense of dread and wondering if I really fit in from more than one point of view – talent and musical style.

Third at Bar do Julinho in Sao Paulo

But once my turn came up, once again, as also so often happens – especially here in Brazil – suddenly, I could play any of my usual songs, and the band joined in and completely changed musical styles, fitting in perfectly with what I do.

It was a fabulous evening, and I am so happy to have discovered another open mic in Brazil, another venue, another great taste of the local musical culture – as you’ll be able to see from the videos on this page that I made last night….

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