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Breath-Holding Moment: From Japan to Paris to Milan to Austin, and from TAC Theater to Ligera to Stay Gold to the White Horse to Dozen Street

October 21, 2016
bradspurgeon

Tac Teatro

TAC Teatro

AUSTIN, Texas – In the last week and a half I have travelled from Japan to Paris (leaving out Dubai) to Milan and then back to Paris and then to Austin (leaving out Atlanta) and here I am in the sun in Texas after two musical nights with my friend from Paris who used to run the amazing Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic…. Wait, let me backtrack. That’s the problem with these blog posts that cover a week and a half!!!!

So it all started off with the return from Japan, and a couple of nights Paris before I took a train to Milan to visit a friend. And there, two fabulous cultural experiences, one in the really cool TAC Teatro, founded and run by the amazing Ornella Bonventre, whom I met on my last trip to Milan in early September, and while I visited the Spazio Ligera! I wrote a big story about that fabulous night at Ligera, but had no idea it would lead to another visit, and the experience at the TAC Teatro, which is now located right next-door to Ligera.
Improv group at TAC Teatro

Last week, at the new location of TAC I arrived just in time to see the presentation of the teachers of the TAC of their upcoming year of instruction in the theater arts at TAC. There was a fabulous and fun improvisation group, that teaches improvisation, and which put on a small show that I caught bits of in video. Anyway, I’ll probably write more about TAC in the future, suffice it to say that probably this all-purpose theater is best summed up in the name, which is short for Teatro a Chiamata, which basically has to do with the “calling” of the theater. For Ornella, theater is not just about a stage and actors facing an audience; for her the stage, the actors and the audience are all one. And the brief look I had at TAC confirms that concept.
A Dario Fo moment at Ligera

After the evening of presentation of the upcoming courses, some of us went across the street and visited Ligera again. I had not been back since early September, and despite feeling quite wiped out, fatigued from a cold, I had my guitar with me, and although I didn’t really feel like playing, and the evening was more about drinking, carousing, and talking, suddenly, someone pulled out a guitar, and suddenly, there was again an ambience of music in the Spazio Ligera. A “pop-up jam session” dare I call it? It became absolutely impossible to refuse the idea of playing.
More of jam at Ligera in Milan

And this, by the way was the day after the death of Dario Fo, the Nobel Prize winning Italian dramatist, and the same day after the winning of the Nobel Prize by Bob Dylan. So after some of the people in the bar – including one of the owners – played a tribute to Dario Fo, it seemed normal, or inevitable, that I would play a Dylan song…. And that was the beginning of many more songs, and much more fun. I absolutely love the Spazio Ligera.
Another moment of the improv group at TAC Teatro

And then back to Paris before flying off to Austin and the meeting with Sundown

I took a train from Milan back to Paris, packed, then caught a very early morning flight to Atlanta and from there on to Austin, and no sooner had I got my rental car on Wednesday night than I drove off to meet up with my friend Ollie Joe Yaco of Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic fame in Paris. Oh, and of “Some Girls” open mic fame in Paris. Oh, and of Sundown fame all over the world. I’m referring to the guy who I have mentioned for years on this blog, who ran those open mics, and who now has his band called Sundown. It turned out that Ollie was in Austin travelling around on what seems like his once or twice a year visit to the U.S. for playing music in some great cities like Austin and L.A.
First at Stay Gold

I think I had just missed him in Austin last year, so I was determined not miss him this year. He was doing a gig at a place in the east end of town, called Stay Gold. So I showed up for that, and from there he led me off to a very cool bar called the White Horse, which could not sound more British, or be more Austin-like. More on that place later, I think, but hearing and seeing Ollie playing his music in Austin was a fabulous moment – although in fact I arrived too late on Wednesday to catch his set.
Second at Stay Gold

But that was fixed by him inviting me to his next gig, at a place on East 12th Street, called Dozen Street, last night. In fact, Ollie got the stage for himself last night, and decided in his typical way to share it with friends. So it was that he did a nice set with both solo stuff, and guy on the spoons, and then the French barman at the Dozen Street bar, who played lead guitar for him. I played a short set, and two fabulous women singer songwriters played sets as well. Those the completely opposite style performers Alison Gail Self and Cari Q.
Four handed piano moment at the White Horse in Austin

The Dozen Street bar has existed for about two years, and it is one of the many long, long bars with a back stage and a back courtyard of a type I’ve seen spotted all about Austin. The evening finished off with another band that had nothing to do with the rest of us, and which went on until quite late, I think. Very cool, all together, very very cool. A kind of evening that really makes you realize just how unique and cool Austin is musically. This kind of thing is just going on all over the city. It can take a while to find the hot spots, in fact, but once you do, you realize they are all over the place.
Sundown and spoons


Sundown and spoons and lead

Sundown solo

duet with ollie sundown at Dozen Street

fourth at dozen street

Third at dozen street

Group at Dozen street

The Superb New “La Tireuse” OpenMic in Paris – or Rather, the Ptit Bonheur la Chance Reborn

September 4, 2013
bradspurgeon

PARIS – Unfortunately, I have been working all day and evening in preparation for my trip to Italy tomorrow, so I am unable to do justice to the blog post that the reopening of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic merits and calls for. But I sure did go last night, and I sure did enjoy myself. I had written for maybe three years about all the great nights at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic, and suddenly it was ended, abruptly, last May when the owner/manager decided to sell the bar to a new owner. All the regular musicians who loved the bar and open mic every Tuesday were sure it was finished for good. Thank goodness, the new owner has had the great idea of keeping it going….

So now it is La Tireuse, and the spirit is still there. The bar has been very little changed, just the old boxing photos and posters were removed. Oh, and… they redesigned the basement room, where the music happens. It is now adorned with low tables, couches, lighting, it is, in short, comfortable in a way it never was before. Even better, the open mic performance area has now been moved from the kind of second-thought of a dark space near the stairs at the entry of the room to the other side of the room completely, the other end, against the large brick back wall (or fake bricks).

To play in this spot is just wonderful. There is now sufficient light on the performer that you can actually see their faces as they play. And when you perform in this space, you feel much more like you’re put in position of value as a performer. It’s funny, there was a feeling of insecurity I could never put my finger on when I played at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, even though I loved the place – and insecurity is a part of performance. But last night, playing against the wall, I felt it was much more like being on a stage, where you can feel secure in a way….

But anyway… there is a downside to this new move: The bar is so successful on the ground floor that there is always lots of chat and raucous noise going on up there. But in the previous setup, the noise from upstairs was blocked by the musician(s) and the amp throwing the sound into the room from the stairs end of the room. Now, unfortunately, that noise permeates the room up to about the halfway point, so if you want to hear most of the musicians – ie, maybe not the loudest of them – you have to sit close to the stage area. At least halfway into the room. There’s just too much noise coming from upstairs for the sound to be distinguishable at the new “back” of the room, i.e., the entrance, where the stairs are.

I hope they figure out a way to improve that, because the new set up is otherwise superb…. And above all, Ollie Joe’s MCing and the whole warmth of this open mic are exactly what they were before, and what made it such a success. If feels now, retrospectively, as if this open mic just simply took a summer break like so many others in Paris. Bravo for La Tireuse!
https://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=562184717151567″ width=”640″ height=”480″ frameborder=”0″
And thanks to Wayne Standley for the video he did of me doing my “Crazy Lady” song, above….


Ptit Bonheur la Chance Open Mic Returns Under Another Name: La Tireuse

August 31, 2013
bradspurgeon

la tireuse

la tireuse

PARIS – On this lazy Saturday afternoon in Paris after I have found myself with nothing to say on this blog, it suddenly occurs to me that I really DO have something to say. Something in a way I rarely do, that is, to announce the return of an open mic, rather than an open mic I just attended, or worse, the closing of an open mic.

In fact, I did indeed announce the closing of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance bar’s open mic on 15 May after a three year run. It had been one of the best open mics in Paris for its charm, its musicians, its MCs, it’s understanding bar owner/manager, its fabulous set up – a bar to talk in on the ground floor and a cave cellar to play in in the basement, and above all, for its quiet and respectful audiences. Oh, and beer and other drinks that are affordable to starving, broke and drunken musicians.

It came as a massive surprise to everyone who took part in it when we learned that Pierre, the owner, had sold the bar to a new proprietor and the open mic was being closed. It felt like the end of an era. In fact, I made a video of the last night, which I am reposting.

But now, the new proprietor has negotiated with Yaco Mouchard, Ollie Joe, the multi-named, multi-talented MC, to return the open mic to the same location – now under a different name (La Tireuse) – and to once again hold the open mic every Tuesday evening, running it the way it always was run … at least I hope that there will be no new constraints.

It starts again this coming Tuesday at 18 rue Laplace, near the Panthéon, at the bar now called “La Tireuse.” An 8 PM start. And it would be wise to show up early if you want to play. I know that many of the regular performers are ecstatic at this open mic’s return. But let’s see how it goes. My experience with open mics is such that I have seen that the most successful ones are always those that get ALL the ingredients right. So it will be interesting to see how the new owner/managers manage the open mic. Keep posted on this site to find out!

The Film: P’tit Bonheur la Chance Closing

May 15, 2013
bradspurgeon

p'tit bonheur la chance

p’tit bonheur la chance

PARIS – Readers of this blog may well have grown sick and tired of the myriad posts I have written over the last two to three years about one Paris open mic in particular. That is the P’tit Bonheur la Chance open mic, run on Tuesday nights, first by Ollie, then when Ollie went to Berlin, by Ollie. Yes, yes, somehow the one Ollie left, and the other Ollie took over. Also known as Yaco, the second Ollie defied all expectations that a great open mic must be entirely about the person who runs it – and he made as big a success of it as the first Ollie did. So that is when it became clear – I think – that an open mic is about the MC, the bar shape and layout, the proprietor and/or manager, the style, the musicians who come, the neighborhood… okay, you get the idea. Well, last night was the bar’s last open mic, and I decided to make a short film of the evening. Pierre, who owns Au P’tit Bonheur la Chance, is moving on to bigger and better things – if I understood correctly. So this is not totally one of those sad stories of complaints from the neighbors – although there were some of those.

In any case, I think I want to shut up now and let the film take over and tell the story. Last night was the last night of the open mic, and I was eager to do something different and special in terms of this blog. So last night I did an interview with Yaco/Ollie – or is it Ollie/Yaco – and I caught some of the great moments of the evening on my Zoom Q3HD recording device, and decided to not do what I usually do, which is to inundate this page with videos, but rather to spend the day editing bits and pieces all together to make a little documentary of the last evening. All bits from this shaky little roughshod documentary come from last night – all the performances, interview(s), etc., all represent the last night at the P’tit Bonheur la Chance open mic. I forgot to bring my wind protector from the camera, so there are some brutal wind sounds, brutal cuts, it is full of flaws, but I HAD to get this one down. I wish I could have got and fit everyone on this film – in fact, from all the P’tit Bonheur open mics…but it was not possible.

A Great Open Mic Gone


Paris is losing one of its best open mics – but I am sure there will be more to come. Oh, and by the way, as you will see in the little – actually waaaaay too long film (for Internet purposes) – there was some kind of prize-giving last night to the people who had come to the open mic the most and contributed the most, etc. I got that, and so did Wayne, John and Sven. I hope I have not forgotten anyone – I made frequent trips from the music to the bar to the street, playing, talking, having a great time – as usual. There must have been close to 30 musicians, but I only managed to grab a few of them for this.

Oh, and I have to mention that 1) a massive thanks to Brislee Adams for using my Zoom to film me – and somehow I was elsewhere when he played his great open mic song – and 2), the bit in the film towards the end where my interview cuts off brutally with Yaco/Ollie happened because there was no more space on the 8 gigabyte SD card!!!! But as he had just talked about the mic cutting out abruptly and brutally one recent night, it seemed like a great way to end the interview!

Hope you like it, and please bear in mind that in the interest of getting this out on the site tonight before midnight, it is a bit roughshod – but it is intended as being as off-the-cuff as the average open mic night at the P’tit Bonheur la Chance…..

PS, the bar will not close until Saturday night, so there is still time to go and imbibe – and in principle, there is supposed to be quite a celebration on Saturday night….

Oh Non, the End of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance Bar….

May 7, 2013
bradspurgeon

I’ve been writing about it for around two years or so, one of my favorite open mics in Paris. The bar is closing down. Clearly, clearly, far too, too successful.

When I get more information in the coming week and a half or so before its closing, I will write about it.

Stay tuned. :-((( (And/or, check the stories I have done over the years via the tag.)

Full House, Cool House, at Ptit Bonheur la Chance

May 1, 2013
bradspurgeon

It’s the school and university holidays in France and it’s also the Fête du Travail today, or like a labor day holiday…. And that led to last night being a massively well-attended open mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance – both musicians and spectators. And that, in turn, led to an amazingly good atmosphere and a memorable open mic evening.

Again I had a few problems with my recording device, it being my replacement Zoom Q3HD, but I finally worked it all out – with the help of a friend, too…. And so I did not make that many videos. But I did manage to get the absolute standout act of the evening… who else but the same John Paul Roney of the night before at the Galway!

John Paul, the night before, had commented to me how he was a big fan of one of the songs I sang on Monday, “Wicked Game,” so he decided to open with that one at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance. He then played a song from his new album, which he has just finished recording with his new group, in Nashville, and it was superb.

There were a few other standout acts last night, and just in general a fun, warm, great evening of music and talk….

Back at Bonheur – Me and a Few Others – and a Mess of an Effort with a Great Lowden Guitar

April 24, 2013
bradspurgeon

Last night was my first time back at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic in what feels like maybe a month, after my travels. It was a refreshing return, and I found that this, one of the best open mics in Paris, was also hosting another two or three regulars from the past who had returned to Paris at least for a few days. But there were new people too, including several from England who have come just for the open mics…

One of the returnees was Tory Roucaud, who has been living in Switzerland for a year or so now and who has set up the only open mic in Zurich, called…Open Mic Zurich. So Tory returned with great relish, and it was with relish we listened to her hot vocals again….

Also returning was Arthur Goldiner – just call him “fang” – with his sensitive ballads and his amazing Lowden guitar. Oh, and speaking of his cool Lowden, Arthur was unbelievably giving, as he allowed me to use his guitar when I played my two songs. The Lowden has a very unique and pure sound, and is just a beautiful guitar, particularly good for fingerpicking – Pierre Bensusan, the French fingerpicking genius, is a longtime advocate of the Lowden, and even has a signature model of his own – and I foolishly used it only for strumming. But there was worse: Last night the mic cable or the mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance suddenly ceased working, so most of the open mic was done acoustic. It was great, intimate, and the room is small enough for it to work without amplification. But when I sat down to play my songs, and to try something new, I began with my song, “If I Only Had You,” and I suddenly felt vocally and melodically and tonically, very uncomfortable. Something was clearly wrong, and I felt my voice really low, the sound barely coming out….

I continued and as I played I forgot a line or two, but did the best I could as I was thinking to myself, “What is wrong!!!???” And then I figured it out: The Lowden, with its magic sound, MUST have been tuned down a level. After the song I asked Arthur, and he said it was – that he had forgotten to tell me. He then advised me to use the capo up two frets for everything….

So, I then decided to leap onto the edge of a precipice and do “May You Never,” by John Martyn, which I am still learning, and feeling very shaky about. In fact, after learning that it was a favorite song of the spectator sitting right in front of me, I lost all sense of confidence and groove, and could not get the song going, forgetting the chords, the lyrics, everything! So Tory, bless her, suggested I do “Mad World.” After at first saying I had done it a million times there, when she offered to sing along in harmony, I accepted…. it was pretty cool with that Lowden, in fact, despite my strumming, and with Tory’s – and other people’s – harmonies….

The evening ended with a supercool duet of Wayne Standley and Yaco playing very cool sounding 50s-ish lead….

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