Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Tex and the Gang at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance

January 30, 2013

Tex the Italian slide resonator guitar player was in big demand last night at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic. I only got a couple of videos of him playing, but it turned out that with Tex the Italian cowboy in the crowd, few musicians wanted to go up behind the mic without his backup. Me included!

Tex backed up me, Baptiste W. Hamon, Avalanche and Wayne and others. It’s because Tex is a very cool slide guitar player, and because guitar player singers will often jump at a chance to multiply their presence behind the mic. I did Crazy Love and Mad World, and enjoyed massively Tex’s backup. Baptiste did a couple of songs, including his song about Townes Van Zandt, and Baptiste recounted that it turned out that Van Zandt was also one of Tex’s favorite musicians, and actually went to Texas, like Baptiste, to follow in the legendary singer songwriter’s footsteps.

But the night was not ALL about Tex and the gang; there were several other really interesting and cool performers, like once again Rafaelle with her classical guitar and sublime vocals and lyrics.

Austin Contact No. 2 at the Vieux Leon in Paris – Followed by the Highlander….

November 8, 2012

A fun string of events last night at the Vieux Leon open mic hosted by Kim, of the Pop In open mic fame. Kim has a delivery style in presenting open mics that is all his own. He likes to make up little stories and asides and occasionally snide jokes. Last night I took him for his word when he introduced a performer named Amelia Card, from Austin, Texas. First I expressed my surprise about her in a little guffaw, as my next destination on my worldwide musical adventure of open mics and jam sessions is Austin, next week. But then Kim did his little aside, saying the Amelia was here in Paris not knowing where her next shelter for the night was coming from … so I raised my hand to indicate it could be chez moi. End of story. Well, not quite.

So Amelia goes up and plays her guitar and sings, and she is accompanied by “Tex,” the Italian steel slide guitar player, and the sound is decidedly country. Then I go up and play, and the sound is whatever it is, although I chose to sing three of my own songs and no covers, this time – doing “Except Her Heart,” “Borderline” and “Crazy Lady.” After I get out from behind the mic, Tex approaches me and comments on the beauty of my Gibson J-200, which I am using while my Seagull S6 undergoes repairs. I then join Amelia and Tex at their table in the back, and try to pick her brain for locations to play in in Austin next week. But very early in the conversation I learn to me great disappointment that she actually has a place to stay in Paris. BUT, I learn to my surprise, that she is also friends with the very same only other person I know from Austin, Ryan whom I met at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, and who so kindly gave me the list of venues I should go to next week in Austin. In fact, I had pasted that email into my iPhone’s notes application just the day before for quick and ready reference.

So Amelia set about inspecting the list and giving me further ideas. AND, she gave me her CD of her music, called Senses. As is my habit, I listened to it this morning to accompany my morning exercises. Oh, it’s beautiful. My favorite songs, in fact, were not the real country western sounding early one or two, but especially the haunting, bluesy, retro sort of song called SongBird. Her voice is classic here, something sort of 1950s, 1960s jazzy pop, but dark, about it. And the last of the six songs also made me stop a little in the middle of my sit ups… Gaugin, it is called. It is just her singing and playing acoustic guitar. The voice is so beautiful – you can imagine the bliss of hearing it beside you when you have your head in a pillow. Well, I don’t usually gush that much, but it really is true. Give her a listen.

So, the Vieux Leon is the place where Baptiste W. Hamon had MCd the last time I went, and he will exchange sessions with Kim. But last night was the first time I have ever heard Kim do his music, or wait, no, maybe I had heard him once at Ptit Bonheur la Chance. But after being acquainted with him for something like three years in his work as MC, I had not really heard it until last night, his music. Very fluid, nice vocals, interesting copositions – and cover songs by Neil Young!

There was enough time to have a couple more performers play again, and Kim asked Amelia to play another song, and then he asked me to finish off the night. That was great, and gave me a chance to do a cover song this time – Mad World – and to ask Tex to stay up and play it with me. He did not know Mad World, he told me afterwards, but the way he played it I thought he did know it. He did a great job, and as I had hoped, the steel slide sounded perfect for the madness of that song….

From the Vieux Leon, I went off dejected without the chance to provide Amelia with a home – she didn’t need one, as I said – to the Highlander to take in the end of the evening there. I was too late to play, but I got to hear some good music, with my especial favorites of the evening being the looping guy, whoever he was, and Mary Catherine Moore, who did THREE great songs, including one of her own. I put up the video here of one of them. I didn’t want to film her doing her own song just yet, as it was the first time she performed it, I think, and I didn’t want to bother her with my camera pointing at her, as I was sitting right in front. It probably would not have bothered her, but I took the precaution….

In any case, it was an interesting night, full of surprises and discoveries – give me more….

Pretty Immense: Four Disparate, Unrelated, Extraordinary Venues in One Night in Paris

September 27, 2012

I may only have actually played in one place last night, but I attended three open mics and a concert in Paris and took in all vibes and sensations available and went home still with enough energy to ride my unicycle five kilometers around the neighborhood. If that sounds weird, keep reading!

First stop was the Truskel Bar to see the Velvet Veins, the new band of my lead guitar player, Félix Beguin – who was supposed to play with me at that ill-fated gig of ours at the Lizard Lounge a couple of weeks ago – and his shockingly good young guitar alter-ego and singer. Félix is still part of the Burnin’ Jacks, but he created this band, the Velvet Veins, in order to play exactly 100 percent the kind of music HE is addicted to… kind of 70s blues rock, metal rock, rockin’ rock, guitar-based stuff with amazing lead exchanges between the two guitar players, some mad drumming and even a bit of harmonica playing from the bass player. Don’t ask me to be literate or even precise or accurate about what this sounds like – just give it a listen. Unbelievable stuff. (I apologize for the shaky camera work, but the excited crowd was jumping up and down so virulently in front of me – and on me – that I could not do any better.

From there I head over on a short walk to the much quieter and down to earth Vieux Leon bar near the Pompidou Center for the first of a new Wednesday night open mic, which was this night hosted by my friend Baptiste W. Hamon, formerly known as Texas in Paris. The bar could not have been a bigger contrast to the Velvet Veins-bopping Truskel, but that was just fine as a way to come down and do some of my own bopping music – actually, I opted for Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” and my own, “Borderline.”

Highlander Open Mic 6th Anniversary Cake

Highlander Open Mic 6th Anniversary Cake

From there I used my new iPhone maps app thing to get lost just trying to find the quickest way over to the Highlander. But fortunately as soon as I found the rue de Rivoli, I no longer needed the app. (Piece of shit, and I dread where it will lead me next week in Osaka and Nagoya and Suzuka….) So I just HAD to go to the Highlander, even if I knew there was no way I would even dream of performing. The thing was, it was the sixth anniversary of this most popular of Paris open mics, run by Thomas Brun. Thomas not only does a great job with running the open mic, but he sings and plays amazingly, and even more importantly he comes up with good birthday cake on these annual celebrations, and last night he added some champagne into the mix. I got my cake and champagne as soon as I arrived, and the timing was perfect since I had by then digested my main course of duck kebab and pasta….

From there I headed up the rue Dauphine to the Cavern, where the agreeable bass player master of ceremonies, Guillaume, again invited me up to the stage to play. But I learned my lesson long ago that everything I touch at the Cavern turns to rust and I have to either persuade them to let me take my guitar up with me and we do songs I know, or I’ll have to go to a massive number of karaoke bars and hone my skills in that area on the same songs they do. But I’m pretty blown away by so many of the singers there, that I know I have far to go…. But the band is really worth going for alone, say nothing of getting on stage and making a fool of one’s self.

So that was it, after that, all the beers, cake and champagne, I just had to do the unicycle thing around the neighborhood, despite it nearing 4 AM…. What a night.

Lots of Happiness and Luck at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance – and a Day-Job-Related Meeting

August 1, 2012

I’ve used plays on words like that before about the open mic on Tuesday nights in Paris at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance bar, but frankly, it just keeps doing the same thing again and again: Bringing bonheur and luck. Last night there were a number of new and interesting musicians, and all sorts of interesting meetings with interesting people.

I arrived a little late, but still had a chance to get up to play two songs. Amongst the standout acts were Baptiste W. Hamon, formerly known as Texas in Paris, who continues to do amazing stuff with his new entity singing and writing in his native French language; and then the newcomer, Allonymous, from Chicago originally, but a longtime expat in France and the UK. He did this very cool sort of recitation/singing from texts he has written and committed to memory. He started as a painter, but has done lots of spoken word stuff, both in the U.S., U.K. and here.

After the open mic we all went up to the bar on the ground floor and had another fun jam session, sometimes with two corners with musicians playing almost at once. What more can I say about this place that I have not said already? Unfortunately, I don’t feel inspired to say much more – it was all such a great trip on its own that it leaves me without words. Check out the videos….

Oh, yes, and P.S., there was a fantastic meeting with a fellow journalist who happened to show up at the open mic and who is involved in writing a Formula One related article. She had no idea that I was covering that series in my day job, but learned it through someone else. So we chatted for a half hour or so all about Formula One in order to help her with her story. Amazing how our worlds can run in to each other….

Jack Daniel and Friends at Shapko in Nice

May 24, 2012

Shapko Bar Nice

Shapko Bar Nice

Fishing around for places to play in Nice, I was always going to try out the amazing Shapko bar on the rue Rossetti. And last night, I was in the presence of my friend Baptiste W. Hamon, the inimitable French redneck hillbilly singer songwriter, and it turned out that the theme of the music at Shapko was fairly close to redneck, so I thought Baptiste and I should make a visit.

We had also been considering going to King’s Pub again, where I had played the night before and was invited to play again last night. But I really wanted to take another look at Shapko, where I managed to play some songs last year during a similar acoustic night, hosted by someone else – Peter Cogavin. Peter, in fact, told me yesterday that he knew the guy hosting the evening at Shapko, and that he thought he might be open to letting me play.

That guy was a British musician with the somewhat bourbon soaked hillbilly name of Jack Daniel. It is his real name. And he plays a wicked fingerpicking blues and country guitar and lays a nice laid back vocal on top of it. He had a harmonica player, and then his “friends,” who joined in as the even progressed.

Shapko, the man who owns the bar, is a saxophone player from Russia, and he is a real mean sax player. I mean good, not nasty. He is also a music-loving performer who opens his stage to other players as much as he can while maintaining a good professional business and show. I was really flattered when I walked in last night and he immediately remembered me, although I had visited his bar only twice last year: ‘The Canadian!” he said.

At the break, I spoke to Jack Daniel about the possibility of playing, and he more or less accepted. But as the evening went on with the second set, it became clear that the music was moving further and further away from what either I or Baptiste do, so we ultimately decided to cut out and check out the scene at the King’s Pub. It turned out that that was pretty quiet and the musicians were doing a long set, and we ultimately decided that it was getting too late to hang around much longer. So we both left and went our ways.

But the night was really enriching in terms of the music at Shapko, which was fabulous – especially in the middle of the jam during the second set.

The Transformation of Baptiste W. Hamon, From Texas to Paris

December 11, 2011

baptiste w hamon

baptiste w hamon

Last night I had a wonderful brief break from the usual whatever to go and listen to a friend, Baptiste Hamon, play a short show at a bar called the Red House, not far from the Bastille in Paris. I have mentioned Baptiste over the last couple of years occasionally on this blog under the name usually of his band Texas in Paris. Baptiste writes cool, Dylan-like, Guthrie-like, Townes Van Zandt-like songs with sober, sombre lyrics and strong emotion mixed with a highly distinctive voice and delivery. Last night I was invited to attend the launch concert for his cassette of new songs – yes cassette, tape cassette! – and what I found was a wonderful, interesting surprise. Baptiste has grown as an artist.

The launch was for a cassette he has put out on a very small independent label in France called Midnight Special Records. There was another singer at the Red House bar too, but I came in just as she sang her final words. So I missed that. But Baptiste went up as soon as I arrived so I caught his whole set. Suddenly, as I was being served a beer at the bar, I heard Baptiste singing in French. Wow! Before I had a chance to take the beer I whipped out my Zoom Q3HD recorder and began to shoot the song, since I thought it was a rare and unusual chance to catch Baptiste singing in French. Turned out I was wrong. During his set of six or so songs, Baptiste sang only one in English.

The rest were a new crop of songs he has written in the last few months, and they were a fabulous surprise. Basically, to try to sum it up, Baptiste writes excellent poetic songs in English. And he is far from the only non-native English speaker to do that. It is happening all over the world. But how much of the stuff really breaks out? The Tallest Man on Earth from Sweden is similar. Abba, not at all. Bands from all over the world try English. It just never seems to take off or doing anything much of importance, no matter how good it is.

But what I found Baptiste doing last night was to do EXACTLY what he has always done in English, but to do it in French. And that brought out even more originality in what is already an original writing and sound. Baptiste continues to sing about the U.S. dream he lives and follows, but he does it in a non-fake sentimental way and in his own language. There he was singing a ballad to Townes Van Zandt, for God’s sake.

Apparently the French think he has changed his style, and sounds closer to something like Jacques Brel or some other classic French singers. But for me this is the same Baptiste, he’s just finding more precision in what he sings, and its a step closer to who he really is than what was already something very fine before. Oh, and with these songs he is no longer calling himself Texas in Paris, but simply Baptiste W. Hamon….

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