Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Community Center Music Night Near the Place de la Nation

January 29, 2011

Open mics take all sorts of forms, and one that I have barely explored is that of the local community center. Last night in the Centre d’animation Montgallet, near the Metro Montgallet, in the 12th Arrondissement in Paris, near the place de la Nation, there was such an open show. Actually, it was first a concert by Mat Hilde, an acquaintance of mine from a few Paris open mics, then some other performers from the community center, then an open jam.

Unfortunately, I arrived too late for Mat Hilde’s concert, as for the third or fourth time this week I found my line 13 metro was not going to operate. (This time, unfortunately, we were told it had to do with some accident involving a person, whatever that means exactly.) In any case, I arrived late and after taking a taxi. But there was a nice mixture of musical acts, and Mat Hilde went up to sing that Jeff Buckley/Leonard Cohen song we all know so well, with a few other musicians.

The music ranged from completely amateur to very accomplished. The atmosphere was very warm, the sound excellent, the lighting wonderful, and there was free wine and snacks! Now that is the difference between a community center open mic/jam session and a regular bar music session.

Having said that, I did not get to play at all myself, since I could only play in the jam session, and it was a typical blues jam free-for-all, and I am completely and utterly lost in that kind of thing, so I did not bother.

After that, I went on over to the barman’s open mic at the Cabaret Culture Rapide for the first time in weeks. I have been attending the blues session there on Thursdays lately, and I have been having a great time. But last night I decided I would never return for the Friday night session. When there is a good sized audience – what you want – you find the absence of a microphone or amplifier is far too big a handicap to overcome. You blow out your voice, and soon the voices of the “spectators” begin to mount as most people realize they are there for drinking and carousing and not for the open mic. It is a far better event for comedians, actors, poets and prose readers. With no mic, and a mixed bag of performers, the musician becomes the odd man out, and the one everyone loves to talk during.

In any case, the blues jam evening, with a mic and sound system, is well worth the visit for musician wishing to play – and be heard.

Mini-Post: Literal Spotlight on Belleville Blues Band

January 21, 2011

A simple night last night on a visit to the Cabaret Culture Rapide where I played four songs, along with the members of the Belleville Blues Band. I’ve written a lot about this place and band in the past, so I won’t add anything now, except to say that each time I play with them is a greater pleasure than the time before. But the unique thing about last night was that I finally had enough light on the stage to get a video of the band in which you could see the performers and the surroundings very clearly. That’s one of the drawbacks of my Zoom Q3 recorder, and I’m hoping that the Zoom Q3HD will have helped on that – it films badly in dark light. So check out the image and music in the video of the band last night:

A mini post about a mini night in Paris with a little DJ music and not much more

January 7, 2011

It turned out to be a short and quick night last night, in three or four parts. First was a visit to the Sans Souci bar in Pigalle to listen to part of the DJ session of Patrick Eudeline, a central figure in the French music scene for the past more than three decades.

The Sans Souci is a neat little bar and restaurant just off the place Pigalle and around the corner from the Bus Palladium. It is always crowded, always has people bursting out into the streets. And last night Eudeline played mostly 60s stuff, and I laughed when I heard “da doo ron ron ron de do ron ron…” as I had been singing it lately around the house, my son had been listening to it separately, and I THINK I might have read something about it in a column by Eudeline in Rock & Folk, where he is a regular contributor. But I may have read that elsewhere. (The story had talked about how the expression and sound of the song encapsulated teenage joy and abandon….)

Eudeline started out writing at another popular rock magazine in the 70s called, “Best.” He’s a bit of a French gonzo journalist, but many other things too. In the mid-70s he moved on to playing in a rock band called “Asphalt Jungle,” which was a precursor group to the punk movement in France, and then he wrote for Rock & Folk. He has also written novels. So a real renaissance man. In fact, as a young man he had met William S. Burroughs and through him met some of the French literati in Morocco, and ended up at 22 writing for a literary review called, Tel Quel. Yes, an interesting man.

I went over to say hello to him and no sooner did I say hello and shake his hand than the music ceased. I think the hard disc came unplugged from the computer, the crowd booed, and he quickly got the sound back in – within about 15 seconds. I stayed for a bit of the music and a beer and then decided to walk onwards to my usual Thursday night blues jam session at the Cabaret Culture Rapide. I made a brief stopover at a restaurant near Stalingrad for a brief discussion with an insane woman I know, and then I moved on to the Cabaret Culture Rapide and immediately had to explain my black eye. “That’s Rock ‘N Roll,” said one of the band members, finally. I had one beer and decided to leave without performing. Went to the Mecano bar and had another beer, then returned home. A brief, yet full, little walk around Paris and through history. It was crap weather anyway….

Snowed Out Blues

December 24, 2010

I made made my way to Belleville last night and I was having so much fun walking through the snow that when I got off at the Belleville métro and realized I was a bit early for the Cabaret Culture Rapide blues jam, I decided to keep walking around the area through the snow, check out the Féline and other local joints, and just check out the buzz.

cabaret culture rapide in the snow

cabaret culture rapide in the snow

When I returned – through the snow – to the Cabaret Culture Rapide, I found it EMPTY – except for one drunken musician who came in off the streets, and a couple who were somehow amused by the banter of the drunk. I took a beer anyway and sat down and waited for the Belleville Blues Band to show up, and they never did. But around 10:30 PM the bar itself filled up with clients.

So there was a great audience, and all was set for a wonderful night of warmth in the blues jam. But the bartender had warned me in advance that because of the snow, it was not sure the band would show. They didn’t. I love the band, and I love the evening – in fact, I am adding it to my list of open mics in Paris as of now – but I hate how this snowy weather has become an excuse for all of Europe to close down and quit work. I know I’m a harsh critic on this because I’m Canadian and I’m used to a lot worse – but this snowfall in and around Paris is barely like the first snowfall of a typical Canadian winter. Come on man, it never snows too much for the blues!!!! (Especially at Christmas time.)

I took a photo of the sign outside the Cabaret Culture Rapide that tells the story…. I also walked about 5 kilometers towards home and grabbed a shot of the train comin’ into the station, through the fence, which I later thought had some meaningful message to it for me….

some travel while others watch Paris train in the snow

some travel while others watch Paris train in the snow

And now, a Tenor Sax at Culture Rapide

December 17, 2010

Following on my last blog post about a great sound of soprano sax at the Cavern vocal jam in Paris on Wednesday, last night I visited the blues jam at the Cabaret Culture Rapide and there was an Italian there named Danilo (I think, unless it was Danieli) playing a tenor sax. Anyone want to predict that I will hear someone on an alto sax tonight at the Hideout? (Or wherever I end up….)

In any case, it was quite fun to hear this sax player amongst the guitarists. Even more fun, however, was that I only left home around 22:20 and I had to force myself out the door as it was raining, cold, and I felt as if going to the jam all the way across town was a futile idea. I really enjoyed it in the last two weeks, but it was so much simpler to think about folding up in the couch and reading the Douglas Kennedy novel, “Leaving the World,” that I am now reading.

I forced myself to go, and I did not regret it. Not only did I play several songs and get really nice reactions from people – one person wanted to know when I next returned to play there, another wanted to know the history of the last song I sang, “Unchained Melody” – and I met three or four very interesting and nice people. I also learned that on the previous week someone had made a video of me playing “I Shall Be Released,” with the Belleville Blues Band and he put it on his blog.

This is what forcing oneself out is all about….

Ollie Fury at the Espace B and Me at the Acoustic Jam Session

December 3, 2010

Actually, I ended up in both places last night and had a nice bit of exercise walking between the two of them. That’s the beauty of the iPhone; you can pull up the GPS and see how long and HOW you can walk from one venue to the other and get your daily exercise – in the -10 degree weather.

Although I have seen and written about Ollie Fury in Paris for a while and in Singapore during the F1 race when Ollie happened to be there at the same time I was, this was the first time I had the opportunity to see him in action with a whole band. On bass and some kind of harmonica/keyboard instrument was Yaco Mouchard, and there was another guy on percussion – bongos, snare, something like that. It sounded great. A beautiful combination for Ollie’s haunting compositions. Ollie told me in Singapore that he was going into the studio to record like this, and now I’m really looking forward to the result.

I took the 36-minute hike from the Espace B – where Ollie played – over to the Cabaret Culture Rapide bar where I have written many a time about my Friday-night open mics there…without a microphone. But last night was the first time I have attended the Thursday night jam session with the Belleville Blues Band. And I was not let down. I enjoyed the band immensely, and I was delighted to be able to find four of my songs that just managed to squeeze into a blues feel of the evening. I was invited to do more, but I couldn’t think of anymore to do just then. Will no doubt return. But it was great fun to play with the guitar player and drummer, and then the bass player joined in and so did the other guitar players. I ended up with the full band on “I Shall Be Released.” (I had started with “Crazy Love,” then went into my blues version of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and then did my own song that I wrote when I was 16 and which has yet to find a title.) The band then played on its own brand of blues and blues rock, and while I am not a huge fan of electric blues evenings – with the same three chords endlessly played – this was a completely different effect with the acoustic instruments, and as you will see, with the cool singing.

Reign Movin’ on Up at the Bizzart, Another Night at the Culture Rapide and a Peculiar Performer’s Phenomenon

October 16, 2010

Reign Morton popped up again last night at the Bizz’art venue on the Quai de Valmy, singing in the Sankofa Soul Competition. This is a huge French singing competition for soul music, and it was designed to help show off the young, new talent in France, train the talent and reward the talent. First prize is an all expenses paid trip to a singing academy in Texas.

paris sankofa soul competition poster

paris sankofa soul competition poster

Reign, readers of this blog will remember, has blown me out of my seat in recent weeks at the Tennessee bar, and I guess my sense of things is not too far off, as Reign has also been blowing the judges and voting spectators out of their seats at the Bizz’art (which is not the same as the Bizart I wrote about recently), and he has been working his way through the various levels of the competition. Last night, he came in first place amongst the nine or so competitors and he therefore moves on to the quarter finals of this competition.

It turned out that the Bizzart was within a 15 minute walk from the open mic I intended to take part in, the Culture Rapide open mic in Belleville, so I decided to drop in to hear Reign first. I managed to arrive in this crowded, dark venue with a bar and cocktail tables on the ground floor and a mezzanine with diners at white-table clothed tables above. I immediately liked the vibe and felt like I was in New York or L.A. And I got there just in time. I heard one of the competitors, and then she was immediately followed by Reign.

So I ordered my beer and made my way to the side of the stage as close as I could get – which was not real close – and I managed to film all of Reign’s performance. Blew me and the crowd away. Check out my video, and keep in mind that I only had one hand available and had to raise it high – so the camera is shaky. Reign’s performance was very full, very complete, with the style of singing drawing the best out of him and never being monotonous, and then he moved into some fine dancing bits, got the audience participating both vocally and with hand clapping. A maestro performance.

I was a little worried when the guy after him did a good job of a real tear-jerker song, but I suppose the judges were smart enough to see that as good as that guy’s performance was, it was not the whole complete number that Reign produced. Because Reign won the night.

I had a real debate with myself whether I should stay and watch his second number, but I decided that ultimately I’m out there to perform myself, and not only to keep these blog notes about it. So I left, thinking Reign was certainly the best and if he didn’t win it would be through some trick or ruse of another wiley performer – or a failure on the judges’ part.

I said hello to Reign and after a real warm bear-hug greeting from him right after he got off the stage, he went off and ducked out into a seat in the audience and retreated into himself. I figured that was exactly where he should be, and I left and went to the Culture Rapide.

There I performed two songs, “Just Like a Woman,” and then my own song, “Since You Left Me.” There were not very many performers, but the audience was kind and good and kept quiet during my first song, and a couple of people asked me if I would perform another later – you only do one each set – and I said I would. It then turned out there was a third set, but I had suddenly become swamped by a feeling of “I want to get out of here.”

It’s a weird feeling that I sometimes get after performing, and it’s a kind of alienating thing, where you suddenly withdraw into yourself after you’ve been so expansive on stage and let out all your emotions and reached out and flown into the stratosphere or whatever that place is that you reach on stage when things go well and you feel painted to the stage. Today I went to Reign’s Facebook page and found that he had put up a thing where he said in his status: “Reign Morton wonders why he gets so shy when he comes off stage after a performance… after being so exposed like that, the first thing i want to do is climb into a little hole and block out the sun. Is that normal?”

And I realized that was exactly the same thing I feel sometimes. I jokingly responded that this is just a form of “postcoital depression.” But I actually think it is a form of that same phenomenon: It’s the come down from the high moment on stage. Dare I compare it to a cocaine crash landing, or other drug thing. Fortunately it does not last long or even always happen. But it does sometimes. And, yes, I’d say it’s perfectly natural. But I probably should have stayed to perform again last night in the third set – instead I walked off the postcoital depression through the dark and cold Paris streets. Did the trick.

Let’s hope Reign wins the full competition. Check out the video I did of his song last night and you get an idea of why he won.

Crappy, rapid cultural experience at culture rapide

October 2, 2010

Went off to the so-called Barman’s open mic at the Culture Rapide bar in Belleville in Paris last night. I’ve done this place a number of times, and it is usually a fun combination of music, poetry, stories, etc., and NO MICROPHONE. That is usually not a vast problem. But last night the bar was hijacked by a large group of people – 50? – celebrating a birthday party. So, little did they care that it was the soirée of the barman’s open mic, hardly anyone wanted to keep their mouths shut to listen to the musicians and poet who came to take part in the open mic.

So the whole thing ended very, very rapidly. In fact, all it amounted to was one guy citing a poem – through the noise – and he was followed by me playing a song – through the noise – and then a blue duo playing a song – through the noise. That was it. I took pleasure in deciding to sing, “Mad World,” since that is exactly how the situation felt.

But ultimately, I bear no grudges at all against the Culture Rapide bar, which remains a cool and fun place. And I was just as happy to see the group of people celebrating the birthday party; it definitely should take precendence to three or four people hogging the stage….

But I wanted to make sure I could catch the ambience for this blog, so I recorded the blues duo and turned the camera araound the joint to show the mania of the crowd, all the noise, and the impossibility of hearing the musicians play. Having said that, my choice of “Mad World,” did ensure much handclapping to the rhythm of my guitar, even if my voice was inaudible even to me. Check out the video ambience below in what amounted to the third and last act in the aborted open mic:

A Concert With Miggles and Wass; A Barman’s Open Mic

April 24, 2010

Back at home base in Paris after the disastrous China travel experience, it was time to get out and play again – in a few senses of the word. After breaking up with my girlfriend yesterday – who was not actually my girlfriend, since she seemed to have several men, so at best I was certainly categorized on her side to all the others as simply a friend (as we all were) – I decided I would go and forget my sorrows by going out to three different places in the same night. I lined up a concert, an open mic and an aftershow wind down from the first concert. In the end, I could have made all three – plus a fourth – but part way to the Tigre bar on the rue Molière, I decided to back out and grab a cab while there was still a cab available, since it was already almost 2 AM.

The concert was at the Espace B, a venue I have heard about for over a year, but I never went to, located at 16 rue barbanègre, in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, unfortunately close to my ex-girlfriend’s place. But I was very curious to go to the concert because it had my friends Johann Giethlen and Miggles Christ playing in it, along with the beautiful drummer, Victoria Froehly. It is Miggles’ band, in fact, and after seeing Miggles and Johann play for more than a year at Earle’s open mic, I decided it was time to see the band. Miggles, as I mentioned in my story about Earle, is the original catalyst to the whole new scene of rock in the last decade in Earle’s universe – as you can see by the story, since in the story Miggle’s name is Michael Bontemps, the guy Earle met in Pete Doherty’s hotel room.

But I was also curious to hear one of the other guys at the Espace B, and that was Alan Wass. I glanced at his Myspace and somewhere else and listened to a few bars of the music and said, “This is good, wanna hear it.” It turned out also that he was some kind of friend of Pete Doherty’s. So it seemed it could be interesting.

Not for the first time, I arrived at the concert an hour and a half too early since the Facebook invitation got the hour all wrong. So that gave me the idea of taking a cab to go and see Earle, who was at the Mecano. I’d already taken a swig of my beer, but I just put it on the counter and left for the Mecano, not telling the Espace B barman that I was returning. I was simply down and out and anything goes – didn’t want much human contact.

Took a cab to Earle’s place, unfortunately passing right in front of the restaurant where I ate with my grilfriend two days before. I then spent half an hour with Earle and returned to the Espace B. First thing that happened when I arrived was the bartender told me he had saved my beer for me, behind the counter, not sure I would return or not. First good thing that happened all day – and it was even great, that gest.

My favorite Miggle’s tune was one that he has played time and again acoustically at Earle’s open mic, and I will post it below, and it also had a great line for my state of mind last night: “Why did you let me down, why did you let me down???” But actually, I think this is the song that refers to that very evening in the hotel where he met Earle with Pete, and is more about drugs than love. But I may be wrong:

But for me the revelation of the evening – since I already knew Miggles’ great stuff – was really to hear Alan Wass play his guitar and sing. Who the hell is this guy? I was asking myself. He had this cool sort of American sound to his voice, but with a clear mix of a touch of the Pete Doherty side, and clearly some Dylan and Donovan undertones, or maybe overtones. I found myself recording three of the four or five songs he played. And then I found myself thinking that the best song he did was one where I decided to stop recording for a moment, and I became entirely involved in the song – although not enough to heed to what I was saying to myself: “Why am I not recording this one? Am I perverse?”

After he played, I went to talk to him to tell him I really enjoyed the music, especially the one I did NOT record and also the first and last one. He was a very agreeable guy, from England, and the English accent when he spoke was such a contrast to the accent when he played, that it was kind of cool. But the music was authentic. And when I said I really liked the last one, “Hired Gun,” he said he had just played it with Pete Doherty. So I found out that in fact, he had backed Doherty for years, writes for Doherty, and that this song is a big success with Doherty – but it’s actually written by Wass. Looking it up on the Internet, that’s not an easy fact to find. Once it gets the stamp of a big name on it, it loses its origin and becomes a Doherty song. Here’s my video of Wass singing it (or part of it) last night at the Espace B:

But when I look and listen again to these videos, I think I prefer the way he sings his first song, of which I also took a video of at least part of it. So I cannot imagine how good the one I did not record was! Here’s the first song he played, pardon the camera movements at the beginning (and I have just returned to add a note that I suddenly realized that this sounds a heck of a lot like Van Morrison, too….):

Cabaret Culture Rapide at Belleville

So the next joint on the list was an open mic that I discovered about three or four months ago. It is in the Belleville area of Paris and it is one of the very few open mics I know of on Fridays, and it starts around 10:30 PM. So I had no choice to go there into that neighborhood, which, unfortunately, also happened to be the same neighborhood of my girlfriend whom I had broken up with yesterday before setting out on my trek!!

Called Cabaret Culture Rapide, the open mic is in a very small bar at 103 rue Julien Lacroix. The problem with this open mic is that there is no mic. They call it the barman’s evening, or something like that, and despite the pain of singing without a microphone, I like the atmosphere. The colored walls are cool, the little stage is cute, and the crowds are young and friendly, in general.

I didn’t arrive until 20 minutes past 11 PM, but I was able to get a spot to play, thanks to the nice MC. I saw a couple of regulars there, among them Elliott – whose last name escapes me, but I’ll put it up when I find it – and a woman who reads little poetic prose stories. This open mic is not just for music, but for standup comedy, poetry, anything goes. This night there was a comedian who I thought I recognized as the DJ from a radio station that sponsors a song contest that I took part in after he saw me playing at another bar and he invited me to do the contest. But I decided that it must just be my imagination, so I didn’t approach him.

I sang my song “Since You Left Me,” and then found that I was being invited to do another song in the next round of performances, so I did “Father and Son.” After my first song, the guy I thought I recognized ran up to me at the bar and said, “Hey, Brad! I didn’t recognize you at first, but I’m the one….”

“I know,” I said. “It’s Emeric!” Yes, it was my DJ from Yvelines radio, Emeric Degui all right. So we talked and he said I should do the contest again, get all my friends to vote, and they have invited a few of the musicians on the show, etc. I told him that maybe I should send in my song, “Except Her Heart,” as arranged by Félix Beguin, and we left it at that.

So below I will put up a few video snippets of the performers at this Barman’s open mic, but none of me, which I did not make. The first is Emeric, the second is Elliott, and the third is the Italian poet who composes in French, which he often seems to have a hard time speaking. He calls himself a psychedelic poet, and he is a regular at this open mic, sometimes actually doing the MC chores himself.

After the Culture Rapide Cabaret I headed over to the Stalingrad metro, passing perversely in front of my ex-girlfriend’s place, and there I took the Line 7 to Le Tigre on rue Molière, but just a few stops from the bar I decided to get off the metro, take a cab and return home – I remembered too many recent nights in Paris where I could not get a cab and I was walking the streets for an hour trying to find one.

Tonight, I believe I have found another open mic, called Resistencias, that is open to more that just music, and it is the first time I will do it. So it will be interesting to see if there are any revelations…..

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