Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Brad Concert at the Cabaret Culture Rapide

September 5, 2011

Cabaret Culture Rapide

Cabaret Culture Rapide

One of my personal objectives this year from the outset was to do more and more concerts as opposed to open mics. Given that I have about three or four different careers or big projects going on at the same time – Formula One journalism and travel, open mic book, open mic film documentary and the learning and writing of my music itself – taking the time to get concert dates and work with the other musicians I play with is a very difficult thing. But I have already succeeded in doing more concerts than in the previous two years since I started playing music again. I did a concert with the band at the Disquaires in February, another at the Green Room in July, and yesterday afternoon I did one with Felix Beguin, of the Burnin’ Jacks, on lead guitar at the Cabaret Culture Rapide in Paris near the Belleville metro.

With all that going on I entirely forgot to make any sound or video recordings of the concert! So you will just have to trust my word here. It started badly, or at least with a lot of stress, when I found that my microphone did not work in the sound system that Culture Rapide had to offer. So the first set of 45 minutes or so was entirely done without a mic, but with my guitar in acoustic mode and Felix doing his lead at a lower volume than usual.

Every song I sang I feared ripping my vocal chords apart as I desperately wanted to be heard by everyone in the bar. Even if I was told on several occasions that I could be heard, the urge is to belt it out louder than you should just to ensure that you ARE heard.

But later, just as I began my second set, Calvin McEnron, the friend who invited me to sing at his gig the night before, arrived with a microphone. It worked, and henceforth I could relax completely and do my music in full peace. There is a massive difference when you can let go completely and submerge yourself in the music compared to when you have some horrible concern on your mind about the delivery of the music. (Having some horrible concern about life is something else and can actually fuel and fire up the music and emotion.)

So the second and last set of 45 minutes or so went very well, was lots of fun, and I enjoyed the concert thoroughly. Felix played his usual fabulous lead, worked in his usual relaxed manner, accepting my errors and minor changes in structure of the songs here and there as I decided on the spur of the moment that we needed a long musical interlude or I just plain forgot something. We also improvised very well for certain songs we had not played together on before, such as “Year of the Cat” and “Runaway Train.”

Nice Touch by the Belleville Blues Band – and Other Uppers

April 29, 2011

I dropped by late to the Cabaret Culture Rapide last night in Belleville. Thursday night is the open blues jam, and there are rarely that many people around to jam. But the Belleville Blues Band is always there, since they host the evening. I’ve written several times about them here, so I won’t say more, but there was a nice moment when I was doing a video of them when the harmonica player got up from his seat on the stage and walked around the whole bar playing the harmonic.

Aside from that, the evening was a lesson in how things can change. I had entered the bar thinking I’d had a dull evening – then, I got to play four or five of my songs in the jam, with and without other musicians. Then, I left the place to return home and I was hailed by a regular performer at the Ollie’s open mic, who was sitting outside the Cabaret Culture Rapide, thinking of going in. We talked for a while and it was interesting to discover he frequently went to play music on the spoken word night on Mondays at this venue. Then I walked all the way to near the Point Ephemere without finding a cab and I was just slightly beaten to one by a couple, who it turned out were going to the same place I was going – so we shared a cab. Turned out the woman was a film stunt woman. Crap, how amazing an end to a night can that all be?

Corey Webb’s Lesson in How to do a Successful Little Bar Concert

April 1, 2011

I was thinking of doing the blues jam at the Cabaret Culture Rapide in Belleville last night, but instead I opted to go listen to Corey Webb‘s evening at the Tennessee Bar. I took my guitar thinking I might be able to do both. But Corey’s concert proved so captivating that I stayed a little too long there to make going to the blues jam worth it – not to mention that my jet lag from Australia hit a peak.

Corey has been in Paris for a couple of months, and he has done many of the open mics, including my Sunday brunch. He differs little to most musicians armed only with a guitar in that he’ll tend to do his most proven, successful songs at these open mics. But when he finally got his own gig, last night at the Tennessee, he not only found a way to fill the room with a cheering fan club – a very healthy number of spectators – but above all, he knew how to vary the show so much that he kept the audience interested.

So often I will see people who have no more than a guitar, or even bands for that matter, just playing the same kind of music and using the same kind of approach, all night long. Corey found a couple of guys to beat makeshift drums with him, and Sven Cosnuau – one of the drum beaters – also joined occasionally on back up vocals. But what was most impressive about the variety Corey offered was that he really did find all sorts of small means of changing the furniture, as it were, so that we never had the sense of monotony.

Corey is a lively performer anyway, and always aware of the needs of the audience. He has performed extensive in the U.S., won prizes, done some CDs – I bought two of them last night – and in general is a very enthusiastic and talented musician. But here’s how he mixed the show last night: There was a piano on hand, so it turned out that Corey can beat the piano as well as his guitar, and so we were treated to a few songs on piano, then guitar. But he also used the guitar in various ways to keep our attention, adding fuzz and wah-wah occasionally, while often doing pure acoustic playing as well.

As I said, there were the drum beaters and Sven’s backup vocals as well. But the crowning moment of difference was when he invited his friend Lorette to join him for a couple of duos. One they did with the guitar, and the other they did a cappella, and it was very sweet indeed. At one moment Corey rushed to the front of the stage during one of his own songs and did a bit of a cappella himself just to wake up anyone who might have slipped off. I don’t think anyone did. It was a wonderfully well done concert and should be a lesson to anyone who does small gigs here and there in an effort to move on up to the bigger stuff….

Too bad for Paris that Corey is soon to leave for London.

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

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