Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Living a Dream at “Dreams of Old Shanghai” Restaurant and Cabaret

April 14, 2012

There was a moment last night between my two sets at the Dreams of Old Shanghai restaurant that I had a flash and said, “Did I once have a dream about this sequence happening to me before?” It was one of those deja vu moments that don’t necessarily happen, but you wonder if they did…. Now if that sounds a little confusing, just imagine the situation last night in Shanghai when I ended up on stage in this chic restaurant night club where a large cast of singers and dancers had previously occupied the stage in a long and colorful program of 1930s nostalgia of old Shanghai.

The evening had started quiet enough. After having two nights of playing at open mics in China I opted to have a very quiet night eating noodles, reading in my hotel room and just going to bed early. But regular readers of this blog will know that I generally like musical adventures and I have learned while in far off and exotic countries that I must always be ready for them. I have occasionally gone out thinking there was no place to play and have not taken my guitar with me because of that defeatist way of thinking, only to discover that I find a place where I could have played if I had my guitar with me.

So despite my intention of simply going over to the De Xing Noodle House on Guangdong Lu, eating a big bowl of noodles and returning to my hotel to read, I said, “Hey, take the fucking guitar. You never know what you might run into.” So I took the guitar, found the noodle house, ate the sublime bowl of noodles and then said it was time to return to the hotel. But not quite. No. I needed dessert.

There was nothing on offer at the noodle house, which was closing anyway, since it was now 10 PM. So I set off to find a place selling something sweet. I decided, however, that my route for that would including taking in the street where there are a bunch of musical instrument stores, Jinling Donglu, to see if it was worth a visit next week after the race and before my trip to Bahrain.

So I go to Jinling Donglu, window shop, and continue my search for dessert. Lo and behold, at the end of the street, at No. 229 Jinling E. Road, and before I was about to return in the direction of my hotel, I saw a big sign on the front of a building: Dessert. So I crossed the street and entered the building. Once inside I saw the dessert joints were closed, but I heard what sounded like live music coming from up an escalator. And it sounded like traditional Chinese music, with a woman singer. I was intrigued.

So I took the escalator, went up and found a couple of restaurants, one of which was called, “Dreams of old Shanghai.” It was elaborate, ornate, classy, and I was immediately invited in by the people at the door. I said, “Live music?” Wanting to check it out, and they said I could look. I craned my neck around the entrance and saw this wonderful stage with full lighting, a curtain, and a cabaret revue of Chinese women dancers and a singer. Holy shit, a real Chinese stage revue here. Very cool! The restaurant appeared vaguely retro, posh, and very, very Chinese.

“Come in and eat,” said the guy at the door.

“I already had my meal,” I said.

“No problem, just come in and have a drink!”

Then he noticed my guitar bag and said, “Guitar?” I said yes. “Come in and play?” he asked me. I gestured to the stage. “There?” He said, “Yes, yes, come in and play.”

This I could not quite believe under the context, with this posh cabaret in old style, and here I was a kind of old hippie with a battered guitar…. (And short hair, granted.)

Then the manager showed up and door and did some more persuading and I asked if there was a cover charge, and was told there was not. So I asked if there were desserts. “Yes.”

So I thought, Okay, I’ll go in and watch the show, make videos, have a beer and eat that dessert I wanted. I did not really think the offer to go on stage would materialize.

I watched the show, ate a fabulous cheese cake, with ice cream and blueberry sauce and mango and kiwi chunks, and drank an Asahi beer. This was bloody bliss. And to top it off, I was sure that every one of those beautiful dancers and singers was staring directly at me. A magician dropped by and showed me a couple of tricks, and then after I finished my cake, someone came around and asked if I would now take to the stage and play.

It was a tremendous stage, wonderful lighting, I felt the room to be completely laid back in a way that I had not at first imagined. But the class singing and dancing acts were so Chinese and classy that I still wondered what I could possibly sing from my repertoire to not feel like the French proverbial “hair on the soup.”

No problem, I finally decided. This is too much fun, and as it turned out, I had noticed a table of several young European women sitting not far from mine, and I was sure that if the Chinese could not relate to my songs, they certainly would be able to.

So I went on stage and found my guitar dreadfully out of tune after I had forgotten that Joe Chou had done an open tuning the night before and I had not touched it since. But the musical director of the Dreams of old Shanghai immediately plugged in my guitar and got a mic stand for me – remember, they did not even know that I sang and played at the same time, let alone how good or bad I might be! – and I got the guitar tuned and lept right into “What’s Up!” I then did “Father and Son.”

I think I left it at the two songs, but it was clear that it went over wonderfully. The musical director played a percussion machine, the crowd clapped and sang along, and at the end, one or two of the beautiful Chinese singers who I liked to imagine had been looking at me came up on stage and offered me red roses.

So I go back to my seat and quickly, I get a signal from one of the European women. So I join them, and it turns out, of all things, to be a table full of French expats working in Shanghai. So we drink and talk and the Chinese stage show goes on. But then the Frenchwomen request of the management that I return to the stage and do more songs.

Management accepts, and I go up and do “Wicked Game,” then “Mad World,” and they request an encore, so I decide finally to do one of my own songs, and I do, “Borderline.” This time during the singing the management brings up some massive flower in a tall pot and vase contraption, and then I am joined by one of the singers who brings me a rose and dances beside me as I play. The a couple of the other show girls comes up and give me roses.

I don’t want to overstay my welcome, so I get off the stage, go back to the table, and the restaurant manager comes over and tells me he is offering me the food and drinks I had that night, and would I like a glass of red wine….

They then invited me back to play again tonight!

Now who would have thought, who ever would have thought that this posh, cool, and very traditional Chinese place would be so “arms open” to a complete stranger with a guitar to take time on its stage and perform. And then actually encourage more of it?!!? Absolutely wonderful. It was just the kind of experience I crave in the musical adventure, the kind that changes my ideas and preconceptions about a people, a city, a country. To say nothing of what I can do with my own music and where it can take me, and I must never give up hope about seeing fun opportunities arise.

This is clearly a very open and wonderful restaurant. Check out the videos for yourself, and try to imagine me on that stage. Could be difficult! It was so dreamlike and wild and unimaginable that I had that moment wondering if I had, in fact, once dreamed about alighting in an unknown world and being invited on stage and feted like a star. I do remember such a dream about suddenly finding myself playing like Jimi Hendrix, but I am certain that one will never come true….

Cultural Evolution from Paris to Shanghai – and an Old Friend Rediscovered

April 13, 2012

I changed my program a little in Paris on Monday, visiting both the Coolin bar open mic and then the Galway Pub open mic, which I have not attended for a long time. Although I had fun things to do and sing in both places, please forgive me if that feels like 500 years ago and that I really want to talk more about Wednesday and Thursday night in Shanghai, China.

Fortunately my flight on Tuesday as in the afternoon, so I could do those two open mics in Paris, get home relatively early, sleep, and then spend the next more than 24 hours traveling to China by way of Dubai. I had about two hours sleep on the flight and immediately checked out upon arrival at my hotel in the Bund area of Shanghai whether or not the open mics I had done on the Wednesday night last year still existed. I figured that although I really wanted to go to bed, I would be far better off forcing myself to stay awake until late and especially, not missing the opportunity of an open mic in China.

I found out that one of them, Oscar’s Pub, no longer runs an open mic. But the other, the open mic at the Not Me bar, was advertised on the bar’s web site as happening that night. So I sped off to the Not Me, had a quick dinner of Shanghai braised porc at the Bao Luo restaurant and then went to Not Me. There was little waiting at the restaurant – a fabulous local icon of a place with huge high ceilings and voluminous dining room – and there was no waiting at the open mic either.

The Not Me is a superb bar that has not only a comfortable bar at the front, a lounge kind of room at the back, and an extensive club room in the back for DJs, parties, dance and other celebrations and inspired by the Cocoon club in Frankfurt.

The open mic has been going for just about a year, and I think I must have come to one of the first open mic evenings thee last year when I performed along with Sista Fay the Swede who I met in Paris and who was passing some time in Shanghai. This open mic is unusual in that the bar is owned and run by Chinese businessmen, and they have instigated the open mic even though they say it is not really part of Chinese culture. There is no MC, but anyone can come and play on a Wednesday night. I immediately played, in fact, I played two sets since it was not exactly overflowing with musicians.

Listen to the interview with one of the Not Me bar partners, Jacky, in my podcast interview, part of this year’s series of podcasts for the blog. Oh, and by the way, strange but when I introduce Jacky on the podcast I call the place the “Be There” bar, which is a Paris venue that I used to go to! You will actually hear me at the end give the place its correct name, “Not Me,” as well as asking Jacky for the meaning of the name….

Brad Spurgeon interviews Jacky, one of the organizers of the open mic at the Not-Me bar in Shanghai:

I was so pressed for time with all that travel and doing open mics that I had no time to write about Monday Wednesday nights’ open mics before I ran off to Bee Dee’s open mic/open jam last night. Bee Dee’s is run by an American, Jeffrey Davis, and is very much an American expat bar that might be located in the U.S. somewhere. But there is some Chinese clientele, and as a magnet for musicians, it also attracts some excellent Chinese musicians.

In fact, last night I almost immediately recognized the extraordinary Joe Chou even before he went up on stage for his set. I had met Joe Chou two years ago when I first started this blog, but I had met him at Oscar’s Pub and then played at his open jam session at the Melting Pot on the Monday. Joe had done some remarkable playing with my guitar, and he seemed to fall in love with it. Last night Joe tried it out again, as well as doing some of his very cool and deeply spaced-out stuff on a stratocaster. I wanted to play with Joe, and he had said we should, but we did not end up doing so.

Bee Dee’s just seemed to get better and better as the night progressed, and if I am still in Shanghai next Tuesday, which I am scheduled to be, then I will return again for more.

Last Night in Shanghai, Jammin’ at the Melting Pot

April 19, 2011

I just arrived back in Paris after a 26-hour trip home via Kuala Lumpur, so I had no time to report on my last night in Shanghai, which was spent, after that exceptional Grand Prix race, at the jamming night of the Melting Pot. I had played at the Melting Pot’s open jam session last year on the Monday night when I got held over thanks to the Icelandic volcano. It was Frida Andersson, ie Sister Fay, who told me this year that there was another jam at the Melting Pot on Sundays as well. So we both went.

The Melting Pot has a fabulous stage, bright lights, nice seating arrangement for the clients, and a very lively vibe. As I learned Sunday, there is even good food. (I had a dinner of chicken something or other and onion rings, and the wine was fine.)

The evening started with a few songs by Sherry, the American MC. But as the evening progresses, anyone can go up and play the drums, keyboards, bass, lead guitar, etc., and take up a role as singer or – as with Frida and I did – with guitar and vocals.

I did four songs, and it was interesting to play along with a drummer, keyboard player and bassist who didn’t apparently know any of the songs. I played much of the time with my back to the audience so they could see the chords I was playing. But I enjoyed it immensely – as usual….

My mind is now partly in Malaysia, partly in China and partly in France. Mostly in the ether, though. Now to lay down all those recorded interviews and other videos for my open mic adventure film….

Bone, Brad, Frida and Band at Bee Dees, Shanghai

April 17, 2011

I did not expect to play for my fifth time in Shanghai last night. I was invited to Bee Dees to hear Sister Fay, otherwise known as Frida Andersson, play as the opening act to the house band. But Frida and Jeff and a request by some people in the audience led to me doing a few songs part way through the night. I was really grateful, since I just love playing – but the biggest news was the fabulous concert by Frida with the house band, and the discovery of the music of the man who calls himself Bone.

Bone first. I met this Chinese guy who works behind the bar on Thursday when I first went to Bee Dees on this trip. He complimented my singing very warmly, and I thanked him. I had no idea that he wrote songs, and played guitar and sang and that his voice is bloody fantastic. So the compliment came back to me as being even stronger. Also, last night when I was invited to play, it was Bone who offered me his Ovation, since I did not have my guitar with me.

Frida did a first set all by herself, and I will not put up the videos here since I have put up a few other videos of Frida’s solo stuff in recent months. But it was very cool to see her do a second set along with the house band, a lead guitar player from Russia, Jeff on bass, and the house drummer. Frida did a wide cross-section of cover songs, including stuff that really surprised me like, “What a day for a daydream….” (Which reminded me of when I met John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful when I was a teenager on a TV program he played on.) And the video I put below with her “Georgia on my mind.” The band was quite together, given the fact that it was essentially an unrehearsed jam.

After promising Frida I would not take too much time, just doing four songs, I got a request for a fifth song – “Memories.” So I did that, and it was nice to have the request for my own song. Frida did a video of me doing two or three of them, and I put up “Borderline,” below.

Wild Last Night at the Melting Pot in Shanghai – And Joe Chou’s Secret Revealed

April 20, 2010

So I was supposed to be out of Shanghai on Monday, skipping my flight to Paris and catching one to Toronto on Air Canada. I was supposed to arrive there at near midnight and then take the first flight available to Paris from there. That was the plan the volcano forced me into – a plan as wacky as those of the hundreds of thousands of other travelers stuck in Shanghai and around the world.

I ran into a colleague at the airport who had a boarding pass for his flight to Zurich yesterday, that now has him leaving on 2 May! My problem was different: After 45 minutes wait in line at the check-in desk, I was bumped off the flight because my company’s travel agency had not issued the ticket so although the airline saw that I was booked, I was not allowed on the flight.

So I will try again today. But after an initial feeling of desolation, I returned to Shanghai, booked a room at the Hilton, called up Jeff of Bee Dees Music Bar and asked if he knew of anywhere to play on Mondays. He reminded me of what I had already been told by Paul of Oscar’s: Head over to the Melting Pot at 288 Tai Kang Lu and listen to a set by Joe Chou. After Joe’s set is finished, the evening turns into a jam session, and I’d be able to play.

“If you’re footloose,” said Jeff, “you can explore the neighborhood around the Melting Pot. It’s a really hip area with boutiques and restaurants, and you could eat there first since Joe’s set doesn’t start till 10 PM.”

I have to rush now because I have to get out of the hotel and back to the airport. So suffice it to say that I wish I could share every minute of the evening, because that area of Shanghai, full of small alleys all made up into cool boutiques and restaurants, with a lot of the old style buildings and windows and alleys still prevalent, is very, very cool indeed. Galleries, stores, clubs – and the restaurant I ate in was Thai food. First good Asian meal I had since arriving here.

And the Melting Pot, remember, – I think I mentioned this – was the place Tom & Jerry had invited me to listen to their band on Sunday night. I couldn’t make it because I was too late settling travel arrangements and finishing my race duties. But this is a fabulous room and I regret not seeing Tom & Jerry there. It is a large, chic room with a beautiful, comfortable sized stage with decent sound and spotlights, a full drum set and lots of other equipment.

First thing Joe saw me he asked to play with my Seagull S6 guitar. So he started his set with my Seagull, although the night was in fact predominantly electric, very fusion, rock. After he played with my guitar he did his set with his Stratocaster – with a sticker of Hendrix’s “Axis Bold as Love” album cover on it – and with a drummer and bassist, both Chinese.

After he finished, he invited me to do my music and I did a few songs and had someone record some of them with my Zoom Q3. Then Joe played another set, but this time with another member of the audience playing drums. That was Tony Hall, from Boston. Tony later joined Joe to sing a little too, when Joe again used my guitar. Another guest or two would later take to the stage, and I went up a second time and finished off the evening.

My second appearance was thanks to the enthusiasm for Joe Chou of one guest in the club who insisted Joe play again with my guitar. That’s when I learned Joe’s secret about how he got that sitar sound from his Martin at Oscar’s. Suddenly I saw that MY guitar was being set up by Joe in this odd manner. He was putting the two strings, 1st and 2d, together into the same slot up near the tuning pegs so they rattle together against each other. And of course he did an open tuning as well. I’ve never seen this before and don’t know how inventive it is, but it has a wonderful effect.

A very cool thing happened also in that I got to talking with the man who was so enthusiastic about Joe’s music, and it turned out he was a relatively major sponsor of a Formula One team! We’ve agreed to meet at the next race and talk shop. Isn’t it extraordinary how things come together in life when you get out there and live it!

Jealous Guy With Tom & Jerry

April 18, 2010

Went to Oscar’s again last night and did indeed get to play with Tom & Jerry again, and I did record some of it. But whereas I felt the previous night was a fabulous success and with the music together as it could be, the one song last night that I felt I had down and together with Tom, Jerry and Paul was “Crazy Love,” and by the time I finished it and returned to my Zoom Q3 recording device, I saw that the device was not turned on….

So I continued recording several of the other songs we did together, and the best was “Jealous Guy.” Unfortunately, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I messed up the words, repeating one of the key lines twice. And during the instrumental interlude, I lost my way and there was a moment where I floated about not sure where the thread lay. I’ve decided to put up the video here anyway, just to have a record of me playing with Tom & Jerry, and Paul Meredith in Shanghai.

That mess up is what playing live music is all about. It’s never the same thing. You aim for perfection, you aim for fun and emotion, and you aim for tight timing. But you rarely get anywhere near any of that – at least in a jamming situation like this when you have never played a song together with the other people – but you hope to frequently simply feel good enough to have fun.

A woman named Tia, who owns a nearby bar, had seen me at Bee Dees two nights earlier sing the same song, and she said it was much better when I was alone at Bee Dees, and that I was more relaxed. Too true. I had banked so many hopes into getting a great moment with Tom & Jerry, that I was overly nervous. Still, it’s never as bad as you think, and the video is not that bad.

I also learned another human lesson last night. We all have our preconceived ideas about people and no matter how open we think we are, we still have preconceptions that may only be broken if we open ourselves further, make an effort to understand, learn and open up. In the past few days I have spoken about Tom & Jerry, and said they came from Inner Mongolia. I drummed up this image yesterday of this guy, Jerry, sitting in Inner Mongolia learning bluegrass and country music on his banjo.

On Saturday night at Oscar’s by happenstance, I learned something about Jerry that I had not imagined. It turns out that Oscar’s Pub is a subscriber to the International Herald Tribune newspaper, the paper where I work as a journalist. I had known this from the first day I was there and saw the newspaper. So on Saturday evening I asked for a copy of the IHT in order to take a look at my special report on the Chinese Grand Prix, to see how it all ended up looking on the page in print.

Paul asked me to show him and the band the pages, and I did so. That’s when Jerry, whose last name I learned is Liu, is also a journalist. He works on a cultural magazine. He does mostly page layout and graphics and that sort of editorial work, but he said he also does the occasional story when he finds a subject that interests him. Of course, since it is an arts magazine and it covers all of the arts, he likes to write about music.

The evening ended for me with an interesting meeting with a friend of Paul’s from Hong Kong. This was Kung Chi Shing. He looks like Fu Manchu, but his hair and pointy beard are both very grey. And he is thin and slight. He lives in Hong Kong and he is a musical friend of Paul’s. He is a composer, in fact, and studied music, including a master’s degree in the U.S., mostly in contemporary and symphonic music. He has composed for films, and he is in Shanghai for the Exhibition, which starts next week, as he is handling a musical project for the Exhibition.

He was an intelligent and friendly guy, and he said he has lately been organizing street music events in Hong Kong, which the locals find difficult to accept or comprehend. But he is enjoying it, and said he rarely performs himself, and is much more at home in composition, and not very much at home in pop or rock music.

A wonderful meeting. Tonight, I have been invited by Jerry to go and see his band with Tom and a couple of other musicians playing at the Melting Pot. But I’ve also been recommended to go and play at the open mic at the Blarney Stone and at the jam at Anar. So whatever happens, I think I’ll have a busy night. On the other hand, hanging over the whole thing will be the worry and fret about whether or not I will make it back to Paris tomorrow on my flight, as the cloud from Iceland continues to create havoc in flights around Europe.

Here’s Tom & Jerry and Paul playing a great medley of trad music:

Playing Dylan Where Dylan Was Not Allowed To Play

April 15, 2010

By the time I arrived at my hotel in Shanghai it was already seven at night. By the time I finished a few work chores it was eight. By the time I found the address on the Internet for Oscar’s Pub, it was going on nine PM.

A quick phone call to Oscar’s and I found that I had to be there by nine for the open mic. At least, that’s what I thought. Turned out, that by the time I arrived at Oscar’s I had plenty of time.

In fact, my immediate feeling was that this English pub, full of Chinese, British, Canadians and Americans, was not going to be the best open mic I have attended overseas. And upon my arrival, I thought, here’s another British pub in a foreign land, and the volume of the talk was so loud I was certain no one was there for music. The evening would prove me wrong.

It was in Shanghai at the Blues Room in October 2008 that I had performed at my first open mic in decades, returning to a period of my life in my late teens and early twenties, that I thought I would never see again.

That night in Shanghai so many open mics ago, I would meet an American expat named Emily, and her brother John, and we kept in touch. So when I returned to Shanghai this year I thought I’d ask Emily if she knew of a place to play, if the Blues Room was still happening.

She immediately suggested Oscar’s. The Blues Room, it turned out, closed down. Just like last year’s venue in Malaysia. This time, I would learn, it had to do with a very high rent, and then the economic crisis.

In any case, Oscar’s ensured that I would have a place to play in Shanghai. I may have been half dead from the 20 hours of travel from Paris to Shanghai via Beijing, but I was not going to miss an opportunity to play. So I did all I could to get there in time.

I ate a dinner of fish and chips and during the meal, I noticed a couple of guys starting to set up a microphone and amplifier.

“Hi,” I said, running over to make sure I got a spot.

“Hi, it’s open mic night,” said the westerner of the two. The other looked Chinese, and would prove to be such – a Mongolian Chinese named Tom Pang, who played a Fender mandolin.

“Great, I brought my guitar,” I said.

“Great. We ll play a couple of songs and call you up.”

That was it, my introduction to Paul Meredith from Michigan. Paul has lived in Shanghai for several years, and before that he lived in Hong Kong. Here he teaches music and plays in a band made up primarily of Mongolians. And he started the open mic at Oscar’s three or four years ago, and has run it ever since, on Wednesday evenings.

Paul makes his living out of music in Shanghai, and he is very enthusiastic about the local musicians, about the expats, and about spreading the musical vibe. I was delighted.

My slight disappointment in this being a very expat-like experience was soon changed, for no sooner had I asked Paul about where to find some authentic Chinese experience than he called up his favorite, fetish Chinese guitar player, Joe Chou, and had him come around to play a couple of songs.

Already, however, Paul had this fabulous mandolin player, Tom Pang.

“Tom went to the Berklee School of Music,” Paul told me. It turned out that Tom applied, got accepted and had his tuition covered by Berklee.

This was an amazing coup, I told Tom, and he agreed. His English was passable, but not great. The moments I enjoyed most of his mandolin playing were in between songs when he kept returning to some Irish, Scottish Celtic jigs and reels. Here’s one of Tom between songs (as Brooke prepares to sing):

But he also handles pop and rock leads very well, and Paul told me his band of Mongolian music aces plays mostly bluegrass. What? Stick around.

Sticking on the Chinese theme, I want to say that I was NOT let down by Joe Chou. This guy came in without hardly a word of English and he sat down and whipped out his Martin guitar and started playing it in such a way as to make it sound like a Chinese instrument. Almost like a sitar at some points, as well, and even very much like middle eastern music at other points. And his blues and slide playing was magic. I turned to Brooke, one of the singers of the evening and told her, “Hey, you have guys who play like this in North and South Carolina…”

She was from North Carolina and here teaching English at Disney. But she did a great version of Carolina on my Mind and Summertime.

To finish off with Joe Chou, however, I should say that he ended up trying out my guitar, my Seagull S6, falling in love with it as everyone does all over the world. It stood up to his Martin with no problem at all – just like the day I bought it and compared it to a Martin, preferring the Seagull.

Paul said that he believes Joe is the most important guitar player in Shanghai, or maybe all of China, as he plays this incredible mixture of sounds that combines Chinese music with Western blues and rock. I must agree that his tapping, his slide, his blues, his Chinese music, all drove me made with pleasure. But also a desire to walk out the door and leave my guitar behind perhaps forever.

Chou plays around town and has released a CD. But Paul wants to promote his career and take him to other cities and show him off to the world. I can see why. He’s authentic. Below I have put in a video of him playing a Chinese song on my guitar. I will put up more videos (keep posted here) as soon as my bandwidth increases, because in my hotel it is a BIG drag. Slow as anything. But as with the longer video of his slide playing, this too is amazing:

Paul himself played several cover songs, and he was very pleased to play one for me that he wrote about trying to have Bob Dylan play in China. He said the song was inspired by the fact of Dylan having been refused to be allowed to play here. So the song is all about Shanghai inviting Dylan, even during one of the lines, Paul invites Dylan to play at Oscar’s.

I am punch happy about having been able to play in a place where Bob Dylan could not. My turn behind the mic was in fact the first of the evening’s amateur musicians. When I performed the room was full of people still, and I had the idea that I was going to be the ONLY musician turning up for the open mic.

In fact, it was non stop until midnight or so with local expats playing and joining in with Tom on mandolin, and Paul on guitar. A very large cross section of Americans, Brits and Canadians.

In addition to Brooke, there was another Tom, Tom Mangione, who was a good songwriter, and who had written a story about Joe Chou that I linked to above. He played some humorous songs and others.

There was a woman who was a Janis Joplin soundalike – well, almost – and who was very pleased when I told her that. “You know the fastest way to this woman’s heart,”
she said.

And there was another Canadian who Paul said had a tenor voice like mine. Not sure that’s what I have, but he said we could both hit the high notes.

Oh, yes, almost forgot. I sang Crazy Love, I sang Father and Son, and then Paul joined me playing the mandolin himself on my Just Like a Woman. I then finished off with my song, Since You Left Me.

Altogether it went over very well, even if this was indeed a crowd that loves to talk even during the music. But I could see people listening to me, and I knew it was appreciated. Just as the rest of the evening’s music was appreciated, despite the chatter.

To conclude, it was an all evening nonstop success of an open mic with a beautiful mixture of the local musicians and the expats. And Emily was dead right that this would be a place I’d enjoy. She also suggested a place called Bee Dee’s, and I had that confirmed at Oscar’s when Paul and Janis told me that I should go to Beedee’s on Thursday night, as there was a jam there too.

And that was another great thing about Oscar’s; I managed to map out the rest of the weekend. Following Bee Dee’s, on Sunday night there is a place called Aran’s, and I should also stop into the Blarney Stone, around the corner from Oscar’s, where they like Irish music, surprise, surprise.

There are other possibilities, which I will not go into, but will see how it all plays out. So stay tuned.

Here’s Joe Chou on the slide and singing:

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