Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Weekend Catch-up: Neimo in Concert, OXIII in Riot Gear, Le Tigre, Mecano Brunch and Cajun Music With Sarah Savoy at an Irish Pub in Paris

November 29, 2010

The weekend was SOOO busy that I have had to do a roundup, instead of a day-to-day report as usual. It started with a chess tournament at my club on Friday night, which it would be far better not to talk about. End of that report.

Saturday I had three things planned: A concert with Neimo, an open mic at an art space known as 0XII and an after show thing at Le Tigre, for the Neimo show. Now listen to this!!:

The concert with Neimo was fabulous. I first heard of Neimo while performing at Earle’s open mic for the second time two years ago. One of the regular performers at the open mic was Bruno Dallesandro, the lead singer from Neimo. Over the next year at Earle’s open mic, there would barely be a week without Bruno showing up with his friends to sing and pay their dues back to Earle and his open mic, since they had developed their act in important ways at Earle’s first bar, Le Shebeen, which had spawned all sorts of French groups.

Saturday night Neimo was the lead act at the cool venue known as La Flèche d’Or, which is a concert hall made out of an old train station. This was the first time I had seen Neimo in action as a complete band, playing their songs, electronically. And man was it cool. Even the fact that they played a vast amount of new material did not put me off – I had listened mostly to their last album, Modern Incidental, released by theShangri-La label in the United States. But the new material was really good, and I don’t know if it was just the location of the concert or seeing them for the first time live, but I felt it came across as much more of a “progressive” kind of rock than the previous stuff. I may be wrong.

In any case, Bruno was wonderfully charismatic, a little Bowie-like, including the makeup and furs…. But just take a look at some of the videos I did to see what I mean.

Next up was the 0XIII art space. I mentioned this place before on this blog, maybe even twice. What made me really desperate not to miss it on Saturday night – despite the two Neimo events – was that I learned there would be an open mic on the second floor. So I HAD to get there. I knew of no other open mics on Saturday night, and this one would go on all night. Yes, in fact, it was also announced as the last night of the 0XIII. This, I did not realize before, was because the building was in fact a squat!

Anyway, I was with a fellow Formula One journalist friend, and I told him about the 0XIII and said that I really wanted to show him the place, adding, “I guarantee you will not be let down.” I felt I had to push a little, since he was keen on going to the Tigre after party and then he was going on to another place after that. But he was very amenable to the OXIII, and he had faith in my assurance that he would not be let down.

So we took a cab over to the Rue d’Enghien from the Fleche. The cab driver got a little frustrated when two streets before our destination he found the roads all blocked up. So we got off to walk the rest of the way. We rounded the corner and found the roads blocked because there were cop cars all over the place at the end of the street of the 0XIII.

“Hmm,” I said, “I wonder if they are there for the 0XIII.”

We rounded the next corner and found that indeed, the street was blocked off by the cops and they were there for the OXIII. There were about 200 people of the squat standing out in the street drinking and talking and it sounded like a mob scene, with people bending out from the windows of the art space as well, and talking to people in the street, with loud music, and general mayhem. At least, that would be how the neighbors interpreted it. And how the cops would interpret it.

We continued to approach and I decided to stop and ask some cops what was going on.

“It’s got out of hand,” said one. “Don’t go there.”

“Thanks for telling us,” I said. “Because that is where we had intended to go.”

“Don’t,” he repeated. “In any case, it’s a squat.”

That’s when I learned that fact.

I thought I recognized some friends in the crowd in front so I did approach closer with my journalist friend. We saw it was a madhouse and impossible to get in the front door without a battle, and I said, “Anyway, there’s not going to be any open mic in that place….”

So we decided to leave and go to Le Tigre. As we walked back up the street to leave we found ourselves crossing through several armed and riot police known as CRS, and my friend noted the guns with rubber bullets. They had shields and other various anti-riot gear – including tear gas – and they were coming right at us like as if we were in a battlefield, slow, cautious pace, a march, a readiness for action.

We got through them no problem and went on our way. The next thing I heard was via a few friends on Facebook that the CRS stormed the place, threw teargas, and generally broke up the group in a rather violent manner. I checked the Internet and found that the Parisien newspaper had reported that the cops had been forced to use violence because the crowd had got violent and begun to throw things at them. The article also said that 10 people had been arrested. The raid had begun around 1:30 AM, and I think the place was cleared out by 3.

I doubted the violence by the crowd, but I later also heard that one cop started getting violent with a young woman and so some people in the crowd attacked him. There may also have been some beer cans thrown at the cops. Well, that, in any case, is the end of the OXIII on Rue d’Enghien. Too bad. I really wanted to play in that open mic, and it was a cool place. On the other hand, my promise to my friend that he would not be let down by going to the place was indeed honored….

So we went off to the Tigre and spend a couple of hours there, and it was all very cool and controlled….

On Sunday, it was time for my brunch, and at least one of my friends who had said she would see me and play some music on Sunday did not show up. As I knew that she had also intended to go to the OXIII the night before, I got worried. But it turned out to be only a sore throat. The afternoon was nice and relaxing at the Mecano for my brunch, and I had my friend James Cordoba Jr. from Colombia play a few songs. That made for a very nice change to the usual stuff – not that there really is a fixed theme on my brunch….except for fun and good music….

Oh, yeah, and finally, just to give a complete different turn to the musical weekend, I went on Sunday night after the brunch to attend a set by Sarah Savoy and the Francadians at the Corcoran pub on blvd de Clichy. This American woman from Louisiana and her at least half-American band play the coolest Cajun music you can imagine, and they live in France. I was presented to them by one of my regular listeners at the Mecano brunch. It was a real eye-opener of the kind of musical diversity Paris has to offer – thanks to Irish pubs and expats….

A New Paris Art Space, Norman Spinrad’s Birthday Party, and a Ferocious Hangover

September 18, 2010

Thanks to Norman Spinrad’s generosity, I have the most enormous hangover I’ve had for years. I never usually drink enough to get a hangover, but last night at a Creole restaurant in Paris near Montparnasse where Norman Spinrad, one of the world’s greatest science fiction writers had invited me to join in to celebrate his 70th birthday, I started out on Rhum and Vanilla and soon hit the harder stuff…. I had so much fun that it was not until I got into the cab at 2 AM that I noticed my head was just spinning, and Paris was turning over on itself.

But to jump back a step before I return to Spinrad’s 70th.

I had so much to do yesterday that I did not get a chance to mention the opening of the new art space in Paris that I visited the previous night. And I will, in fact, tie together these two evenings with a musical theme, in keeping with most of what’s on this blog. My musical adventure goes not only around the world with the Formula One circus and the open mics and jams I find at each race. It also extends into my daily life in Paris. And on Thursday I could not find an open mic so I decided to attend the opening of this new art space, which I had been invited to via Facebook.

The space of the Collectif OXIII on the rue d’Enghien actually opened up at the end of July, but Thursday it held its official opening. Now, before I left I said to myself, “All right, do I bring my guitar with me?” I always like to be ready with the guitar just in case I pass a bar or other place with music where it might appear I could play.

I decided for the worst of reasons not to bring the guitar. I did not want to look pretentious, or have something encumbering me at the OXIII. I never usually care how pretentious or idiotic I look. But this time for some reason, that’s how I felt and I left without the guitar. Getting the art space, I found a fabulous building of several floors with gallery space, performance space, a room they call the world’s smallest concert hall since it fits only four audience members, and in the basement there was a music rehearsal space with a couple of guitar players playing, oh, and upstairs, more musicians played and some sat around on the floor with guitars and jammed. And I did not have my guitar!!

I would have been able to play had I brought the guitar, and I would have been in heaven. So I failed, made a bad decision. That’s life. Had a great time anyway, meeting up with some friends, members of a band called the Burnin’ Jacks, the lead guitar player of which – Félix – plays on two of the tracks on my songs on my Ephemere Recordings from July.

So how do I tie this in with Spinrad’s 70th birthday party the next night? Well, first, who cares about tying it in? The important thing was that one of the great science fiction writers turned 70 and celebrated it in Paris in a Creole restaurant. I first met Spinrad in 1997 when I wrote a story about him for the International Herald Tribune, when I was writing a lot of stuff about technology, and the American author had put up for sale on the Internet for $1 the rights to his novel, “He Walked Among Us” to the American publisher who would do the best job of publishing it.

Spinrad, to quote my own article, was “part of the “new wave” of the late 1960s when he wrote “Bug Jack Barron,” a novel that anticipated the days when presidential elections would be decided entirely by television.” We kept in touch and saw each other again and he invited me to his 60th birthday party in Paris in 2000 when he lived in the 5th Arrondissement. A very cool man, I recall that at his 60th birthday party he had invited people like his local wine story seller and probably even his butcher – although I cannot remember precisely that fact – along with publishers, writers, artists, etc.

So it was with great anticipation that I returned to his 70th birthday last night, and was not let down. This time it was in the cellar room of a Creole restaurant, and the atmosphere was wonderful. Among those who showed up were the science fiction writer Michael Moorcock and his wife Linda Moorcock, Spinrad’s editor at his French publishing house, Fayard (which, by the way, is publishing “He Walked Among Us”!), and I found out only after everyone had left that the woman sitting across the table from me at one point who looked like the French actress Josiane Balasko, was in fact, the French actress, scenarist and film director, Josiane Balasko. And of course, there were some of his friends of “the common people” as well, which included an RATP (Paris métro) repairman….

Norman Spinrad Celebrating his 70th birthday in Paris

Norman Spinrad Celebrating his 70th birthday in Paris

So how do I tie all this together to a musical theme? Well, I had again debated whether I should bring my guitar with me, and again I had decided against it. As I stepped off the metro and surfaced on Montparnasse, I realized I was right next to the Swan Bar, where I go on Friday nights sometimes to play music. And, as it turned out, the Spinrad party erupted into a musical celebration when the cake arrived, and someone in the party who knew I played music, asked me if I had brought my guitar.

Well, I decided that having drunk so much at that point, that I would ask the DJ if he would put on a track – Since You Left Me – from my Ephemere Recordings on the sound system. I wanted to see how well my music blended in with Bob Marley and the other pop songs that were being played. I wanted to do it without anyone knowing that it was my music, just to see how it blended in – you know, would people stop short, raise their eyebrows and go, “What the hell is this?”

In fact, the DJ decided he wanted to announce to everyone that I was the guy making the music that was piping in through the sound system, so I had to take a little bow, and then behave naturally somehow. But the great news was that people continued dancing to my music as they had to ther music, and they appeared to enjoy it immensely. But then again, I suspect that I was not the only one who had by then drunk so much that anything that was piped in would have sounded wonderful….

By the way, this is not the first time I have mentioned Spinrad on this blog, as I mentioned him just a few weeks ago when I wrote about meeting a French punk musician named Eric Debris, and it turned out that Spinrad had made a record with another writer I know and who is a friend of Debris, Maurice Dantec. And as with the Debris evening, this evening at Spinrad’s birthday was one of those where I felt several of my worlds coming together, and that provides such a feeling of satisfaction and the fullness of life, which has outweighed the pain of the hangover. Next time, of course, however, I will have to take my guitar even when in doubt – even if I did get to put my song on the sound system and have my music heard….

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