Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Writing 30000 Feet in the Air, On the Past Few Days – Broad Revisted and Other Tales of Paris Sounds

October 23, 2012

No Internet at home for nearly a week, but I’m sitting on the Emirates A380 on my way to Dubai en route to India, and I have an Internet connection…. The world turned upside down – as it were. With a horrendously busy week ahead of me in India, followed by another week – or almost – in Abu Dhabi, I wanted to get a few words down on my badly neglected blog about happenings. The most important, urgent thing to write about is David Broad and his CD and concert in Paris over the weekend.

I wrote about David Broad, the finger-picking virtuoso from Leeds – of all places – when I was in Mokpo, South Korea, of all places, sick as a dog ready to be eaten. I realized a few days after writing that post that I had not done any justice to the subject of it whatsoever. Nowhere in my post about David’s amazing CD and musicianship and skill, etc., did I point out that all but three of the songs on the CD were written by Broad himself.

The reason for that oversight is because I thought that the songs were all old standards of blues, folk, old time stuff. Reading over the CD carefully upon re-listening to it while doing my exercises after returning to Paris from dogland, I realized that David had written all but three of the songs and they were insanely good. I had heard several of them before, and the one, Congress Street, I was certain was an old standard.

Nope, Broad’s broad material.

Anyway, so I went to hear him in his gig at the Zelda bar in Paris on Saturday night, and I apologized to him about not doing justice on that thing I wrote – which he had not even noticed! A very low-key man. The concert at Zelda’s was superb, with just Broad and his guitar. He held the audience electrified for more than an hour.

It also turned out that the bar, Zelda, was run by an old friend, from the band Rock&Roll, a short lived but relatively successful band from the bubble of baby rockers that came out of Paris in the middle of the last decade. Check out the Zelda bar….

On Monday, last night, I returned to two of my favorite open mics, the Coolin and the Galway, and I played at each one, but did not take out my recording device all that much, and in any case, I may have an internet connection here on the A380 above Turkey or wherever I am at the moment, but if I were to upload a single video I get the feeling it would take the rest of the flight – and certainly my allowance in terms of Internet bytes…or is it bits…?

Suffice it to say that Coolin was as fun as ever, if a little late in starting – which helped me check out the Galway first….

Sick as a Dog in Korea, Listening to David Broad

October 14, 2012

David Broad's New CD

David Broad’s New CD

There has been a long break from activity on this blog, partly because I have been traveling from Japan to South Korea, but mostly because I was lying sick as a dog in a tiny town called Mokpo in the south of South Korea for two of the three days. Sick as a dog is not a term I really wanted to use in this place, but it was the best one that came to mind. The good thing about all that is that it did give me time to contemplate the new CD of David Broad, one of the few guitar players I have seen at open mics who has made me briefly contemplate quitting playing guitar.

Mokpo is the location of the Formula One race this weekend, and I got in so much music AND work in Japan that sleep and proper nourishment and all of the rest of the things we do to keep ourselves healthy were left out of my life for a little too long, resulting in a wretched, flu-like deathly cold. Now under control, I found a moment to write about the music I did NOT play, but would have liked to – that of David Broad.

Broad is this amazing finger-picker guitar player from Leeds, England, who spent some time in Paris last year playing at the open mics and doing some concerts. He sent me his new CD a couple of weeks ago, and is it beautiful. You feel like you are in the same room with him and his band listening to his songs performed to perfection. Old time, country, blues, it’s all here. Broad’s heroes are above all the country blues stars of the 1920s and 1930s, people like Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James, Blind Blake, and of course Robert Johnson.

The album is not just beautifully produced in sound terms – with its mix of his finger-picking guitar, warm vocals, harmonica and double bass, and the mandolin, lap steel guitar, fiddle and 12 string guitar of the other musicians – it is also a wonderfully produced physical CD with a screenprinted cardboard sleeve. Recorded in Leeds and released on Folk Theatre Records, it has been produced in a limited edition of only 500 copies – so get one. If you’re sick and/or low, it will bring you out of it. If you are doing just fine, it might head off the flu – or the blues – lurking just around the corner.

P.S., if you are in the UK this fall you can catch David Broad on his tour at the dates on this list.

David Broad and Band at the Piston Pelican in Paris

May 14, 2011

That headline sounds like a tongue twister. But I can assure you that the way David Broad plays guitar, it’s a finger-twister. This man from Leeds, England, is one of the best finger pickers I’ve seen live, and he fits firmly in the tradition of Davey Graham.

Unfortunately he will be returning to England at the end of the month after several months in Paris. Last night, though, I had a last chance to see him again and a first chance to see him in a full band situation, with a bass player, drummer and violinist. He tore the Piston Pelican bar apart.

By the end of the evening it was about people dancing around the limited floor space, and calling for an encore. A completely fabulous show and a very cool bar I had never heard of before.

When Brad Runs in Circles, it’s a Very, Very….

May 12, 2011

“When people run in circles, it’s a very, very, maaaaad world….”

I sing those lyrics often when I do “Mad World,” my version falling somewhere between that of the original by Tears For Fears, and that of Gary Jules. But in the last several days I can really apply those words literally to my life, as opposed to the figurative sense that I play in my head when I sing the song.

There has been an uncommon break on this blog, because I’ve been running in circles in all sorts of senses. First, my third cold in about six weeks meant that upon my return from Istanbul I was more wiped out than at any time in recent memory, and therefore did not go out to an open mic on Monday.

(I later learned that despite my doctor’s belief that the cold might be allergy related, the entire Lotus Formula One team apparently came back from Istanbul with the same cold.)

Well, that was the first running in circles: a third cold in six weeks and never seeming able to kill the virus, or whatever it is.

Second, I decided to sit down and read into my computer from my Canon HV20 HDV video camera the footage that I took in Istanbul, including my interview with Safak at the Kooperatif. And that is when the real running in circles began and has still not ended.

There is no problem with the ultimate fate of the footage. It is on mini DV tape, so I can read it into the computer with any HD DV camera. But with MY camera and MY computer, it has been a full time job for the past three days trying to overcome technical difficulties that I see on Internet forums are very common for people with this and other camcorders, but that no one has a solution for.

The problem is that the computer does not recognize the existence of the camera through firewire, which is the only way to connect to download the video from the tape to the computer. This had happened repeatedly with the camera in the past, but I was always able to somehow eventually hook into the camera and it would pop up on the computer.

Now, no luck. Dead! So that led me to deciding finally to download Windows 7 and loading it on my Vista computer…. But THAT process has now taken two days and my computer keeps on rejecting it!!! I am currently using my work lap top to write these words, as my computer has been setting up Windows 7 for about six hours….

In short, between the cold, the video and the Windows I have been running in circles, and going very, and completely MAD.

I did, however, decide that while I might get a little behind on the blog entries, I could not let myself go completely mad. So I went to Ollie’s open mic on Tuesday, and I went to the Highlander open mic last night – and in order to run continuously in circles I took a brief break from the Highlander to walk the 10 minute sprint walk over to the Be There bar on the Ile St. Louis to see a friend’s band. I missed his band, but I saw another, and it was good mad world fun, so check it out – the C*caine Rodeo.

But the highlight for me at Ollie’s was most certainly Victoire’s rendition of “Look What they Done to my Song…” of Melanie. I had mentioned her on this blog a couple of weeks ago after that wonderful women’s night, and I said that I told her she ought to do the Melanie song. She listened to it on my iPhone, liked it, and two weeks later, there she was performing it in public for the first time. She did an excellent job, and I think her voice DOES match up well with it. She was a little more at ease on her next song, but once she gets going on this Melanie one, Victoire will definitely wipe us out.

Being Destroyed by David Broad’s Guitar Playing

January 12, 2011

Music, and the arts in general are not about competition. Well, not really. But what musician is entirely without a sense of wanting to be the best, wanting to play, sing or make music better than anyone else? I mean in any small sense of that concept? Even if true music and emotion in any performance or composition communicates as well no matter what the level of technical proficiency of the musician, last night at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic there were a few guitar players who thought they might as well quit guitar playing all together.

There were a few who thought that they had no chance against a virtuoso like fingerpicking David Broad. I’ve mentioned David a few times on this blog, but last night his guitar playing again whacked over the head all of the musicians and non-musician spectators alike who sat there bewitched by his hard hitting fingerpicking and rhythm as he played his three songs. The guitar playing that struck me the most was on the song “John Henry.” But the other two were also adept.

David has an understated personal style, but sitting there last night you could see him firing on all 12 cylinders – or rather it was like a steam engine – and his foot was tapping rhythm and it sounded like we had old John Henry himself in the room with his hammer….

I asked him how long he had been playing the guitar and he said since his early teens (and he is in his mid-to-late 20s). I asked if he had always done the fingerpicking like that, and he said that had begun when he was 19 and he bought a DVD of Stefan Grossman teaching how to play guitar like that. I told him I have a wonderful CD of Grossman and John Renbourn playing together, but what I did not tell him was that I think I might run out and get one of those Grossman DVDs – either that or quit playing guitar….

Sorry, it was too dark to capture an image, but here was David Broad last night, and the sound is much as we heard it:

Last Brunch of 2010, with Broad and Koen & Victor

December 20, 2010

It started off slowly, but my last brunch at the Mecano bar for 2010 again lived up to its past: David Broad showed up to play his exceptional fingerpicking Americana. Broad is from Leeds, England, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Earl Scruggs invite him for the two to play together. Check out Broad’s Hank Williams number.

On the same theme, coming for the first time to watch and play were Koen from Holland and Victor from France, who played some Django-inspired stuff. They whipped up a storm with their guitar and mine, and I hope they return for more hot picking. Victor has a group that he said has been in hibernation lately, but you can check it out the band’s myspace, under the band’s name: Mome Raths. But don’t expect Django – this is psychedelic rock.

My next brunch at the Mecano is on Sunday, 2 January – in other words, the second day of post-New Year’s recuperation…

Happy World, Sad World, Mad World, at the Disquaires and Baroc

November 26, 2010

I started playing music in public again two years ago this month after decades away because of two main reasons: One is simply the pleasure and catharsis I feel in performing, in singing and playing, and in communicating with an audience through that. The other is in the compliments and applause I receive from an audience, when I have done a good job. Both took me by surprise two years ago when I started playing again, and both failed me last night!

Nothing too serious here, but I really let myself down last night at Les Disquaires by not feeling deeply enough into my own music – for several reasons – and just simply not being prepared. But that is ultimately the beauty of live musical performance. When you are not a performer you don’t often realize how much the same performer’s quality of performing can go up or down depending on the day. In other words, there are some good days and some bad days. That IS the reality and beauty of live.

Yesterday I had been looking forward to playing in Thanksgiving concert night at the Disquaires that was organized by my friend Baptiste, of Texas in Paris. It was planned well in advance, and I had already played at two or three of his evenings in the past couple of years at the Disquaires and it had gone very well each time. But for many reasons last night I ended up feeling like absolute crap and did what I thought was a lousy job. One of the main reasons – and this is no real excuse – is that I suddenly found myself having to play immediately after David Broad, and just after I videoed his wonderful performance that got the whole house going quite mad. I had not realized I was going to play after him, and I was not ready. In fact, I had not even selected my songs.

I will say nothing more about that, just check out the David Broad videos below that I did of him last night, and you will see how I could feel like my back was against the wall. I played my song Borderline, and I played Mad Word. In fact, with Broad, it was a happy world, with me it was a sad world, and then I decided to get out of the Disquaires as quickly as possible to go to another venue where I had been invited to play, and it truly became a mad world….

The other venue was Le Baroc, in Belleville. My friend Les DeShane was playing there doing a full gig and he invited me to show up to play two or three songs. I was so pissed off with myself about the Disquaires that I thought the best remedy would be to play again immediately. But when I got to the Baroc, I learned from Les that he had been double booked. He had invited a bunch of friends, other musicians, brought his equipment and he found as he arrived that another band was setting up to play for the night.

He managed to get the management to realize that it had made an error, and so he managed to get up there and play his gig while the other band sat in the back waiting all night for its turn. The result, however, was that the special invited guests – like me – did not get a chance to play. And unfortunately, I arrived so late that I even missed Les’s set. My evening was saved, however, by an intriguing young blond woman who was there intently watching all the musicians play and who told me in French that I was “tres beau,” and that I reminded her of someone who should be in the FBI, that I looked like an FBI agent…. On the other hand, she made it clear that she would be on the other side of the fence, the one the agents would be hunting, the bad girl. Oops, did I not say it was a mad world?

A P.S. update: I just heard back after posting this that after my performance at the Disquaires there were a number of people who said, “Who is that guy?” And they had, it turned out, enjoyed my performance. So that is also another phenomenon about performance that is very curious: The performer’s own perception of what he does and how he comes across is NOT always the most accurate, and sometimes when you think you totally blew it, you didn’t. Suffice it to say that I felt I could have done a lot better!

Off Track, on Track With the Between the Seasons Waltz

November 22, 2010

That is a very convoluted “headline” just to say that after a full week or more of silence I have returned back on track with my blog. I don’t think I have had too many such silences, but basically it comes down to the Formula One season having ended, and me having a short little illness without consequences to coincide with that end.

Readers of this blog will have noted that I spent the previous nine months traveling the world and playing in open mics and jams and busking all over the place in some 15 or so countries and most of the continents. It was my second year doing that, and with a little luck, I will continue again next year. For the moment, I have entered into what is known as the winter season, or the off-season, in Formula One, where journalists like me tend to tend to other projects and to take holidays and prepare for the coming season.

I will mostly be sticking around Paris, playing gigs (don’t miss the Texas in Paris organized Thanksgiving evening I’m playing at, at the Disquaires on Thursday), open mics and jams. And at the moment I plan a weekly brunch musical afternoon show at the Mecano Bar in Paris, every Sunday. For the past couple of months I’ve been hosting this every Sunday that I have been in town and not writing about the Formula One races. I play two or three sets of my music and cover songs, and I invite guests to play a set too. The guests are my friends and acquaintances in the musical world that I have met, mostly in Paris. The brunch starts at 3 PM and usually ends at 6 PM, although on one particularly lively Sunday with David Broad on guitar and vocals and Joe Cady on fiddle, we stayed until 7 PM.

Yesterday I started up the brunch again and had Calvin McEnron and Rym playing a set each. It was a cold, rainy day in Paris, and I can’t think of any better place to be if you like brunch (it’s good food), music and relaxation. So check it out!!

Extraordinary Atmosphere and Music at the Mecano Brunch #3

October 18, 2010

I just had to write this down, as I prepare to fly off to Korea tomorrow for the Formula One race (if the Paris strikes do not prevent me from going). Yesterday was the third week in a row that I hosted my own brunch afternoon on Earle’s invitation at Le Mecano bar and restaurant in the Oberkampf area of Paris. And it was another wild and fun time. In fact, this time the music got really exotic and crazy, and the whole thing went on until after 7 PM, after starting at 3PM.

In addition to my sets – using my SE Electronics microphone, so really getting nice, pure sound on the vocals – we had Les DeShane doing a short set, and then my invited guest, David Broad, whom I introduced on this blog a couple of weeks ago after discovering him at The Highlander. This British guy from Leeds, England, out-does many an American singer/guitar player, on their own songs.

And what a great delight it then turned out to be when long after David had finished his set and I had finished my last set, suddenly Joe Cady showed up. I mentioned Joe on an earlier blog item too, as he plays frequently at the Bizart jam session on Tuesdays. So I didn’t give Joe a chance to even sit down before I asked if he brought his violin with him.

“Yeah, I did,” he said. “It’s out in the car.”

I told him to go get it, and I immediately asked David if he had some songs that would go well with a violin, and he said he thought he might. Indeed. We ended up being treated to another hour of fabulous music by David, Joe and a friend of David’s who came in and provided harmonies on a number of the songs as well.

It was pure bliss for an hour, and promises great things for the future. In the middle of my second second set we also had a nice moment with me doing “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Ring of Fire” with my friend Rym, and a solo number with our friend Elise, who played guitar and sang in what she said was her first ever appearance behind a mic. It will not be her last, I’m sure of that.

Brad’s Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jams and Other Venues – Oh, and David Broad at The Highlander

October 7, 2010

It suddenly occurred to me a few minutes ago that I should put up a page on this site with addresses to open mics, jams and other music venues in Paris. The idea came to me because I have over the last couple of years given such a list to people I meet in open mics in Paris when they’re looking for a place. Today I sent it to another person I met last night at The Highlander, and I thought, why not put it up on this site.

The only problem is that the list is CONSTANTLY changing. The one I have just put up is up to date as of today, however. But watch out, it DOES change fast. It is a bit of a mess in style, but the information is there and in future I will add links to this Brad’s Guide of Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music Venues, when I have more time,

In the meantime, I played at the Highlander again last night, and the delightful discovery of the evening I think surely had to be David Broad, from Leeds, England. You have to listen his mixture of country, trad, ragtime and who knows what all else. I’ve put three videos in below from last night at The Highlander:

Powered by