Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Bits of News from Shanghai – Breaking Through the Great Firewall & Les Yeux Ouverts

April 11, 2015

Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China

SHANGHAI, China – I think the only way to understand the frustration of trying to do a blog once a year for a few days in Shanghai is to come to Shanghai and try it yourself. Let me just say that the Chinese government control of the Internet is quite effective, even if there is such a thing that exists called a VPN, that allows persistent people to fight through the great firewall. I’m not feeling very energetic tonight, so I decided I will keep this post very short.

I just simply wanted to say that I have been in China since Wednesday, and I have not posted partly out of discouragement from the necessary pains trying to do so, and partly because I have not actually attended any open mics so far on this visit. I intend to attend open mics in the next two days, though, hopefully two open mics. And I will duly report on those. Both will be new experiences for me, as I have attended neither of them in the past.

I have been playing LOTS of music in my hotel room, though, as my last couple of weeks or whatever it was in Paris, I did little playing thanks to a new neighbor who hates music, and thanks to my own other occupations. So I have been going absolutely crazy playing in my hotel room with Shanghai lit up 18 floors beneath me.

My only other reason for posting is to mention on this blog a very worthwhile project that needs crowdfunding: My daughter, Emily, is working on an end-of-the-year short film project at her film school, the Ecole de la Cité, and she needs to raise a budget. The budget, it turns out, is a very real need. I spoke with her about where it goes, and if she is learning a lot at the film school, I’m learning a lot through her about what it takes to become a filmmaker – including where the budget goes!!! So go to her crowd fund-raising page and support her film: Yes Yeux Ouverts or what she is calling, Opening the Eyes in English. She has reached nearly 50 percent of her budget so far, and needs to get 100 percent, as you probably know in the principles of crowd fundraising.

The Imminent Closing of the Coolin and its Crazy Cool Open Mic in Paris: And the Definitive Video of an Open Mic at the Coolin

March 1, 2015

Outside the Coolin

Outside the Coolin

PARIS – It will not be news to most people who attend open mics in Paris, since we’ve known about this for several months, but there are only three more occasions to take part in one of Paris’s best open mics at one of Paris’s best Irish pubs: The Coolin Irish Pub.

I have written so much about the Coolin open mic over the years since I first discovered it around four or five years ago – I cannot find my first post!! – that I do not need to introduce it to many regular readers of this blog. Suffice it to say that it quickly became one of the most fun, crazy and popular open mics in the city thanks to the usual recipe that makes open mics a success around the world: A great pub environment (this one is pretty voluminous, and that’s pretty rare for success); a great pub owner who loves music and never complains about the “noise”; a great MC in Etienne Belin (and his assistant MC, Ellen Banville); and a usually full and great audience and musicians….

You can see all of that style, feel and sound in a wonderful video on the Coolin open mic filmed and edited by my daughter Emily Spurgeon, posted on this page, above. Emily attended a night recently in order to film me for a school project documentary she called Rebellious Youth, and she was so fired up by the evening that she decided to use a whole lot more of the rushes she got from the evening to string together a fabulous final video – and advertisement for the last three open mic nights – of the atmosphere of an evening a the the Coolin open mic. Check it out and see all the incredible moments and emotions a single night passes through….

Yes, Coolin had everything. Oh, if there was one downside, it might be that this was far from the intimate kind of environment that the Ptit Bonheur la Chance could provide to artists testing new, tender material – but I assure you, those moments could happen as well at the Coolin, especially at the end of the evening ’round midnight, when most listeners had exhausted their frenzy, and some musicians were called up a second time to perform, and launched into something more intimate….

Anyway, in general, the environment at the Coolin was always one of good cheer and warmth, and the staff was always part of that environment. I only ever saw the pub on open mic nights on Mondays – and tomorrow will be the third to last Monday for that before the pub closes for good on 21 March, so get there!!!!! – but I understand that many of the other musical nights, like Paddy Sherlock’s Sunday, were among the most popular in Paris.

The pub is not closing out of any kind of failure, it is closing on success. It is closing because the fabulous Marché St. Germain in which it is located has been bought by a technology company that doesn’t need any more real estate in Paris, but feels it does. I’m not so happy about the fact that I’m writing these words on one of the computers made by that technology company, and that while I love the computer, I am sorry to see that another real world meeting place is being replaced by a company that prefers virtual worlds….

“Les Sentimentaux” – A Short Film by Emily Spurgeon

November 30, 2013

Emily Spurgeon filming "Les Sentimentaux"

Emily Spurgeon filming “Les Sentimentaux”

PARIS – For the first time on this blog I have decided to be an indulgent father and to put up on the blog a short film that my daughter made last January, when she was 19. Yesterday she decided to not submit the film to festivals, but to make public on Facebook and YouTube. There were a few problems with sound and a few other minor technical problems, and she wants to do better before submitting to a festival. However, last night I went and saw Roman Polanski’s latest film, “Venus in Furs,” and I was struck by the similarity in his film and what my daughter did last January.

Of course dads will be like that, right? But there really is something interesting here about a teenager making her first film in Paris, with lousy cameras, with her writing the script, hiring the actors, directing the film, making the sets, and editing the film, and all on a budget of 0 euros, with equipment we had hanging around the apartment. And at the other end of the spectrum, Polanski, at 80 years old, with all of his resources that he can draw on, and all of his experience, and his actress wife, and his editors, and lighting people and the fabulous theatre set… and the two of them actually had a similar need and desire to express themselves in a somewhat “twisted” kind of film about two humans in a strange sort of bondage, connected to artistic production.

Anyway, the film was written and performed in French, but if you do not understand French, take a look anyway, and see what you think. Keep in mind that Emily, my daughter, is aware of the flaws at some points in the sound production, and some of the cutting, of the film. But I think – and would do so, as a Dad – that it is blood cool first film. I loved the Polanski too, by the way. Although my one criticism of the Polansk film is that for a film with only two actors located in one set for 1 hour 36 minutes, it was just a tad too long. Maybe Emily got that idea right, to keep hers to 15 minutes.

Family Day at the Galway and Elsewhere; or Jamming With a Last Waltz Band Member – my Son

May 31, 2011

Going to the Brasserie Lipp to celebrate my daughter Emily’s 18th birthday, I decided nevertheless to take along my guitar, since that legendary brasserie is located in the same Latin Quarter neighborhood as the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub and it was Monday night and that meant the two open mics;

So we had a great meal at Lipp – with my son Paul and daughter eating the same dish of pig’s foot, not for me, and I had the famous choucroute – and of course we all had a nice Beaujolais to go along with it, since the legal drinking age in France is 18 and we had to celebrate that. We finished eating and got out of their at around 10:30 and headed over to the Tennessee Bar where the action was hot, the room was full, and some hard hitting and hard singing guy was on the stage. I took one look around the room and knew that I’d probably not get on – too many performers – and anyway, I had known that from the beginning but just wanted to show my son and daughter the Tennessee joint where I hang out so often.

So we stayed for a bit of this guy and then went to the Galway. My timing was perfect, as Stephen Prescott put me up as soon as we arrived and I did four or five songs. Then Stephen spent much of the rest of the night trying to get my son up on the stage, as I had told him before that Paul has a group, called The Last Waltz, and that he plays guitar and sings. In his band, in fact, he only does the occasional backup vocal, so he is not really used to singing in public – having only done it once or twice before. (To my knowledge.) Eventually, at the end of the evening, with Stephen, me and my daughter pushing Paul, we decided that he and I would go up together and jam a bit. Or rather, I’d sing some songs and he would do lead, some rhythm guitar, whatever.

He and I never play together at home. His music is his music, mine is mine. We did jam a little in the early days, but never seriously. And we never learned the same song. So this was not just our debut performance in public at an open mic, it was our first time playing what ended up being four songs together without break or practice, from beginning to end. We started with Marc Bolan’s “Cat Black, the Wizard’s Hat.” Then we did “Unchained Melody,” then we did, “I Shall Be Released.” By that last song we were starting to get the feel for things, and afterwards we would be complimented on that one. But none of it really showed off Paul’s best talents – he writes his own songs and learns the classics note by note -, and just before we left the stage he started playing “Little Wing,” and I said, “Crap, you should have played that and I’d do and improvise the singing.”

But there it was, a birthday and a birth – of a father and son duo. Well, probably not. But he might go again with The Last Waltz.

Too bad we didn’t get any of it on video, but there were some other high moments in the night – like Stephen’s “Common People,” and Sven Cosnuau singing with Pierre Doucet playing backup guitar.

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