Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Of Loyalty and Success at the Ptit Bonheur

February 13, 2013

I’m a great believer in the concept of loyalty in certain situations in life, maybe even in most situations. But when it comes to deciding where I am going to go to have fun playing my music in an open mic, I don’t care at all about loyalty. I’m going to go to the open mic(s) on any particular evening where I think I’m going to have the most fun, both behind the mic and at the bar talking to people, and within the confines of what my availability is within the sign-up rules of the open mic. But when it comes to the MCs of great open mics, I sometimes feel that maybe they should show a little loyalty. And last night, Ollie Joe, the MC of the great Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic decided to disappear from his post to go off and do a personal concert at the Espace B. I wanted to go and see him, but given the choice, I decided to go to his open mic, being hosted exceptionally by Sven. Wow! I was not the only one who remained loyal where Ollie did not! The place was jam packed with spectators and musicians, more than any other time practically that I have seen….

Having said that, Ollie Joe is a wonderful musician, and had I not had such a selfish motivation in doing music at open mics, I would have attended his concert – and he later returned to the Ptit Bonheur la Chance and told me the Espace B was also packed. So all ended well. But I can say that loyalty had nothing to do with the fun at the Ptit Bonheur last night. A vast list of performers, a full bar on the ground floor, standing room only in the concert room below, and some wonderful acts. NOT a night to miss – and woe to all those other bars in Paris that choose Tuesday as their open mic night….

Oh, I forgot to mention that I was actually taken enormously by surprise, got to the Ptit Bonheur so late that I was virtually the last one on the list to perform, and even then, I was no doubt on the “standby” list. As it happened, I had so much fun as an audience member and listening to others, that when it came my turn and Sven had reduced people’s slots to one song, I decided to give my second song to a crazy Australian and crazy Frenchman who had never performed at the Bonheur before. And even that was selfish, since I actually did not want to perform at that point, it was such a great night.

OK, I admit. I’m not telling the full truth. Another reason I didn’t want to perform by that time is I had a run-in with a very disagreeable spectator who treated me like cow manure for making a video of one of the better performers. That kind of thing happens very, very rarely; which is why I tend to take badly to it. (I’m actually completely cool with someone telling me that they hate being videoed and would rather I not do it – but the secret is in how it is done, IE, treat me like a normal human, my video camera is not a weapon, and lots of people love seeing the videos (of themselves or others). I needed a bit of time to cool off on the only low point of the night…. (There, I have adhered to my strict effort to speak my mind on this blog, no matter what happens….)

Ollie Fury at the Espace B and Me at the Acoustic Jam Session

December 3, 2010

Actually, I ended up in both places last night and had a nice bit of exercise walking between the two of them. That’s the beauty of the iPhone; you can pull up the GPS and see how long and HOW you can walk from one venue to the other and get your daily exercise – in the -10 degree weather.

Although I have seen and written about Ollie Fury in Paris for a while and in Singapore during the F1 race when Ollie happened to be there at the same time I was, this was the first time I had the opportunity to see him in action with a whole band. On bass and some kind of harmonica/keyboard instrument was Yaco Mouchard, and there was another guy on percussion – bongos, snare, something like that. It sounded great. A beautiful combination for Ollie’s haunting compositions. Ollie told me in Singapore that he was going into the studio to record like this, and now I’m really looking forward to the result.

I took the 36-minute hike from the Espace B – where Ollie played – over to the Cabaret Culture Rapide bar where I have written many a time about my Friday-night open mics there…without a microphone. But last night was the first time I have attended the Thursday night jam session with the Belleville Blues Band. And I was not let down. I enjoyed the band immensely, and I was delighted to be able to find four of my songs that just managed to squeeze into a blues feel of the evening. I was invited to do more, but I couldn’t think of anymore to do just then. Will no doubt return. But it was great fun to play with the guitar player and drummer, and then the bass player joined in and so did the other guitar players. I ended up with the full band on “I Shall Be Released.” (I had started with “Crazy Love,” then went into my blues version of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and then did my own song that I wrote when I was 16 and which has yet to find a title.) The band then played on its own brand of blues and blues rock, and while I am not a huge fan of electric blues evenings – with the same three chords endlessly played – this was a completely different effect with the acoustic instruments, and as you will see, with the cool singing.

A Concert With Miggles and Wass; A Barman’s Open Mic

April 24, 2010

Back at home base in Paris after the disastrous China travel experience, it was time to get out and play again – in a few senses of the word. After breaking up with my girlfriend yesterday – who was not actually my girlfriend, since she seemed to have several men, so at best I was certainly categorized on her side to all the others as simply a friend (as we all were) – I decided I would go and forget my sorrows by going out to three different places in the same night. I lined up a concert, an open mic and an aftershow wind down from the first concert. In the end, I could have made all three – plus a fourth – but part way to the Tigre bar on the rue Molière, I decided to back out and grab a cab while there was still a cab available, since it was already almost 2 AM.

The concert was at the Espace B, a venue I have heard about for over a year, but I never went to, located at 16 rue barbanègre, in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, unfortunately close to my ex-girlfriend’s place. But I was very curious to go to the concert because it had my friends Johann Giethlen and Miggles Christ playing in it, along with the beautiful drummer, Victoria Froehly. It is Miggles’ band, in fact, and after seeing Miggles and Johann play for more than a year at Earle’s open mic, I decided it was time to see the band. Miggles, as I mentioned in my story about Earle, is the original catalyst to the whole new scene of rock in the last decade in Earle’s universe – as you can see by the story, since in the story Miggle’s name is Michael Bontemps, the guy Earle met in Pete Doherty’s hotel room.

But I was also curious to hear one of the other guys at the Espace B, and that was Alan Wass. I glanced at his Myspace and somewhere else and listened to a few bars of the music and said, “This is good, wanna hear it.” It turned out also that he was some kind of friend of Pete Doherty’s. So it seemed it could be interesting.

Not for the first time, I arrived at the concert an hour and a half too early since the Facebook invitation got the hour all wrong. So that gave me the idea of taking a cab to go and see Earle, who was at the Mecano. I’d already taken a swig of my beer, but I just put it on the counter and left for the Mecano, not telling the Espace B barman that I was returning. I was simply down and out and anything goes – didn’t want much human contact.

Took a cab to Earle’s place, unfortunately passing right in front of the restaurant where I ate with my grilfriend two days before. I then spent half an hour with Earle and returned to the Espace B. First thing that happened when I arrived was the bartender told me he had saved my beer for me, behind the counter, not sure I would return or not. First good thing that happened all day – and it was even great, that gest.

My favorite Miggle’s tune was one that he has played time and again acoustically at Earle’s open mic, and I will post it below, and it also had a great line for my state of mind last night: “Why did you let me down, why did you let me down???” But actually, I think this is the song that refers to that very evening in the hotel where he met Earle with Pete, and is more about drugs than love. But I may be wrong:

But for me the revelation of the evening – since I already knew Miggles’ great stuff – was really to hear Alan Wass play his guitar and sing. Who the hell is this guy? I was asking myself. He had this cool sort of American sound to his voice, but with a clear mix of a touch of the Pete Doherty side, and clearly some Dylan and Donovan undertones, or maybe overtones. I found myself recording three of the four or five songs he played. And then I found myself thinking that the best song he did was one where I decided to stop recording for a moment, and I became entirely involved in the song – although not enough to heed to what I was saying to myself: “Why am I not recording this one? Am I perverse?”

After he played, I went to talk to him to tell him I really enjoyed the music, especially the one I did NOT record and also the first and last one. He was a very agreeable guy, from England, and the English accent when he spoke was such a contrast to the accent when he played, that it was kind of cool. But the music was authentic. And when I said I really liked the last one, “Hired Gun,” he said he had just played it with Pete Doherty. So I found out that in fact, he had backed Doherty for years, writes for Doherty, and that this song is a big success with Doherty – but it’s actually written by Wass. Looking it up on the Internet, that’s not an easy fact to find. Once it gets the stamp of a big name on it, it loses its origin and becomes a Doherty song. Here’s my video of Wass singing it (or part of it) last night at the Espace B:

But when I look and listen again to these videos, I think I prefer the way he sings his first song, of which I also took a video of at least part of it. So I cannot imagine how good the one I did not record was! Here’s the first song he played, pardon the camera movements at the beginning (and I have just returned to add a note that I suddenly realized that this sounds a heck of a lot like Van Morrison, too….):

Cabaret Culture Rapide at Belleville

So the next joint on the list was an open mic that I discovered about three or four months ago. It is in the Belleville area of Paris and it is one of the very few open mics I know of on Fridays, and it starts around 10:30 PM. So I had no choice to go there into that neighborhood, which, unfortunately, also happened to be the same neighborhood of my girlfriend whom I had broken up with yesterday before setting out on my trek!!

Called Cabaret Culture Rapide, the open mic is in a very small bar at 103 rue Julien Lacroix. The problem with this open mic is that there is no mic. They call it the barman’s evening, or something like that, and despite the pain of singing without a microphone, I like the atmosphere. The colored walls are cool, the little stage is cute, and the crowds are young and friendly, in general.

I didn’t arrive until 20 minutes past 11 PM, but I was able to get a spot to play, thanks to the nice MC. I saw a couple of regulars there, among them Elliott – whose last name escapes me, but I’ll put it up when I find it – and a woman who reads little poetic prose stories. This open mic is not just for music, but for standup comedy, poetry, anything goes. This night there was a comedian who I thought I recognized as the DJ from a radio station that sponsors a song contest that I took part in after he saw me playing at another bar and he invited me to do the contest. But I decided that it must just be my imagination, so I didn’t approach him.

I sang my song “Since You Left Me,” and then found that I was being invited to do another song in the next round of performances, so I did “Father and Son.” After my first song, the guy I thought I recognized ran up to me at the bar and said, “Hey, Brad! I didn’t recognize you at first, but I’m the one….”

“I know,” I said. “It’s Emeric!” Yes, it was my DJ from Yvelines radio, Emeric Degui all right. So we talked and he said I should do the contest again, get all my friends to vote, and they have invited a few of the musicians on the show, etc. I told him that maybe I should send in my song, “Except Her Heart,” as arranged by Félix Beguin, and we left it at that.

So below I will put up a few video snippets of the performers at this Barman’s open mic, but none of me, which I did not make. The first is Emeric, the second is Elliott, and the third is the Italian poet who composes in French, which he often seems to have a hard time speaking. He calls himself a psychedelic poet, and he is a regular at this open mic, sometimes actually doing the MC chores himself.

After the Culture Rapide Cabaret I headed over to the Stalingrad metro, passing perversely in front of my ex-girlfriend’s place, and there I took the Line 7 to Le Tigre on rue Molière, but just a few stops from the bar I decided to get off the metro, take a cab and return home – I remembered too many recent nights in Paris where I could not get a cab and I was walking the streets for an hour trying to find one.

Tonight, I believe I have found another open mic, called Resistencias, that is open to more that just music, and it is the first time I will do it. So it will be interesting to see if there are any revelations…..

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