Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Playing Pop Rock at the Blues Jam of the Fermento in Milan

September 5, 2014

fermento milan

fermento milan

MILAN, Italy – When I arrived pretty late last night at the Fermento Art&Pub in Milan for the Thursday night jam, my heart fell. I turned out my friend Lucio Omar Falco, the friendly bass player who organizes the jam, was still on vacation. The waitress told me there would be a jam if some musicians showed up, but otherwise, not. And I thought it just might be my only chance to play on a stage in Milan this weekend, and there it was, as good as gone.

But I stuck around to eat my dinner, since I was starving, and it was late. I had the great idea to try a veal cutlet, since in previous years when I had been there, I had made bad choices on the pizza. So I got one of the best veal cutlets and a side dish of mushrooms like I’d never had before, and that was the beginning of things looking up, luck turning around.

Soon, I saw musicians arriving with guitar cases, bass cases, drumsticks, you name it. And then I saw a drummer setting up the drum set to his liking. The lights went on over the stage, and soon, before I’d even finished eating my apple pie desert, the Fermento as I knew it from previous years, had woken up into a fabulous blues jam, pub and restaurant.

It’s a vast room that winds around in a horseshoe shape, so those who want to listen to the music can stay on the stage side of the horseshoe, and the others go elsewhere. I enjoyed several groups of jammers going up and then I said to myself, “OK, you have what you want…but you don’t play any blues.” In years past, Lucio had helped me through that hump. But this time, knowing none of the musicians, I was worried: Where do I find my place in a blues jam with pop rock folk on an acoustic guitar.

I nevertheless decided to ask a few questions, and before I knew it, I was on the stage leading my numbers with a great drummer and bass player backing me. It turned out the drummer, Fabio, not only plays in a rock band, but also in a French-style Gypsy jazz band. Music’s music, right?

So I played Wicked Game, Crazy Love, Mad World and finished off with I Won’t Back Down, by Tom Petty. It was no petty moment. I had an amazingly wonderful time, and the band and audience encouraged me to continue after each song. It just didn’t matter that it wasn’t classic electric blues. It was music, right?

Someone made a video of my performance on the Tom Petty song, below – hmm… now I know what it feels like to get hit by one of these!!!

Like I think I say every year, I’ll be back to Fermento next year, if I pass through again.

Jamming Solo at Fermento in Milan

September 6, 2013

fermento milan

fermento milan

MILAN – Playing together with other musicians is the essence, even the definition of a jam session, and how it differs from an open mic, where individual performers may take to the stage and do their thing solo. But the one thing that an open jam and an open mic do share in common is that word “open,” and the musical freedom that it entails. Last night in Milan, the open jam session at the Fermento Art ‘n Pub proved to me once and for all that it is really, and truly open.

Last night was my fourth year in a row at which I have attended the Fermento jam during the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix in the nearby suburb of Monza. But it was the first time that I was invited by Lucio Omar Falco, the cool bass-playing MC and organizer of the jam to take to the stage all by myself with just my voice and guitar.

In fact, it was the first time I have seen any solo performance at the Fermento jam. Of course, wiser readers than I might interpret this as Lucio’s way of saying, “OK, Brad, we’ve heard enough of you in the past three years to know that we’d rather not play with you!”

In fact, no. I don’t think so, given that Lucio kept on signalling me on from the wings to do another song. In the end, I did four, two of my own and two covers. I probably chose badly the last one, “Wicked Game,” and depressed them all, and thus lost the stage. But it made my night.

No, wait. What also made my night was the level of the quality of the jam session, both with the regular musicians of Lucio’s band, and those of the participants.

I forgot to mention another thing on the “open” theme: Although this jam session is primarily blues-based, Lucio knows I don’t really play any classic blues, and he let me play anyway. And that’s another aspect of the “open” thing. There was a lot of the music that was more rock and even a little fusion jazz stuff. All in all, a fun night at a cool restaurant/bar and art space.

Fermenting in the Fermento Jam in Milan

September 8, 2012

I arrived in Milan, Italy on Thursday feeling like a slug. I had a terrible, terrible night of rolling around in bed unable to sleep – mostly with the thought of the early rise for an early flight and the excitement of going to Milan, one of my worst music destinations of the year. O.K., it’s great if you’re into opera, but I have not even bothered asking La Scala to book me a slot. Instead, I knew I had probably only one shot at playing in Milan, and that would be at the Thursday night open jam session at the Fermento Art&Pub bar.

I had played at the Fermento last year, and I was determined to play there again this year, despite the fatigue. Everything, it seems, is slower in Milan – except the way they drive on the public roads (and the fastest track of the F1 calendar, at Monza – and so I spent all day and night yesterday trying to get my videos up on YouTube for this blog. Only managed to get two of the videos up for the moment, and I have all but given up on the idea of doing the rest. (NOTE: Later in the day I finally got a faster connection and put up more videos.)

Anyway, the Fermento is a great jam, open to all kinds of musicians, but with an emphasis on the blues. That is not, according to Lucio Omar Falco, the organizer, the philosophy of the jam – which is that it is open to everyone – but that’s just the way it turns out. Heavy on the Stratocaster blues and harmonicas, and a number of piano players. Lucio plays bass, and there is a drummer too.

I played my acoustic guitar plugged into an amp, and I had a piano player, Lucio and drummer. I did Mad World, and I was sooooo tired, that it felt quite mad, indeed. And the piano player’s back was turned to me, so I don’t think he noticed the variation in the chord pattern. It’s the same four chords throughout, but not always in the same pattern….

Anyway, I had fun on that, and then jumped into What’s Up! because that is just the same three chords and pattern from beginning to end. It’s a great song to do after a fuck up, because then you can really belt out: What’s going on!!???

There were some fine musicians and the the place was just full of them. It’s like, Milan has far more musicians in it than venues for them to play in. So a jam like this one is very, very popular. And has some good musicians taking part. Not sure what they thought of my non-blues stuff, though…. But I was really happy to have made another recording of me playing with local musicians, as I have been doing on every country I visit this year without fail. Only eight more to go!

Playing at the Toro Loco in Monza

September 10, 2011

Since I began doing this musical adventure along with my travel to the Formula One races I had always more or less crossed off my list of potential places to play my music the actual location of the Italian Grand Prix: Monza. What chance would there be of playing in a jam or open mic in Monza? This is a very cool location, the track is one of the most historic in Formula One. But no, the idea was I would find a place to play in Milan, of which Monza is basically a suburb. Last night I ended up playing in Monza!

I have found in my third year on this musical adventure around the world that I have been playing in more and more places on each trip, discovering more and more venues and musicians, and the Monza story is part of that same movement. Having written off not only Monza but Milan itself, this year I managed to find a cool jam at the Fermento Art&Pub bar on Thursday and there the musicians invited me to come and listen to them play at the Toro Loco (crazy bull) restaurant in Monza the following night, last night. And they also said that if I wanted to play some songs with them, I could do that. So I went!

And it turned out to be a fabulous evening. The Toro Loco, as I was told, had fabulous food, was not expensive, was large, friendly, and had a cute little stage. There was a team from the GP3 series eating there too, as it is so close to the race track. I also saw someone from the Red Bull team, I believe.

The Toro Loco is located about 10 minutes drive maximum from the circuit, and just around the roundabout where I saw Jenson Button’s father apparently staying in hotel – which I dropped into as I tried to figure out where the Toro Loco was.

In any case, the band played beautifully, then invited me up and I did “Mad World” again, as we had done it the night before. And I played my song “Memories,” as it seemed an easy one for everyone to play to without rehearsal. I played acoustic while the others played harmonica, bass and lead. And I sang, of course.

A fabulous moment of a dream come true – kind of like when I finally found a place to play in Monaco….

Brad Spurgeon and Eric Clapton at the Belgian Grand Prix

Brad Spurgeon and Eric Clapton at the Belgian Grand Prix

And today at the track, Russell Batchelor, an F1 photographer, sent me a photo of me interviewing Eric Clapton at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago. What a great mixture of music and racing this weekend….

Finally, Jamming at Fermento Art&Pub in Milan

September 9, 2011

So it took three visits over the least three years to finally find a bar with a bona fide weekly jam session. It turns out it has less to do with Milan being non-musical than to do with the city still remaining closed throughout the month of September for “the summer.” Two years ago the only open jam session I found was amongst the anarchists – and it was great – and last year all I found was a karaoke where they allowed me to play with my guitar. Last night, it was a hugely fun and cool and real jam session, the weekly jam at the Fermento Art&Pub.

Although I had fought through hours of web surfing and spoken to many people in the last three years, I never managed to find anything aside from the aforesaid anarchist jam and karaoke. Oh, I did see an open mic and a jam, but they were closed. Yesterday I managed to find a page that listed jam sessions in Milan, and I narrowed down my choice to Fermento, as the only other that seemed to be happening was more about jazz, Fermento was blues. Of the two, I figured I could find a place in the blues jam better than in the jazz one.

My choice was right. I managed to play “Mad World” and “Crazy Love” with the band, and we did O.K. The band, however, was very interesting. I could hardly have imagined that I would find that the lead guitar player, Fred Pierre Gustave, and the harmonica player were both Frenchmen. They were in fact invited as the feature band of the evening, playing along with a drummer and with the bass player who organizes the jam, an Italian named Lucio “Omar” Falco. Fred PG, as he appears to be sometimes known, is a hot lead player who likes the blues AND French gypsy jazz. He lives in Madrid and plays in Spanish bands, and also all around Europe. He’s on a little tour in Italy at the moment, in fact, and Fermento was one of the stops.

After the feature act – the French harmonica player did interesting French blues songs of his own writing, by the way – the stage was then open to other musicians and there were singers, bass players, harmonica players, drummers, lead players. The whole, real thing. It was so a wonderful evening that I was just buzzing and flying from start to finish. Got a little interview with Omar for my film, too. And they invited me to play with them in Monza tonight, so I could not have dreamed for more. Check in tomorrow to see how the Monza thing goes – if it goes.

P.S., I have once again a very slow internet connection so I have been unable to put up all the videos I wanted to put up.

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