Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

iPhone Powerless, Zoom Dies, Before the Living: Amazing – Tennessee – Night at the Galway

April 30, 2013

If it were not for it being one of the best open mic nights at the Galway in recent memory, I’d have had lots of reasons to leave the Quai des Grands Augustins feeling petit. And crappy. My Zoom Q3 ended up dead. The buttons no longer work to press record, and it happened in the middle of the open mic. Then, I decided to record the musicians with my iPhone, and a little way into the first recording – of Juba – the battery died out. So it was that I found myself without any form of recording device just as the evening was heating up into having a fabulous grande finale with an amazing singer who lives in Nashville Tennessee, and quite by chance, a group of spectators who showed up, and were also from Tennessee. The singer, it turned out, was not amazing for nothing.

The Galway does not often turn into a jam at the end of the evening, or a singalong, or a situation where Romain of All the Roads, the MC, keeps on singing on and on – in his great voice – with other members of the audience and musicians getting up to sing along with him. But this guy from Tennessee had already had a slightly extended set as he was so good and Romain asked him to do another song.

Then when Romain went up to close the show, the guy from Tennessee, known as J.P. for the somewhat French name of John Paul, got up and sang harmonies with him. Two sublime voices. I felt so helpless sitting there watching this and listening, and try to bang life into my Zoom Q3HD recorder, which has served me so well on maybe three round-the-world trips, but to no avail. All was DEAD.

It was not until today when I received an email from John Paul that I learned his full name, and wanting to write something about his nice, melodic, emotional and laid back singing I did a search on the Internet – he said last night while on stage that he had a new album coming out soon – and I found out that he was the singer for an Indie band that had some small, but not negligible success a few years ago. Called, “We the Living,” it was managed by the semi-legendary A&R, Scott Austin. And speaking of Austin, the band had played many festivals, including South by Southwest, in Austin; and won prizes and had songs selected here and there for interesting showcasing, like something to do with Levi’s if I remember correctly my morning reading….

So the answer to my question of why is this guy so good, who is this guy?, was that.

I had a great time playing last night as well, a little before the Living guy, and had a great time playing with Juba on lead guitar accompanying me. It was also the first time I successfully played my new song, “Gotta Shake Her,” and having Juba play along was just what was needed – it would have been good with drums and bass too, oh, and certainly with some harmonies from JP, ex singer of We the Living. I guess, in the end, that it was appropriate that my Zoom and my iPhone both died before the singer of We the Living took to the stage too, since the Living are now dead. But I expect John Paul Roney’s next band effort is going to be very much alive.

PS, things were so much fun at the Galway that today I completely forgot that the night started off with me going to the Tennessee Bar open mic – yes, there’s a Tennessee connection again – where the excitement REALLY began, especially with the woman – not a child, a woman – who got locked into the toilet. According to the bar employee who dismantled the door to let her out, all she had to do was to turn the lock in the other direction to the one she was trying – which would have saved her 20 minutes of terror…. 😉

PPS, thank goodness I own another Zoom Q3HD, so I will be able to take the other one immediately with me to the next open mic I attend and there will be no downtime in recording the many, many videos that make this blog so slow to download for some people with low bandwidth or little RAM.

From the NUJ to the Usual Monday Night Haunts

May 17, 2011

I recently joined the British journalists’ union, called the National Union of Journalists. Last night the Paris chapter of the NUJ held a recruitment evening at a bar near Oberkampf. I would have gone anyway, to meet my fellow NUJ people. But when I saw there would be music provided by NUJ members, I thought, YES! I will take my guitar and ask if I can play, and then I will go off and play at my usual Monday open mics.

The NUJ meeting turned out to be a great pleasure, lots of people, loud, a nice bar, and a very open mic. In fact, there was a stream of people asking to go up and play who had not been booked in advance, apparently. And they played, and I played.

But among the best and most interesting musicians were Monkey Anna and a couple who played jazz guitar and sang. I had met Anna Brooke, who calls her band Monkey Anna, at a concert by the French band called Neimo. Anna is a journalist and musician, and she is currently working on an album and preparing her next concert, in Luxembourg, on the 2 July, at MUDAM (Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean). She writes original, interesting songs, sings and does a nice presentation. Of course, it was all recorded music last night. She also writes city guide books and other journalistic things.

After I played a couple of songs at the NUJ evening, I then moved on to the Galway and played five songs, and listened to Stephen Prescott and his fiddle player, Pierre, play a few songs. There were another couple of performers as well, while I was there.

I then went off, late, to the Tennessee Bar, and was too late to play. But I did see and hear a number of interesting acts, and there was a wonderful jam session at the end, in which James Iansiti also got up and sang. His rendition of “Little Wing” reminded me more of Sting’s than of Hendrix’s, but I loved it.

There was even an interesting moment when James opened up the stage for an unusual and different sort of barfly performer than what we usually see.

I’m Not the Only One to Travel from Tennessee to Galway

December 21, 2010

Monday night is often the double-header of the Tennessee and the Galway, two Paris open mics within 10 minutes walk in the Latin Quarter. Last night at the Tennessee I was thinking it was the holiday season doing in the attendance figures when I arrived “late” only to find practically no one there.

But just like at my brunch on Sunday, the crowd began to fill in, the musicians came, and soon it was a Tennessee classic like any other. Having said that, I played as the first musician, a task that is rarely easy, and I felt a little stiff and uncomfortable. Played four songs to a big backdrop of talk, and I probably deserved it.

I hung around for several more performers and I was particularly interested in a newcomer from Brooklyn, named Jay Erickson. He played some nice, laid back country/folk/blues kind of stuff and had a rich, deep voice that carried, and his guitar playing – on Sood’s guitar – was quite effective. He reminded me a little of Viking Moses, the anti-folk guy who played at my brunch a few weeks ago.

So I took Jay’s card after he played and I decided I should go off to the Galway. I really wanted to go up to Jay and say, “Hey, listen, clear this place out now and come to the Galway, another open mic just up the street and down the quai.” But I thought that was very disloyal service to the Tennessee, a kind of poaching, in fact, and so I refrained.

Off to the Galway I went to discover that the holiday season had in no way affected the crowd or the number of musicians. The place was bursting with people and Stephen Prescott, the MC, told me I would have at least an hour and a half wait before I played. No problem, I said, and went to drink a beer and chat with a friend – and met a new friend.

So anyway….

I went back down to refill the beer and found Jay walking in the door, having found the Galway himself on a web site of Paris open mics. I welcomed him, told him to speak to Stephen, and I told him I was so glad he came and that I had been thinking of tearing him away from the Galway.

My turn came up to play after midnight, and I got to do four songs. After my talk with the friends, after the beers, after the arrival of Jay and just a general feeling of satisfaction, I found myself totally into the playing. From the low at the Tennessee, suddenly I felt like I was riding a high on my four songs – “Andalucia,” “Father and Son,” “Crazy Love,” and “Since You Left Me” – and I could see that the talking had been reduced to a very low level and I recieved some nice compliments afterwards. I repeat how astounding it is that live music is so entirely spontaneous and “living.” Sometimes it works perfectly, other times it wilts, finds it hard to take off, and just fails.

So anyway…. (I’m feeling like Kurt Vonnegut with, “so it goes…”)

Jay finally went up and played some of his own stuff and cover stuff – I think – and then he did the famous song by The Band, called, “The Weight.” His girlfriend, or wife, invited me to go up to sing with him, but I had to back out, knowing I would fail even on the very few words of the chorus, which I really do not know. But having done the song within the last week with, I think, Stephen, I told Stephen to go up. He went up with a woman also in the audience, and together the three did a pretty cool job of the song.

Afterwards, I learned that this cool Mr. Jay belonged to a very cool group in the U.S. that has had some very good press in some impressive newspapers, and I gave a listen to the album – their third release, called “Walk,” – and I liked it. His band is called Red Rooster, and it is interesting in the way it mixes the old folk, bluegrass, blues, folk-rock, country sound with some wind instruments and computer sounds. A very modern mix, in fact. And all based on the nice deep vocals, too….

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