MILAN – Three small hand-held cameras, a walk around Milan’s down-at-the-heals but lively, warm neighborhood of the Via Padova and an idea from the director of the local TAC Teatro, Ornella Bonventre. That’s all it took to for a cool trip through the lives of the people of this passionate neighborhood and find out what drives them, how they see the world, and above all, what are their dreams.
MONZA, Italy – So far so horrible on the level of my open mic experiences in Milan. Followers of this blog will have noticed – or not – that in the last few years I have mostly been playing on Thursday night at a blues jam in a bar/restaurant called Fermento. Well, this year, this very night in fact, that jam don’t exist no more!!!! But I have had a really, really fun and very cool musical experience in Italy in the least expected of places: In the Formula One paddock in Monza, where I do my day job this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix. How so? It gets kind of long and complicated, so I’ll skip that for the moment, but let me just say that the experience was all about a mini-concert given in the motor home of one of the Formula One teams, by an Italian singer-songwriter by the name of Joan Thiele. I’ll try to get the rest of that story down here in as few words as possible, but that won’t be easy….
So it turns out that the Formula One team, called Manor, has as one of its sponsors, the music app called Shazam. And it turns out that Shazam is doing few little mini concerts around the world in conjunction with Formula One. (Does that sound like an alternative to the tiny desk concerts on NPR??!! In a way it is!) And it turns out that they try to use a local musician each time. So, as the PR woman at Manor knew that I was interested in music, she asked me if I had seen they were going to have a mini-motor-home-concert in Monza tonight. As it turned out, a sucker for the image of a microphone, I had indeed noticed this playbill outside the motorhome not three minutes before. Joan Thiele – Save Me
So I went to the mini motorhome concert and found that, on the top floor of the motorhome – henceforth to be called a hospitality suite – they had set up a beautiful little playing area for the musician. There was a Fender Stratocaster, a ukulele, a couple of amplifiers, a microphone, and a mixing table. I felt envy and desire to go and play. Until I heard the musician, and said, no, I just want to listen to this. Enter Joan Thiele. What a mix of everything: A father who is Swiss, Italian, Canadian, Colombian, and who knows what all else, and Joan’s mother also a mix from one or two of those areas, and Joan having grown up partly in Colombia, but living in Italy now, and having spent two or three years in England, and learning her trade at open mics etc., this woman of – I think – 22 years old, got up with her Strat and used it as a kind of electro-music surrogate, and her voice too. Vocals that reminded me to a degree of Lana del Ray, and a sound that goes in that same direction – that’s my feeling, but there’s much more (in fact, I had a colleague who thought one of the songs reminded him of, “Down on my knees, I’m beggin’ ya…) – I listened quite hypnotised to the five or six songs she played. (Another colleague said she had Brooke Shield’s eyebrows.) Joan Thiele – Taxi Driver
And I suddenly found myself forgetting I was in the Formula One paddock. As it turned out, I need not forget this: The Formula One paddock is a hugely diverse place. And it also turns out, then, that in that world, another of the reasons that we had Joan Thiele – who is working on her first album, and her A&R person from Universal Music was there with her – is also represented by Trident Management, which is a management and promotions agency that also owns one of the Formula One support race teams in the series known as GP2, the Trident Motorsport team. So it all suddenly fit together, in a way. Trident also represents two very well-know Italian musicians, Eros Ramazzotti and Jovanotti. Joan Thiele – Hotline Bling
In any case, the other thing that fits together is that this being within the Formula One paddock, I, as a print media man with a print media pass, cannot use the video I made of Joan’s hypnotizing performance. The Formula One promoter sells audio visual rights to the television and radio companies for huge sums of money, and that then means that print media journalists cannot use any audio visual footage – or sound files – that they gather in the paddock, without fear of huge problems.
So my recordings will have to wait for the future. But in the meantime, I’ve decided to cut and paste some of Joan Thiele’s music videos that I find on the web into the blog to show who it was I got to hear and speak to today in the Formula One paddock and feel that from a musical point of view, my trip to Italy, even if it wreaps no musical stage-time for me, will have been fulfilling in another way! A nice discovery. Check her out, Joan Thiele.
I am still working like mad on the book of my worldwide open mic adventure of 2009, in which I played my music in 17 countries, nearly 30 cities and all continents except Africa and Antarctica in less than a year. Towards the end of the year my trips became so closely spaced that I did not have the time between trip to write down all the experiences for the book. So I ended up dictating several chapters while driving my car to and from the Formula One races that provided the backbone to most of the trip.
Podcast of Open Mic Book Milan Dictation by Brad Spurgeon:
Lately I have been transcribing the chapter of my visit to Milan, Italy – where the Italian Grand Prix took place in the suburb of Monza – and it occurred to me that there was an amusing little story that sounded kind of fun as a potential podcast. So I decided to put that up here on the blog, a little podcast, a little radio show of me talking about my visit to Milan and my disappointments, and the sudden discovery of hope for the next night – which would indeed fulfill itself. Up to then I had been really let down and depressed with the music scene in Milan, in fact, it remained a huge let down a city where opera was big but live pop music, jams and open mics in bars was almost non-existent.
My goal, remember, was to play in an open mic or jam session around the world at each venue I went to. The book is a look not only at the venues, the musicians, the kind of people who host and play in the open mics, but it was also a personal journal and travelogue. That is mostly what this particular segment of the chapter is about. I actually dictated this segment while driving from Milan to Monza in my rental car the day after it happened. So this was dictated in September 2009.
Please keep in mind that this dictated version will be edited and re-written to a degree in the final book version. But I wanted to share the moment with you, despite all the hesitations and rewording that I do as I talk to myself in the car! If you did not already click the audio player above, then below the same link leads to the 10-minute dictation in MP3 format of part of the Milan chapter of my work-in-progress OPEN MIC : A MUSICAL JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD:
I’m a bit behind on my various adventures of the week. So I will try to update as quickly as possible. I wanted to put up this video of my day at Maranello, Italy, visiting the Ferrari factory. I will shortly also be putting it up on my F1 blog at the New York Times, so you can check it out there with a little story on a Ferrari tobacco sponsor controversy at the moment.
But for the moment, here it is here – also, it’s coming from my new YouTube channel, by the way – and I hope that even for people not interested in racing that it will be something of a bit of interest. In any case, I have several more musical adventures to post from the last couple of days, so stay tuned….