Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Playing With Jaspa at McCarthy’s Pub in Monaco

May 30, 2011

I learned my lesson again on my last night at the Monaco Grand Prix. My worldwide tour of open mics and jam sessions is supposed to be something whereby I play in every country I travel to for the Formula One races. It’s a challenge, because I’m not choosing where I go – my job as a journalist is parachuting me into the countries where there are races. I must then work within that constraint to find a place to play. Well, in all the years I have covered the Monaco Grand Prix, I have never stayed in Monaco. I have always stayed in places like St. Jean Cap Ferrat, Menton and especially Nice. This last couple of years due to the musical adventure, I have stayed increasingly in Nice. And this last week, I made so many musical friends and discovered so many places, that I got comfortable. (Rather than the usual sense of panic as to whether I would find a place to play or not.)

Well, yesterday morning on my last day down there, I awoke early and set out to the track knowing that in the night I would be able to return and go and listen to Jake Hall, one of the musicians I mentioned earlier from Hobo Chic, who was to play at Shapko’s bar Sunday night. But I suddenly realized that I had made NO effort to find a place to play in Monaco itself, despite playing twice in Nice. So I was faced with the horrible decision: Return to the hotel and grab my guitar and explore Monaco after the race and my day’s work ended and miss out on a comfortable and fun night at Shapko, or go back and get the guitar and pursue my dream and my challenge and try to find a place to play in Monaco. After all, it really would be cheating to say I played in every country there was a race if I just decided that Nice was a substitute for Monaco.

But I yearned for the comfort of a fun night in familiar surroundings. And the only chance that I felt I had in Monaco was at McCarthy’s pub, where I played last year. But that was a long walk to the other side of Monaco, there would be a limited choice of restaurants, and I had called the place up on the phone a couple days earlier only to hear that there was no jam session, open mic or other thing but a house band that might or might not let me play. Still, as I walked toward Nice station in the morning heavy footed at the indecision and the thought that I would let myself down, I suddenly said, “No, this is a challenge, I must face it and sacrifice a potentially comfortable fun evening.” So I turned back, got the guitar – which, by the way, I also did not want to carry into the media center in Monaco, looking like a pretentious idiot – and then I set out again for my day. But I noticed that there was a newly found bounce in my walk, a sense of purpose, and a general feeling of contentedness.

So I did my day, then walked to McCarthy’s and found the place empty. But I was early. Still, the music would not start until 11 PM, and again I had to go through all the thought processes of the morning. I arrived at the same conclusion. I went out and ate a Mexican meal across the street in the only cheap restaurant on the street – one pizzeria was cheap, but once inside I was handed a menu that had items costing around 4 euros more than on the menu outside, because, I think, it was a Grand Prix weekend and they wanted to get all they could…so I left before ordering. Anyway, I ate the meal, returned to McCarthy’s, waited around for the musicians and had a great conversation with a fellow Canadian at the bar.

The musicians arrived, it was a band called Jaspa, of French and British musicians (the signer is English), and I listened to their first set and made some videos. They played so many popular recent songs and in such a lively manner that I was again putting myself to shame on the limits of my own repertoire. But at the break, I approached, and the singer immediately started chatting to me about the videos. I then told her about how I travel the world and like to play in different spots as I travel for my job, and she immediately and delightedly invited me to play with them in the next set. So I set up the guitar, and I opened the set with them, doing three songs. We all played together, the audience loved it, my Canadian friend complimented me, and the band invited me back to do more songs later. I agreed, but then realized the time was really passing and I had to get up early to travel back to Paris. So I left.

But I had sooooo much fun singing and playing with this band, and having the audience sing along on “Unchained Melody,” and I had such a feeling of pride and happiness at having actually pissed on my territory in Monaco itself, and adding a sixth country to the adventure this year, that I realized I had once again learned the lesson for life through the adventure: Push yourself and don’t get too “comfortable” because the true comfort is the thrill and pleasure of following your dreams. But of course, none of it would have happened without the open arms and humanity of McCarthy’s, and above all, the band Jaspa. A lot of bands jealously guard their territory, but the ones who seem to have the most open spirit in both human and musical terms, are often arms open and curious when it comes to inviting other musicians they have never heard to play during their gig.

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