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The Beat Goes on in Nice – or Does It?

May 24, 2015
bradspurgeon

Joe Danger at Jonathan's in Nice

Joe Danger at Jonathan’s in Nice

NICE, France – The question running through my mind over the last couple of nights as I have walked the streets of Nice, mostly the old town, is whether my imagination is playing havoc on my memory, or whether Nice had a brighter period for roaming musicians than at the moment? I passed many of the previous places I had played in here over the years to find either the businesses no longer existed, or there was a change of style, a change of owner, a different zeitgeist.

Shapko still exists, but I saw nothing inviting in the way of the jam that was kind of slapped on to the end of a jazz night of band gigs. The King’s Pub told me they no longer host a jam or an open mic, and only show sports on TV. Johnny’s Wine Bar is long since gone.

There are other examples of things past, but I’ll forget about them for the moment. There remains hope in places one would expect, though. I dropped in to Paddy’s pub to find a musician doing a nice little gig on the nice little stage, and warmly coming up afterwards to say hello, as I had a compliment to make of his music. I asked him about open mics and jams, and he only knew of one that I will try tonight – hoping it still exists. But his stage was not open, as it has been in the past during other gigs. That said, Paddy’s apparently has an open mic every Tuesday night, so that’s great news.

From there, I decided to head on down to the first of the former Johnny’s venues, this one called Jonathan’s Live Music Pub. There, as soon as I saw that it was Friday night, and therefore one of the nights served by one of the three D’s – three musicians all having the letter D as their first initial somewhere – and I saw it was Joe Danger, I knew I was at least in for a fun moment of music.

And as with years past, it was the same climate: Go into the bar before Joe is onstage and you’ll find it empty, or nearly empty of clients. Wait a bit, Joe Danger takes to his musical chair, and suddenly the whole cellar room of this great bar fills up with people, mostly young people, keen to go crazy with the music of Joe Danger as a backdrop.

Joe, an Austrian originally, but who sings and speaks in perfect English, has been playing Jonathan’s pub for 15 years. He is really part of the walls, I think. Or at least the playing stool. He also has the great warm trait of offering the stage to people who ask, to play a song or two, although it is not an open mic.

So he saw me with my guitar, we chatted, he remembered me from the past, and he invited me up to play. I high, high point of the week.

Last night, I dropped by the Snug, where there is an open mic on Monday nights, and there was a singer. She played some lovely material, and after when I complimented her, we got to talking about my guitar. She normally plays an acoustic, loved my guitar, and I offered to let her use it on her next set. All over wonderful time – but I didn’t play anything.

So there are bits and pieces of music and open stages still in Nice, but I still feel things have got a little reduced in recent years….

The Elusiveness of Open Mics in Nice

May 27, 2011
bradspurgeon

I ran around in circles last night in Nice seeking out open mics that had been recommended to me by various people. First, I returned to Shapko’s bar, oh, and I almost forgot to mention: Returning to Nice from Monaco, I got off the train at the station in Nice and as I walked out the main door of the station, I saw Dimitri Shapko entering the station. We said a quick hello, but he was on his way to a gig in… Monaco.

Anyway, I returned first to his bar on rue Rossetti just to see what was happening. Not much of interest to me, although I understand tonight and tomorrow night should be very good musically, as we get into the meat of the Shapko jazz weekend. From there I headed off to Paddy’s Pub, not far down the street around the corner in the old town. I had been there a couple of days before as I had been told there was an open mic there. Not only was there no open mic, but the bartender did not think there ever was one. But he said he did not really know for sure! So I returned last night and found the same situation, nothing. But outside the door I was told by someone else, a musician, that there was an open mic at a pub down the street called, King’s pub.

So I headed down there and found a sign outside that indicated that basically there was an open mic every night the pub was open. There was always live music, and amateur, unknown, unannounced musicians, could ask to go up and play a little. So I went into the place and spoke to the guy at the bar and he said that, no, despite the announcement, they don’t actually do that – at least not in the summer months.

Ok. During this walk I also ran into Johnny, the Canadian man who owned and ran two musical joints in the past, one a pub that is still called Johnny’s, but which does not have an open mic, and the other being the place where I played two years ago, Johnny’s Wine Bar. Johnny sold both of these places and both became dead places after he infused them with spirit and success and had wonderful open musical nights almost every night of the week. I was amazed to run into Johnny, and he was amazed I remembered so many details about him and his joint from two years ago, like the fact that he played with a Seagull parlor sized guitar and that he had a German blues guitar player with him… I did not tell him that I had taken notes immediately after playing there and had incorporated the stuff into my open mic book-in-progress. So I cheated, in terms of the memory thing.

Johnny told me I would find a friend of his playing at a bar around the corner called Bar a Degustation, but when I went there, there was no music. I had seen a slam thing there on Tuesday night, however.

In any case, I was feeling that open mics were becoming very elusive things in Nice indeed. I had a wonderful moment seeing a busker, however, and talking to a friend of hers who approached me as I filmed, and who saved my evening’s sense of despair…

Part of the despair was the open mic chase, another part was spending half an hour at Wayne’s pub, where I was also told there was live music, but where I find the atmosphere claustrophobic. I nevertheless recorded a little video of the band doing a Beatles song….

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