Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

A Yes Concert, a Brad Concert, a Cool Meeting and a Mini Memoir in GP Week

November 21, 2011

The above headline could be the worst I ever wrote on this blog as I try to cram in so many words and ideas that it makes no sense at all. But in that way alone, it is probably appropriate for this post which will be a round-up of my weekend. I was so busy that I had no time to update the blog for a day or two or whatever it was. So now I have to roll all the bits and pieces into one – and I will start with the freshest and work back.

Since the last Formula One race I had been working on a story about my musical adventures along with the race travel – the stuff this blog is mostly all about. And today that tiny little “memoir” – of 1700 words – of my last three years traveling around the world and playing in open mics, has been published in a neat racing magazine called GP Week. You just click on the link and go to the site and start clicking on the pages until you find my story on pages 30 – 31, and it has photos too….

The other bit of news was my concert last night at the HideOut bar on the rue du Pot de Fer in Paris, just off the rue Mouffetard. I was invited to play an acoustic concert- along with any other band members I might want to bring – as part of the first of a series of Lazy Sunday afternoon concerts that the bar will host between 19:00 and 21:00 every Sunday.

The bar is a cool, long, place with wooden tables and chairs, sports television and music. It’s cosy, and has a friendly atmosphere. I was invited to play by the organizer of the concerts, Syd Alexander, who is the lead singer of The Burnin’ Jacks. My lead gutarist, Felix Beguin, is of course none other than the lead guitarist of the Burnin’ Jacks. I also invited Justin Purtill to play bass, as I jammed with Justin at an open mic earlier in the week and found not only that we could do some really convincing stuff off the cuff with no preparation, but that we got along well and there was a great vibe. In fact, Justin is an astonishingly good bass player, and he is also a sometimes quite shockingly good singer songwriter.

For last night, Justin and I did go over most of the songs we played beforehand, to ensure some sense of professionalism…! And it worked, with Justin and Felix and me on vocals and guitar, I had fun and got some good reactions from the audience. It felt warm and nice…. I also loved the moment Felix put down the guitar and joined me on vocals in Cat’s in the Cradle.

Just before going into the HideOut I was walking up the street and wondering aloud where exactly the venue was located when a voice came from a restaurant terrace table: “Just keep going up the street there, Brad.” I turned around to see a woman whom I had noticed momentarily before but did not recognize, and she rose to her feet and introduced herself: “It’s Heather Munro,” she said.

Of course! It was my fellow blogger of HeatherBlog, who reads this blog and does a fabulous blog of her own about her life, her photography and writing. (She touches amazing chords of common experience….) And she had come to Paris for a holiday and had come to hear my concert yesterday. It was a wonderful meeting and would never have happened without the blogosphere. Today Heather wrote about our meeting and the concert as part of her round-up of her day in Paris yesterday – along with some of her photos of Paris, and of me and the band….

Finally, Saturday night I went for the first time in my life to see the progressive rock band, Yes, at the Olympia in Paris. I had listened to them since I was about 15. Seeing them for the first time – I had seen Rick Wakeman solo in the mid-70s – was a revelation. Jon Anderson, the singer, was not present. But they have another singer, a Canadian, who used to play in a Yes tribute band and who does a great job on singing the band’s stuff almost the way Anderson does. That’s hard to believe until you see it live. Still, I sometimes preferred to close my eyes to pretend it was the real Jon Anderson… but anyway….

Another Grand Cru du Mazet

November 19, 2011

Every time I go to the new open mic at the Mazet Pub on rue St. André des Arts on Thursday night in the Paris Latin Quarter, I like it more and more – and I already liked it to start with. Okay, there is one problem: This is one of the loudest, most talkative audiences I know of! But they are also an appreciative audience that seems to enjoy both talking AND listening to the music, as they applaud and are generous in their compliments, their little dancing moves when the music moves, and a general sense of well-being.

Last night I was also really pleased that I resisted the temptation to NOT take my new Gibson J-200 with me. I had been thinking that since I had been having so much trouble with the amazing, yet complicated, Fishman pick up and all its controls, that I was better off taking my Seagull, which just plugs in and sings. But I fell to the temptation to bring the Gibson just because I love playing it. I am pleased I did because, in fact, it took no work at all – except turning on the anti-feedback switch – to get it sounding great. I only really knew it sounded great, however, when I gave it to Justin Purtill to use during his songs. Then I was able to stand at the bar and listen and appreciate his great fingerpicking playing as I heard the Gibson from the room PA and not from the stage monitor amp.

Justin and I later went up for a second set during which he played bass along to my songs, although he had never heard them before. He learned as we went along. Actually, not quite true: He did know “Crazy Love,” by Van Morrison, and that was cool just to slip into doing that perfectly.

Justin then played with a Frenchman whom he did not know and whose songs he did not know either. There were some cool things to come out of that too. In all, I’ll be returning as often as possible to the Mazet….

Glimpses at the Galway

November 8, 2011

Somehow I ended up at the Galway without my Zoom Q3 camera, and there were some musicians worth catching on video. One was All-The-Roads, who I mentioned in my previous post and of whom I have plenty of videos. The other was a new visitor, Justin Purtill, who has recently come to Paris for a while, and who found the Galway thanks to this blog. When I heard this musician from Chicago start playing, I knew I had to whip out my iPhone 4 and get some of it on video, even if the sound would not be as good as with the Zoom.

Justin is an excellent guitar player, as you can hear from the video I did of his song, and he is also a highly reputed bass player. After the evening was over we shared a taxi to our homes, which are not far away from each other. And during the trip shared our enthusiasm for Jaco Pastorius as a bass player. I pulled out the iPhone 4 again and played one of my favorite Jaco bits, from this 1977 Joni Mitchell album, the opening track of “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter.” It is absolutely deadly:

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