Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Quiet, but Inventive Night at the Vieux Léon

January 31, 2013

The last few weeks at the Vieux Léon open mic have been fun, but have also had open mic nights with so many people in the bar not there for the music that the noise level has been frequently overpowering for the musicians. Last night, suddenly, the crowd seemed – with only minor exceptions – to be there entirely for the music. And the result was that it was possible to see how inventive and interesting some of the musicians are at this new Paris open mic rendezvous.

I somehow got to go up first of the evening – invited by the host Kim, after several weeks of Avalanche hosting the evening – and I did a couple of songs feel less than inventive, doing my song “If I Only Had You,” and Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” I jumped on doing that one due to the aforesaid calm of the spectators, who were there to listen to music, not just talk and drink.

But among the interesting surprises of the night were, especially, Michelle Blades taking to the mic this time with her ukulele. She had previously played with a guitar, but I learned last night that the ukelele is the instrument she started with, and returns to much of the time. In any case, the playing was different than your typical ukelele number, and it made me realize that her guitar-playing DOES have the mark of her ukelele playing on it. She said she composes her songs on the ukelele too….

Austin Contact No. 2 at the Vieux Leon in Paris – Followed by the Highlander….

November 8, 2012

A fun string of events last night at the Vieux Leon open mic hosted by Kim, of the Pop In open mic fame. Kim has a delivery style in presenting open mics that is all his own. He likes to make up little stories and asides and occasionally snide jokes. Last night I took him for his word when he introduced a performer named Amelia Card, from Austin, Texas. First I expressed my surprise about her in a little guffaw, as my next destination on my worldwide musical adventure of open mics and jam sessions is Austin, next week. But then Kim did his little aside, saying the Amelia was here in Paris not knowing where her next shelter for the night was coming from … so I raised my hand to indicate it could be chez moi. End of story. Well, not quite.

So Amelia goes up and plays her guitar and sings, and she is accompanied by “Tex,” the Italian steel slide guitar player, and the sound is decidedly country. Then I go up and play, and the sound is whatever it is, although I chose to sing three of my own songs and no covers, this time – doing “Except Her Heart,” “Borderline” and “Crazy Lady.” After I get out from behind the mic, Tex approaches me and comments on the beauty of my Gibson J-200, which I am using while my Seagull S6 undergoes repairs. I then join Amelia and Tex at their table in the back, and try to pick her brain for locations to play in in Austin next week. But very early in the conversation I learn to me great disappointment that she actually has a place to stay in Paris. BUT, I learn to my surprise, that she is also friends with the very same only other person I know from Austin, Ryan whom I met at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, and who so kindly gave me the list of venues I should go to next week in Austin. In fact, I had pasted that email into my iPhone’s notes application just the day before for quick and ready reference.

So Amelia set about inspecting the list and giving me further ideas. AND, she gave me her CD of her music, called Senses. As is my habit, I listened to it this morning to accompany my morning exercises. Oh, it’s beautiful. My favorite songs, in fact, were not the real country western sounding early one or two, but especially the haunting, bluesy, retro sort of song called SongBird. Her voice is classic here, something sort of 1950s, 1960s jazzy pop, but dark, about it. And the last of the six songs also made me stop a little in the middle of my sit ups… Gaugin, it is called. It is just her singing and playing acoustic guitar. The voice is so beautiful – you can imagine the bliss of hearing it beside you when you have your head in a pillow. Well, I don’t usually gush that much, but it really is true. Give her a listen.

So, the Vieux Leon is the place where Baptiste W. Hamon had MCd the last time I went, and he will exchange sessions with Kim. But last night was the first time I have ever heard Kim do his music, or wait, no, maybe I had heard him once at Ptit Bonheur la Chance. But after being acquainted with him for something like three years in his work as MC, I had not really heard it until last night, his music. Very fluid, nice vocals, interesting copositions – and cover songs by Neil Young!

There was enough time to have a couple more performers play again, and Kim asked Amelia to play another song, and then he asked me to finish off the night. That was great, and gave me a chance to do a cover song this time – Mad World – and to ask Tex to stay up and play it with me. He did not know Mad World, he told me afterwards, but the way he played it I thought he did know it. He did a great job, and as I had hoped, the steel slide sounded perfect for the madness of that song….

From the Vieux Leon, I went off dejected without the chance to provide Amelia with a home – she didn’t need one, as I said – to the Highlander to take in the end of the evening there. I was too late to play, but I got to hear some good music, with my especial favorites of the evening being the looping guy, whoever he was, and Mary Catherine Moore, who did THREE great songs, including one of her own. I put up the video here of one of them. I didn’t want to film her doing her own song just yet, as it was the first time she performed it, I think, and I didn’t want to bother her with my camera pointing at her, as I was sitting right in front. It probably would not have bothered her, but I took the precaution….

In any case, it was an interesting night, full of surprises and discoveries – give me more….

A “Pop In” Feel to the Ptit Bonheur

February 29, 2012

It was very strange last night at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic as Yaco took a night off MCing the show and he was replaced by a familiar voice and style, in the form of Kim Giani, who is one of the presenters of the Pop In open mic. It was really in many ways like taking part in the open mic at the Pop In … which I have not done in a year and a half, after having an unfortunate encounter with a strange Pop In barman with the even stranger name of “Ta Geuele.”

Actually, I think the barman was even one of the owners. Anyway, that is past history. But it was great to have Kim doing the show last night and to have that nostalgic evening, as the Pop In had always been one of my favorite open mics. And last night, it was a great Ptit Bonheur open mic, which, in fact, it seems to be no matter who MCs it.

This time there were not only some new and rare performers – such as the Romanian music band and Baptiste W Hamon – but also the return of some old favorites, like Victoire – whose act I missed as I was coming down with a beer upstairs after doing a fairly poor singing slot of my own trying to sing a song I finished writing only on Sunday….

The evening wound down with a jam on the ground floor, and that was a classic cru, as the French would say of a good wine…. even if the only video I did was of a famous Beatles song where we all had a bit of a problem making it hang together….

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