Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Ptit Bonheur at the Ptit Bonheur

January 18, 2012

Yesterday I wrote a post about the ups and downs of open mic attendance figures. Today I can write another in that series, as I attended the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic last night and it suddenly returned to its normal level of high attendance, standing room only, and a number of very cool acts.

It all started fairly slowly, but as the evening built up and moved onwards there was an inexorable flow toward a huge audience and more and more people inspired to play inspiring music. The whole first came to an end with the acoustic session in the basement, but that was so much fun that once it went beyond the allowed time to play there – out of respect for neighbors – it carried on in the ground floor bar with a fabulous performance especially by the singing of Morgane sitting at the bar, with Thomas Arlo on the guitar.

This moment reminded me profoundly of the closing of the evening at the Caffe Vivaldi open mic in New York City last August when Kate Sland sang “86d” at the bar with Erik Frandsen providing a guitar and singing accompaniment.

Thomas Arlo had taken over the running of the open mic for the first time, and he lucked into quite a successful evening and did a great job. Actually, I don’t think it was JUST luck, as Thomas had been sending emails out to people saying: “Come!”

Anyway, it was a fun night, and I played my newly learned cover song, “Wicked Game,” of Chris Isaak, and it went over qutie well – thank goodness, as I was worried.

Among the interesting new singers was Kit Buchan with his original song, “Virginia,” and Maddie Speed, from England, whom I had met at Leander Lyons’ show at the Baroc on Friday. Small world. She had some interesting melodies and lyrics and played on a cool Dean guitar, with her lovely voice and presence – which I had missed at the Baroc on Saturday, when she had opened for Leander… as had Ollie, the original founder and MC of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic. Even smaller world!

Into the Moon at the Baroc – and a Couple of Istanbul Connections

January 14, 2012

I first met Leander Lyons at the Baroc open mic on a Tuesday night probably three years ago. He is an American musician from Schodack Landing, New York, but living in Paris, and the night of that open mic there was a little bit of chaos in terms of who exactly was running the open mic. Leander suddenly, it seemed, decided he was – although he said he had been asked to do so at least temporarily until the real MC returned. But what started as a hijacking, turned into a regular gig for Leander, who ran the open mic for a few months, maybe a year, I can’t remember. But since then, Leander moved on to other horizons, played gigs here and there, and then put together a group called “Into the Moon.” So when I found myself in the neighborhood of the Baroc last night and found myself face-to-face with Ollie of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic as we had been attracted to the same sandwich shop on the Boulevard de la Villette, and then I found myself face to face with Thomas Arlo, another American who frequently plays at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance and I found they were both going to Leander’s show at the Baroc – I decided to order a sandwich and follow them.

If that is not one of the most convoluted lead paragraphs you have ever read on this blog, then I don’t know what is – although I know I have done some doozers before. Anyway, so I went to the Baroc and found Leander and his band, “Into the Moon,” with notably, Mirabelle Gilis on violin and Ceyhun Kaya on soprano sax and clarinette, I became immediately entranced by the music. Leander has progressed in his world, and this band shows some of the evidence of his progression and travels, so places like Istanbul. He said he had not played at the Baroc for perhaps two years.

Anyway, I met up with several other friends there, and as I listened to the band I instantly thought of Istanbul. There was a gypsy sound, a middle eastern sound, a Turkish sound, to this music. It was fun, hopping, dancing, but also progressive in some places. In any case, the first thought that came to mind when I heard Ceyhun on his soprano sax was the memory of my friend Herbert Koschmieder, the German former kraut-rock musician now living in Istanbul and playing soprano sax with Turks in Turkish music. I also immediately thought of the amazing evening I had spent with Herbert and Safak at Safak’s Kooperatif in Istanbul, when we jammed together.

But I also rememebered that at one point not too far back, Leander had also met up with and played at the Kooperatif, with someone who used to work at the Baroc! So after their set, I spoke to them all, and it turned out that not only did they all know Safak, but Ceyhan also knew Herbert!!! So can the world get any smaller than that?!? Thanks to music, it most certainly can. But I’m looking forward to seeing how…..

Brad and Vanessa Breakin’ the Baroc

May 19, 2010

Vanessa and I decided to go to the Baroc open mic last night. Every Tuesday in Paris, near Belleville, this cool bar hosts an open mic. It has been run for around a year by Leander Lyons, an American in his twenties who plays guitar, percussion and sings. He’s also got a degree in music from some U.S. university, and his whole life revolves around music – a cool, nice man.

And last night we were pretty thankful to him for getting us up early behind the mic at the Baroc, as we both had other things to tend to today, and so could not stay too late. The place was just beginning to really get going, too, when we left around 11 PM. The open mic was as usual, very open in approach too. The first guy who went up sang/talked a couple of songs and then did a theatrical piece – enunciating like a trained actor – that I did not really listen to as Vanessa and I were trying to figure out which songs to do and how to do them. There was a woman singer with a guitar and a percussionist, and a trio of musicians who played some kind of rap/hip hop thing just before us.

The crowd is consistently, but not only, young. The musicians are mostly young too, and the vibe is cool, innovative, open – as I said. So when we got up to play, having finally agreed that we were not yet ready to do “Where the Wild Roses Grow” – since I have not yet memorized either the words or the chords, we had decided to do our “Mad World” and “Just Like a Woman.” At the table we had worked out how we’d attack “Just Like a Woman,” with Vanessa coming in at strategic points – ie, “…just like a woman…” – and me cutting out there, and I worried I’d forget the plan. But as I said to her – and to myself -, “We should just go up there and have fun.” I thought even off-the-cuff stuff would be effective, since people want a “live” show, not a memorized, regurgitated recitation.

Vanessa had put on some make up and looked young and great. I looked old and tired, probably. But I felt great by the time we got up and began. We started with the Dylan, since we are fuller and more together on the “Mad World.” We went through them both with few errors, a bit of back-and-forth laughing chatter and kidding, and basically I think we looked all right. But the Baroc is one of those crowds where there is a lot of talking at the tables, there is eating, there is gossip, and some listening to the music too. So I was far from convinced we’d reached many people.

But to throw it all together in no particular order, the general impression was that we brought the house down – as much as you can at the Baroc. Several people, including the manager, asked us where we were playing around town, what gigs we had lined up, etc. From the mic after we left the stage area, Leander asked if we had any announcements to make – ie, gigs lined up that we wanted people to go to.

Needless to say, we were both in seventh heaven and surprised, and inspired to go on. Sure, why not? A beautiful young woman and an older, world-weary guy – nice combination. Serge Gainsbourg exploited that one several times…. 🙂

Anyway, will update on the further adventures of Brad and Vanessa as, and if, they happen….

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