Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Melting into the Scene at the Melting Pot in Shanghai

April 17, 2012

Brad Spurgeon at the Melting Pot jam in Shanghai

Brad Spurgeon at the Melting Pot jam in Shanghai

The Melting Pot jam sessions in Shanghai have been among my favorite the last two times I came to this city. I first managed to discover it in 2010 when I was spending an unscheduled extra night in the city thanks to the panic of the Icelandic volcano ash that prevented me from taking my flight out of the city. This year, I had a scheduled stay in the city, but the ash cloud of the unrest in Bahrain sits over me and my colleagues as we wait to travel to that country for our next race. I could not think of a better when than to attend the Melting Pot jam and plug in and play and sing with the new house band.

In fact, the house band seems to have changed each year I have gone. It was in the Melting Pot two years ago that I saw Joe Chou do the weirdest thing with my Seagull guitar, turning it into a sitar… when he was the guy running the show. Then last year it was someone else. This year, it was a very hot bass player from the U.S. named Dnotes. Dnotes played some wicked six-string bass AND sang some classics, more jazz than I found at the House of Jazz & Blues, in fact. And on keyboards last night was the breathtaking playing of Robert Turner.

It also turned out that JJ Davis, my friend Jeff of Bee Dee’s, showed up to play and sing throughout the night. I managed to take a few videos, and I tried desperately today to get them all up, but I managed only to get one of them onto YouTube. I really wanted to put up the video of the Chinese dancers, for instance. But I finally got goosed by Chinese Internet policies, and no matter how hard I tried or what tricks I used, I could only find the wherewithal to get the one short video up.

I also have some photos of me playing there that were taken by one of my F1 journalist colleagues, Simon Arron, whom I thank profusely. I’d have wanted to put more of those up too – but goosed again.

By the way, I was amused to hear Dnotes introduce the dancers as Chinese “Lockers.” He was refering to the trailblazing group of American dancers from the 1970s, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and appearing on the same TV show with in 1976…! (Bang, Bang, You’re Alive!)

I learned today that Dnotes and Robert Turner have some pretty impressive CVs, which explains why I and my F1 colleagues were so impressed – with Simon pointing out that Turner sounded a lot like Billy Preston.

Oh, almost forgot! My two songs – What’s Up! and Mad World – went OK, and I can thank my other colleague, Mark Hughes, for figuring out how to turn on my Roland R-26 and record me playing with the band as part of my year’s effort to record me playing with musicians in each country I visit this year.

Last Night in Shanghai, Jammin’ at the Melting Pot

April 19, 2011

I just arrived back in Paris after a 26-hour trip home via Kuala Lumpur, so I had no time to report on my last night in Shanghai, which was spent, after that exceptional Grand Prix race, at the jamming night of the Melting Pot. I had played at the Melting Pot’s open jam session last year on the Monday night when I got held over thanks to the Icelandic volcano. It was Frida Andersson, ie Sister Fay, who told me this year that there was another jam at the Melting Pot on Sundays as well. So we both went.

The Melting Pot has a fabulous stage, bright lights, nice seating arrangement for the clients, and a very lively vibe. As I learned Sunday, there is even good food. (I had a dinner of chicken something or other and onion rings, and the wine was fine.)

The evening started with a few songs by Sherry, the American MC. But as the evening progresses, anyone can go up and play the drums, keyboards, bass, lead guitar, etc., and take up a role as singer or – as with Frida and I did – with guitar and vocals.

I did four songs, and it was interesting to play along with a drummer, keyboard player and bassist who didn’t apparently know any of the songs. I played much of the time with my back to the audience so they could see the chords I was playing. But I enjoyed it immensely – as usual….

My mind is now partly in Malaysia, partly in China and partly in France. Mostly in the ether, though. Now to lay down all those recorded interviews and other videos for my open mic adventure film….

Wild Last Night at the Melting Pot in Shanghai – And Joe Chou’s Secret Revealed

April 20, 2010

So I was supposed to be out of Shanghai on Monday, skipping my flight to Paris and catching one to Toronto on Air Canada. I was supposed to arrive there at near midnight and then take the first flight available to Paris from there. That was the plan the volcano forced me into – a plan as wacky as those of the hundreds of thousands of other travelers stuck in Shanghai and around the world.

I ran into a colleague at the airport who had a boarding pass for his flight to Zurich yesterday, that now has him leaving on 2 May! My problem was different: After 45 minutes wait in line at the check-in desk, I was bumped off the flight because my company’s travel agency had not issued the ticket so although the airline saw that I was booked, I was not allowed on the flight.

So I will try again today. But after an initial feeling of desolation, I returned to Shanghai, booked a room at the Hilton, called up Jeff of Bee Dees Music Bar and asked if he knew of anywhere to play on Mondays. He reminded me of what I had already been told by Paul of Oscar’s: Head over to the Melting Pot at 288 Tai Kang Lu and listen to a set by Joe Chou. After Joe’s set is finished, the evening turns into a jam session, and I’d be able to play.

“If you’re footloose,” said Jeff, “you can explore the neighborhood around the Melting Pot. It’s a really hip area with boutiques and restaurants, and you could eat there first since Joe’s set doesn’t start till 10 PM.”

I have to rush now because I have to get out of the hotel and back to the airport. So suffice it to say that I wish I could share every minute of the evening, because that area of Shanghai, full of small alleys all made up into cool boutiques and restaurants, with a lot of the old style buildings and windows and alleys still prevalent, is very, very cool indeed. Galleries, stores, clubs – and the restaurant I ate in was Thai food. First good Asian meal I had since arriving here.

And the Melting Pot, remember, – I think I mentioned this – was the place Tom & Jerry had invited me to listen to their band on Sunday night. I couldn’t make it because I was too late settling travel arrangements and finishing my race duties. But this is a fabulous room and I regret not seeing Tom & Jerry there. It is a large, chic room with a beautiful, comfortable sized stage with decent sound and spotlights, a full drum set and lots of other equipment.

First thing Joe saw me he asked to play with my Seagull S6 guitar. So he started his set with my Seagull, although the night was in fact predominantly electric, very fusion, rock. After he played with my guitar he did his set with his Stratocaster – with a sticker of Hendrix’s “Axis Bold as Love” album cover on it – and with a drummer and bassist, both Chinese.

After he finished, he invited me to do my music and I did a few songs and had someone record some of them with my Zoom Q3. Then Joe played another set, but this time with another member of the audience playing drums. That was Tony Hall, from Boston. Tony later joined Joe to sing a little too, when Joe again used my guitar. Another guest or two would later take to the stage, and I went up a second time and finished off the evening.

My second appearance was thanks to the enthusiasm for Joe Chou of one guest in the club who insisted Joe play again with my guitar. That’s when I learned Joe’s secret about how he got that sitar sound from his Martin at Oscar’s. Suddenly I saw that MY guitar was being set up by Joe in this odd manner. He was putting the two strings, 1st and 2d, together into the same slot up near the tuning pegs so they rattle together against each other. And of course he did an open tuning as well. I’ve never seen this before and don’t know how inventive it is, but it has a wonderful effect.

A very cool thing happened also in that I got to talking with the man who was so enthusiastic about Joe’s music, and it turned out he was a relatively major sponsor of a Formula One team! We’ve agreed to meet at the next race and talk shop. Isn’t it extraordinary how things come together in life when you get out there and live it!

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