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From the Arci Turro Jam to an Impromptu Jam at Ligera

May 20, 2017

MILAN – Wednesday night in Milan for me has mostly two significations: The Arci Turro jam and the jam at the Milan Joy bar. But last Wednesday I decided after a spell at the Arci Turro – in fact, when it ended at midnight – to go off to the Spazio Ligera bar for a nightcap and forgo the Joy bar jam. But Ligera being Ligera, I found myself invited to open my guitar case and play a few songs. Then one of the owners decided to play a song on my guitar behind the bar, then another one decided to bring out a bongo and invite me to play more while he played the bongos. And so there I was with a jam anyway…!

The Arci Turro was only slightly calmer than the last time I attended and reported about it on this blog. But that too gave me to the opportunity to play more songs behind the mic – and to expose myself as a complete beginner on a classic Chicago blues song….
Jam at Arci Turro

The Spazio Ligera bar proved itself to be the genial, warm and open place I have always said it was. There is often the possibility to just pick up a guitar and play, if not much else is going on – especially not in the concert room in the basement.
jam moment at Spazio Ligera

In any case, it was a fine feeling of fulfilment from the jam point of view last Wednesday in a completely unexpected way – par for the Milan course….

Another Fabulous Find in Milan at the Arci Turro Open Blues Jam

April 22, 2017

Arci Turro

Arci Turro

MILAN – This is just the kind of thing that confirms my increasing belief and understanding about the Milan cultural scene: It took until Wednesday evening for me to discover one of the coolest open jams in the city. And the Arci Turro open blues jam has been going on weekly for more than three years. How could I have missed it? The answer is simple and goes back to that bit about my understanding….

Milan is spread out all over the place. There is no real concentration of any particular kind of life in the city – except perhaps the most easily recognizable Duomo kind of life and its major commercial center in the middle of the city. Elsewhere, to find an open mic, an open jam, a theater, a music venue, you have to know where they are, either by word-of-mouth, or long, long experience and contacts.
Arci Turro blues jam second

Of course, it is all up there on the internet in one form or another, but that seems not very clearly communicated either. In any case, the xxx open jam takes place in one of the coolest bars I have discovered so far.

Located in a completely residential and/or business area just off the via Padova area, the venue sits on a side street with complete anonymity. It has a completely laid back club house sort of feel to it, with large dining tables in the front room, a neat bar in the back, a giant billiards table – the kind with no ball pockets – and a multi-level back porch with more tables and chairs. It is also decorated in almost a clubhouse kind of way, with newspaper clippings pinned to a corkboard, books in shelves, and various other bric-a-brac.
Arci Turro blues jam first

In fact, it is something of a clubhouse, as it is the location of an association that is linked to all sorts of events, and just happens to have this bar and jam – the blues jam is run by Giulio Brouzet, who joins in on harmonica and vocals, depending on the situation. There is also an upright piano, and basically it seems every kind of instrument is accepted.

I played with my guitar and sang, and accompanying me were a trumpet player, a violin player, a harmonica player, a drummer, and a lead guitar player. There may have been more, but as you sit in something close to a circle halfway between the two main rooms of the venue, I’m not sure I saw all the people who were playing along when I did my number! And, yes, I did not do a blues song, since I don’t know how to play any – so although the emphasis here is about 90 percent blues, the jam is open to other things, or at least a broad definition of blues.
Arci Turro blues jam … after the jam around midnight….

In any case, the atmosphere is so cool at the Arci Turro in both the jam and the bar in general, that I will be sure to return whenever I can. It also happens to be on the same night of the week as the Joy Milano jam that I have written about several times, but as it turns out, the Arci Turro ends around 23:30 and the Joy Milano only really gets swinging into high action at around that time, so you can go from the one to the other. As did several of the musicians last Wednesday, I was told. But I was so comfortable at the Arci Turro that I hung around for another hour or so talking to people on the back porch and drinking some of the many available wines….

The Crazy Open Jam of the Spazio Ligera – Finally a Cool Music Scene in Milan

September 3, 2016

Spazio LigeraMILAN, Italy – The via Padova part of town in Milan, is apparently a little bit of the seedy corner of things. But I didn’t notice any of that last night as I took part in the coolest jam session I have yet been in in this otherwise not very musical – in the pop music sense – city. Oh, once upon a time I had another fabulous jam similar to this, at the anarchist’s club not far from the location of last night’s jam at the Spazio Ligera. And it should be no surprise, then, that the way I found out about this regular, if occasional, jam at this music bar/venue was thanks to my friend Emiliano Laurenzi – who plays the didgeridoo – the very man who had organized the anarchists’ jam at the Circolo Anarchico Ponte della Ghisolfa seven years ago!

Seven years between amazing jams? Of course, I’ve attended the blues jam at Frontera regularly since then, but that is a blues jam. The Chitarrata at the Ligera last night was a jam the likes of which I have only really run into before in Sao Paulo, with everyone gathering around a table and spread out throughout the café and playing whatever instrument comes to hand, with any song that they feel like. Last night I heard more Italian songs in one single night than I’ve ever heard anywhere, and they ranged from pop to rock to the song of the resistance against fascism. But there was also Bob Dylan, 4 Non-Blondes and everything you can imagine in between from the 60s on up to today.
Third at Ligera in Milan

Spiral DidgeridooEmiliano was there, too, with the most bizarre didgeridoo that I have ever seen: A mini, snail-shaped, or spiral, handheld didgeridoo that seemed to have a voice as big as the long, encumbering instrument we know so much better. There were at least four guitar players, a bongo, a kazoo and I don’t know what all else. And vocalists galore. Amazingly, I was never really intimidated by a situation that usually makes me feel a little ill-at-ease, playing with no microphone. But it was best to find a vocal that could be belted out very loud above the din of the joyous gathering of people at the Ligera.
Second at Ligera in Milan

The walls of this underground café are covered with photos and posters of crime movies, and other interesting pop culture phenomena – I also noticed some kind of Stratocaster hung up high on the wall above our head – and I regret that I missed my chance to delve into the cave to take a look at the regular concert space, which in the photos looks like a typical European vaulted cave room. (Think “Cavern Club.”) It is there that Ligera usually holds its gigs with local bands. On occasions when there is no gig lined up, they often decide to hold an open jam like last night’s on the ground floor of the bar.
Fifth at Ligera in Milan

Incidentally, the café is also called a 70s café, whatever that is. All I know is that it was a fabulous cross-section of people attending, and there was as much warmth coming from the jam as there was from the other people in the bar there just to talk, occasionally listen and occasionally sing. It completely and totally lifted my previous sense of Milan as a pretty stuffy place musically speaking into being as capable as any other city of having a very cool and musically vibrant scene.
First at Ligera in Milan

It also confirmed my desire NEVER to jump to conclusions about a city’s musical environment when I have a very poor grasp of the language and cannot therefore easily find the musical get-togethers. To say nothing of my unfortunate timing in Milan in early September when everyone and every venue is still contemplating summer at Lake Como or some cooler place. How could I possibly have found out about this “Chitarrata” without a little help from my friend….

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Italy

September 10, 2014



My worldwide open mic journey began in China in 2008 after the Formula One race in Shanghai, and little did I know that it was a journey that would continue for six more years and cover most of the globe, every continent except Africa (where I once lived and played music in an open mic decades earlier) and Antarctica, and that it would spawn a book, a blog, an album, a documentary film, numerous podcasts, music videos and other multimedia projects.

This year, 2014, I have decided to finish all of the projects and tie them together into a consolidation of multimedia. As part of my personal impetus to gather it all together for myself, but also put it into perspective on this blog, I have decided to create a page for each city I have visited on the journey, tying together samples of the whole multimedia adventure linked to that city.

So here is the page devoted to tying together the pieces of the open mic adventure that I have lived in Italy since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Playing Pop Rock at the Blues Jam of the Fermento in Milan

September 5, 2014

fermento milan

fermento milan

MILAN, Italy – When I arrived pretty late last night at the Fermento Art&Pub in Milan for the Thursday night jam, my heart fell. I turned out my friend Lucio Omar Falco, the friendly bass player who organizes the jam, was still on vacation. The waitress told me there would be a jam if some musicians showed up, but otherwise, not. And I thought it just might be my only chance to play on a stage in Milan this weekend, and there it was, as good as gone.

But I stuck around to eat my dinner, since I was starving, and it was late. I had the great idea to try a veal cutlet, since in previous years when I had been there, I had made bad choices on the pizza. So I got one of the best veal cutlets and a side dish of mushrooms like I’d never had before, and that was the beginning of things looking up, luck turning around.

Soon, I saw musicians arriving with guitar cases, bass cases, drumsticks, you name it. And then I saw a drummer setting up the drum set to his liking. The lights went on over the stage, and soon, before I’d even finished eating my apple pie desert, the Fermento as I knew it from previous years, had woken up into a fabulous blues jam, pub and restaurant.

It’s a vast room that winds around in a horseshoe shape, so those who want to listen to the music can stay on the stage side of the horseshoe, and the others go elsewhere. I enjoyed several groups of jammers going up and then I said to myself, “OK, you have what you want…but you don’t play any blues.” In years past, Lucio had helped me through that hump. But this time, knowing none of the musicians, I was worried: Where do I find my place in a blues jam with pop rock folk on an acoustic guitar.

I nevertheless decided to ask a few questions, and before I knew it, I was on the stage leading my numbers with a great drummer and bass player backing me. It turned out the drummer, Fabio, not only plays in a rock band, but also in a French-style Gypsy jazz band. Music’s music, right?

So I played Wicked Game, Crazy Love, Mad World and finished off with I Won’t Back Down, by Tom Petty. It was no petty moment. I had an amazingly wonderful time, and the band and audience encouraged me to continue after each song. It just didn’t matter that it wasn’t classic electric blues. It was music, right?

Someone made a video of my performance on the Tom Petty song, below – hmm… now I know what it feels like to get hit by one of these!!!

Like I think I say every year, I’ll be back to Fermento next year, if I pass through again.

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Milan Edition

September 8, 2013

Milan, Italy – For my 13th city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Milan, Italy page. As a reminder, it all started with my now very popular Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and due to that guide’s success, I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

Musically, Milan in September is a Disaster

Milan? Home of La Scala, opera, classical music like you wouldn’t believe. Oh, jazz, too, why not? But folk, rock, pop, blues? Well, it’s not a world capital. In fact, this list is one of my least successful. Part of my problem is that I always visit Milan in the first half of September, and that coincides with the summer holidays in which so many Milan music joints are closed down from June to mid-October for the “summer.” Another problem is that a lot of jam sessions apparently take part in private associations where you sign up and play in private buildings and residences, and not so much in bars. Over the years I have performed at more open mics in Milan than I have listed here, but they were one-off events – such as an open jam at a circle of anarchists and another impromptu jam at the Leoncavallo public space, and also at another place, a karaoke that allowed me to play with my guitar. I am thinking that I should start a new section on these guides of places I have heard about but never made it to myself, since my short lists like this from my own personal experience can occasionally be limited:

Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy

The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other 20 and more cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Milan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on venues.

Jamming Solo at Fermento in Milan

September 6, 2013

fermento milan

fermento milan

MILAN – Playing together with other musicians is the essence, even the definition of a jam session, and how it differs from an open mic, where individual performers may take to the stage and do their thing solo. But the one thing that an open jam and an open mic do share in common is that word “open,” and the musical freedom that it entails. Last night in Milan, the open jam session at the Fermento Art ‘n Pub proved to me once and for all that it is really, and truly open.

Last night was my fourth year in a row at which I have attended the Fermento jam during the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix in the nearby suburb of Monza. But it was the first time that I was invited by Lucio Omar Falco, the cool bass-playing MC and organizer of the jam to take to the stage all by myself with just my voice and guitar.

In fact, it was the first time I have seen any solo performance at the Fermento jam. Of course, wiser readers than I might interpret this as Lucio’s way of saying, “OK, Brad, we’ve heard enough of you in the past three years to know that we’d rather not play with you!”

In fact, no. I don’t think so, given that Lucio kept on signalling me on from the wings to do another song. In the end, I did four, two of my own and two covers. I probably chose badly the last one, “Wicked Game,” and depressed them all, and thus lost the stage. But it made my night.

No, wait. What also made my night was the level of the quality of the jam session, both with the regular musicians of Lucio’s band, and those of the participants.

I forgot to mention another thing on the “open” theme: Although this jam session is primarily blues-based, Lucio knows I don’t really play any classic blues, and he let me play anyway. And that’s another aspect of the “open” thing. There was a lot of the music that was more rock and even a little fusion jazz stuff. All in all, a fun night at a cool restaurant/bar and art space.

Jamming With an Anarchist on a Didgeridoo at the Leoncavallo Social Center in Milan

September 12, 2011

leoncavallo social center

leoncavallo social center milan

The last thing I expected on my last night in Milan was to have a wonderful jam and an educational and cool cultural experience. But thanks to my friend Emiliano, the didgeridoo-playing anarchist, I had both – and more. We played for two or three hours at the Leoncavallo social center, which is one of the most important of these squat-like places (called a Spazio Pubblico Autogestito) that I will describe in a moment. Emiliano, I just wanted to mention, was someone I met two years ago in Milan during my first open mic adventure. Milan had proven to be one of the world’s most difficult cities to find a jam or open mic in, but it turned out there was indeed an open jam session on the Saturday night I was there, at the Circolo Anarchico Ponte della Ghisolfa, which is the longest lasting anarchist’s association in Italy.

That jam turned out to be a wonderful, almost family affair, in the association’s club locale on the Viale Monza, and there I met the former university professor, PhD and didgeridoo player Emiliano, and his wife Barbara. I won’t go into the details on that one, but simply say that when Emiliano learned I would be there again this year and was looking for a jam session, he decided to set one up at either the club or elsewhere. He chose the Leoncavallo social center, and so I got a history and culture lesson. The place, as I said, looks like a squat and reminds me of the Szimpla space in Hungary. There is graffiti everywhere, it has several different buildings, rooms, gathering spots. It has bars, computers for the public, baby foot tables, ping pong tables, gardens and massive gathering spaces.

The movement of the social center was born a few decades ago, particularly in the 1970s when there was a housing problem in Italy and people did not even have many of the basic needs either from a home or a community. So abandoned buildings were squatted and the social centers were born. The Leoncavallo is one of the biggest – Emiliano said it could hold thousands of people – and it had been closed down by the police periodically in its history. There seems to be some sort of legal status to these social centers, however, which makes them seem a little different than the squat.

In any case, Emiliano brought a couple of his didgeridoos and there was the bass player Fabio, another guy who dropped in to play didgeridoo alone with Emiliano – we had two going with my Borderline song – and Abdul and Willy – they are of Moroccan origin – played percussion, sang and played guitar. It was pretty wild playing Borderline in this situation, but we did some plain old jamming of the never-ending-song kind as well. Later, I interviewed Emiliano in a different room at the Leoncavallo for my film about open mics and jams around the world.

The total of my four night trip to Milan and Monza, therefore, came to two jam sessions in Milan, one at a bar and one at the social center, and playing in a restaurant in Monza with a band. Far, far more than I ever expected, and I revise my previous idea of Milan as being a city without live music jams and open mics!

Finally, Jamming at Fermento Art&Pub in Milan

September 9, 2011

So it took three visits over the least three years to finally find a bar with a bona fide weekly jam session. It turns out it has less to do with Milan being non-musical than to do with the city still remaining closed throughout the month of September for “the summer.” Two years ago the only open jam session I found was amongst the anarchists – and it was great – and last year all I found was a karaoke where they allowed me to play with my guitar. Last night, it was a hugely fun and cool and real jam session, the weekly jam at the Fermento Art&Pub.

Although I had fought through hours of web surfing and spoken to many people in the last three years, I never managed to find anything aside from the aforesaid anarchist jam and karaoke. Oh, I did see an open mic and a jam, but they were closed. Yesterday I managed to find a page that listed jam sessions in Milan, and I narrowed down my choice to Fermento, as the only other that seemed to be happening was more about jazz, Fermento was blues. Of the two, I figured I could find a place in the blues jam better than in the jazz one.

My choice was right. I managed to play “Mad World” and “Crazy Love” with the band, and we did O.K. The band, however, was very interesting. I could hardly have imagined that I would find that the lead guitar player, Fred Pierre Gustave, and the harmonica player were both Frenchmen. They were in fact invited as the feature band of the evening, playing along with a drummer and with the bass player who organizes the jam, an Italian named Lucio “Omar” Falco. Fred PG, as he appears to be sometimes known, is a hot lead player who likes the blues AND French gypsy jazz. He lives in Madrid and plays in Spanish bands, and also all around Europe. He’s on a little tour in Italy at the moment, in fact, and Fermento was one of the stops.

After the feature act – the French harmonica player did interesting French blues songs of his own writing, by the way – the stage was then open to other musicians and there were singers, bass players, harmonica players, drummers, lead players. The whole, real thing. It was so a wonderful evening that I was just buzzing and flying from start to finish. Got a little interview with Omar for my film, too. And they invited me to play with them in Monza tonight, so I could not have dreamed for more. Check in tomorrow to see how the Monza thing goes – if it goes.

P.S., I have once again a very slow internet connection so I have been unable to put up all the videos I wanted to put up.

Truncated Highlander Night, Milan-Bound

September 8, 2011

I went to the Highlander open mic last night but got there late and ended up about 15th on the list. So I listened to a few performers and left, deciding I would do better to have a good night’s sleep before my early flight to Milan, and the challenge of trying to find an open mic or open jam in this soul-less – musically – city.

I saw an interesting and different woman with a ukelele at the Highlander – Jessica – and left shortly after that. I did drop by the Mazet, not far from the Highlander, where before the summer they started another open mic on Wednesdays. I tried to persuade them not to take Wednesday again when they restart the open mic in the next week or two – but I don’t know if I succeeded. I suggested Thursday. After all, Paris has multiple open mics on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and just one jam and a “live karaoke” on Thursday. So that is the ideal day. But bar managers all like to do the same thing – obviously relating to the amount of business they attract on a given day.

Having arrived in Milan, I seek desperately a jam or open mic. There are such things here, just not necessarily at this time of year, since the summer holidays extend right into October, it seems….

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