Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Jamming at the Tapas Bar in Monaco…

May 31, 2016
bradspurgeon

La Bodeguita

La Bodeguita

It was the first time that during my attendance at the Monaco Grand Prix I actually stayed in Monaco. I had regularly stayed in St. Jean Cap Ferrat, once in Menton, and many times in Nice. Nice was my town of choice since starting the open mic adventure. But last week I had an offer to stay in Monaco, right near the entrance to my office – the track. So I decided to accept this wonderful offer and for the first time really check out as much as I could the music scene. What music scene? Well, not really an open mic scene, no. But I did, with a real bit of persistence and good luck, finally find a place to play in Monaco.

I was disappointed by my two visits to the now somewhat changed McCarthy’s Irish pub, as it did not feel welcoming to a guy with a guitar in off the street – me. There were a couple of musicians doing a gig for the three nights preceding the race, and I felt that I was definitely not the happily received guest jammer. That’s fine and normal, but it was a bit of a let down, since I had played there in the past thanks to the open arms of the giggers.

Another option was the Stars ‘N’ Bars right next to the Formula One paddock. Now this is a bar that actually DOES have open mics sometimes, although I’ve not been able to find out how often. I dropped by and asked if they were holding one that weekend, and as is often the case around the world, I was told, “No, not during the Grand Prix weekend.” I was, however, graciously told that I might want to inquire of the woman who was running the entertainment for the weekend. But I never did. I just didn’t feel it happening – although that’s a lame excuse.

In any case, on Saturday night, wandering around with my guitar, I decided that upon arriving back at my apartment near the Place d’Armes, that I was not ready to finish my evening. And I decided that there was actually this funky looking bar tucked away on the Place d’Armes that I had seen in previous days, and which I had an intuition might be the sort of place open to music. It did not look like a typical Monegasque bar. And it seemed to always have an atypical young crowd in the tables outside, just bursting the terrace seams of the place.

So I decided I would check it out. Upon arriving sometime around or after midnight, I was told they were closing. But I then noticed a guitar in the back room of this tiny place, and I said, “You have music?” I was told they had lots of musicians that night just playing and jamming, including some flamenco, some Dutch musicians, something else. And I said I was hugely let down, that I had been looking for a place to play, and that this totally controlled city state where musicians seem only to gig – rather than do impromptu jams and open mics – had let me down…but there here it was, my salvation right under my nose the whole weekend.

I was served a free beer and told I could return Sunday to play, if I wanted to.

Overjoyed, I was. Another case of never giving up. But of course, this was not an organized open mic. In any case, I returned to the place on Sunday night after the amazing race, the place which, by the way, is called La Bodeguita, and I found there were musicians playing. But the same man who invited me back, the manager, told me that the musicians were hired for the evening and that I should, in fact, go down the stairs behind La Bodeguita to another bar owned by the same proprietor, because those Dutch musicians were down there, playing, and that I would no doubt be able to play there.

I was a little let down, because I loved the environment of this La Bodeguita, with its graffiti covered walls, its tiny little square bar, the back room that is big enough for about five people, and the main terrace area where every drinks. It has an authentic Spanish feel to it, including images of heads of bulls, and other Spanish bits and pieces – the fresh ham!!! – and it was just a great vibe. The crowd is young, as I mentioned, and it is indeed a bar where young people who don’t want to be seen at other rich Monaco places go to find cheap beer and a laid back environment.

But anyway, I went down to the other bar, called, 3 Tapas, and find the Dutch guys, guitar sitting on the bar, and another man with an accordion. They were no longer playing, and the Tapas bar was not entirely full of clientele, but there was a nice group of people. I immediately got into a conversation with one of the Dutch friends of the two Dutch musicians, and he asked me to play some music.

So began at least 45 minutes of playing songs acoustically, and having the two Dutch musicians join in on guitar, accordion and vocals. It was a riot. The clientele gathered around the bar, we drank, played, caroused, and for 45 minutes, we forgot we were all in Monaco.

And so it was that my feelings about the musical side of Monaco changed. There is always something available, if you look long enough for it!!! And I had so much fun doing it, that for once I forgot to make any videos of the moment for this blog…!

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Nice (& Monaco)

May 29, 2014
bradspurgeon

Nice, France

Nice, France

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 Nice (& Monaco) since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Nice (& Monaco) Edition

May 24, 2013
bradspurgeon

Cote d'AzurMONACO – For my seventh city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Nice (& Monaco) 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.

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.

More Experience Than Existing Open Mics

Unfortunately, given the ephemeral nature of open mics – and bars themselves – in virtually all of the cities in the guide my own personal experience of playing open mics in the city in question usually goes way beyond the number of venues listed, since they things arise and close very frequently.

Mostly Open Mics and Jam Sessions in Nice, Not Monaco

I do not claim that this worldwide open mic directory is anything other than a quirky Brad Spurgeon centric guide, based mostly on my travel as a journalist following the Formula One series around the world. It is for that reason, in fact, that I include Monaco on this latest list: Monaco is where the race takes place, and most of the people who attend the race stay in Nice, because it’s cheaper than Monaco. It is also more conducive to open mics and open jam sessions. Over the years I have always been able to play in Monaco, but usually as an invited guest by generous musicians. So there is no real listing for Monaco!!! McCarthy’s Pub was a mainstay, but I heard it was all over now, and I have not yet confirmed if that was an illusion… I no doubt will, though, so keep posted…!

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Nice (& Monaco) Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on the venues – i.e., especially if they close down!

At McCarthy’s in Monaco With Jaspa and Band

May 28, 2012
bradspurgeon

My last night in Monaco was the grande finale to the grand prix weekend, and I had been looking forward to it immensely, as I have had such great times at McCarthy’s Irish Pub in Monaco in the last two years, and after Jaspa invited me to come along to do a little jam during her gig, I was ready for another great time. And had it!

I was actually dead tired from a long day, a lot of work, a lot of travel, bad weather, and a lot of walk through Monaco. I then had an excellent meal with a Monaco specialty and I was not so sure I’d make it through the musical part of the night.

Then I met some Formula One people at the pub, then Jaspa came and immediately welcomed me and then she started playing with her percussionist and wonderful guitar player. Then she invited me up quickly, and by then I was all pumped up. I was also slightly left adrift as to what to play, as she did “Mad World,” which I had planned!!! So I did what else? “What’s Up!” and “Wicked Game.” Yeah, repetition of the same thing over again, but it seemed to the best stuff to play with the band and in the pub where the crowd was not too big, but big enough to want to feed with popular, well known songs.

I ended up leaving pretty early, at 1 AM…. But listening to Jaspa and the band, and taking in the warm environment of this bona fide Irish pub – with some Irish bartenders – was a great way to end the weekend.

Playing With Jaspa at McCarthy’s Pub in Monaco

May 30, 2011
bradspurgeon

I learned my lesson again on my last night at the Monaco Grand Prix. My worldwide tour of open mics and jam sessions is supposed to be something whereby I play in every country I travel to for the Formula One races. It’s a challenge, because I’m not choosing where I go – my job as a journalist is parachuting me into the countries where there are races. I must then work within that constraint to find a place to play. Well, in all the years I have covered the Monaco Grand Prix, I have never stayed in Monaco. I have always stayed in places like St. Jean Cap Ferrat, Menton and especially Nice. This last couple of years due to the musical adventure, I have stayed increasingly in Nice. And this last week, I made so many musical friends and discovered so many places, that I got comfortable. (Rather than the usual sense of panic as to whether I would find a place to play or not.)

Well, yesterday morning on my last day down there, I awoke early and set out to the track knowing that in the night I would be able to return and go and listen to Jake Hall, one of the musicians I mentioned earlier from Hobo Chic, who was to play at Shapko’s bar Sunday night. But I suddenly realized that I had made NO effort to find a place to play in Monaco itself, despite playing twice in Nice. So I was faced with the horrible decision: Return to the hotel and grab my guitar and explore Monaco after the race and my day’s work ended and miss out on a comfortable and fun night at Shapko, or go back and get the guitar and pursue my dream and my challenge and try to find a place to play in Monaco. After all, it really would be cheating to say I played in every country there was a race if I just decided that Nice was a substitute for Monaco.

But I yearned for the comfort of a fun night in familiar surroundings. And the only chance that I felt I had in Monaco was at McCarthy’s pub, where I played last year. But that was a long walk to the other side of Monaco, there would be a limited choice of restaurants, and I had called the place up on the phone a couple days earlier only to hear that there was no jam session, open mic or other thing but a house band that might or might not let me play. Still, as I walked toward Nice station in the morning heavy footed at the indecision and the thought that I would let myself down, I suddenly said, “No, this is a challenge, I must face it and sacrifice a potentially comfortable fun evening.” So I turned back, got the guitar – which, by the way, I also did not want to carry into the media center in Monaco, looking like a pretentious idiot – and then I set out again for my day. But I noticed that there was a newly found bounce in my walk, a sense of purpose, and a general feeling of contentedness.

So I did my day, then walked to McCarthy’s and found the place empty. But I was early. Still, the music would not start until 11 PM, and again I had to go through all the thought processes of the morning. I arrived at the same conclusion. I went out and ate a Mexican meal across the street in the only cheap restaurant on the street – one pizzeria was cheap, but once inside I was handed a menu that had items costing around 4 euros more than on the menu outside, because, I think, it was a Grand Prix weekend and they wanted to get all they could…so I left before ordering. Anyway, I ate the meal, returned to McCarthy’s, waited around for the musicians and had a great conversation with a fellow Canadian at the bar.

The musicians arrived, it was a band called Jaspa, of French and British musicians (the signer is English), and I listened to their first set and made some videos. They played so many popular recent songs and in such a lively manner that I was again putting myself to shame on the limits of my own repertoire. But at the break, I approached, and the singer immediately started chatting to me about the videos. I then told her about how I travel the world and like to play in different spots as I travel for my job, and she immediately and delightedly invited me to play with them in the next set. So I set up the guitar, and I opened the set with them, doing three songs. We all played together, the audience loved it, my Canadian friend complimented me, and the band invited me back to do more songs later. I agreed, but then realized the time was really passing and I had to get up early to travel back to Paris. So I left.

But I had sooooo much fun singing and playing with this band, and having the audience sing along on “Unchained Melody,” and I had such a feeling of pride and happiness at having actually pissed on my territory in Monaco itself, and adding a sixth country to the adventure this year, that I realized I had once again learned the lesson for life through the adventure: Push yourself and don’t get too “comfortable” because the true comfort is the thrill and pleasure of following your dreams. But of course, none of it would have happened without the open arms and humanity of McCarthy’s, and above all, the band Jaspa. A lot of bands jealously guard their territory, but the ones who seem to have the most open spirit in both human and musical terms, are often arms open and curious when it comes to inviting other musicians they have never heard to play during their gig.

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