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The Opposite of A Laid Back Night at the Plastic Factory in Nagoya – and NOT to Have Been Missed!

October 9, 2016

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

NAGOYA, Japan – And then came one of those dream nights as I love them: A combination of a fabulous stage, a fabulous sound system, a fabulous crowd, a bunch of fabulous “other” musicians, and lots of fabulous people to talk to! That describes in a (fabulous) nutshell the evening I spent at the Plastic Factory last night in Nagoya. Any regular readers of this blog will know that I have been going to the Plastic Factory annually for a few years now, but I have to say I think that was one of the top two times I spent at this very cool, in-place in Imaike, owned and run by the fabulous Heinz Senn, of Switzerland.

I had to stay late at the racetrack, interview lots of people, pack in a few stories and organize my racing life. So I figured that I would not have the time to make it to the Plastic Factory, where Heinz told me that I was welcome to come, and maybe even if those who had booked the night allowed it, I would be able to play some songs. “Those” people being a group of musicians who meet at the Plastic Factory once a week, or once a month, or once in a while, to play a kind of open mic that actually consists of each of the musicians taking the stage for two or three songs and then handing it on to the next musician….
first at plastic factory

And so on until the early hours of the morning. And so it went last night, with a nice mix of expat musicians and some Japanese people in the crowd, and the wonderful Japanese harmonica player who accompanied me on “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” of Bob Dylan, and with some other musicians.
fourth at plastic factory

In any case, I had the most amazing time, and I was so glad that once again I proved to myself that I must never take “no” for an answer to myself. I realized as I got to the Nagoya station from the Shiroko station – near Suzuka – that if I ate a horrendous fast-food meal in the Nagoya station, and if I did not go back to my hotel to pick up my guitar, then I would make it to the Plastic Factory easily in time to see much of the show – and maybe even play.
second at plastic factory

And that’s what happened. The Plastic Factory is a fabulous venue with, as I said, a great stage and sound system, and on the first floor a space that is used sometimes as a gallery, sometimes for other things, and all together, it is a great meeting place for like-minded individuals looking for…great music, fun and chat.
third at plastic factory

What can I say. Just check it out. And check out the videos on this page to see the variety of musicians! They call their group, I believe – writing this from memory – “The Good ‘Ole Boys.” And indeed they were.

PS, and I almost forgot to mention! On the last weekend of the month, or something like that, they also have a real bona fide open mic at the Plastic Factory. So when in town and looking for an experience, or a place to play, check out the Plastic Factory.

Laid Back Night at the R&B Melrose in Nagoya – Edition 8, for Me

October 7, 2016

R&B Melrose, Nagoya

R&B Melrose, Nagoya

NAGOYA, Japan – I realized last night that it was the eighth time I have played at the R&B Melrose permanent open mic in Nagoya, last night, and I will gladly return again. Later, today, I found I must have missed another open mic that I have never done before, but somehow the thought of checking Facebook never occurred to me. But little does that matter aside from the area of big experiences of life events…. The R&B Melrose is a jamming bar hors paire….
fourth at the R&B Melrose

It is in the cellar room of a place in downtown Nagoya, with a fabulous little stage, the wonderful couple who run the place, and piano, drum set, acoustic and electric guitars, the Marshall amps, and the regular flow of Japanese musicians.
Third at R&B Melrose in Nagoya

I was feeling kind of tired last night, thanks to the ongoing tale of jet lag, and I ate a meal of a pizza and wine at a bar not so far from the R&B Melrose, and I was almost ready to go directly back to my hotel and flop over into bed. But I could not resist aother visit.
second at r&B melrose

And so I went, found several musicians there, even though it was not advertised as an open mic night, and I got to go up and play several times, the most fun being when I got to play with the 1973 Martin of one of the musicians – it reinforced my faith in Martin guitars…but from 1973….
first at the R&B Melrose

I suddenly had a real feeling of the kind that I look for all around the world of sharing a bit of real life in another country far from my own with people doing what they do all the time, with no consciousness of the same thing happening elsewhere in the world, with no consciousness of the thing that draws me to this part of the world, with full consciousness of living their life rituals, into which I dip momentarily.

I returned back to my hotel, found that the evening had given me enough energy to go out for a nighttime jog, and then I slept soundly for 10 hours! Welcome back to Japan, Nagoya and the Live House, jamming bar, permanent open mic of the R&B Melrose….

Pandemonium at the Harmonium Parlour at the Plastic Factory at Nagoya

September 29, 2015

plastic factory nagoya japan

plastic factory nagoya japan

DUBAI – Just sitting half wiped out in the Dubai airport on my return flights from Japan to Paris, I’m still thinking about my last night in Nagoya, where I finally got to take part in the open mic of the Plastic Factory. I’ve played at the Plastic Factory a couple of times before, but I was never there on the last Sunday of the month when the official open mic takes place. This time I was, so I have something new to report.

The Plastic Factory is a bar, music and art venue run by a German-speaking Swiss, a longtime expat in Nagoya, and the place is about to celebrate its 11th year of its existence. I discovered it four or five years ago – I think! – and always wanted to try the open mic. But my timing to get from Suzuka to the edge of Nagoya, by way of my hotel to pick up my guitar, was tight, to say the least.

Brad Spurgeon and others jamming at the Plastic Factory in Nagoya.
So when I arrived, the evening was already well advanced, with a nice big crowd of spectators and musicians, lots of expats, but many Japanese as well. I love the mix at this place. On the other hand, I was in such a state having gulped down a fast food hamburger of a kind I don’t dare mention, and having stopped off and got my guitar, and arrived to find that my name had just been announced for me to play, but I’d missed the slot….

Third at the Plastic Factory
No problem! I was up next! So I took a beer, tuned my guitar, warmed up my voice and got on stage. Turned out that I hadn’t been there long enough to realize that the crowd can be quite talkative when there’s just some guy with an acoustic guitar and vocals, since this is really a very hot spot for socializing and meeting fellow expats.

Sixth at the Plastic Factory
So, OK, I sang my three songs to myself, and got off stage, took another beer, and watched as the evening got better and better. The talk would continue for most of the other acts, but bit by bit the stage took over as the center of interest of the room, and bit by bit it turned into a jam session with various of the musicians mixing together on stage.

Seventh at the Plastic Factory
That’s when I pumped up my courage again and after the MC of the evening went up with a woman on violin, another on bass guitar and a guy on washboard, I said to myself, “I want a bit of this action!” So I asked the MC if I could do a song with the band, and his guitar. He immediately agreed, and the other musicians agreed too, and so we leaped into “Mad World.” And it was mad. I had a great time, I think the other musicians enjoyed it, and the people who remained in the crowd weren’t talking so much anymore but whooping it up with the music.

Second at the Plastic Factory
A memorable night! My only regret is that I did not get a chance to take a look at the apparently wildly cool art exhibition on the upper floor. When I went up to check it out, it had just ended.

Fourth at the Plastic Factory
I hope that my date for a return trip to Japan – if there ever is one – will again coincide with the last Sunday of the month, and the so-called “Harmonium Parlour” open mic of the Plastic Factory in Nagoya. It’s a real happening.

First at the Plastic Factory

Fifth at the Plastic Factory

Eighth at the Plastic Factory

Checkin’ Out the R&B Melrose in Nagoya for the Seventh Straight Year

September 25, 2015

R&B Melrose Open Mic Nagoya

R&B Melrose Open Mic Nagoya

NAGOYA, Japan – It has become a tradition for me now to spend Thursday nights in Nagoya at the R&B Melrose open mic. This cellar room full of musical instruments and warmth, is one of the more laid-back and friendly open mics I know of in Japan. It is also not one of the most crowded in terms of participants….

But that’s always a great way to start off my weekend in Nagoya, relaxed, low key, amongst friends. I calculated last night that it was my seventh time at the R&B Melrose – seven different years!! And it has not changed. Arrive, choose your instrument, play alone or with other clients, play what you want in terms of musical styles.

Drums, keyboards, bass, all sorts of different electric and acoustic guitars. And some great music piped in between times in the nice choice of the hosts…

Second group at the R&B Melrose open mic in Nagoya.

First one at the R&B Melrose open mic in Nagoya.

Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – Japan

October 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 Japan since I first started. At each subsequent Formula One race that I visit this year, I will add a new such page. Keep posted….

Jammin’ at the R&B Melrose, Nagoya, Japan, Chapter 6

October 3, 2014

R&B Melrose, Nagoya

R&B Melrose, Nagoya

NAGOYA – Got nothing done but a pizza eaten on my first night in Japan, in Osaka, before I checked out a music joint only to find it was not open for another 7 minutes, and I was too tired to move. So I returned to the hotel and didn’t sleep more than a couple of hours. That’s travel. So last night in Nagoya, for the first night here, I decided that nothing in the world would stop me checking out R&B Melrose, where the open mic night happens on Thursdays, and which I have played in once a year for the last five years.

So it was that after a quick meal of fried chicken and noodles, I dropped by the R&B Melrose and got greeted in the usual fabulously warm and kind manner from the owners, and got my beer and took to the stage. I played I don’t know how many songs, many by myself, many others with a couple of the other musicians who were there for the open mic. The R&B Melrose is a basement bar the main purpose of which is to have live music. The stage is comfortable cool and there are instruments all over the place for the public: Drums, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, bass… you name it….

Did Mad World with one of them on the piano and the other on lead guitar. As I realized that it was my sixth time at this very cool and simple open mic with its devoted bar owners, here in Japan’s third biggest city, I realized just how much sake had gone under the bridge since then. (OK, water. I think I might have drunk sake once in Japan.) And I realized that I was using my same Seagull acoustic since that first visit to the R&B Melrose, and that it had been around the world 6 times now, too.

If I can, I’ll be back next year. But first, the rest of the weekend in Japan….

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Japan Edition

October 15, 2013

Live House JapanOsaka, Japan – For my 14th city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Japan 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.

A Slightly Different Approach in My Thumbnail Guide for Japan

I have decided to make Japan one of the exceptions on in my Worldwide Thumbnail Guide of open mics in that I will not focus only on one city, and I will name this after the country itself. I did the same with Monaco, when you think about it – and added Nice to that one – and I also did the same with Bahrain, as I only spoke of open mics in Manama, the capital city, but called it after the country. The point in Japan is that I have no single city with a wealth of open mics and open jams to list here, but I do have experience with three different cities in Japan, and they happen to be the three biggest cities: Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. It seems to me, therefore, that it will serve the reader much better if I do a guide with my findings for all of these cities, rather than just listing Nagoya, which is where I have spent the most time. So it is that I am going to list my findings in the three biggest cities in Japan, and hope that makes the page worthwhile for travelers to Japan.

UPDATE, 30 OCT. 2013: I noticed that unlike all my other open mic guides, the Japan guide was not receiving much traffic, and so I decided that I had made an error to change the system, and I have now today made three separate guides for Japan: a Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Osaka, Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Tokyo, Thumbnail Open Mic Guide to Nagoya. People search by city, not by country. So that is the end of that experiment – and please note the link at the beginning and end of this page will not work, as I got rid of the country guide all together.

Japan’s Open Mic Scene is Focused Around the So-Called “Live House”

The first thing to keep in mind when coming to Japan and looking for places to play music, is that while there are such things called open mics, there is another phenomenon that you must know about, and that is the ubiquitous “Live House.” Live Houses come in various forms, but generally what they are are bars with live music, or music venues that people can rent out by the time clock for a fee and then invite people to come and hear…and pay back the rental fee in their spendings. But Live Houses can also be places that hold open mics and open jams of the kind I focus on with my list. So aside from my limited list, the place to start looking for places to play in Japan is a Live House. Just find one, then see how they operate. They may have an open mic or an open jam – or you may want to rent the room for your half hour or so slot.

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 Japan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on venues.

Quiet, but Nice, Session at R&B Melrose, Nagoya

October 11, 2013

R&B Melrose, Nagoya

R&B Melrose, Nagoya

NAGOYA, Japan – One of the greatest parts of my trip to Japan each year is that on my first day of arrival in Nagoya, I do not have to look for an open mic. I know that the doors to the R&B Melrose will always be open, will be open late, and that Thursday night is the night of the open mic. It was no different last night, as I arrived in Nagoya after two days of failing to find my venues in in Osaka, and I wandered over to R&B Melrose, bought a beer and took to the stage.

R&B Melrose is in a basement room, well insulated for sound, and it has a nice little stage, a drum set, bass, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, lots of amps. Everything you need for a jam or open mic. And that is exactly what it is open for: I arrived to find a couple of Japanese musicians, Diabolo on the guitar and Jo on the rhythm box. Jo is a woman, but Diablo is the devil, if you give a listen to his riffs on his six-string Fender bass, which he plays almost like a rhythm guitar rather than a bass.

I played two little sets – during one song of which, “Mad World,” the aforementioned “Joe” the woman, came and joined me on her rhythm box – as there were few musicians present, but I could not have asked for a better first night in Nagoya, especially a great way to warm up for my little cameo concert at the Plastic Factory on Saturday…. which, by the way, the people at R&B Melrose already knew I was doing, as they asked me about it…. Nice to feel at home in Nagoya, Japan – especially after the weird experiences in Osaka!

Warm Time at R&B Melrose Open Mic in Nagoya, Japan

October 5, 2012

I have rarely been as busy with travel and work as in the last week, and that is why there have been no posts for so long on this blog. I am STILL under pressure. But I did manage to force myself out to do an open mic last night in Nagoya, Japan, where I arrived the day before. And man am I ever glad I did it. It was at the R&B Melrose bar in downtown Nagoya, where they hold an open mic until quite late at night every Thursday. I had an amazingly warm time amongst only Japanese musicians and spectators with little English, but with the universal language of our music, that did not matter.

I got to play on three occasions, and on two of those I got to play with some of the other musicians in the room, who had spontaneously begun playing while I played. One man did harmonica, a woman took to the drums. Later, another guy took to the drums. I got great recordings of me playing with these musicians, with my own particular favorite being on my own song, “Crazy Lady,” on which I had the harmonica player and the drummer woman.

And their music was gentle and occasionally very emotional, as you can see from the videos. A super, super, super cool night, and once again I was able to fulfill my personal objective of playing and recording me playing with local musician in every country I go to this year. I would put up Crazy Lady here but it requires editing out of the other songs I recorded, and again I am under pressure – this time for an interview in my journalist job, followed by a return trip of more than an hour to Nagoya where I am the feature act in another open mic tonight – at the Plastic Factory venue. More on that tomorrow.

PS, almost forgot! Before I went to the R&B Melrose, I dropped off at the San Jose bar to see if a musician I met there three years ago was still the orchestra leader. And there was David and his two women singers, still there after all these years! So I did a video of them, David being from England, the woman being Japanese. Check that out too!

Playing at the Plastic Factory in Nagoya, and the Sleepers at McDonald’s

October 9, 2011

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

plastic factory night club in Nagoya, Japan

I discovered the Plastic Factory night club, event space and art gallery through an open mic internet search that revealed it is the local of an open mic on the last Sunday of the month in Nagoya. It was one of three or four open mics that take place once or twice a month on days of the week in which I am in Nagoya, but without being on the precise days when I am here! That is a common hasard of this open mic adventure. But what suddenly became interesting when I visited the Plastic Factory web site was that they announced that last night there would be an open stage for musicians and DJs. So I decided to take my guitar and take the subway two stops from my hotel and join in.

Well, joining in turned out to be not entirely the accurate word. Dominate would be better, as I ended up as the only musician present. Having said that, I played my heart out to a small but cosy, kind and interesting audience, including Heinz Senn, the owner of the Plastic Factory, who comes from German-speaking Switzerland.

Moreoever, after I played Heinz asked me about whether I’d ever recorded my music, and I produced a CD with the four songs on it that I recorded last year. He promptly put it on the turntable and piped it through the massive sound system very loud. I have never heard it in a club situation coming that loud through speakers, and it was very cool and inspiring!

So was the Plastic Factory, this is clearly a hip and comfortable joint, and no wonder it has lasted seven years. I think Heinz is putting on a party next week to mark the seven years of the place’s existence. The web site gives clear instructions on how to find the place, but the small hallway entrance is still difficult to notice from the street. You follow it down a long corridor until you come to the bright yellow/green entrance door, enter the room and you feel like you’re in a cool, private loft. There is a nice stage with a big DJ set up on it, but room also to play music in front of that, with a screen above the stage for projections.

Heiz said his Harmonium Parlour open mic is the biggest and most successful in the city and that they have 80 to 90 spectators and up to 24 musicians every month. And given the vibe of the place, I can believe it. And he may be of European origin, but he said the clientele at the open mic is very much a mixture of Japanese and foreigners. So was last night’s clientele, by the way.

This morning as I stopped in at McDonald’s in Sakae to have my daily dose of pancakes and egg McMuffin – in order to avoid the rice, fish and vegetable “breakfast” at the hotel – I saw once again the same scene I have noticed in this McDonald’s every day: Revellers or workers taking a morning nap on the tables of the restaurant. Is their lifestyle so tightly and overworked that they take every minute available to sleep? Just when I thought the McDonalds was a center for crashing out, a journalist colleague of mine in Formula One, told me that this morning he had seen them sleeping in the 7 Eleven store too….

The video I took this morning shows far fewer than the usual number of sleepers, but it was after 9 AM, and it was a Sunday – there are more on the weekdays. I just had to get a shot of it for the blog….

I also put up a couple of videos of my songs being piped through the sound system at the Plastic Factory, with a segment of “Except Her Heart” and a segment of “Since You Left Me,” which I also sang live.

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