Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Pandemonium at the Harmonium Parlour at the Plastic Factory at Nagoya

September 29, 2015
bradspurgeon

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

Street Culture in Nagoya

October 7, 2011
bradspurgeon

When we think of urban life and culture in Japan, we think mostly of Tokyo. At least I do. But I know very little about Japan, even though I have been here several times. I am getting to like it more and more on each visit, though, and part of that is related to learning how to read the culture and where to go to find it. Last night just walking through the streets of Nagoya, in the Sakae area, which is the central downtown part of the city, I nevertheless had a bit of unexpected culture thrown in my face.

Nagoya may be Japan’s third most populated city, but it is somewhat understated, with most of the nightlife happening behind closed doors in basements and upper floors of buildings that look otherwise rather discreet. So I was surprised to suddenly have my attention grabbed by a bunch of people dancing in front of an office building at around 10 PM, using the glass front of the building as a mirror. This was very cool stuff, and so I grabbed a bit of it on video for the blog.

Not far from this spot I heard a fabulous sound of rock music coming from the street, and my first thought was it was either an outdoor concert or a music bar with the doors wide open. Turned out it was a young band busking outside the Sakae subway station. They were really cool. I was running out of battery power on my Zoom HD Q3, though, so only got a bit of it. The guitarist was hot!

Meanwhile, I think I found another open mic place to play, on Saturday evening. But I keep my fingers crossed.

Playing at the R&B Melrose in Nagoya, Japan

October 6, 2011
bradspurgeon

First night in Japan, first night lucky. I had a cheap meal of noodles – very good – and then made my way directly over to the R&B Melrose bar in Nagoya. I first played here two years ago, and when I returned last night, the owners not only remembered me, they actually had a piece of scrap paper on which I had drawn a little map-like thing showing the location of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

This is a very cool bar that has a full stage of equipment – drums, Marshall amps, microphones, and a collection of guitars, all there for the public. It is a cross between an open mic and a jam session, and last night I realized that it reminded me a lot of the Actors’ bar in Singapore. You can show up several days of the week and take the stage either alone or in a group, or joining people who are present, and play whatever you please.

So it is indeed an open mic, and a jam. The owners love music, and just let people play what they want, while making sure that each client has a chance to play. A really classy place.


Last night I played alone, and then with the drummer. Then I ended up playing with all the other musicians and we did a lot of songs, and I got a lot of them on video – me, a bass player, two guitarists and the drummer. But the videos are too long for the blog and I’ll save them for bits in my documentary film.

For the moment, though, I have the What’s Up video and a couple of others of the other guys jamming.

What luck, first night and I scored! (Well, yes, musically, I mean.)

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