Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Debates and Jams and Other Things at Ptit Bonheur

February 22, 2012

It felt ever so slightly slow at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic on Tuesday night, but it became a very cosy and agreeable affair. And I said to myself, sometimes these less highly populated evenings are the best.

I mean, it was far from empty, a good crowd really, but not the kneeling room only things we sometimes see at this excellent open mic. It did not start well for me either in the sense that I realized that I had once again left home without my Zoom Q3HD recording device and only had my iPhone to bear witness to the great moments of the evening.

Both the image and the sound are less good on the iPhone in these conditions – still, it is better than nothing.

I realized it was really a “different” night at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance when Yaco Mouchard, the MC, played a golden oldie, the song from the 1960s called “Crimson and Clover.” No one, not me, not Yaco, not even Wayne Standley, could remember who it was wrote and played the original, but it turned into a real live debate through the room. I said I thought it was someone of the Peter, Paul and Mary ilk, without thinking it was them. In fact, it was Tommy James and Shondells and it came out in 1968.

Yaco also played “The Weight,” by The Band, and everyone still at the open mic joined in to the chorus and it turned the evening into a bit of a jam.

Notable also was the return visit by a couple members of the band Natas Loves You, who played a Fleet Foxes song and a Beatles song – no doubt the most representative groups at either end of the spectrum of what Natas itself is all about….

Playing at the Anthracite in Paris

June 3, 2011

I am always ecstatic when I discover a new open mic anywhere, but when one pops up in Paris that I did not know about, it always seems even more miraculous. Yesterday I learned of an open mic at a cool, chic club/bar called Anthracite, in the 4th Arrondissement in Paris.

I don’t know how long it has existed, but there it was on the Anthracite web site, and on a day, Thursday, when there is little else available. So I took my guitar and went. When I arrived, I found out quickly, however, that it is not a classic open mic of the kind where musicians go up with their instruments and sing cover songs or their own songs, both their own way. It is the kind of open mic/jam session thing that the Cavern bar has in Paris, and several other places around the world also do: Where a house band plays the music, and members of the audience go up to sing songs from the band’s set list.

In other words, it is a kind of live karaoke. It turned out also, however, that the drummer in the house band at the Anthracite is a friend, and member of the Natas Loves You band, and he saw me with my guitar and told me that they occasionally have people go up with their own instruments too. This lit things up in my head, as I have never felt comfortable in the Cavern kind of situation, or even in the real karaoke situation. In fact, I’m usually pretty bad at it.

But when I play my guitar and do my songs my way along with a band, I really enjoy that now (although even that took a while to get used to), and on top of it, there were at least three songs no the regular set list that I do in my repertoire: Jealous Guy, Mad World and What’s Up.

I opted for What’s Up, even though I had learned it only a couple of weeks ago and still do not have a really solid hold on the rhythm. But the band played along, sang along, and I had the time of my life. And afterwards I was stunned to find several audience members complimenting me. I knew I screwed up in a couple of spots, but it did seem to hold together.

The other performers had a wide range of styles and approaches, but as I find at the Cavern, most of the stuff had a soul feel to it. I enjoyed a lot of the songs, and am putting up a few of the videos. This is a really different kind of audience, a high class kind of place, and the band was tight and cool.

Above all, however, I have to give the Anthracite full marks, compliments and heartfelt kudos for allowing a musician they do not know to go up and plug in his guitar and play along and sing. The Cavern won’t allow that with guitarists – although I have seen sax players.

That said, I will be delighted when I manage to raise my game high enough to be able to play by the same rules as all the other singers.

The Ugly Side of Celebrity – or Pete Doherty’s Night at a Small Paris Club (Or why everyone should have seen Natas Loves You at the Maroquinerie instead)o

March 20, 2011

The invitation from Facebook came yesterday afternoon, if I recall correctly. It said that it was a “Live Pete Doherty,” and it was taking place that night in a small bar, or nightclub, in Paris near the Opera. I knew the bar well for having attended an after show party there a few months ago. So my first thought was, “They will never fit all the people in that little place that will want to go in to see Pete Doherty in such an intimate environment.”

But there it was: The invitation to me and 4000 other people. Furthermore, two of the other acts that night were friends or acquaintances of mine. And I knew one of these people was a friend of Pete’s. Pete spends lots of time in Paris, and when he is here he apparently hangs around with these people I know, whom I have felt over the past couple of years as if I could call friends, but I’m probably exaggerating and should call them acquaintances. (We talk a little, I go to their shows whenever I can, etc. But I don’t hang out with them the way I would close friends.)

But what that made me think was that if I was being invited, and because I had friends who were taking part in the show, then I should go around and take the opportunity of seeing Pete Doherty perform live in close quarters, and maybe meet him – after all I’d heard about him. In any case, this was written as a “Public Event” on the Facebook invitation. And the invitation had been created by the event coordinator of the small club in question. So that meant this guy also wanted me there. And all the other 4,000 people.

Of course, I know how Facebook works. You invite 400 and you get 4. But we all know that a celebrity of Pete’s stature is not going to attract the corresponding 40 people, but rather several hundred. In fact, as I look at the expired Facebook invitation today, I see 469 people checked off that they will attend and 203 said they might attend. This club is the size of my living room. Okay it’s a little bigger than that, so we are talking about fitting 200 people in it shoulder to shoulder, at a rough guess.

When you consider that each musical guest and DJ and the organizer himself, could easily have attracted several friends and friends of friends, then we can easily imagine that a very intimate Pete Doherty party at this intimate bar could have been put together at the drop of a hat. And everyone – including Pete, I hope – would have been happy.

But the irresponsible, small-minded, loose cannon, hanger-on of an artistic director who organized this public event to which anyone can go and 4000 were invited on FB alone, decided that he would cause pain and damage to the Saturday evening of many people who were misled by his advertising.

Personally, I don’t care at all that I was never let in the door of the club and was rejected repeatedly by this organizer and that I received no help from someone whom I thought was a friend, either. My regular job as a journalist covering Formula One races means that I am constantly working with, meeting and talking to celebrities. One more or less doesn’t make any difference to me. I can easily live without meeting or seeing Pete Doherty play music in an intimate, personal environment.

My son went with his friends and arrived at this small club at 8:40 PM and waited in front of the doors until they opened at 10:00 PM…. only to see this organizer prevent them from going in while accepting a stream of his handpicked people who arrived over the next couple of hours after 10 PM.

This happened not only to my son, it happened to hundreds of other people who showed up to the public event to see and pay 10 euros to see – although I did not see any of the guests pay anything – a concert by a musician whose music they love and admire. Indeed, what motivated my son – and I know this because I have given him opportunities to see other celebrities that he has rejected because he doesn’t care about them – was that Pete Doherty is one of the few rock musicians of today that he really respects. The music, I mean. He loves the music and thinks Doherty is a great songwriter. He has never seen him before live. He learned of the concert independently of me.

So basically the point of this post is the following: An artistic director of a small club in Paris decides to invite the whole world to his big evening with a celebrity in order to reject everyone except a small group of handpicked people. He most certainly thinks this creates a great buzz surrounding his night club, and after all, there he was, the king of it all, striding back and forth letting in the right people and keeping the wrong people at bay behind a barrier in front of the club. For hours the front of the club was surrounded by the streams of rejected people – dozens of them at any one time.

“There’s something important happening here,” was the message.

My first reaction was that I wanted nothing to do with writing about it. Any attention paid to the cruel organizer would be considered by him as publicity for his club and himself.

But when I woke up this morning, I thought again, and I realized that what was happening was worth mentioning: Pete Doherty is an artist. He creates great music. He has become a public figure because of this. He has become a celebrity. But the artistic organizer of this little club in Paris used this celebrity to his own ends. The difference is, in doing so, he hurt and manipulated many other people. He disappointed them, and destroyed their Saturday night.

I narrowly escaped having my Saturday night destroyed too. I had a horrible decision to make, because as much as I wanted to see Pete Doherty perform, I had been waiting for MONTHS to see my friends in the band Natas Loves You and the Bellers, perform a concert at the Maroquinerie last night too.

As it turned out, I was able to go to the Maroquinerie and catch most of that concert before heading off quickly in a cab to the Doherty fiasco. But imagine if I had made the decision to miss my friends’ concert entirely for that punk’s incompetence as an artistic director inviting everyone but only letting in closely handpicked friends????

Anyway, the Natas Loves You concert was sublime; they just released an EP, and this marked the occasion. I have put up several posts of this band playing at Ollie’s open mic, and one recent post had them singing a King Crimson song, which they did last night in full electronic splendour.

I took several videos of the Pete Doherty fiasco, the people waiting in front of the small club in disappointment. But unfortunately you get to see the name of the club, and even in fleeting manner, the artistic coordinator who had been so cruel to them and done his job so badly. But because you can see the name of the club, I have decided not to put it up on this post and give any more publicity to them than they deserve. The guy wanted to use Pete Doherty’s celebrity to create buzz, and all he did was create bad vibes and hurt people’s dreams.

So instead, I’m putting up the videos from the concert that all those people SHOULD have been at: the one at the Maroquinerie with The Bellers, Natas Loves You, and Amen Birdmen. Dream on:

Ollie’s Twins and Triplets – or is it Duos and Trios?

March 16, 2011

I will refrain from writing too much here, as it was yet another night in Paris at Ollie’s open mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance. The main lines here, though, are that after a slow start led me to believe that there is something in the air this week reducing crowds at open mics, it suddenly picked up and was pretty much as busy and as successful as ever chez Ollie.

The salient point for me would be the great new duos and trios. Or rather, two duos and the everlasting Natas Loves You in trio (before its concert at the Maroquinerie this Saturday).

The first new duo was that of Aurore and Tristan, and they did a nice number together – fully unexpected; and then there was the further development of the duo of Emma Guignebert singing with Yaco playing guitar, doing a song written by Yaco, and called, “Carry Me Back.” I really like it, and Emma’s voice is hot.

Then there was Natas, doing a couple of their songs and a couple of covers…. I’d love to put the Beatles cover they do down here again in video, but I’ve done that before… so space for the rest….

Natas Loves You Does King Crimson, and Other Surprises – worth it, watch out! – at Ollie’s

March 9, 2011

I could not believe my ears last night at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance bar when Natas Loves You got up and began singing “I Talk to the Wind” from the first King Crimson album. I mean, this fabulous band originating from Luxembourg – and all over the world – does frequently surprise me and most people in the audience with their harmonies and original sounds.

But here I was faced with not only the nostalgia of listening to this fabulous sound of one of my favourite bands from my youth. I was also faced with the existential question of, hey, when these guys do this it is out-of-this-world-super-cool and hip and original. If I did the song or another from that same album – In the Court of the Crimson King – would I not just be considered an old fart who has never gotten over his first musical loves and cannot move on?

Well, who cares!! Just enjoy the recording I did on the video. Kudos to Natas for this original idea. To top it off, they told me they had only been singing the song for a day or two….

That would not be the only surprise at Ollie’s open mic last night. After a one-week dip in attendance suddenly the scene was back and boiling. It was standing room only for a while, again. And I got hit in the face with several other surprises. They included yet our slide guitar girl Nicole doing her own song for the first time in public; the fuck-poem girl doing another fuck poem – but with much more poise than the last time; Wayne Standley bringing along his banjo instead of his guitar; and Emma doing a crowd-killing “Preacher Man” a cappella with another singer….

I’m returning next week, no problem. But I will have to arrive earlier. Due to all this success, Ollie is moving the start time to 21:00 now from the 22:00 it was when the open mic started a year or more ago….

Au Ptit Bonheur, the Original Stuff at Ollie’s Minus Ollie

March 2, 2011

It was not quite the same over-crowded situation at Ollie’s open mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance last night. And, as it turned out, not even Ollie was there – he was replaced by Yaco, also known as Ollie Joe…. But there was a lot of very good and interesting music.

The bits that stood out for me were especially Nicole, from Los Angeles, who was the first woman I have seen playing slide guitar. That sounds mad, but I cannot think of any women I have ever seen playing slide. Why not? Nicole showed how cool this can be for a woman as with a man.

Tory did an Irish song, Black is the Color, and as with that moment at the Cavern a few weeks ago, I found her interpretation abilities to be fabulous. What a voice! Here she sang the song because there were a couple of other Irish people in the audience – one of whom did a very cool Irish song as well, but that I did not catch on video.

Aimad, pronounced, Reeemed, did his brilliant tapping again, with his cool voice, while Natas Loves You showed up again to do three fabulous songs, including the first one, of the Beatles, that they do so fabulously well. By the way, Natas Loves You will play at the Marquinerie in Paris on 18 March….

That is a lot of superlatives, right? Well, my own efforts were less than brilliant – I tried doing “Only Our Rivers Run Free” for Tory and the Irish guys – who were up drinking at the bar and not in the room – and I forgot part of the second verse and most of the last verse….

Report on First Real Gig – at the Disquaires

February 28, 2011

Did it! Played a gig with Félix Beguin of “The Burnin’ Jacks” on lead guitar and Virgile Arndt of “Natas Loves You” on bass. Both contributed some harmonies too. It was the first bona fide gig that I have done with a backing band, aside from playing here and there in open jam sessions, and we did it last night at the Disquaires bar in Paris, near the Bastille.

Félix, Virgile and I had played together during the recording sessions at the Point Ephemere last July when we – and Laurent Guillaume also doing lead guitar – recorded four of my songs. But working together to do an approximately 45-minute set of original material and some cover songs, last night was a first.

The evening started with Calvin McEnron, who played his set with his songs, including everybody’s favorite, “After the Rain.” In fact, Calvin invited about five of us up on the stage to sing the chorus to that song. I did not realize that I had placed the Zoom Q3HD in a bad position, so we get the sound, but very few of the faces. Want to put it up anyway.

The Romantic Black Shirts played the final set and they entertained us with their great covers from everyone from Bob Dylan to Daniel Lanois, and a nice sound of violin, jazzy guitar, cool voices… very nice ambience.

I played five of my songs – including one I wrote at about 22 years old and never ever played in public before – and three cover songs, “Crazy Love,” “Mad World,” and “Father and Son.” The ambience was wonderful, a great warm audience, and the sound system worked out okay, and Félix and Virgile were brilliant. Unfortunately the limitations of my Zoom Q3 – operated my son here – does not do justice to the whole vibe. But I would say that, right?

And from the Calvin set:

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