Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

The Beat Goes on in Nice – or Does It?

May 24, 2015
bradspurgeon

Joe Danger at Jonathan's in Nice

Joe Danger at Jonathan’s in Nice

NICE, France – The question running through my mind over the last couple of nights as I have walked the streets of Nice, mostly the old town, is whether my imagination is playing havoc on my memory, or whether Nice had a brighter period for roaming musicians than at the moment? I passed many of the previous places I had played in here over the years to find either the businesses no longer existed, or there was a change of style, a change of owner, a different zeitgeist.

Shapko still exists, but I saw nothing inviting in the way of the jam that was kind of slapped on to the end of a jazz night of band gigs. The King’s Pub told me they no longer host a jam or an open mic, and only show sports on TV. Johnny’s Wine Bar is long since gone.

There are other examples of things past, but I’ll forget about them for the moment. There remains hope in places one would expect, though. I dropped in to Paddy’s pub to find a musician doing a nice little gig on the nice little stage, and warmly coming up afterwards to say hello, as I had a compliment to make of his music. I asked him about open mics and jams, and he only knew of one that I will try tonight – hoping it still exists. But his stage was not open, as it has been in the past during other gigs. That said, Paddy’s apparently has an open mic every Tuesday night, so that’s great news.

From there, I decided to head on down to the first of the former Johnny’s venues, this one called Jonathan’s Live Music Pub. There, as soon as I saw that it was Friday night, and therefore one of the nights served by one of the three D’s – three musicians all having the letter D as their first initial somewhere – and I saw it was Joe Danger, I knew I was at least in for a fun moment of music.

And as with years past, it was the same climate: Go into the bar before Joe is onstage and you’ll find it empty, or nearly empty of clients. Wait a bit, Joe Danger takes to his musical chair, and suddenly the whole cellar room of this great bar fills up with people, mostly young people, keen to go crazy with the music of Joe Danger as a backdrop.

Joe, an Austrian originally, but who sings and speaks in perfect English, has been playing Jonathan’s pub for 15 years. He is really part of the walls, I think. Or at least the playing stool. He also has the great warm trait of offering the stage to people who ask, to play a song or two, although it is not an open mic.

So he saw me with my guitar, we chatted, he remembered me from the past, and he invited me up to play. I high, high point of the week.

Last night, I dropped by the Snug, where there is an open mic on Monday nights, and there was a singer. She played some lovely material, and after when I complimented her, we got to talking about my guitar. She normally plays an acoustic, loved my guitar, and I offered to let her use it on her next set. All over wonderful time – but I didn’t play anything.

So there are bits and pieces of music and open stages still in Nice, but I still feel things have got a little reduced in recent years….

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….

Da Beat at De Klomp Open Mic in Nice

May 27, 2014
bradspurgeon

de klomp

de klomp

NICE, France – The idea Sunday night was to enjoy a good, simple meal in the old town of Nice, take a walk along the Promenade des Anglais, maybe film a few scenes for my next song video, the song of which has now been all nicely mixed and ready for posting. Then, somehow, an open mic intervened. I just happened to stop by at the De Klomp bar, in the old town, and discovered that the open mic still existed, that a crowd was building, and that there was a place for me to play. I couldn’t resist.

So ended any possibility for filming in Nice, since after the open mic the rain began to fall and it was a much better idea to get back to the hotel. But in the meantime, I had a great time playing in the De Klomp bar open mic, doing mostly my own songs – including here posted my “When You’re Gone Away,” the official video of which I posted a few weeks ago – as well as some cover songs.

And then the was the listening to the very cool voice and neat music of the new MC, Erik Marchini, who for a newcomer to performing his music, is pretty hot. He said he has only being playing in public for around three months. Amazing.

De Klomp is a pretty hip bar, with a central bar area and two different, but connected rooms, so that with the music on one side and a drinking room on the other, people can choose whether they want to listen or talk. Of course, you get a bit of both, like anywhere. But it is a very nifty, and has a kind of underground feel to this place – I highly recommend it.

It was really one of my favorite open mic situations: You don’t plan to attend an open mic, you enjoy a meal at a restaurant, show up in a bar, there’s an open mic, they invite you up, you play, you have fun, you listen to others, you leave. Perfect recipe for a night out….

Changes at Shapko Bar in Nice – and a Word on Marjorie Martinez and Wednesday Night

May 24, 2014
bradspurgeon

Marjorie Martinez

Marjorie Martinez

NICE, France – My feeling is that it is better to be late and short than to completely ignore my experience playing my songs, and listening to those of Marjorie Martinez, at Shapko Bar in Nice on Wednesday night. I mean, here I am on the Riviera, having suddenly disappeared from this blog and got sucked up by the sudden appearance of sunlight and sea air – or something like that.

But the more important reason for writing a post here on my evening playing music at Shapko Bar in Nice on Wednesday night is for the record of this blog: I’ve written about the amazing Shapko Bar on rue Rossetti in the old town of Nice since 2011. It became the highlight for me of coming to play in Nice.

So it was at first a shock to arrive for the Wednesday night jam session at Shapko and to find that rather than a band occupying the neat little stage on the lower part of the room it was now several tables full of patrons sitting there drinking, talking, and listening to the music of a woman playing at the mic on the new stage area in front of the bar at the front of the venue.

I learned immediately that Dimitri Shapko, the wonderful Russian saxophone player who founded the bar had just recently sold it to a new owner. I then approached the woman behind the mic – with her Gibson acoustic – after she finished her set, and I asked her if there was some kind of open jam, as there always had been. She said, “No,” but then immediately, in the spirit of Shapko, said that if I wanted to play some songs I could.

So I took the stage after her next set and I sang three or four songs, mostly mine, and “Wicked Game.” I then later spoke to the new owner of the bar, and he said he planned to continue the same spirit of the old Shapko bar – and he has maintained the same name – including having any concerts that start the evening finish as a jam. But there is also an official jam session night on Thursdays, and any kind of music goes.

A Change of Ownership at Shapko Bar

So the good news is that we have not entirely lost Shapko Bar. But let’s see how it develops….

In the meantime, Marjorie Martinez impressed the hell out of me: She had a very cool way of playing that guitar, ranging from folk rock, soft rock and blues into some very adept and fabulous sounding jazz stuff. That came in handy when she opened the stage for the jam, and a saxophone player went up and jammed with her. I mention Marjorie’s range and guitar playing first, but it is her singing voice that is the real center of her show: She sounds like a cross between Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt.

She is French, but her English accent is almost impeccable. In fact, in the gig it was impeccable. It was just in hearing her on her albums – that I bought and later listened to, that I noticed the slightest hint of a French accent. She writes most of her own music, but does not shy away from cover songs either, especially the jazz stuff. In fact, a lot of her own songs have a jazz feel to them in parts, and her backing musicians are clearly jazz-oriented. A very, very interesting discovery, this Marjorie Martinez of the French Riviera – because she is a local….

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!

Playing in the Jazz Jam at the Shapko Bar in Nice, and Running Out of Batteries, but not Steam

May 23, 2013
bradspurgeon

shapko jam

shapko jam

NICE, France – I mentioned in my post yesterday that one of the places I stopped off at looking for a jam was the Shapko Bar in old nice. So last night, I stopped off there again, and who should be standing in the doorway with his sax around his neck and greeting me but Mr. Dimitri Shapko himself.

“Come in! You’ve come to the right place!” he said, when I told him I was looking for music. “It’s a jam session – we’re just taking a break.”

“With that sax around your neck, I can see it’s a real break,” I said, or something like that.

Shapko is the coolest Russian sax player I know – OK, the only one too – and he lives in Nice – which if you go back a century had a lot of other Russians – and he owns and operates this extremely cool and laid back music bar. Wednesdays, it turned out, was the vocal jam night, open to anyone, but with some very fine musicians on the nice round stage to back up any singer brave enough – or with a big enough misplaced ego – to join them.

It Was an Open Jam at Shapko and Not Just Jazz

I say misplaced ego, because although it was clearly a jazz jam, I decided after at first rejecting the offer from the guitar player, to take to the stage to sing a song. And after all, Dimitri, in his career has played with people like Wynton Marsalis, Al Grey, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Ali Jackson, Jeniffer Vincent, Steve Kirby, Doug Sides and Debora Carter. But in fact, I had reasoned that some of the songs – like “Route 66,” and like “Summertime” – did not necessarily have to be interpreted as jazz. So I reached into the deep well of my easily-played popular song bag, and I came up with the entirely non-jazz song of “Wicked Game.” I just knew that if I played those three chords throughout, then Dimitri, the lead guitarist, the pianist, the woman drummer, and the upright acoustic base player would be able to work magic behind my three chords, and I’d get to sing in Shapko’s with these insanely great musicians.

SO that’s what I did, and I loved it. So much fun, and so beautiful to be able to play with such talent, especially when it is NOT a pop/rock night.

And the Batteries Died on My Recording Devices for the Jam Session

AND especially when the evening had actually begun in a very inauspicious and stupid way. My batteries on my Zoom recorder ran out after I had recorded only two songs. And when I reached into my guitar bag to get the extra batteries I always carry with me, I found them gone. AND then I decided to record some stuff with my iPhone, and before I could even get to the camera on it, the iPhone ran out of battery power.

So I was left with just the two videos of a night full of fabulous performers and vocalists. But it was a great, great evening anyway. This venue is one of THE venues to visit in Nice if you happen to visit – either to play or simply to listen. There is no cover charge, and for music of this quality in most major cities, there WOULD be a cover charge.

Thanks Dimitri and the gang at Shapko, I’ll no doubt drop by again before the weekend is over, even if not to consider playing….

Mini Great and Nice and Cool Time at De Klomp Bar in Nice

May 22, 2013
bradspurgeon

de klomp

de klomp

NICE, France – Nice is a kind of mini city with a little bit of everything, and last night, on my first night of six in this Mediterranean wonderland, I had a mini experience of the kind I love and speak about so often on this blog. It was the kind that started bad and ended great – but there was something mini about it anyway.

I had begun with the doubtful prospect of finding an open mic at the King’s Pub. I say doubtful because I had not yet managed to find an open mic at the King’s Pub on my Tuesday nights in Nice in the past, so I doubted the Internet site that said there would be one.

It All Started With a Le Cenac Dinner

Still, I went out for a great dinner at a favorite restaurant, Le Cenac, eating fruits de mer and a good red wine of Provence. Then I walked toward old Nice, the old town, where I knew that my first stop would be at the King’s Pub, and if, as I expected, there was no open mic, then I would head off and visit the several other bars and pubs and venues where I have played in the past, hoping to stumble upon music in at least one of them.

At King’s Pub, I was told by the man who organizes the music, that, No, there was no open mic last night. On the other hand, he told me there was one on Sunday night, and that it starts pretty late – so I knew I had some good times ahead on the weekend.

I left the pub and decided to visit each of the other places that came to mind and in the most logical order: Paddy’s Pub, the Snug pub, Shapko Bar and then Jonathan’s…oh, and it started with a place the name I know not. At each successive bar I found that there was either no music, or no open mic. Mostly no music. That will come later in the week – Shapko is only open Wednesday to Sunday, but it does not exactly have an open mic, from what I can see.

I was feeling really crappy, and my entire sense of optimism faded. In fact, before I visited the last bar, Jonathan’s, I began feeling as if my entire good sense and feeling for the city of Nice was suddenly changing. Had the place gone down hill? I thought of all the fun musical evenings I have had in the past, and I felt I was facing the lowest ebb of musical nullity yet.

I then had the option of breaking out of the old town by turning right and heading the shortest route back to my hotel near the Nice train station, or turning left and taking a longer, more scenic route through the old town where I would perhaps run into a few more bars that, who knew, might have live music?

And Then There Was De Klomp

No sooner had I opted for the optimistic, left turn down a narrow street – like most in the old town – than I heard music coming from a bar on the left, saw hip looking people standing outside smoking, and began to examine the front of the pub, and saw the name of the place: De Klomp. Then, at the same moment I noticed the word “Jam,” chalked up on a sign, and I heard a man from behind asking me if I played music – he saw my guitar on my back – and if I did and I wanted, I could go in and play in the jam.

Wow! So I entered, feeling much lighter and immediately better about Nice and its music scene. It turned out to be a cool, young crowd of listeners, and a nice, low-ceilinged pub with plenty of choices of draught beer. And the man behind the mic playing a Godin guitar – same company as my Seagull S6 – had a great voice and played well. He was young contemporary, the whole place and vibe was just that.

Enter Harry, the Musical Host of the Open Jam at De Klomp


So I approached him after he sang a couple of songs and I ordered a beer, and he said before I had a chance: “I saw you have a guitar. Do you want to play? It’s not actually a jam session tonight, but you are welcome to play.”

This is the attitude I love! It’s the real music attitude, and at once common and not also rarer than it should be, around the world. So I accepted. His name, by the way, was Harry, and he not only plays that night, but also said that he runs a jam session at the bar on Sunday nights, and that I should come. Hmm, that makes for two on Sunday!

After I played my first song, “Wicked Game,” Harry returned and asked if he could play lead with me. So began at least 45 minutes of playing together, and the audience built in size, came closer to the stage, listened, sang along, and applauded warmly. I took a break after sweating out my insides to the point of no return, and Harry took over again completely.

Oh, and another audience member eventually joined Harry for one song, so it did become a kind of open mic, open jam, after all. Still, it was a kind of mini one…. But boy was it gratifying! First night in Nice, very, very nice….

Blog at WordPress.com.