Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

From the De Klomp Jam to Baby Cougar at Blue Whales – Last Night in Nice

May 27, 2013
bradspurgeon

PARIS – I’m back in Paris now writing these words, but I was in Nice last night on my last night in the city after nearly a week. And it was a great end to the trip, with an open jam session at De Klomp, which is where the week began for me last Tuesday playing along with Harry….

Harry was there again last night, organizing the jam. And I had a great time playing with him, and then doing one of my songs – “Except Her Heart” – along with a drummer and some guitar players who specialize in Jazz Manouche. It actually worked, and was fun!

From the jam at De Klomp, which takes place every Sunday, I then went over to King’s Pub to see if I could still take part in that open mic … only to be told that there was no open mic or jam, that it was mostly in the winter…. despite having been told on Tuesday that they had one, and despite their web site advertising one on Sundays and Mondays. Yes, well, that’s par for the course with King’s Pub, I’m afraid. (I will have to update my new guide to open mics in Nice accordingly.)

But I had a fall back plan: Harry had invited me over to the Blue Whales bar, which he said is one of only two that stay open late in Nice – ie, beyond 12:30 AM. So I went, and I did not regret a moment of it. Harry had invited me to see a duet/band who are friends of his. And boy were they worth it. Called Baby Cougar, it was cougar cool. Just take a listen….



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!

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….

From the Snug in Nice to the Lizard Lounge in Paris, by Way of….

January 7, 2013
bradspurgeon

snug pub nice

snug pub nice

Despite the effort and discipline it takes to write a personal blog every day – or almost every day – I think it is really more difficult to write one intermittently. When I write my posts on this blog it is usually fresh from the emotion and excitement – or letdown – of the event or experience. So it is that I have not made a single post on this site since my amazing New Year’s Eve experience. That, however, has nothing to do with not living other amazing experiences in the meantime…in fact, it has to do with living TOO MANY other amazing experiences in the meantime.

It is for that reason that I will keep the wordage on this post to a minimum and rather sum it all up as best and quickly as I can. I left for Nice, in the south of France, in order to meet three people for three completely different reasons, and ran into a fourth on the same trip. The first night I arrived, I headed directly over to the Snug and Cellar pub in the old town of Nice where on Monday nights my friend Peter Cogavin holds an open mic. I had contacted Peter that very day – I think – as I took the train from Paris to Nice and asked him if he had any idea where there was any interesting music going on.

Peter knows I like to play wherever I go, and so although I had not explicitly asked for that, he told me that if I went to the Snug there was a cool band playing and they would probably let me play a song or two. So that is precisely where I went upon arrival in Nice. And no sooner did I step into the door of this tiny little Snug pub than the singer of the three musicians of the band The Substitutes saw my guitar case on my back and asked if I wanted to play a song! He had not been in touch Peter, he knew nothing about me or my abilities as a musician. But this was a true Irish-style pub – run by an Englishman – with a great atmosphere and a wonderful band with an open attitude to music and the musical spirit.

So after ordering a pint of beer I played a couple of songs, along with the bass player and percussionist. The band took a break and I was asked to play a song in the second set too. In the meantime, I had a little tour of the Snug, and found that the open mic usually takes place in the cellar room, and it is one of those classic, vaulted French “caves” with exactly the right dimensions and size for an open mic. And I know Peter is a great host, having seen him in action at the Shapko bar across the street and elsewhere in Monaco. So I highly recommend the Snug, either for the Monday night open mic, or for the music on Thursday – or just a drink.

My trip to Nice took in other experiences, in Vence – where I discussed a musical documentary film idea with an amazing Finnish documentary film director – and in Valbonne, where I met an amazing photographer (whom I will talk about at some future date in a bigger way) and then in Cap d’Ail where I dined with an amazing woman I met in Abu Dhabi this year. I then dine on Sunday night in an amazing apartment overlooking all of Nice and the ocean with an F1 colleague. Amazing was the operative word for the whole three days in Nice….

I returned yesterday in time to go to the once-per-month open mic of the Lizard Lounge, near the Hotel de Ville in Paris, and I had a great time there too, staying quite late in the end, and playing a couple of Irish songs – Only Our Rivers and Peter’s Song – for an Irishman who showed up late, after I did my own set during the open mic. More amazingness!

And hey, I guess I got through this difficult task after all, despite several days away from the computer keyboard…. (Oh, I continued working on my book in the 5 hour and 30 minute train ride to and from the coast, but with a pen and paper.)


The Elusiveness of Open Mics in Nice

May 27, 2011
bradspurgeon

I ran around in circles last night in Nice seeking out open mics that had been recommended to me by various people. First, I returned to Shapko’s bar, oh, and I almost forgot to mention: Returning to Nice from Monaco, I got off the train at the station in Nice and as I walked out the main door of the station, I saw Dimitri Shapko entering the station. We said a quick hello, but he was on his way to a gig in… Monaco.

Anyway, I returned first to his bar on rue Rossetti just to see what was happening. Not much of interest to me, although I understand tonight and tomorrow night should be very good musically, as we get into the meat of the Shapko jazz weekend. From there I headed off to Paddy’s Pub, not far down the street around the corner in the old town. I had been there a couple of days before as I had been told there was an open mic there. Not only was there no open mic, but the bartender did not think there ever was one. But he said he did not really know for sure! So I returned last night and found the same situation, nothing. But outside the door I was told by someone else, a musician, that there was an open mic at a pub down the street called, King’s pub.

So I headed down there and found a sign outside that indicated that basically there was an open mic every night the pub was open. There was always live music, and amateur, unknown, unannounced musicians, could ask to go up and play a little. So I went into the place and spoke to the guy at the bar and he said that, no, despite the announcement, they don’t actually do that – at least not in the summer months.

Ok. During this walk I also ran into Johnny, the Canadian man who owned and ran two musical joints in the past, one a pub that is still called Johnny’s, but which does not have an open mic, and the other being the place where I played two years ago, Johnny’s Wine Bar. Johnny sold both of these places and both became dead places after he infused them with spirit and success and had wonderful open musical nights almost every night of the week. I was amazed to run into Johnny, and he was amazed I remembered so many details about him and his joint from two years ago, like the fact that he played with a Seagull parlor sized guitar and that he had a German blues guitar player with him… I did not tell him that I had taken notes immediately after playing there and had incorporated the stuff into my open mic book-in-progress. So I cheated, in terms of the memory thing.

Johnny told me I would find a friend of his playing at a bar around the corner called Bar a Degustation, but when I went there, there was no music. I had seen a slam thing there on Tuesday night, however.

In any case, I was feeling that open mics were becoming very elusive things in Nice indeed. I had a wonderful moment seeing a busker, however, and talking to a friend of hers who approached me as I filmed, and who saved my evening’s sense of despair…

Part of the despair was the open mic chase, another part was spending half an hour at Wayne’s pub, where I was also told there was live music, but where I find the atmosphere claustrophobic. I nevertheless recorded a little video of the band doing a Beatles song….

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