Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

An Amazing Brunch, and Checkmate: Finally a Different Open Mic in Paris

February 7, 2011

First I have to talk about Saturday night, since Robert Kubica’s accident in rally racing yesterday meant I had no time for this blog before I sped off to the brunch at the Mecano bar. (I had to do a blog item and update on my F1 blog on the NYT site.)

But what a Saturday and Sunday! Saturday I attended a jam/open mic that I had discovered existed one day as my eye was attracted to a bar on Rue St. Maur – the street where I got my head kicked in on New Year’s Eve – with the name in French of L’Echiquier. That means chessboard in French. So that, as deep readers of this blog will know, would be of interest to me since I love chess. But then I saw a sign on the window about an open mic. And that, well…

It turns out that the bar has a theme of chess, with matches played there occasionally, with chessboard tiling in the toilets, and drinks named after chess themes, etc. And this is because Djamel Grine, who owns the place, likes chess too. But he told me his original idea was that he wanted the bar to be public place open to everyone: the King, the Queen, the bishop (which in French is called a “fou” and also means “crazy person.”)

He also loves music, so he started the jams and open mics. There is no set date for it, but they manage to do one at least once a month, on a Saturday. So best to call l’Echiquier beforehand to see if there is a session.

It was a very warm open mic, and I was pleased that although it started like a typical bluesy sort of jam session with full band, it was also possible and welcome for an individual musician to go up and sing and play guitar, cover songs or originals. I played with the band, since I like that challenge and it is more fun and “big.” We played “Crazy Love,” because it was easy, “Father and Son,” because it was more difficult but well known, and my song “Borderline,” just because. I finished off with “I Shall Be Released,” since it is three chords and really well known.

Having had that magnificent Saturday evening, I worried that my own brunch would never match it. I was wrong. It must have been the Sunday of all my brunches where I had the largest number of other performers who wanted to play – and who did play. There were seven of us in all. I played a lot less in order to allow for the others, and that was great, because it meant I could talk to the others and listen to them.

And Olivier Rodriguez, a friend and amazing photographer, showed up for the second week in a row to play his songs and this time he brought his camera and did some great shots of us and said I could put them up on this blog.

Now, with the new Q3HD, my videos will be visible!

January 31, 2011

It’s true, I finally managed to buy the Zoom Q3HD video camera and it has all sorts of improvements over the Q3 that I have been using since the beginning of this blog, nearly a year ago. If that sounds like a television commercial, it’s not. But why not? I love the thing.

I bought it Saturday, used it Sunday for the first time, at my brunch at the Mecano and at the Be There open mic. So check out the videos below. Finally there Q3 has a control that allows it to see in the dark, more or less, so that horrible problem I have had of the nearly invisible videos has disappeared. They are now grainy, yes, but at least you can see the musicians as well as hear them. And the sound quality has also been improved with this Q3 going up to 98,000 hz and 24bit sound. (The other was 44 or 48 hz.)

The brunch started quietly, but picked up and there were a few new performers, and it was a great pleasure. At Be There I managed to get some videos where you can actually see this dynamic, young new band called La Ronge, that I already mentioned a few weeks ago.

From Calvin and Olivier at the Galerie 106, to Gaelle Buswel at Le Cavern

December 19, 2010

I had to go over to the Galerie 106 to see the exhibition of my friend Olivier Rodriguez’s photos yesterday and when I got there, I found I not only had a feast of photos – with Olivier’s, but also with those of Aurore Gorius, Julien Navas and Victor Paimblanc – but I also met up with my friend Calvin McEnron. And as we spoke eventually Calvin said he wanted to play one of his new songs. So I handed over my guitar and he played and sang, right in the middle of the vernissage. That’s Calvin – and he writes some damned interesting songs….

Olivier’s photos were all taken with an iPhone, and I recognized a lot of the subjects of the photos – ie, the people being photographed. Olivier is the guy who took one of my favorite photos of me, which I use as my profile photo on my myspace. Olivier used to do a lot of the photos of the musicians at Earle’s open mic, so he’s got some wonderful stuff.

But in the end, I had to leave after an hour or so from the Galerie to get over to Le Cavern to hear the concert of a woman singer I discovered last year, and whom I immediately fell for. Gaelle Buswel has an amazing voice, extraordinary charm and stage presence, and she…gee, she has a little of that Bruce Springsteen quality of looking like she’s loving every minute of the performance and the communication with the audience. Last night she played with her band, Cam On, the two brothers of Vietnamese origin playing bass and lead are extraordinary. Last night it was mostly cover songs, that they did, but Gaelle also has some of her own.

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