Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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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….

Playing at Paddy’s Pub in Nice, and the Place Was Jumping – but Not Crazy

May 27, 2012
bradspurgeon

I arrived at the Bar de la Degustation in Nice just in time to see and record what would be the last song in some kind of open jam, open not just to musicians, but open to the public in the streets of Nice on the public square. I was asked by someone if I wanted to play, I said, Yes, I went up to the mic and someone else started unplugging and told me it was finished. I ended up being much luckier at Paddy’s Pub, where I had seen a near riot take place the night before….

Having just missed the chance at this curious bar with its wide open front and terrace being bigger than the interior of the bar, I decided to check out the other bars. I found one that had a couple of musicians and I chatted with one of the managers at the door, and he was interested in hearing me play, but clearly with a band doing a gig it was out of the question.

So I went down the street to again visit Paddy’s Pub. I could see immediately that the crowd and the vibe and the band were all different from the night before. It was quieter, but still far from tame. It was a lively evening, in fact, with a good crowd, and this duo of musicians on stage, with two guitars and vocals provided mostly by one of the musicians, but occasionally they worked in harmony.

I pulled up to the bar, listened to the band, and found I liked it. After their set, the main guitar player came up to his girlfriend who was standing beside me, and we struck up a conversation. I learned that they were two of a four piece band called Pin Heads, that they were from Nice, and the most surprising thing for me to learn was that the lead singer had only started playing guitar and singing last year!!! I mean, he sounded so good after one year at that, that I wonder what he can do from here.

Anyway, as we spoke, I told the musician about my musical adventures. So he asked if I wanted to go up and play a song or two, and I agreed. We all three of us went up, I did “Mad World,” and “Wicked Game,” AGAIN! And they played along with me. It was pretty loud, the sound system was not what you would call great, but I felt a captive audience and I enjoyed myself immensely.

The secret to a venue is always the people therein….

Madness at Paddy’s Pub in Nice

May 26, 2012
bradspurgeon

I had nothing planned for a place to play in Nice last night and decided to just walk around and check out some venues I still had not visited. I passed some street dancers and made a short video of them, then I went on to the old town to see if I could get lucky like I did on my first night. Not quite.

Instead, I ended up dropping in to Paddy’s Pub where I played last year – but probably on the Thursday night – and find a complete madhouse. I mean, this was so crazy that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. The people were dancing on the bar practically, and on the tables, the chairs, the stage – all over the place. The musician was almost an afterthought as the people shouted out in heat and who knows what all around him.

So I felt a little sorry for Simeon Lenoir, the Musical One Man Show, as he calls himself. But at the same time as the crowd went apeshit, they also expressed to him their love of his music and thanks for driving them wild. I stayed for a half pint of Kilkenny and returned to my hotel. Hoping for better times to come in the next two nights on the Cote d’Azur….

Persistence Pays: Playing at Paddy’s

May 28, 2011
bradspurgeon

I would never have believed it after the first few nights that I would end up playing my music at Paddy’s Pub in Nice. As I said in the previous posts, I kept on having conflicting information and experiences leading me to believe that Paddy’s Pub was a dead end. But last night, out of principle, I persisted. I ate a great meal at an interesting Nice-style restaurant, and then I decided to go to Shapko’s Bar because there was supposed to be a good singer. But on the way, I decided to stop in at Paddy’s once again, just for the sake of good form.

It was Friday night and there was a two-piece band called Spacecats, with a New Zealander named Angus and a French/Brit on guitar, named Stephane. I went in, bought a pint of beer, and parked myself and my guitar at a table not far from the stage. Business was kicking and so was Angus.

They played a couple of songs after I arrived, and then announced they were taking a break. I suddenly remembered that I had seen Angus playing in the open mic at Ma Nolan’s pub in Nice at the Old Port two years ago. He had seen me come in with my guitar, so he came over and immediately asked me if I wanted to play some songs while they took their break. He did not know who I was, he did not remember me from two years ago, and seemed to barely remember the time he went to Ma Nolan’s.

Then Stephane came over and encouraged me to start playing immediately. These guys did not know me from a hole in the wall. So this was a superb example of the kind of openness that I just love and so rarely find in bars around the world where there is not a formal open mic. Angus told me that they were happy to encourage people to go up and play a song or two at Paddy’s, although he said for certain other big gigs it would not be the same thing.

In any case, here it was, my second opportunity to play in Nice on this trip, and in similar circumstances. It also turned out that Angus had in the past played in a band with some of the guys who are now Hobo Chic, and he had also played at Shapko’s Bar. Talk about a small community of music in Nice, small world.

I played four songs, and later another guy went up to play, but the audience loved what Spacecats did so much that they were occupied until after 1 AM doing song after song after song and the crowd wouldn’t let them go.

Loved that evening!

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