Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Velvet Veins and Tactics at the Bus Palladium Karaocké

May 6, 2013

In France we are in the middle of the first set of weeks in which public holidays divide the week in half. The 1 May and 8 May are public holidays – a kind of labor day on the 1st and the Victory of WWII on the 8th – and in France that means that a large percentage of the population will created what they call a “bridge,” or a “pony,” of days off between the weekend and the middle of the week. The and what THAT means is that for these two weeks there are hardly any people in Paris. And what THAT means is that the Kararocké organizers may well have been worried that there would not be many people there on Saturday for the once-a-month giant karaoke with the live band. So was that the reason that Nicolas Ullmann, the MC, decided to announce that Pete Doherty would sing a song or two before the kararocké?

Many of the regular clients of the Bus Palladium will by now know that the artistic director of the venue is acting as manager for Peter Doherty, the British rock star of the former Libertines and Babyshambles, who lives in Paris. So maybe, just maybe, Ullmann thought that would attract people during a potential down period. On the other hand, as many of the clients to his great Kararocké know, Ullmann is the master of disguise, and he dress up as a different character for each show. This time, guess what? The character, it seems, was Pete Doherty!

And it was Ullmann doing the impersonation…. Doherty has recently played at the Bus Palladium, and even in small cafés in the neighborhood, so it would not have been unreasonable to expect him to show. But the game was Ullmann’s this time, and I don’t have any idea at all if it actually worked, but what I can say is that the crowd was its usual size and enthusiasm on Saturday night, and Ullmann put on another great show.

I was surprised at how many people were there. But I also know that a lot of the people who showed up came to see the basically unknown band that opened for the Kararocké, the band called, Velvet Veins. I went specifically to see them – although my interest was piqued by the idea of a Doherty intervention – as the Velvet Veins is the new band of my sometime lead guitarist Félix Beguin, with whom I have played many times, and recorded a couple songs too. He met his new band in the studio where he works, just outside Paris. The Velvet Veins, for their part, did NOT let down.

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:

A Concert With Miggles and Wass; A Barman’s Open Mic

April 24, 2010

Back at home base in Paris after the disastrous China travel experience, it was time to get out and play again – in a few senses of the word. After breaking up with my girlfriend yesterday – who was not actually my girlfriend, since she seemed to have several men, so at best I was certainly categorized on her side to all the others as simply a friend (as we all were) – I decided I would go and forget my sorrows by going out to three different places in the same night. I lined up a concert, an open mic and an aftershow wind down from the first concert. In the end, I could have made all three – plus a fourth – but part way to the Tigre bar on the rue Molière, I decided to back out and grab a cab while there was still a cab available, since it was already almost 2 AM.

The concert was at the Espace B, a venue I have heard about for over a year, but I never went to, located at 16 rue barbanègre, in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, unfortunately close to my ex-girlfriend’s place. But I was very curious to go to the concert because it had my friends Johann Giethlen and Miggles Christ playing in it, along with the beautiful drummer, Victoria Froehly. It is Miggles’ band, in fact, and after seeing Miggles and Johann play for more than a year at Earle’s open mic, I decided it was time to see the band. Miggles, as I mentioned in my story about Earle, is the original catalyst to the whole new scene of rock in the last decade in Earle’s universe – as you can see by the story, since in the story Miggle’s name is Michael Bontemps, the guy Earle met in Pete Doherty’s hotel room.

But I was also curious to hear one of the other guys at the Espace B, and that was Alan Wass. I glanced at his Myspace and somewhere else and listened to a few bars of the music and said, “This is good, wanna hear it.” It turned out also that he was some kind of friend of Pete Doherty’s. So it seemed it could be interesting.

Not for the first time, I arrived at the concert an hour and a half too early since the Facebook invitation got the hour all wrong. So that gave me the idea of taking a cab to go and see Earle, who was at the Mecano. I’d already taken a swig of my beer, but I just put it on the counter and left for the Mecano, not telling the Espace B barman that I was returning. I was simply down and out and anything goes – didn’t want much human contact.

Took a cab to Earle’s place, unfortunately passing right in front of the restaurant where I ate with my grilfriend two days before. I then spent half an hour with Earle and returned to the Espace B. First thing that happened when I arrived was the bartender told me he had saved my beer for me, behind the counter, not sure I would return or not. First good thing that happened all day – and it was even great, that gest.

My favorite Miggle’s tune was one that he has played time and again acoustically at Earle’s open mic, and I will post it below, and it also had a great line for my state of mind last night: “Why did you let me down, why did you let me down???” But actually, I think this is the song that refers to that very evening in the hotel where he met Earle with Pete, and is more about drugs than love. But I may be wrong:

But for me the revelation of the evening – since I already knew Miggles’ great stuff – was really to hear Alan Wass play his guitar and sing. Who the hell is this guy? I was asking myself. He had this cool sort of American sound to his voice, but with a clear mix of a touch of the Pete Doherty side, and clearly some Dylan and Donovan undertones, or maybe overtones. I found myself recording three of the four or five songs he played. And then I found myself thinking that the best song he did was one where I decided to stop recording for a moment, and I became entirely involved in the song – although not enough to heed to what I was saying to myself: “Why am I not recording this one? Am I perverse?”

After he played, I went to talk to him to tell him I really enjoyed the music, especially the one I did NOT record and also the first and last one. He was a very agreeable guy, from England, and the English accent when he spoke was such a contrast to the accent when he played, that it was kind of cool. But the music was authentic. And when I said I really liked the last one, “Hired Gun,” he said he had just played it with Pete Doherty. So I found out that in fact, he had backed Doherty for years, writes for Doherty, and that this song is a big success with Doherty – but it’s actually written by Wass. Looking it up on the Internet, that’s not an easy fact to find. Once it gets the stamp of a big name on it, it loses its origin and becomes a Doherty song. Here’s my video of Wass singing it (or part of it) last night at the Espace B:

But when I look and listen again to these videos, I think I prefer the way he sings his first song, of which I also took a video of at least part of it. So I cannot imagine how good the one I did not record was! Here’s the first song he played, pardon the camera movements at the beginning (and I have just returned to add a note that I suddenly realized that this sounds a heck of a lot like Van Morrison, too….):

Cabaret Culture Rapide at Belleville

So the next joint on the list was an open mic that I discovered about three or four months ago. It is in the Belleville area of Paris and it is one of the very few open mics I know of on Fridays, and it starts around 10:30 PM. So I had no choice to go there into that neighborhood, which, unfortunately, also happened to be the same neighborhood of my girlfriend whom I had broken up with yesterday before setting out on my trek!!

Called Cabaret Culture Rapide, the open mic is in a very small bar at 103 rue Julien Lacroix. The problem with this open mic is that there is no mic. They call it the barman’s evening, or something like that, and despite the pain of singing without a microphone, I like the atmosphere. The colored walls are cool, the little stage is cute, and the crowds are young and friendly, in general.

I didn’t arrive until 20 minutes past 11 PM, but I was able to get a spot to play, thanks to the nice MC. I saw a couple of regulars there, among them Elliott – whose last name escapes me, but I’ll put it up when I find it – and a woman who reads little poetic prose stories. This open mic is not just for music, but for standup comedy, poetry, anything goes. This night there was a comedian who I thought I recognized as the DJ from a radio station that sponsors a song contest that I took part in after he saw me playing at another bar and he invited me to do the contest. But I decided that it must just be my imagination, so I didn’t approach him.

I sang my song “Since You Left Me,” and then found that I was being invited to do another song in the next round of performances, so I did “Father and Son.” After my first song, the guy I thought I recognized ran up to me at the bar and said, “Hey, Brad! I didn’t recognize you at first, but I’m the one….”

“I know,” I said. “It’s Emeric!” Yes, it was my DJ from Yvelines radio, Emeric Degui all right. So we talked and he said I should do the contest again, get all my friends to vote, and they have invited a few of the musicians on the show, etc. I told him that maybe I should send in my song, “Except Her Heart,” as arranged by Félix Beguin, and we left it at that.

So below I will put up a few video snippets of the performers at this Barman’s open mic, but none of me, which I did not make. The first is Emeric, the second is Elliott, and the third is the Italian poet who composes in French, which he often seems to have a hard time speaking. He calls himself a psychedelic poet, and he is a regular at this open mic, sometimes actually doing the MC chores himself.

After the Culture Rapide Cabaret I headed over to the Stalingrad metro, passing perversely in front of my ex-girlfriend’s place, and there I took the Line 7 to Le Tigre on rue Molière, but just a few stops from the bar I decided to get off the metro, take a cab and return home – I remembered too many recent nights in Paris where I could not get a cab and I was walking the streets for an hour trying to find one.

Tonight, I believe I have found another open mic, called Resistencias, that is open to more that just music, and it is the first time I will do it. So it will be interesting to see if there are any revelations…..

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