Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

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.)


Singing at Capocaccia in Monaco, Listening to Pete and Folks

May 25, 2012
bradspurgeon

When I first started this musical adventure in 2009, I had written off Monaco as an impossible place to play, and settled for Nice. Too chic, too much money, too many pre-planned events during a Grand Prix weekend for there to be anywhere for a gypsy singer player like me to show up and inherit the mic. In the last couple of years I managed to play at McCarthy’s Pub in Monaco, and last night I managed to add a new location, thanks to Pete Cogavin, the lead singer and guitar player for the band Pete and Folks. This was, guess what, a pre-planned gig for Pete and his band in a chic place called Capocaccia, but Pete being the same cool cat he was at Shapko last year invited me to play a couple of songs.

So there I was in this chic joint where you buy a drink and get a free, all-you-can-eat buffet to go with the drink, a garden terrace, a front bar and back room, and the fast moving, bopping music of Pete and Folks, which was a mixture of their own songs and well-known cover songs. I met Pete on his Pete and Friends night at the Shapko bar last year, and he let me go up and play a few songs there. I enjoyed his music there, but he was mostly solo at the time. Hearing him with his band is another experience. Pete has a fabulous voice, and the keyboard player – Marcus Sylvan – sometimes looks like he studied at the Harpo Marx school of mad piano playing. Loved it!

I can see why the band – keyboards, bass, drums and Pete – have been stirring up interest in France, and not only in the South. They also played on the great French television show for live music called Taratata, although I did not speak to Pete about that – I just learned about it on the Pete and Folks band web site today. They just released a CD, as well, and you can hear some of the cool songs from that on the band site. Oh, by the way, Pete is Irish, not French.

So they played their great music and during the break I got to go up and play Pete’s quite amazing Epiphone guitar, which looked pretty vintage. It is a copy of my Gibson J-200, but some of the J-200s are really great guitars, and this was one of them. I decided to play a couple of cover songs, “What’s Up!” and “Father and Son.” And the Capocaccia manager or owner or whoever it was, gave me a free glass of wine after that, so I’m assuming it went well!

But it is a great thrill to play in Monaco – and I’m hoping to do it again before the weekend is finished….

Jack Daniel and Friends at Shapko in Nice

May 24, 2012
bradspurgeon

Shapko Bar Nice

Shapko Bar Nice

Fishing around for places to play in Nice, I was always going to try out the amazing Shapko bar on the rue Rossetti. And last night, I was in the presence of my friend Baptiste W. Hamon, the inimitable French redneck hillbilly singer songwriter, and it turned out that the theme of the music at Shapko was fairly close to redneck, so I thought Baptiste and I should make a visit.

We had also been considering going to King’s Pub again, where I had played the night before and was invited to play again last night. But I really wanted to take another look at Shapko, where I managed to play some songs last year during a similar acoustic night, hosted by someone else – Peter Cogavin. Peter, in fact, told me yesterday that he knew the guy hosting the evening at Shapko, and that he thought he might be open to letting me play.

That guy was a British musician with the somewhat bourbon soaked hillbilly name of Jack Daniel. It is his real name. And he plays a wicked fingerpicking blues and country guitar and lays a nice laid back vocal on top of it. He had a harmonica player, and then his “friends,” who joined in as the even progressed.

Shapko, the man who owns the bar, is a saxophone player from Russia, and he is a real mean sax player. I mean good, not nasty. He is also a music-loving performer who opens his stage to other players as much as he can while maintaining a good professional business and show. I was really flattered when I walked in last night and he immediately remembered me, although I had visited his bar only twice last year: ‘The Canadian!” he said.

At the break, I spoke to Jack Daniel about the possibility of playing, and he more or less accepted. But as the evening went on with the second set, it became clear that the music was moving further and further away from what either I or Baptiste do, so we ultimately decided to cut out and check out the scene at the King’s Pub. It turned out that that was pretty quiet and the musicians were doing a long set, and we ultimately decided that it was getting too late to hang around much longer. So we both left and went our ways.

But the night was really enriching in terms of the music at Shapko, which was fabulous – especially in the middle of the jam during the second set.

Playing at the Extraordinary Shapko Bar in Nice

May 26, 2011
bradspurgeon

I discovered the Shapko Bar in Nice on Tuesday evening as I was walking around the streets with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness as I sought a place to play. As I mentioned on the previous post, I had decided to pass by and mourn the passing of Johnny’s Wine Bar, and it turned out that right next door on rue Rossetti was this Shapko bar and standing outside of it was Mr. Dimitri Shapko himself and we struck up a conversation.

I told him a little bit about what I was doing, but not much. In fact, maybe I just told him I was looking for a place to play, and I also told him I had been in Istanbul and found Nublu, which also exists in New York City, and which is also a venue – like Shapko’s – that is run by a saxophone player. Shapko being a very cool seeming guy with open ideas, invited me to show up last night – the following day – as it was the one night of the week where the music was not jazz, but more folk, pop, rock. He said his regular musician for that night was an Irishman named Peter Cogavin, and he said Peter called his night, “Peter Cogavin and Friends,” and that there was a chance Peter would let me get up and play. Peter, he said, did that a lot – he was very open too.

So I went, I found the bar to be a fabulous venue, great little stage, nice sound system, several listening areas, big crowd of listeners, and above all a general ambience of the kind I love, with Peter Cogavin being not only a fabulous singer and good guitar player, but as Dimitri said, very open and friendly to other musicians. Peter played most of the evening, and he invited me up to play after his first set. I did four songs. He also invited up a friend of his from Ireland who had never played in public before, and it was the guy’s birthday, he did a song and it was interesting. Later on, Jake Hall, one of the buskers I met the previous night took the stage and played as well, doing that tapping stuff he did with my guitar, but also singing in his rich, deep voice.

It turned out the rest of the busking band was there too, and now I learned their name: Hobo Chic. I had, in fact, found them on the street busking before I went to Shapko’s and I did some videos of them. I was also there when a French painter named Morassut gave them a painting of them that he did.

But back to Shapko’s bar. No, back to Shapko. I have not yet heard his music, but I am very keen to do so, because after discovering Ilhan Ersahin in Istanbul, I think I have just discovered another very interesting sax player, if Shapko’s biography on his bar’s web site is anything to go by. Shapko, who is from Russia, has played with an extraordinary number of top musicians, such as “Wynton Marsalis, Al Grey, Doc Cheatham, Benny Waters, Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry, Sol Yeaget, Lorna Watson, Ali Jackson, Jeniffer Vincent, Steve Kirby , Debora Brown, Rob Agerbeek , Doug Sides , Margorie Barns and Debora Carter.

And he has played with his band at the Newport Jazz Festival, The North Sea Jazz Festival, The Montreaux Jazz, Juan Les Pins Festival, Maastricht Jazz Festival, Breda Jazz Festival, Harlem Jazz Festival, New York Jazz Festival, Festival du Jazz du St.Germain Des Pres, Montreal Jazz Festival, Vancouver Jazz Fesival, Calgary Jazz Festival and many others.

Pretty impressive. And here he is running a very cool venue in Nice. What a discovery. And what an honor to have played there! It was, in essence, if not strictly speaking, an open mic. I even managed to interview Peter for my film.

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