Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Cambodian Space Project at the Mecanique Ondulatoire

July 13, 2012

Readers of this blog may remember a few references and videos I have made to Scott Bywater. I met Scott at the Truskel open mic a couple of months ago, and we have then crossed paths at another couple of open mics. Scott comes from Tasmania – of all places – and spent some time in Cambodia. He told me about this cool band he played with in Cambodia, and I never expected I would have the chance to see him and them in Paris. So there was no way I was going to miss the chance to go and see the Cambodian Space Project last night at the Mecanique Ondulatoire.

I was really surprised with what I found. Going through the rain with the only pair of shoes that do not take in the rain, and the umbrella made for carrying a guitar – i.e., only half of the umbrella works – I was delighted to discover this band that really made me feel like I was in Cambodia. I have never been there, but I have been in lots of other places in Asia, so it took me there, did the Cambodian Space Project.

It did not only take me there, it took a full house in the cellar of the Macanique Ondulatoire. I was amazed at how this band from Cambodia could fill up the room at a moment’s notice, and how many people in Paris could have heard of them? But the lead singer/songwriter/star, does a great job, writes so cool songs – including one that was very acid and surprised me – and in all sorts of different styles that mean you are never bored by hearing the same thing again and again – you don’t. Check out the videos.

Aborted Highlander – for Me, Anyway (oh, and a video)

June 21, 2012

I managed to get to the Highlander open mic in Paris last night earlier than I got there the week before – around 9:20. But that still made me too late for a good spot on the list. I think I must have been around 15th. Given that I had to get up early to travel to Valencia today, I stayed and listened to a few interesting performers, and then cut out and called it a night. That’s always the problem with a popular and successful open mic – you HAVE to get there first, to have a good chance at playing before 1:30 AM! I guess I could call that an aborted night out, and this, an aborted post…. (Except for the cool videos in the darkness of the Highlander – oh, the video of Scott Bywater is aborted too after my Zoom Q3HD camera was inadvertently knocked to the floor…. :-))

From Crap to Crazy to Super Cool – Two Paris Open Mics

June 4, 2012

I arrived at the El Tonel bar near the Louvre where I have had one or two wonderful evenings in the new open mic there, and I had no expectations. I knew it was the first Sunday of the month, though, so I’d have the Lizard Lounge to attend down the street afterwards near the Hotel de Ville, if needs be. Needs beed….

The Tonel ended up being completely uninspiring – except for Scott Bywater’s superb song, and friendliness – and I played three or four songs and found a nearly completely unresponsive audience. One of the problems was there were simply not enough people there to really find a way into things. And those that were there were with other musicians and so there was more talking than listening. Then again, I may be entirely unfair, and I may have had higher expectations than what were delivered, but that all was really just fine.

Whatever may be the truth of the situation, I got out of there as fast as I could and walked down to the Lizard Lounge. There I found myself in the exact opposite situation to the El Tonel. It was a blood madhouse! There was a crazy mad rhythmic group putting on some kind of trancelike performance, and the brick cellar room was so full of riotous people that it was difficult to move or breathe! Fortunately, I found some friends there too, and that forced me into staying what otherwise felt too crazy and too much of a contrast for me.

Then, slowly, or maybe quickly, the mood changed, the crowd thinned a tiny bit, the music varied – with some wonderful performers -, and the whole thing began being a classic and wonderful evening at this amazing once-per-month open mic that has managed to survive extremely well for a few years despite being only once a month. Then I went up to play at the end, and I felt by then really good, the crowd was even thinner, but a lot of people who had been up in the street smoking cigarettes returned, and in short, my first song – my “Except Her Heart” – went extremely well, with clapping and a clearly engaged audience, and then when my second song, “Year of the Cat” went less well, I though, “O.K., I’m going to have to pull out the heavy artillery now.”

So I told them that despite my desire not to always sing the same songs, I would do one that I did every month there. That actually drew applause and cheers, even though I don’t know if they knew which it was! So I dived into “What’s Up!” I was feeling so akin the lyrics and primal scream aspect of that song that I just belted it out, and they clapped along and sang along in unison, in a brilliantly wonderful communication between performer and audience – at least from my side. Wish I had written that song!

So I decided I had better quit while ahead, and I have a flight tomorrow to catch for Montreal. So I left after my slot, and did not hang around for the jam with several musicians that has become a mainstay event at this warm, crazy and fun open mic.

Setting the Tone at El Tonel

April 30, 2012

I dragged myself out of my fatigue and stupor of three weeks away from France to attend the open mic at El Tonel, a tapas bar à la Spain, in the middle of the classy neighborhood of Paris near the Louvre. And from the moment I stepped into the place, I was grabbed and loved every minute of the open mic.

There are places where I go in which the real atmosphere cannot be captured on video, and last night at the El Tonel open mic, it was a little like that. I just got a few recordings down on video, but the soirée went way beyond those.

I got to play three times, managing to play a few songs from my repertoire that I don’t do that much…. and had some neat people join in with me on singing and even harmonica, like the moment with Scott Bywater playing his great harmonica on my “Just Like a Woman.”

All in all, a great way to break myself into a week of open mics in Paris before I fly off to … Spain and the tapas bars and open mics and jams of Barcelona.

Unexpected Good Time at Truskel Open Mic

April 7, 2012

Knowing that it was only once a month, on the first Friday of the month, I decided I had but one chance to attend the Truskel open mic this month, and I better go. But I also had very low expectations, because in general open mics that happen once a month go off the radar and are not well attended. It was average a couple of months ago, the last time I had not forgotten its existence. So I went to the Truskel and at first my fears were confirmed: I had the pleasure of performing my entire five or six song set in front of an empty house – in front of no one but the organizer, Vincent.

Actually, that is not true. There were a couple of “old friends” and the bartender, on the other side of the barroom, hidden from the stage. The old friends had, I guess, heard me sing so many times that they chose to drink and chat and ignore my set. (Still, it had been a couple of years at least since they had heard me perform, and more like three years, since the last of Earle’s great open mics at the Truskel.)

Anyway…… the surprise evening would develop slowly but surely, as first what happened was right after my last song a guy came up to me – who had entered the bar halfway through the last song – and asked if I could play that same last song again – my song “Except Her Heart” – and he would throw in a rap number along with my singing. So I agreed, and it was a huge, huge bloody regret that I had not turned out my recording device to capture the moment. It went really well, we seemed to work out the division of the song and rap and singing together perfectly, and the song lent itself well to his rap. Pissed me off royally to find myself once again losing a potential moment of a wonderful recording with another musician on one of my songs.

After I finished that, the next surprise came in the form of a man who had just arrived a little before the end of the rap, and he said, “You must be Brad….” Ah, yes…. So here I found was a Tasmanian devil of a singer and musician named Scott Bywater – from Tasmania, but now living in France – and he had discovered the Truskel through reading my blog. Wow, I love it! It is happening more and more often that I run into people at the open mics who have discovered them thanks to the blog. There is no more motivating factor than that to keep me pounding out this stuff day after day.

So then Scott Bywater goes up and performs – with my guitar – and proves to be sensationally good. I loved his first song, and by his last song I was really intrigued and said, “I know that song, was that Van Morrison…” or I was thinking it was Bruce Springsteen, something about a Jersey Girl…. I turned out it was Tom Waits, and it was from the last Tom Waits album that I had bought new when it came out, “Heart Attack and Vine.” That was so long again, though, that I had forgotten the song on the record. To say nothing of the way Scott had turned it into something more mainstream than the Waits growl.

There were some nice duets, as well, and I got to sing one more song – after I requested to do so – to close the evening now that the Truskel was filling up. It turns out that it was the last of the monthly open mics at the Truskel until October, when they plan to change the day and the format somewhat to excite a bigger and more regular audience. But I sure had fun.

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