Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

From the NUJ to the Usual Monday Night Haunts

May 17, 2011

I recently joined the British journalists’ union, called the National Union of Journalists. Last night the Paris chapter of the NUJ held a recruitment evening at a bar near Oberkampf. I would have gone anyway, to meet my fellow NUJ people. But when I saw there would be music provided by NUJ members, I thought, YES! I will take my guitar and ask if I can play, and then I will go off and play at my usual Monday open mics.

The NUJ meeting turned out to be a great pleasure, lots of people, loud, a nice bar, and a very open mic. In fact, there was a stream of people asking to go up and play who had not been booked in advance, apparently. And they played, and I played.

But among the best and most interesting musicians were Monkey Anna and a couple who played jazz guitar and sang. I had met Anna Brooke, who calls her band Monkey Anna, at a concert by the French band called Neimo. Anna is a journalist and musician, and she is currently working on an album and preparing her next concert, in Luxembourg, on the 2 July, at MUDAM (Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean). She writes original, interesting songs, sings and does a nice presentation. Of course, it was all recorded music last night. She also writes city guide books and other journalistic things.

After I played a couple of songs at the NUJ evening, I then moved on to the Galway and played five songs, and listened to Stephen Prescott and his fiddle player, Pierre, play a few songs. There were another couple of performers as well, while I was there.

I then went off, late, to the Tennessee Bar, and was too late to play. But I did see and hear a number of interesting acts, and there was a wonderful jam session at the end, in which James Iansiti also got up and sang. His rendition of “Little Wing” reminded me more of Sting’s than of Hendrix’s, but I loved it.

There was even an interesting moment when James opened up the stage for an unusual and different sort of barfly performer than what we usually see.

From an Australian MC at the Galway Irish Pub in Paris to an Australian MC at the Bridie O’Reilly’s Irish Pub in Melbourne

March 24, 2011

Monday night I should have stayed home and packed for my flight the next day to Melbourne, Australia. But that would have meant missing two open mics in Paris. So I said to hell with it, and I went to the Galway and listened to Stephen Prescott, the Australian MC from Melbourne play his tunes. Then I played mine, did a duet of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” with Tommy Player, and listened to one or two other people.

Then I did go somewhere. I went home, failed to sleep, got up at 4 AM, packed, slept two hours, got on the Singapore Airlines A380 and slept most of the way to Singapore before changing planes and flying to Melbourne. That was a couple of days’ worth of travel. Arrive in Melbourne wiped out nevertheless, but HAD to check out the local bars in South Yarra, the area where I’m staying and where they said there was a great nightlife.

I did not find exactly a great nightlife, but my ear was suddenly accosted by the sound of a musician playing live music in an Irish pub on Chapel Street. It was one of those typical massive Texas whorehouse-like so-called Irish pubs that you find all over the world. I went in and found Stephen Prescott’s counterpart playing some pop songs, including the usual stuff, Oasis, The Beatles, etc. This guy, like Stephen a few months ago, and like James Iansiti the American MC of the other Monday night open mic in Paris, at the Tennessee Bar, had a Mohawk haircut.

This guy, I would learn was named Matt Bradshaw. And he had a very good voice, some nice emotion came through, and he could play very competent guitar. The guitar, an Australian one, sounded fabulous.

I learned that Matt plays several bars around the city throughout the week, and he has played at the Bridie O’Reilly’s for around three years every Wednesday.

But here was the thing that REALLY made the world feel small and all of a piece. Readers of this blog will remember that I frequently sing Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle.” They will perhaps know that I sing the Chapin version, as opposed to the cover version done in the 1990s by Ugly Kid Joe. Readers of the blog may also recall the duet I did a couple of weeks ago on the same song when Felix Beguin began singing it at my Sunday Brunch at the Mecano bar. Felix knew of the song through the 90s version, but he has begun doing it in a version a little between that one and mine.

Well, last night Matt had a request from the audience that he do that song about Cat’s Cradles and silver spoons… and I knew what was coming. He did a version very squarely in line with the Ugly Kid Joe version, though.

Sometimes the world just feels soooooo smallll….. Hit the right chord and you connect everywhere….

Of Accordions and Classical Guitars

March 15, 2011

Another Monday at the Tennessee bar and Galway open mics; and this time, the stand out stuff for me was just the use of an accordion with a guitar at the Tennessee – given that the accordion was being played almost like an organ behind the guitar – and the two South Americans who played classical guitar-like stuff at the Galway, both using the same vocalist and singing on their own. Oh, yes, and Stephen Prescott somehow got a Swedish woman up to sing the Irish song of the Pogues, Fairytale of New York…. And she, like me and the other musicians, got to profit by the special offer of Happy Hour drinks thanks to our singing participation….

No need to write more for what ended up a pretty routine night at the Paris open mics. But I was really pleased to have been able to book two shows in Kuala Lumpur between yesterday and today; one is a half-hour slot at an open mic on the Wednesday, 6 April, the other is a half-hour slot the following Saturday opening for the house band at a Tex Mex restaurant. But I will talk more about these dates when I get closer to them – I still have the Melbourne visit next week to do first!!

But first, tonight, I am off to Ollie’s open mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance bar on rue Laplace – will it continue its run of exceptional open mics (with the exception of the non-exceptional one two weeks ago?)?

Best Brad’s Brunch Yet, in a Weekend Roundup

January 10, 2011

It feels somehow not right to make such judgments, and in many ways it is difficult to do anyway: But yesterday’s musical brunch at the Mecano, my first of the new year, really felt like the best one I’ve ever had since starting them last fall.

I had more musicians dropping by and playing than ever before, and a great level of quality, and I also had a large audience of intent listeners, coming from all over the place, including a couple of women visiting from Belgium.

Amongst the surprises were picking up for the show the wonderful Vessna Scheff from San Francisco. Vessna had intended to go to the Pop In open mic, but she said the Pop In was closed and there was no open mic there last night. So she ended up finding my brunch, and she ended up entertaining us with her lyrical and melodious music and voice. Rym also played some of her songs with her ukelele, and then gave the instrument to Vessna for her last song.

Two members of the band Black Butterfly played several songs, and Vincent Barriquand, the singer of the group, also did some solo stuff with the guitar and his voice. He also played with Sven Cosnuau, who came to play and sing on his own.

A young Frenchman who lives down the street from the Mecano also discovered the brunch yesterday and rushed off to bring his guitar to play and sing some songs. So all together, the vibe, the crowd, the musicians, it was all fabulous and a great beginning to 2011. In fact, Vessna may not like me to quote her here, but she said it was the best Sunday open mic she has ever done. Of course, it is not entirely an open mic as such – but as it turns out, the mic is always open….

Because the brunch was the closest thing in my memory, I started writing about that. But I did not blog for the last couple of days, so I want to move backwards and continue telling the musical adventure: On Saturday night I went to the Baroc and heard The Romantic Black Shirts, the band of my friend Joe Cady. As a special guest they also had Chris Kenna do a set. I first met Chris in 2009 at the Biz’Art open jam. He is a wild Australian with the voice of a Tom Waits. He played on Saturday with Melissa Cox on violin. A big moment, with both of these bands. I loved the Daniel Lanois cover that the Romantic Black Shirts did, and Chris’s voice and the violin were mesmerizing.

Friday night I went to a party hosted by Sister Fay, who is from Sweden and sings a lot at the open mics in Paris these days. There I met both Stephen Prescott and Ollie Fury, both of whom host open mics. And there was also Pierre Doucet, who plays violin with Stephen at the Galway Pub and elsewhere. I got Pierre on video with a bit of fiddle music in the middle of the party, though no one was really listening. It was a nice moment – but too dark for the video.

I then went off to the Planete Mars bar and listened to some DJ music mostly and spoke with a friend. A high moment with the DJ music was when he played a song from the last – or second last? – T. Rex album, Dandy in the Underworld, that I had bought at the time. Hadn’t heard anything from that for along time.

Mini Mini Post: Stephen “Nirvana” Prescott at the Hideout

December 18, 2010

I’d heard for a while about the Hideout near the Pompidou Center in Paris, and finally last night I went to see Stephen “Danger” Prescott do his twice-weekly gig. It is a cool bar, and there are a few others around the city too, so worth checking out.

Here is Stephen doing his Nirvana, and I realized there is a resemblance to Cobain with him – though you do not see it here. Keep going to the end, or jump ahead to the end, because he DOES deliver on the scream….

Sood and the North African Mafia

October 19, 2010

No time to go into any long-winded details – you’re spared – as I’m in preparation to fly to Seoul, South Korea, tonight for the next week, the F1 race and a musical evening or two (or preferably more).

To I just wanted to make note of last night in Paris, which actually fits a little into the above sentence, for last night I caught Sood on video doing a song on his own at the Tennessee bar. Sood is from…South Korea. He now lives in Paris. But he has a lot of energy on the guitar AND on the vocals. Check out the video.

I showed up at the Tennessee around 9:30, found it way too full and knew I’d never get on before midnight. So I left for the Galway and Stephen Prescott finished his set and put me up first! It was nice, although I was not very happy with my performance – except my last song when I finally said, “To hell with everyone, I’m singing this for me.” That was my song, “Let Me Know.”

I stayed for a few more performers’ sets and then I returned to the Tennessee. This time I was too late as it was almost midnight. So I ended up not getting to go up. But I did see Sood and then I saw what the MC James referred to as the North African Mafia, and they were good – especially as usual, Karim’s wicked guitar playing.

Highlander Meets Galway, Another Mid-August Night in Paris

August 12, 2010

On Monday I said thank goodness both the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub were holding their usual open mics despite the August holiday in Paris where the French disappear. Another of the stalwart open mics continued on Wednesday, with the Highlander Pub remaining open and entertaining with its open mic.

It was a usual evening at the Highlander, with a good mixture of crap and great stuff. One of the problems with the Highlander open mic is that it is so popular that you really have to get there at close after 8 PM to be among the first performers on the list and not have to wait until after midnight to play. I dragged my feet so badly last night at home that I ended up not getting to the Highlander until around 10 PM. I thought I was doomed in terms of when I might get a chance to play. Then, much to my amazement, Thomas Brun, the organizer, came up to me within minutes of my arrival, and he said, “I’ve had someone pulling out at the last minute, so you can go up next if you want.”

Wow! I had just bought a pint of beer and the shot of adrenaline was so strong that I said “yes” very quickly and then drank as much of the beer as I could as quickly as I could, since I knew that I had only about one more song to listen to of the performer who was singing, before I would have to go up and sing. It was so rushed that I was not mentally prepared. Needed the beer to calm the nerves. But I’d rather that than wait until nearly 1 AM to play.

The other down side, though, was that the singer was Etienne, whom I mentioned a few weeks ago played at the Galway and was fabulous. And here he was blowing them all away at The Highlander too, with high adrenaline, hard played chords and sandpapery voice striking right to the heart. What the hell could I do after that overdrive performance? I elected to go soft and cool, and sang “Jealous Guy.” Then did one of my own, then another of my own. I survived, the audience did too. All was well.

I then spent until midnight or afterwards listening to most of the other performers, so in a way I didn’t really save myself much time after all. But I enjoyed it, and there was a kind of a feeling of a theme here. For while Etienne was the first, he was far from the last of the performers that I saw at the Galway, again playing here. For example, there was the Dutch (and French) woman I have mentioned – and showed a video of – in my Galway post recently (which she asked to be removed years later). And after her, by the time I got near the end of my stay there, it turned out that even the MC of the Galway, the Australian from Melbourne, Stephen Prescott, decided he would go up and play a few songs for fun. In fact, his fun was so much fun – carousing fun – that while I was recording it on video in stealth behind a pillar near the door so neither he nor anyone else would really notice the candid camera, Stephen stopped singing for a moment and turned my way and said, “Brad, don’t put this up on your blog, I’m….”

Well, all right, I left the last word out. And I have decided not to. But I’ve got the evidence, Stephen. So next time I go to the Galway, if you don’t want the world to see it – let me on early there too, no matter what time I show up.

But seriously, I love it when I see an MC from an open mic show up to do another open mic two days later, as a performer. This is devotion, passion, fun.

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