Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

The Gall of them at the Galway Pub – a Great Open Mic

July 5, 2011

This sometimes happens: I go to an amaaaaaaaazing open mic, I return home armed with a battalion of superbe videos of fabulous performers and atmosphere and everything you could ever hope for…and I have about five minutes to write about it before I head off – late – to the next open mic!!! That describes tonight. I may never get a chance to play tonight at Ollie’s open mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance as I will arrive so late. But I absolutely HAVE to write about last night’s festival of music, especially at the Galway Pub.

I started by going to the Tennessee Bar’s open mic and saw some good and interesting musicians, and sang four of my own songs. But as usual, I was hungry for more, and left soon after for the Galway Pub, five minutes away from the Tennessee. No regrets, man. Last night after a few weeks of slightly down times at the Galway, it was an amazing open mic that attracted interesting musicians from around the world, and a very good crowd of people there to listen, celebrate and enjoy, both inside the Irish pub and on the sidewalk outside, opposite the Seine.

The big story of the night, though, was this couple I saw that appeared to have come into the orbit from another planet. I had arrived too late to see him play, but later on, the guy would go up again – and it was memorable. He was with his friend, and they were just on a weeklong trip to Paris and another weeklong trip to the UK. This was Woody Lissauer, a musician from Baltimore, and his friend. I saw Woody collecting people’s email addresses, people who had heard him. I was curious, offered my own, and learned a lot about Woody, bought his CD, and will not forget the night – especially his rendition of John Barleycorn.

I could not believe I was really hearing and seeing this guy from Baltimore play and sing this fabulous version of John Barleycorn, which was the title song of one of my favorite albums from my teenage years, “John Barleycorn Must Die,” by the band Traffic. Another of my favorite bands from that time also did it, and that was Steeleye Span. Woody recalled exactly the intro to the song by Steeleye Span. But Woody, it turns out, also mostly has a massive number of his own songs, and he sang some last night. I listened to the album today, and enjoyed it thoroughly – I was floored when suddenly I heard his version of Suzanne by Leonard Cohen, on the album in the middle of his own.

Woody has lived off music for 33 years and never held another job. He just did the open mic for fun, and it seems, to sell me the album. Worth it….

Ollie, as it turned out, showed up to play last night, and Stephen played with a bassist, and Ollie played with the bassist too, and generally it was just a wonderful celebration; now I have to run to have another!

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.

An Italian Opera singer, an American Who Tries out Astral Weeks, and a Cellist – a Cool Monday at the Open Mics in Paris

May 3, 2011

I think that my headline should be longer than my story. But last night was a very cool one, despite the fact that I simply went to the same open mics as usual in Paris, the Galway Pub and the Tennessee Bar’s open mics. There is a back and forth between the two of musicians and moments. But last night, I must admit, I was more touched at the Galway than at the Tennessee. Of course, I didn’t hang around long enough at the Tennessee, no doubt.

There was a band I had seen before at the Tennessee and I did not catch their name, but it has a good singer and a wicked cellist, and that makes the difference. Check out the video; and if you like it, the band is doing its own concert at the Tennessee at some point soon.

At the Galway I walked in just in time to hear an American from Texas who looks like Steve Forbert but who belongs to a band called Superfly… no… Horslips… no… Horsefly… singing a song by Van Morrison that is one of the most difficult to tackle and comes from his Astral Weeks album. I ordered a beer and I was hearing this song and I suddenly realized this was a rare moment, because I have never heard anyone trying to sing this song before in an open mic – or anywhere else. So I whipped out the camera before taking the beer, and I got the final minutes or seconds of the song.

Then later in the evening we were surprised by the superb and inspiring performance of an Italian opera singer who had stopped by for a beer and decided after me to sing a single song – thank goodness it was AFTER me. Rony of the Romantic Black Shirts played guitar for the man.

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?)?

Angus Sinclair: When the Highlander Meets the Tennessee

March 4, 2011

Thank goodness for a half bottle of Chateau Camarsac Bordeaux Superieur that just gave me the idea for that post headline. I can’t think of a better way to sum up the little concert I went to last night at the Tennesse bar than that.

I am in the habit of going to the open mics at The Highlander bar and the Tennessee bar – especially during the F1 off-season – as readers of this blog will have noticed. And at the Tennessee I sometimes see this guy named Angus Sinclair, who it turns out is Scottish – ie, the Highlander. But last night for the first time I went to his gig with his band at the Tennessee bar, and I found that this particular Scot has a fairly American south sound to his music – whether it be the south of California or the deep South, I’m not sure which.

In any case, it was a very cool concert of nothing but songs by Mr. Angus Sinclair and his make-up band of the moment, with among others my friend Joe Cady on violin. (Joe having played my brunch and also the violinist and guitarist for The Romantic Black Shirts, who played at my concert at the Disquaires last Sunday.

In any case, this Angus guy is interesting also in that music is his sideline, even if it sounds fully fledged professional and ready for Top-50 hit-making. He is a longtime Paris expat with a business in graphic designs – making logos – and he likes to design music for fun. Great songs, good cheer, and an hour and a half long set without a break. The man has a voice, presence, charisma, charm and a song-writing ability. I would have liked to hear a little more solo-playing out of Joe and the guitar, but maybe next time!!!! (And Joe told me he was strictly there to fill out the sound, so what do I know?)

I’ve put down a couple of songs, including the last, long, one in which he introduces the band.

Video Show of Little New Things from Brunch and Tennessee and Galway

February 15, 2011

Just getting ready to go off to the Ptit Bonheur la Chance and Ollie’s open mic, I realize I have posted nothing for the last couple of days. But as I await the news to see if my scheduled visit to Bahrain will happen in three weeks for the first of my world travels this year, I thought I should just put up the bits of new stuff I noticed at my brunch on Sunday at the Mecano, the evening at the Tennessee Bar open mic last night and at the Galway Pub open mic.

Trying not to go over too much familiar ground here, I want to simply say that the brunch was another resounding success, with more musicians than ever, and a wonderful atmosphere and a great brunch. I will not put up all the musicians, but just the little twists of difference. Pierre Doucet showed up for the first time, with his violin, and I was delighted to be able to play with him, for several songs. Pierre often plays with Stephen Prescott at the Galway, and yesterday was our first time playing together. I started with “Crazy Love,” and it is the only one we got down on a single video. I would have preferred to get the “Mad World,” which went much better, and which we again played to resounding success last night at the Galway. But I’m putting up the “Crazy Love” for the hell of it, even though it is not my best rendition of the song – but the violin gives a bit of a different dimension.

The other videos below all have some new aspect to them – like the different kind of singer at the Tennessee, Tory Roucaud singing her own French song, or Stephen Prescott singing about where the wild roses grow, which I had not heard him sing before, and which I was too far gone over to do a proper recording of…. (no prepositions at the end of sentences, please….) Ayse Ayhan singing in her native Turkish, Martin Rahin finally visiting the brunch and singing his own French songs and a great cover about being 20 years old….

Great Use for Crap Guitar and other NEW things

February 8, 2011

martin travel guitar

martin travel guitar

At the Tennessee bar and the Galway last night I spotted some new things to write about: First was the great use of one of the worst guitars that exists in the world. When I started travelling around the world two years ago playing music I decided to check out all the travel guitars, and I quickly concluded and discovered that it didn’t matter what size the guitar was, the airplane would let you on board or not. So I stuck with my regular guitar, my Seagull S6. But one of the guitars I had tried was a piece of shit, and I could never understand how anyone could buy one for the crap sound it gives off…until last night I saw someone at the Tennessee doing a fabulous thing with it: Slide guitar. Check out the video. And the most mystifying thing about this piece of crap is that it is a Martin!

Then after that came Rony Boy playing this jazz standard on his Godin electric – same company as the Seagull – and he did a mighty fine job of a song that I know well for having been played by Lenny Breau on an amazing recording as a young man, at 20 with Levon Helm on drums and Rick Danko on acoustic bass – both of whom would later make up The Band and play with Bob Dylan.

After that, over to the Galway where for the second time that night Ollie Fury played his wonderful new song, and both he and Stephen Danger Prescott for a change played Dylan, and did it in their own ways, as you can also see from the video. All in all, a satisfactory “new” night.

By the way, Rony Boy will be playing on the same bill with me in his band The Romantic Black Shirts, at the Disquaires on 27 February in Paris when I perform with my little band of gypsies for the first time, and Calvin McEnron will also play a set.

Holy Shit! Three Amazing Discoveries in One Night!

February 1, 2011

I am rushing out the door to get to another open mic tonight, and it has taken me hours to upload my new videos from last night since the new Q3HD is heavier in data weight. But last night was an exceptional evening at the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub. But all three of the exceptional performers played at the Tennessee, then two moved on to the Galway.

I have to write a minimum here, but I have to write something:

This is so rare in an open mic night to find three completely different but exceptional acts, that I have to get it down here, and the videos too. So in order of their appearance, but not their style or level, was Garrick Davis from Redwood, California. On a visit to Paris, this guy Garrick Davis just milked the audience with his hard hitting guitar and great vocals.

Second was Paula Y Francisco and her band from South America. Paula is from Chile, the others, one was from Colombia and the other I forget! But this took me right back to Sao Paulo with the bossa nova beat on the first one, and then the Lullabye of Birdland took me I don’t know where.

But how am I expected to survive the third one? Janet Labelle was just out of this world with her music. And she is also literary, with an interest in writing stories for children, and in Henry Miller and the Paris of the 20s and 30s and in Anais Nin. Not to mention Shakespeare studies…. Janet lives in New York City – originally from New Jersey – and plays and writes this original music that sounds like a cross between pop, country, folk, rock and I don’t know what all else. She has a thunderingly beautiful singing voice and shines most while playing piano and singing. Her album, Moon Songs, is a gem. And it is deceptive; you think at moments that it sounds familiar, then you say, “No, this is new and different.”

Esperada and a Rap at the Galway

January 11, 2011

I did my usual trip to the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub for the double header of open mics. Not wanting to weigh down the blog with repeated reports of those same two places, I just want to point out the high points.

At the Galway there was an interesting British duo on a visit to France. Both musicians played guitar pretty well and had nice singing voices. That’s pretty rare in young groups starting out these days, in my experience. So I’m putting up a video of them and it’s also worth checking out this band, Esperada, on their myspace. There is something a little Simon & Garfunkel about them.

An interesting moment came at the end of the Galway evening as well when another young performer, I think from the United States, played recorded music and rapped to it. That got the whole place to perk up its ears, and for last night at the Galway that is really saying something, as it was a biggg night for talkers…. But by the time this guy got to his third rap the novelty value had worn off, and the talkers were back in full rap themselves.

I’m Not the Only One to Travel from Tennessee to Galway

December 21, 2010

Monday night is often the double-header of the Tennessee and the Galway, two Paris open mics within 10 minutes walk in the Latin Quarter. Last night at the Tennessee I was thinking it was the holiday season doing in the attendance figures when I arrived “late” only to find practically no one there.

But just like at my brunch on Sunday, the crowd began to fill in, the musicians came, and soon it was a Tennessee classic like any other. Having said that, I played as the first musician, a task that is rarely easy, and I felt a little stiff and uncomfortable. Played four songs to a big backdrop of talk, and I probably deserved it.

I hung around for several more performers and I was particularly interested in a newcomer from Brooklyn, named Jay Erickson. He played some nice, laid back country/folk/blues kind of stuff and had a rich, deep voice that carried, and his guitar playing – on Sood’s guitar – was quite effective. He reminded me a little of Viking Moses, the anti-folk guy who played at my brunch a few weeks ago.

So I took Jay’s card after he played and I decided I should go off to the Galway. I really wanted to go up to Jay and say, “Hey, listen, clear this place out now and come to the Galway, another open mic just up the street and down the quai.” But I thought that was very disloyal service to the Tennessee, a kind of poaching, in fact, and so I refrained.

Off to the Galway I went to discover that the holiday season had in no way affected the crowd or the number of musicians. The place was bursting with people and Stephen Prescott, the MC, told me I would have at least an hour and a half wait before I played. No problem, I said, and went to drink a beer and chat with a friend – and met a new friend.

So anyway….

I went back down to refill the beer and found Jay walking in the door, having found the Galway himself on a web site of Paris open mics. I welcomed him, told him to speak to Stephen, and I told him I was so glad he came and that I had been thinking of tearing him away from the Galway.

My turn came up to play after midnight, and I got to do four songs. After my talk with the friends, after the beers, after the arrival of Jay and just a general feeling of satisfaction, I found myself totally into the playing. From the low at the Tennessee, suddenly I felt like I was riding a high on my four songs – “Andalucia,” “Father and Son,” “Crazy Love,” and “Since You Left Me” – and I could see that the talking had been reduced to a very low level and I recieved some nice compliments afterwards. I repeat how astounding it is that live music is so entirely spontaneous and “living.” Sometimes it works perfectly, other times it wilts, finds it hard to take off, and just fails.

So anyway…. (I’m feeling like Kurt Vonnegut with, “so it goes…”)

Jay finally went up and played some of his own stuff and cover stuff – I think – and then he did the famous song by The Band, called, “The Weight.” His girlfriend, or wife, invited me to go up to sing with him, but I had to back out, knowing I would fail even on the very few words of the chorus, which I really do not know. But having done the song within the last week with, I think, Stephen, I told Stephen to go up. He went up with a woman also in the audience, and together the three did a pretty cool job of the song.

Afterwards, I learned that this cool Mr. Jay belonged to a very cool group in the U.S. that has had some very good press in some impressive newspapers, and I gave a listen to the album – their third release, called “Walk,” – and I liked it. His band is called Red Rooster, and it is interesting in the way it mixes the old folk, bluegrass, blues, folk-rock, country sound with some wind instruments and computer sounds. A very modern mix, in fact. And all based on the nice deep vocals, too….

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