Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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From a Quick Brad Concert to a Quick One with Le Mépris and The Agency

March 11, 2012

Three concerts to report on, one being my own: Friday night I had a sudden concert to do at a place called Evidence Bar, in Paris’s funky 20th Arrondissement. After learning that the bar was minuscule and that the sound system was even less copious, I got really worried – only to arrive, set up, realize that thanks to the small size of the bar I could perform without a mic and not lose my voice… and so it not only all worked out okay, but the atmosphere was fabulous, the layout of the place was super cool – spectators could listen inside at the bar or outside on the terrace and hear just fine – and the biggest icing on the cake was having Félix Beguin play along on lead, and add chorus vocals. We had a GREAT time.

And thanks also to my friend Chloé, who offered to make some videos of the gig, although I should have switched on the “night” lighting control, as it is very dark, and the sound of my voice is somewhat cancelled out by the ambient noise…but still…. Thanks also to Calvin McEnron who passed my name on to the bar talent coordinator for the show…. All in all, it was a wonderful Friday evening on a night where I had nothing planned….

I DID have something planned for Saturday night, though, and that was the very special concert introducing the new band of a couple of the members of the French band called Neimo, which has recorded a couple of albums and is working on another – having recently signed with Sony Music for a new album. Neimo’s high moment of the last few years was recording an album called “Modern Incidental,” at the Shangri La label in the U.S.

But now Bruno Alexander, the singer, and Camille Troillard, the Neimo lead guitarist, have put together a band with a drummer and bassist called, Le Mépris, and last night they tested their music for the first time in a concert. It had quite a different feel than Neimo, who I saw in concert last year, and there were some nice inventive things to this. It was a little like seeing some well known band that plays its new music when you’re used to the old stuff – you’re not entirely sure what you think of it, even if you like it. Which I did.

And now, having listened to it on the recordings that I made on my Zoom Q3 HD, I find it is sensational stuff. Really great. I must confess that having to stand next to the speak to record the stuff, I wore earplugs last night to preserve my hearing – my brain does not have the automatic level control that the Zoom has….

I first met Bruno and became aware of Neimo more than three years ago at Earle’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge, and there I also met the members of and became aware of the music of another band, The Agency, which has been building up its style and repertoire steadily ever since. Last night they played after Le Mépris, and it sounded like they had taken yet another step forward since the last time I heard them, sometime last year.

Oh, and to step back a little, that brings to mind that last time I saw The Agency was at the Maroquinerie last year when another of the bands was Natas Loves You. One of the songs Natas played on that night – and one they often sang at open mics – was King Crimson’s haunting, “I Talk to the Wind.” I was floored last night to hear Le Mépris doing the same song – this very cool song that has come out of the deep dark passages of my memory from my youth to young bands today in Paris…. It’s hardly a rock standard, but it bears resemblance to the sort of stuff that recent bands like the Fleet Foxes do….

This evening concert with Le Mépris and The Agency was, by the way, organized by a small, independent record label in Paris called, A Quick One, which specializes in producing vinyl albums for a large number of the top new groups in France. It also sells the music on its Quick One Internet site. The concert took place in a small room called Studio Campus, in a place that looked almost like a community center – I thought I’d arrived at the wrong place….

A Cool Industry of Cool Evening at the Maroquinerie

January 15, 2011

At 19 euros a head, I was sceptical before I went to the Industry of Cool festival at the Maroquinerie last night. Industry of Cool is a management company that represents a number of very interesting and exciting young French bands and musicians. I have followed the careers of most of them over the last two years since I started playing music again, and particularly after meeting Earle Holmes, who discovered and nurtured virtually all the bands through his open mics from the Shebeen to the Mecano. Holmes is also a partner in the Industry of Cool company.

I love the music of these bands, but I was still sceptical at the idea that young bands should be charging 19 euros to an audience of young people who have no money. I mean, these bands have records, they have had some radio play, they have had some press. But they are not well known and massively successful bands. So we had performances by Sourya, The Agency, Scale, and upstairs an acoustic set by Ben Ellis, of the former band called Brooklyn. (Ben also played percussion with The Agency, and thanks to his new beard I didn’t recognize him.)

Well, I was not only wrong about the 19 euros, but I felt that the bands are starting to reach a level of quality where if they persist they may well take off – at least one of them should rise up out of the clubs and make it somewhere, somehow. I would hope. Because last night’s festival at the Marquinerie was indeed Cool. And the concert hall beneath the bar and restaurant was not full to bursting, but there was a very, very good number off people in attendance. It felt almost like a well attended concert at the more famous Bataclan, for example.

The music all night long was inventive, strong, with good sound, and vibrant performancs on the whole. Now, of course, I have no idea how many people were let in free to the show – what is clear is that a lot of the people from the other bands around Paris showed up, people like Bruno from the band Neimo, a couple of the members of the former French band called Rock&Roll, and others, including producers, bar owners, etc.

From Earle’s Ultimate Open Mic to the Studio and Some Music Less Than Ephemere – I Hope

July 17, 2010

I have been away from the blog since Sunday in Oxford – probably my longest hiatus so far – but that is not because I’ve been away from music. On the contrary, I’ve had a phenomenal week I will never forget, and I wanted to get a few words and videos down before it was too late.

First, briefly, the last night in Oxford I did go and play at the Old Bookbinder’s pub. Played four songs in two sets. There were some interesting muscians there as well, including one I had met last year, and one I had heard at the Catweazle Club three nights earlier. ‘Nuff said.

Monday back to Paris and a quiet evening listening to a new stock of LPs that Vanessa bought – some cool 80s stuff and some 70s stuff too.

Tuesday was the beginning of the musical adventure of the week. It was announced as the last of Earle’s open mics, and it was being held at The Panic Room, on rue Amelot, near the Pop ‘In. It was meant to be a celebration of the end of Earle’s open mics, which had ceased to happen for the last couple of months or so. The list of potential guests on Facebook had grow to more than 170 people by the day of the event, and that was a lot more than ever signed up for the regular open mics. So I had great expectations.

I had never been to the Panic Room before and found it to be a fabulous venue. It had a spacious upper bar on two levels with clean painted walls and a nice shiny bar. The basement room was a cave with a vaulted ceiling – typical Paris thing – and a big fumoir. The stage was small by most standards but big for an open mic, and the sound was good for the listeners and for the musicians.

Upstairs, part of the evening was not just that it be an open mic, but it was also a photo exhibition of photos done by Olivier Rodriguez and Céline LiLi Faye, two friends who took photos at Earle’s open mic for years. They decided to organize this last open mic and do put up a photo exhibit of the ones in the previous years, and they did a great job both of the photos and the organization of this open mic. I’m putting in a video below that takes a brief tour of the photo display and includes a moment where we see Olivier looking at me with a face that said, “Camera shy.” Sure thing, Olivier! In the video there is a moment at which you will see the oldest of the musicians looking a little like Jacques Brel, c. 1966 at the Olympia, in a white shirt, face in a grimace behind glasses, and that’s me. Just below that you will see a photo of a young man with long hair and a similar face to mine – that’s my son Paul. Yep, Father and Son.

And it was in reference to those two photos that I sang Cat Stevens’ “Father and Son” when I went up on stage. I was the second person up. First was my friend – and my son’s friend – Calvin, whom I have mentioned here before. I also played “Just Like A Woman” and “Since You Left Me” and “Except Her Heart.” I know that I did a good job for two reasons: One was that I felt good, in the groove, and really delighted to be up there and singing for the audience. The second reason was that a few of the women who listened told me afterwards that they had been brough almost to tears by my songs. Sheesh!

The evening progressed at a nice cool pace, and Earle was at his best, promoting the singers, singing along, enthusiastic as ever. In fact, he said to me that he thought he might like to continue doing open mics, but perhaps only once a month. He just loves it. Despite this being the so-called last one.

A few of the big names of the many years the open mic has existed showed up to play and honor Earle and the audience. They included François, who is the singer from The Agency, and Stevan, the singer from The Parisians, as well as Xavier, the guitar player from the Parisians who backed Earle on “Teenage Kicks,” and Syd from The Burnin’ Jacks was there, as were other members of that rising band in the Paris music scene.

Among the aforesaid was the brilliant lead guitarist from the Burnin’ Jacks, Félix Beguin. I have played with Félix on and off at Earle’s since November or December 2008, when I first started playing at his open mics. And we were supposed to play my set together, not only as a tribute to the Earle scene, but also as a warm up for the following two days in which we were going to live out the next step of my week’s adventure, my time recording four songs in the studio at the Point Ephemere. This post has become so long that I have decided to do a separate post for the studio days. Coming right up… up there, up above this one…. î

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