Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

A Yes Concert, a Brad Concert, a Cool Meeting and a Mini Memoir in GP Week

November 21, 2011

The above headline could be the worst I ever wrote on this blog as I try to cram in so many words and ideas that it makes no sense at all. But in that way alone, it is probably appropriate for this post which will be a round-up of my weekend. I was so busy that I had no time to update the blog for a day or two or whatever it was. So now I have to roll all the bits and pieces into one – and I will start with the freshest and work back.

Since the last Formula One race I had been working on a story about my musical adventures along with the race travel – the stuff this blog is mostly all about. And today that tiny little “memoir” – of 1700 words – of my last three years traveling around the world and playing in open mics, has been published in a neat racing magazine called GP Week. You just click on the link and go to the site and start clicking on the pages until you find my story on pages 30 – 31, and it has photos too….

The other bit of news was my concert last night at the HideOut bar on the rue du Pot de Fer in Paris, just off the rue Mouffetard. I was invited to play an acoustic concert- along with any other band members I might want to bring – as part of the first of a series of Lazy Sunday afternoon concerts that the bar will host between 19:00 and 21:00 every Sunday.

The bar is a cool, long, place with wooden tables and chairs, sports television and music. It’s cosy, and has a friendly atmosphere. I was invited to play by the organizer of the concerts, Syd Alexander, who is the lead singer of The Burnin’ Jacks. My lead gutarist, Felix Beguin, is of course none other than the lead guitarist of the Burnin’ Jacks. I also invited Justin Purtill to play bass, as I jammed with Justin at an open mic earlier in the week and found not only that we could do some really convincing stuff off the cuff with no preparation, but that we got along well and there was a great vibe. In fact, Justin is an astonishingly good bass player, and he is also a sometimes quite shockingly good singer songwriter.

For last night, Justin and I did go over most of the songs we played beforehand, to ensure some sense of professionalism…! And it worked, with Justin and Felix and me on vocals and guitar, I had fun and got some good reactions from the audience. It felt warm and nice…. I also loved the moment Felix put down the guitar and joined me on vocals in Cat’s in the Cradle.

Just before going into the HideOut I was walking up the street and wondering aloud where exactly the venue was located when a voice came from a restaurant terrace table: “Just keep going up the street there, Brad.” I turned around to see a woman whom I had noticed momentarily before but did not recognize, and she rose to her feet and introduced herself: “It’s Heather Munro,” she said.

Of course! It was my fellow blogger of HeatherBlog, who reads this blog and does a fabulous blog of her own about her life, her photography and writing. (She touches amazing chords of common experience….) And she had come to Paris for a holiday and had come to hear my concert yesterday. It was a wonderful meeting and would never have happened without the blogosphere. Today Heather wrote about our meeting and the concert as part of her round-up of her day in Paris yesterday – along with some of her photos of Paris, and of me and the band….

Finally, Saturday night I went for the first time in my life to see the progressive rock band, Yes, at the Olympia in Paris. I had listened to them since I was about 15. Seeing them for the first time – I had seen Rick Wakeman solo in the mid-70s – was a revelation. Jon Anderson, the singer, was not present. But they have another singer, a Canadian, who used to play in a Yes tribute band and who does a great job on singing the band’s stuff almost the way Anderson does. That’s hard to believe until you see it live. Still, I sometimes preferred to close my eyes to pretend it was the real Jon Anderson… but anyway….

The Burnin’ Jacks (and Niki Demiller) Burn Up the Bus Palladium in Paris

September 17, 2011

I am still trying to catch my breath from last night’s concert at the legendary Bus Palladium in Paris. The praise I am about to give has nothing to do with the fact that I have known and watched the Burnin’ Jacks grow for three years, since they played at Earle Holmes’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge in Paris, and since I first started playing with their lead guitarist, Félix, at the same time. Just looking at any of the videos I put up on the site will strike out all thoughts of bias. No, I was blown away as was the audience in the main concert hall of the Bus Palladium, where so many of France’s stars – and international ones – have played since the place was founded several decades ago.

I kept thinking to myself throughout the evening about how I had watched this band evolve from the time it was just a few guys doing their acoustic rockin’ rollin’ at Earle’s to this full-fledged band with its own sound and a real rock ‘n roll attitude. There was something very Stones about it. Every time I see the Burnin’ Jacks they are better, more together. And the solo that Félix and Antoine did together, oh man, that was an absolute classic. Félix came out with some screeching, crying Hendrixy sounds and then suddenly Antoine joined him and the two did a little chatting back and forth with their guitars and then they segued into Antoine’s country-like song – a favorite of mine – called “Baby Please Turn Round.”

And Syd Alexander’s singing and front-man performance whipped the audience into a frenzy. Scared the hell out of me as he lept endlessly into the crowd and I feared for his safety.

There was even a fabulous drum solo – at the end of the video I put up here – and much, much more (as they say in crappy fanzines).

The room was really full of spectators – including many older ones – and they loved the show, playing along at every move.

But the Burnin’s Jacks were not the only ones I enjoyed or knew or had watched progress. There were two acts before the Burnin’ Jacks. It was the second of the two that I liked the most, and that was actually on the same level as the Burnin’ Jacks but in a completely different way. This was Niki Demiller, whom I have also known through the open mics in Paris for somewhere near three years. Niki, however, unlike the Burnin’ Jacks, has not been on precisely the same road of development since that time. Niki was the leader of a punk-like band a few years ago called The Brats. It was one of the first of the new wave of young bands in Paris in the last decade, and it had some pretty good breaks. I mean, crap, they once opened for Iggy and the Stooges at the Zenith in Paris!

But Niki in the last year or so has buried himself away to write new songs and transform himself into something completely new. He has become a kind of next in line of the tradition of the French crooner or music hall pop rocker, like a cross between Charles Aznavour, Johnny Hallyday, Jacques Dutronc and Eddie Mitchell. Last night was the first time I have seen him perform anything like these new songs with the backing of a full group. And it was very cool indeed. A cool stage persona and an original sound, and about as far from the punk rocker as you can image…yet with some of the edge and anger still there just as it should be.

All together it was a very surprising evening.

Burnin’ Jacks at Horror Picture Tea

May 13, 2011

They announced it as an acoustic concert on Facebook. But the Burnin’ Jacks’ show at the Horror Picture Tea in Paris last night was anything but – it was the full band and keyboards too… sorry, indeed, no drums please. Aside from the drums – the venue is not big enough – it was the whole band. And a great show, they got the joint rocking.

I’ve seen the Burnin’ Jacks a lot, including in their very early efforts at Earle’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge, then the Truskel, then the Mecano. I’ve seen them in bigger venues like the Gibus, too. And I don’t get tire of them. Last night was no exception. Even with a crappy sound system, the show was great. Don’t miss the lead breaks of Felix Beguin, who also plays with me occasionally, like on my recordings at the Point Ephemere last summer.

And at the end I saw something I’d never seen before, which was Syd exercising his hidden musical knowledge, talents and training as he did some keyboard stuff and played The Doors’ “Light My Fire.” Cool stuff.

By the way, the Horror Picture Tea is a very cool venue, with a part bar, a part restaurant, a bit of a horror and gothic theme and if you go downstairs you can have, or watch, a tatoo artist at work – at least you could last night. The web site says it is a tea room that mixes rock and gastronomy. Yeah, it seems to do that, all right.

Worst Brad’s Brunch Yet

March 14, 2011

A while ago I wrote about the best Brad’s Brunch that I have hosted, and then for several weeks in a row – up to last week – they got even better. So in order to make sure that people believe that what I write here is what I really feel, I will now write a post about the worst Brad’s Brunch ever.

I don’t know what happened yesterday but the weekly brunch I have been hosting at the Mecano bar since October just failed to attract many spectators or musicians. To top it off, there were not as many regular clients in the Mecano during the brunch hours as there usually are. So it just fell flat, it felt empty, and I felt terrible for the few people who did show up – especially those who came for the first time – and who must have thought that all the sound and the fury that I might have put on this blog in the past was for nothing….

Having said that, I WAS delighted that a few regulars showed up, we had some new sounds, one great discovery, and actually played until 8:30 PM for a brunch that is scheduled to finish at 6:00 PM. And I have not lost faith in the thing – it takes a worst ever to have a best ever, after all.

But as I said, there were discoveries. Tory Roucaud did a new song she has just completed, and it sounds good and different. And the biggest surprise for me was Felix Beguin, the lead guitar player of The Burnin’ Jacks – who, more importantly for me, was my lead guitar player on my recordings and at my concert at the Disquaires two weeks ago – not only played my acoustic guitar like a folk guitarist, but he also sang some songs. I had never heard Felix sing, outside the harmonies he has done on my songs, and I was massively impressed with his voice. He has a naturally good sounding voice and can hold a note. A little more work and experience and he’ll wipe us out.

Finally, I got to sing a duet with Felix – Cat’s Cradle – and a duet with Tory – Mad World – and both were fun and different to do. It was weird how I made a mess of so many of the lyrics on Cat’s Cradle while singing with Felix, since I never have a problem with the lyrics when I do it on my own – but that was fun too…

Report on First Real Gig – at the Disquaires

February 28, 2011

Did it! Played a gig with Félix Beguin of “The Burnin’ Jacks” on lead guitar and Virgile Arndt of “Natas Loves You” on bass. Both contributed some harmonies too. It was the first bona fide gig that I have done with a backing band, aside from playing here and there in open jam sessions, and we did it last night at the Disquaires bar in Paris, near the Bastille.

Félix, Virgile and I had played together during the recording sessions at the Point Ephemere last July when we – and Laurent Guillaume also doing lead guitar – recorded four of my songs. But working together to do an approximately 45-minute set of original material and some cover songs, last night was a first.

The evening started with Calvin McEnron, who played his set with his songs, including everybody’s favorite, “After the Rain.” In fact, Calvin invited about five of us up on the stage to sing the chorus to that song. I did not realize that I had placed the Zoom Q3HD in a bad position, so we get the sound, but very few of the faces. Want to put it up anyway.

The Romantic Black Shirts played the final set and they entertained us with their great covers from everyone from Bob Dylan to Daniel Lanois, and a nice sound of violin, jazzy guitar, cool voices… very nice ambience.

I played five of my songs – including one I wrote at about 22 years old and never ever played in public before – and three cover songs, “Crazy Love,” “Mad World,” and “Father and Son.” The ambience was wonderful, a great warm audience, and the sound system worked out okay, and Félix and Virgile were brilliant. Unfortunately the limitations of my Zoom Q3 – operated my son here – does not do justice to the whole vibe. But I would say that, right?

And from the Calvin set:

Burnin’ Jacks, BSMS and Yann Destal – a Musical Night in Paris

January 23, 2011

Not many open mics on Saturday in Paris, but even if there were, I’d have decided to sacrifice my own music to go and listen to that of some friends and acquaintances. Because at the International was a double-header of the Burnin’ Jacks and BSMS, two excellent rising groups of talented young musicians in Paris. And then at the Bus Palladium, conveniently happening after the other two concerts, was Yann Destal in the third kind of formation in which I have seen him play – I’ll explain in a minute.

At the International I HAD to go and see the Burnin’ Jacks, whom I have watched grow over the last two years from Earle’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge, the Truskel and then the Mecano bar, to what they’re doing today, playing bigger clubs and stages all over the city. Not to mention that Félix, the Burnin’ Jacks’ phenomenally talented lead guitar player, is also the guy who recorded with me in my Ephemere Recordings in July (on Except Her Heart and Memories), and who will play with me in concert at the Disquaires on 27 February.

So it was off to the International to hear them play, and neither I nor the couple of hundred people present were let down by the music or their charismatic performance, led by Félix on the lead guitar and Syd on the lead vocals, and Antoine, jumping around on rhythm guitar like there was no tomorrow. Also, one of my favorite songs of theirs is that composed and sung by Antoine.

After these guys came BSMS, whom I wrote about recently at their concert at the Bus Palladium. So I’m not going to add many words here, just to say it was more of the same rhythmic, slightly spaced out and slightly acid sound last night at the International. Very together, very tight, and very cool bluesy rock.

And speaking of the Bus Palladium, I ended up going over there to hear Yann Destal in band formation. Aside from hearing his voice on the radio for a decade with that 2000 hit song, “Lady (Hear Me Tonight),” I first started listening to Destal at the Tuesday evening after work club in the restaurant above the main concert room of the Bus. There he plays solo and with one or two other musicians doing cover songs acoustically. Then I saw him with one other musician doing some of his latest music at Le China, near the Bastille. So yesterday was the first time I saw him in a full-fledged group situation, with a keyboard player, a drummer, bass guitar, his acoustic guitar and a lead guitar player. There was another singer too, a woman – sorry, don’t know who it was.

In any case, last night’s show really made it clear how interesting a performer and composer Yann is. He’s the kind of performer who has his own musical world, and he inhabits it like others might get involved in reading or writing a fantasy novel. If that sounds like it is pushing things, just check out some of the videos below. His singing voice is as good as ever, but the tunes and lyrics and presentation are very personal, and remind me in some ways of progressive rock from the early 70s. Maybe that’s stretching it too – but that is what came to mind last night.

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