Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Back at Bonheur – Me and a Few Others – and a Mess of an Effort with a Great Lowden Guitar

April 24, 2013

Last night was my first time back at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic in what feels like maybe a month, after my travels. It was a refreshing return, and I found that this, one of the best open mics in Paris, was also hosting another two or three regulars from the past who had returned to Paris at least for a few days. But there were new people too, including several from England who have come just for the open mics…

One of the returnees was Tory Roucaud, who has been living in Switzerland for a year or so now and who has set up the only open mic in Zurich, called…Open Mic Zurich. So Tory returned with great relish, and it was with relish we listened to her hot vocals again….

Also returning was Arthur Goldiner – just call him “fang” – with his sensitive ballads and his amazing Lowden guitar. Oh, and speaking of his cool Lowden, Arthur was unbelievably giving, as he allowed me to use his guitar when I played my two songs. The Lowden has a very unique and pure sound, and is just a beautiful guitar, particularly good for fingerpicking – Pierre Bensusan, the French fingerpicking genius, is a longtime advocate of the Lowden, and even has a signature model of his own – and I foolishly used it only for strumming. But there was worse: Last night the mic cable or the mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance suddenly ceased working, so most of the open mic was done acoustic. It was great, intimate, and the room is small enough for it to work without amplification. But when I sat down to play my songs, and to try something new, I began with my song, “If I Only Had You,” and I suddenly felt vocally and melodically and tonically, very uncomfortable. Something was clearly wrong, and I felt my voice really low, the sound barely coming out….

I continued and as I played I forgot a line or two, but did the best I could as I was thinking to myself, “What is wrong!!!???” And then I figured it out: The Lowden, with its magic sound, MUST have been tuned down a level. After the song I asked Arthur, and he said it was – that he had forgotten to tell me. He then advised me to use the capo up two frets for everything….

So, I then decided to leap onto the edge of a precipice and do “May You Never,” by John Martyn, which I am still learning, and feeling very shaky about. In fact, after learning that it was a favorite song of the spectator sitting right in front of me, I lost all sense of confidence and groove, and could not get the song going, forgetting the chords, the lyrics, everything! So Tory, bless her, suggested I do “Mad World.” After at first saying I had done it a million times there, when she offered to sing along in harmony, I accepted…. it was pretty cool with that Lowden, in fact, despite my strumming, and with Tory’s – and other people’s – harmonies….

The evening ended with a supercool duet of Wayne Standley and Yaco playing very cool sounding 50s-ish lead….

Gearshift in Paris Open Mics

June 30, 2011

Okay, so what, it’s normal that after two exceptional nights the gears shift down a little for the hairpin turn. And if yesterday’s lede was not forcing it, this one surely was. But last night my own particular evening at the Highlander and the Cavern was a little bit of a comedown after the two previous nights.

I have yet to find the right way to record videos and sound in the new layout of the Highlander, so I produced very little worth posting from last night. Unfortunately I thought I found a great little corner of a table to put the Zoom Q3HD, but even as I did it I worried that with the speaker behind the recording device I would not pick up good sound. In fact, the sound was crap. Abysmal. Too bad, because I particularly wanted to get in some of the fine vocals of Nico, who used to play at the Highlander a few years ago before moving to the UK, where she now lives. She returned to play a few open mics, and I missed her at the Galway, and got her last night, but with absolute crap sound quality. Nevertheless, check out when she really gets revving up towards the second half of the song below, and you can guess at the power of her voice.

There was a bit of blues stuff again, and a few other interesting people. I did my Tom Petty song, “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Borderline” and “Cat’s Cradle.” It worked all right, I could feel good about it. But it wasn’t exaclty “tear the house down,” stuff.

But it all left me still hungry, so I went over to the nearby Cavern club along with Tory Roucaud, whom I recorded playing there a few months ago when SHE tore the house down. But for some reason I cannot pinpoint, the Cavern was not its usual self either, last night. This is one of those places where the house band plays and you go up and sing, as in a karaoke, doing only the repertoire of the house band. It is an excellent, together, mean and tight. And for only the third time in the two years since I discovered the place, I decided to do a song. Previously I had only dared try “Stand By Me.” This time I tried “What’s Up!” since I’ve been doing it myself on my guitar and it is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, they did it in a different key and my voice was too low on all parts, so I could not belt it out the way I like to. Moreover, the sound system was uncharacteristically bad on the vocal mic, so it was almost impossible to hear anything of my voice – still, a lot of the people in the room sang along with me, and that was great moral support. Tory did “Creep,” and I know she did a fantastic job, but there again, the vocal mic was absolute crap. So we did not get the quality of her voice we should have had. I’m putting up the video of that anyway, just for the atmosphere, and hoping you can see that she did a great performance.

From Tory’s Gig to the Machine du Moulin Rouge and BSMS

March 19, 2011

I managed to get through my two Irish songs without a single error on Thursday night at the Mecano. I was greatly helped by the fact that it was a drinking crowd, there was lots of talk and noise and so I said, “Hey, this is like singing all alone in my living room!” So I proceeded to do “Only Our Rivers” and “Peter’s Song,” of the Sands Family, without mistakes. I even heard afterwards that one or two people actually liked them….

But it was Tory Roucaud’s night of music to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and she did a great job and got the crowd really excited – those that were not talking. She showed what a great host she is with her open personality and fabulous singing voice and songs. But I’m not sure this Irishwoman even sang as many Irish songs as I did… unless you consider that her own songs are by definition and parentage, Irish.

She also invited Adrien Zerbib, also known as Zucco San, and he played a few of his own and sang with her on her Alice in Wonderland song. Sven Cosnuau also played a set. All in all, a very fine evening, one to remember, and a fabulous and full crowd – you WANT them to carouse….

Last night, as a form of recovery from Thursday, I went to the BSMS concert at the Machine du Moulin Rouge. I have mentioned this band at least twice before on the blog, and last night did not disappoint. The sound at the Machine was just fabulous, and the band got warmed up quickly and did a monumental set. My apologies for the crappy video image point of view from the back wall of the room. I was talking a little time to chill out sitting on the bench with a friend, and feeling like I was… in my living room….

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…

Friday, Saturday, Sunday – Party, Chess Bar, Brunch

March 7, 2011

I may have fallen behind by two days on this blog, but that does not, as usual, mean the music has stopped. Friday night was a party at Tory’s place and it was attended by several people from the Paris open mics, so there was music. I was too absent-minded to think of recording it.

Saturday I learned there was another of the at-least-monthly open jam sessions at the Echiquier bar (that means chessboard in French). So I went with my guitar and had an amazing evening not only watching the other musicians, but also playing my songs and cover songs with a band that turned into at one point me singing and playing acoustic and backed by a drummer, two electric guitar players, a drummer, a bass player, a trumpet player and a saxophone player! That was cool.

Thanks to the brass, the evening was a little more jazz than rock – with the exception of the accordian player and singer.

Yesterday, it was back to my weekly brunch at the Mecano bar, after a week off for my concert at the Disquaires last Sunday. The brunch had a few new guest singers, and ended up picking up almost where it left off. A little glitch with a disappearing mic stand, but my friend Romain from The Bellers provided one at the last minute, and Calvin McEnron and Rym when off to collect it before playing.

I enjoyed the visit of a young Corsican named Victor, who showed up without knowing there was a musical brunch, and he treated us with a Corsican song before accompanying my friend Béatrice Di Carlo on a few songs, including Autumn Leaves in French. Béatrice is a jazz and pop singer who also had a career in opera singing. A real talent.

Au Ptit Bonheur, the Original Stuff at Ollie’s Minus Ollie

March 2, 2011

It was not quite the same over-crowded situation at Ollie’s open mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance last night. And, as it turned out, not even Ollie was there – he was replaced by Yaco, also known as Ollie Joe…. But there was a lot of very good and interesting music.

The bits that stood out for me were especially Nicole, from Los Angeles, who was the first woman I have seen playing slide guitar. That sounds mad, but I cannot think of any women I have ever seen playing slide. Why not? Nicole showed how cool this can be for a woman as with a man.

Tory did an Irish song, Black is the Color, and as with that moment at the Cavern a few weeks ago, I found her interpretation abilities to be fabulous. What a voice! Here she sang the song because there were a couple of other Irish people in the audience – one of whom did a very cool Irish song as well, but that I did not catch on video.

Aimad, pronounced, Reeemed, did his brilliant tapping again, with his cool voice, while Natas Loves You showed up again to do three fabulous songs, including the first one, of the Beatles, that they do so fabulously well. By the way, Natas Loves You will play at the Marquinerie in Paris on 18 March….

That is a lot of superlatives, right? Well, my own efforts were less than brilliant – I tried doing “Only Our Rivers Run Free” for Tory and the Irish guys – who were up drinking at the bar and not in the room – and I forgot part of the second verse and most of the last verse….

Tory Gives Shivers and/or Goosebumps

February 17, 2011

The Highlander open mic was so full of musicians that having arrived a little late, both Tory Roucaud and I decided we’d have to wait too long to play, and we made off around the corner to the Cavern bar’s Wednesday night open mic.

I have mentioned this open mic before, it’s one of those where you have to play a set list provided by the live band, and you have to use them as backing while you sing. I’m crap at that exercise, as when I do other people’s songs I really interpret them my own way. Tory said she was pretty similar, but she decided to give a try at “Ironic,” by Alanis Morissette.

I have mentioned or put up videos of Tory singing on this blog several times recently, and I have always enjoyed her music as she plays and sings her songs with a guitar in the various open mics around Paris. But I never expected that her “Ironic” version would be just so good that it sent chills, shivers, goosebumps or whatever up and down my body. In fact, I was so stunned that I pressed a wrong button on my Zoom Q3HD as I was trying to zoom in or out of the stage, and I stopped the recording. In fact, I pressed record again to pick up the performance in two parts, because it was indeed worth it. It’s amazing how different a performer can come across when backed by a full band. And in this case, as I said, I already enjoy immensely Tory’s solo stuff, especially her song “Hey Boy.”

But check out the videos and I hope they send the goosebumps up and down your flesh too….

And while we are at it, why not check out her own very cool video of one of her songs:

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….

An Amazing Brunch, and Checkmate: Finally a Different Open Mic in Paris

February 7, 2011

First I have to talk about Saturday night, since Robert Kubica’s accident in rally racing yesterday meant I had no time for this blog before I sped off to the brunch at the Mecano bar. (I had to do a blog item and update on my F1 blog on the NYT site.)

But what a Saturday and Sunday! Saturday I attended a jam/open mic that I had discovered existed one day as my eye was attracted to a bar on Rue St. Maur – the street where I got my head kicked in on New Year’s Eve – with the name in French of L’Echiquier. That means chessboard in French. So that, as deep readers of this blog will know, would be of interest to me since I love chess. But then I saw a sign on the window about an open mic. And that, well…

It turns out that the bar has a theme of chess, with matches played there occasionally, with chessboard tiling in the toilets, and drinks named after chess themes, etc. And this is because Djamel Grine, who owns the place, likes chess too. But he told me his original idea was that he wanted the bar to be public place open to everyone: the King, the Queen, the bishop (which in French is called a “fou” and also means “crazy person.”)

He also loves music, so he started the jams and open mics. There is no set date for it, but they manage to do one at least once a month, on a Saturday. So best to call l’Echiquier beforehand to see if there is a session.

It was a very warm open mic, and I was pleased that although it started like a typical bluesy sort of jam session with full band, it was also possible and welcome for an individual musician to go up and sing and play guitar, cover songs or originals. I played with the band, since I like that challenge and it is more fun and “big.” We played “Crazy Love,” because it was easy, “Father and Son,” because it was more difficult but well known, and my song “Borderline,” just because. I finished off with “I Shall Be Released,” since it is three chords and really well known.

Having had that magnificent Saturday evening, I worried that my own brunch would never match it. I was wrong. It must have been the Sunday of all my brunches where I had the largest number of other performers who wanted to play – and who did play. There were seven of us in all. I played a lot less in order to allow for the others, and that was great, because it meant I could talk to the others and listen to them.

And Olivier Rodriguez, a friend and amazing photographer, showed up for the second week in a row to play his songs and this time he brought his camera and did some great shots of us and said I could put them up on this blog.

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