Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Pizza Box Drum Jam at the Oasis – a Little Borderline

March 7, 2015

Oasis 244

Oasis 244

PARIS – It was nearly midnight at the Oasis 244 in Paris again last night when I arrived, so much too late to profit by a full night of listening to John Redford and Stephen Saxo playing their stuff for the customers at this very cool and laid back little bar near the Stalingrad metro. It was too late to have much of any kind of amplification, so vocals and certain guitar bits suffered. But I sure did not suffer while listening to and playing with several old and new acquaintances.

Especially meeting up and hearing Wayne Standley playing again. I wrote about Wayne extensively during the Ptit Bonheur la Chance and Tireuse days. But since that venue has ceased to run its open mic, I’ve not seen Wayne playing anywhere. Wayne is a longtime American expat in Paris who has played music all his life here, but maintained a bona fide American country and rock sound. So true and real. And last night Andy Bone joined him on lead guitar and it sounded like we were in the middle of the American midwest somewhere….

Then I got to go up behind the mic – that did not work – and sing a few songs. And when it was time to do my song Borderline, David Hummel leapt into action and provided a fabulous jamming rendition as he took to one of his favorite instruments: A cardboard pizza box that had contained last night’s dinner. David used that for percussion, using his drum brushes to batter the box in the rhythms of Borderline. A fabulous little jam that left me feeling great about the 20 minutes I spent on the wonderful little warm stage of the Oasis 244. Andy Bone filmed it, so catch the video – be aware the mic barely worked, thanks to complaining neighbors.

The pizza box, it turns out, is a fabulous percussion instrument in acoustic jam sessions in bars where you can’t make much noise!

A Not-Book-Review: Wayne Standley’s Novella, “The Man Who Looked Like Me”

April 29, 2014

Wayne Standley

Wayne Standley

For my second “Not-Book-Review” I did not premeditate that I would write about the book that a friend gave me a few months ago and that I only got around to reading now. I did not imagine that it would be so much fun, so light, so captivating and so genuine. But when I discovered all that, I decided that I HAD to write about it on this blog – especially because I’ve mentioned its author so often here in the past as a musician: Wayne Standley. The book he wrote is called “The Man Who Looked Like Me.” So check out my “Not-Book-Review” of Wayne’s book. Then see if you can find a copy for yourself to read!!!!

As a reminder: This “Not-Book-Review” is a type of article specific to this blog that the first one of which was my talk about the book of another musician, Neil Young – and his “Waging Heavy Peace”. The idea behind the column is that because it is a blog, and because I believe in Ernest Hemingway’s dictum about writers not criticizing other writers in print as reviewers – “You cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,” he said – but because I love to read good books and talk about them, the idea is that I am not going to place myself on a critical pedestal and dictate what is righteous or not about a book I read. I am not going to recommend it as a piece of literature or a consumer product. I am not going to fulfill the role of the book reviewer whatsoever. This blog is my space, Brad’s world. So what I will do when I feel compelled, will be to write about books I am reading or have read or feel compelled to write about for any other reason – my “Not-Book-Review.” Something people can read, and should read, only as a reflection of how I felt about the book – not a recommendation that they should or should not read it.

So, again, here is my Not-Book-Review of “The Man Who Looked Like Me” by Wayne Standley.

Travel Weary Zoom Q3HD Takes a Break at Cosy Night at La Tireuse

December 11, 2013

La Tireuse

La Tireuse

PARIS – I’ve been making the rounds of all my regular open mic venues that I so rarely visited in the last few months while travelling all over the world for the tail end of my worldwide open mic tour, and last night it was over to the Tireuse – formerly Ptit Bonheur la Chance – for the cellar open mic that became the favourite of many people in Paris. It turned out to be a kind of quiet and cozy night in the basement room of the Tireuse, so much so that my Zoom Q3HD recording device decided to either go on strike or take a nap.

I’m not sure which it decided to do, but I could not get it to recognize the SD card. The result is that I just did a couple of videos on my iPhone, which means pig bad sound quality. Having today put a different SD card in my Zoom recorder and found it recognized, I’m hoping it will work again and I don’t have to replace it.

But my feeling is that it has been around the world several times since I bought it a few years ago, and I think it is becoming travel weary…. Let’s wait and see. In the meantime, check out the feel at the Tireuse, with Wayne on one video, and a new French performer on his resonator guitar on the other video.

La Tireuse is still attracting lots of musicians, and I wish I could have recorded more of them last night. There were a few great performances, including Brislee doing a third Queen song in two nights, and getting all the spectators singing along. He did a very good Freddy Mercury approximation….

Three Completely Different Musical Experiences in One Night in Paris – for a Compleat Musical Experience

November 8, 2013

Touched by Grace

Touched by Grace

PARIS – As it turned out, I could have played in all of the three musical locations that I visited in Paris last night – but I played in none of them. And as it turned out, I was just as happy with that situation as going somewhere to play myself, as my real idea was to take in three in one night for a completely different cultural experience each time.

The first was the one where, I will admit, the idea of playing there myself is greatly exaggerated. The only reason I mention it at all was that when I arrived at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore to hear Gary Lucas play his guitar and talk about and read from his book, Lucas actually had a guy singing with him in a vaguely Jeff Buckley manner. The guy, it turned out, was just someone Lucas did not know or had never heard sing, and he had asked in advance if he could join in and sing along when Lucas performed at the bookstore. Lucas agreed, and it was a cool effect and a nice little addition to a very cool presentation. So it occurred to me that perhaps if I had asked, too, he’d have given me a chance – even if it was a longshot….

Gary Lucas was at Shakespeare and Company to promote his book “Touched by Grace,” which recounts his experience working with Jeff Buckley, with whom he wrote a dozen or more songs, including the famous “Grace,” and “Mojo Pin.” But Buckley is not his only claim to fame as a collaborator. Lucas has played guitar or otherwise collaborated with a Who’s Who of popular musical geniuses – to say nothing of Leonard Bernstein – from Captain Beefheart to Patti Smith to Lou Reed to Iggy Pop…oh and even people like Peter Stampfl, of the Holy Modal Rounders….

Lucas played his Gibson J-45 in opening tuning, filling the Shakespeare and Company bookstore and its full-house of people with the ethereal sounds that are his trademark. I bought one of his CDs, which I will be including in my next Morning Exercise Music review. Oh, and I must add that I was just delighted that although I arrived a little late, and the bookstore was entirely full to the point that the front door could not be opened, I was ushered up through the first floor library by another door into the building, and led down to the back of the “stage” to listen to Lucas. That, by the way, is why you only get my videos of Lucas from off to the side of the musician, and from behind.

From the Books to the Taps, it Was Time for a Beer at the Open Mic of the Tennessee Bar

From Shakespeare and Company I headed over to the Tennessee Bar to check out the open mic. There, of course, I’d have been able to play if I wanted to. But I had that third date of the night coming up, so I just stayed and listened to a few songs – including by the mainstay of the Tireuse open mic, Wayne Standley – and also by someone else using a Gibson, similar to the J-45 of Lucas, but which was either a Dove or a Hummingbird, and they were also using it in a similar manner. But to slightly less effect. Still, it was an incredibly beautiful sounding guitar and nifty playing. Once I had assured myself that my favorite Thursday night was going strong, I finished my beer and went off to the third location.

This final stop of the evening bore no resemblance to the first two. I was invited to this one by a Brazilian friend, who said that she had a Brazilian friend playing Brazilian music in this hotel – the Hotel Athenee. I was a little confused when I got there, as I had for mixed it up in my mind with the Plaza Athenee, or whatever it is. But this was quite a posh joint as it turned out, with a long lobby cocktail bar room in plush furniture and walls covered with casting photo portraits of famous Hollywood stars from the past.

With a Final Glass of Wine at the Hotel Athenee and Brazilian Music

The Brazilian music was guitar and vocals, mostly bossa nova stuff, and it was a very cool and relaxed evening and foretaste of my imminent trip to Sao Paulo. My friend got up and did a song too, by the way, and she invited me to play, saying the mic was open…. So that’s how I tie in that final unforeseen possibility of being able to play in all three venues, had I wanted to. But there at the Athenee, I felt that the atmosphere was so laid-back Brazilian bossa nova style stuff that my own songs or covers would be far too big a contrast, although I was definitely tempted.

In any case, it was a really cool evening, kind of like an all you can eat buffet of different foods and sauces, on the Paris plate….

PS, It turns out that in arriving late at the Shakespeare and Company performance by Gary Lucas, and hearing him talk about about his singer as someone who just contacted him and he’d never heard of him before, I had no doubt missed a more correct introduction beforehand. I’ve since learned from a reader of this bog – as you can see in the comments below – that the singer was Tim Watt, and he is a musician who was already known to Gary, and the two prepared together in advance… So the very premise of this whole blog post was faulty, as I’d never have been able to play at Shakespeare and Company after all!! 😉

From a Downer at the Tennessee to an Upper at the Escargot, and an Explosive Jam at the Zelda: A Quiet Night in Paris Comes Alive, Mostly Thanks to Wayne Standley and Jimmy

August 9, 2013

ZeldaPARIS – Paris in August is great in the day and crap at night. Everything closes down, the musical venues decide that the business the tourists and vacationers might give them is not worth losing their own vacations for, and generally, it’s a place to avoid. Last night, with these negative thoughts in my mind, I set out for the open mic at the Tennessee bar, deciding that in order to get there early for once I would sacrifice my normal dinner mode and grab a falafel near the Place St. Michel and eat it on the Rue St. André des Arts before arriving at the Tennessee. Once I got there, I found the bar open, but the open mic cancelled – as it has been for weeks, apparently. The bartender could not tell me when it would start a again – a week or two, or maybe three.

With this in mind, I thought my night was a catastrophe and I should return home and continue working on my books and film. I’ve been on a good run with them, and nightlife and adventure and music were obviously dead in Paris. But then I decided I had better burn off the falafel and I decided to walk to the Escargot Underground open mic that I attended last week, to see how things were going this week. It’s not like I did not have a great time last week. It was just I wanted variety, and I feared there’d be practically no one there.

At the Escargot, Suddenly, Wayne Standley Sings Jimmy

By I did not drop my arms and lose my hope and I continued on my march across Paris, stopping only for a Magnum ice cream from a supermarket near the Rex cinema. Once I got to the Escargot, I found some old friends, including Trelys, and Wayne Standley, who was one of the mainstay musician – along with me – at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance bar, now since ended…. It was great to see them both again, and great to sing my songs in this wonderful open mic, and great to listen to more Russian music and other things…. And then… BANG! Suddenly, without announcing the name of his next song, Wayne lays into “Jimmy,” by the band Moriarty. Readers of this blog may have seen in the past that I have referred to Wayne as the father of Rosemary Standley, the singer in that same band. But this was the first time I had ever seen Wayne sing the band’s biggest hit.

It turned out that it was, indeed, actually, the first time Wayne had ever sung the song in public. So I was fast on him with my Zoom Q3 HD, not wanting to miss my opportunity to slap that up here on the blog in a world first. It was a beautiful rendition, and I only regret that I did not start going for the closeups until much later in the song, so the first part is a little distant, but it gets better. Wayne’s singing of it is beautifully emotional, and when you know the backstory, wow!

So after the Escargot Wayne and I decided to walk over to the metro together and then Wayne suggested we go somewhere for a drink. We were within walking distance of a bar called the Zelda – after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife – that is owned by a friend of mine, Matthias Cadéac d’Arbaud. The Zelda opened up a couple of years ago, and it has had quite a bit of good press and is considered something of an “in” place in Paris now. It is small and comfortable and hip, and I had seen David Broad play there in the past, and thought that it would be a cool place to show Wayne, and thought it would be cool to speak to Matthias again.

I have very fond memories of jamming with Matthias at the Truskel in the days of Earle’s open mic there in 2009. Matthias was the guitarist (and also played drums, keyboards, some vocals and bass) in a very cool band called Rock&Roll, that had the cover of one of its albums done with a photograph of the band taken by Karl Lagerfeld. For a couple of years they were looking set to be the next big thing from France musically, and they had top management in the U.S., as well. And very hot, rhythmic and colorful music. Their producer had worked with New Order, Pet Shop Boys and Blur. The French rock magazine, Les Inrockuptibles selected them from 7000 bands as the top new band of 2006.

Then Matthias of Rock&Roll and Zelda Owner, Comes Out of Retirement and Plays Jimmy With Wayne

But Matthias ended up packing up his musical instruments and opened the bar and he has not played guitar for a long while, he said, although he said he sometimes goes to a nearby bar after he closes his Zelda and he plays piano for fun, late into the night. Well, I mentioned to Matthias that my friend Wayne here was the father of Rosemary of Moriarty, and Matthias just lit up and said that Jimmy was one of his favorite songs. He put it on the sound system, as it was in his iPod. That’s when Wayne pointed out that he himself actually provides backing vocals on the original recording of the song (the recording we hear on the radio, etc.). We heard him doing them, and that was news to me.

After Matthias closed the bar I suggested that Wayne show him his 1962 Guild guitar, and that’s when Mattias proposed that Wayne sing Jimmy, and I proposed that Matthias play along. So started a jam that lasted around 45 minutes, with all of us playing together or separately. The high moment was the Jimmy moment – even though it was around 2:30 and we were all pretty tired at that point – and the first take of one of Wayne’s songs, with Matthias playing a bit of lead and rhythm along with Wayne. It was full of energy, and a great song and a great moment.

All in all, I was totally astounded by the richness of the evening. And for fans of Moriarty, if there is any single one of the covers of Jimmy that you have to choose from, then Wayne’s is it! Check this stuff out, and keep in mind that these are the first and second times only that Wayne has sung this song in public. Of course, now he joins the thousands of other – mostly young women – who sing this amazing song at open mics. A quiet night in August breaking out in all directions….

The Film: P’tit Bonheur la Chance Closing

May 15, 2013

p'tit bonheur la chance

p’tit bonheur la chance

PARIS – Readers of this blog may well have grown sick and tired of the myriad posts I have written over the last two to three years about one Paris open mic in particular. That is the P’tit Bonheur la Chance open mic, run on Tuesday nights, first by Ollie, then when Ollie went to Berlin, by Ollie. Yes, yes, somehow the one Ollie left, and the other Ollie took over. Also known as Yaco, the second Ollie defied all expectations that a great open mic must be entirely about the person who runs it – and he made as big a success of it as the first Ollie did. So that is when it became clear – I think – that an open mic is about the MC, the bar shape and layout, the proprietor and/or manager, the style, the musicians who come, the neighborhood… okay, you get the idea. Well, last night was the bar’s last open mic, and I decided to make a short film of the evening. Pierre, who owns Au P’tit Bonheur la Chance, is moving on to bigger and better things – if I understood correctly. So this is not totally one of those sad stories of complaints from the neighbors – although there were some of those.

In any case, I think I want to shut up now and let the film take over and tell the story. Last night was the last night of the open mic, and I was eager to do something different and special in terms of this blog. So last night I did an interview with Yaco/Ollie – or is it Ollie/Yaco – and I caught some of the great moments of the evening on my Zoom Q3HD recording device, and decided to not do what I usually do, which is to inundate this page with videos, but rather to spend the day editing bits and pieces all together to make a little documentary of the last evening. All bits from this shaky little roughshod documentary come from last night – all the performances, interview(s), etc., all represent the last night at the P’tit Bonheur la Chance open mic. I forgot to bring my wind protector from the camera, so there are some brutal wind sounds, brutal cuts, it is full of flaws, but I HAD to get this one down. I wish I could have got and fit everyone on this film – in fact, from all the P’tit Bonheur open mics…but it was not possible.

A Great Open Mic Gone

Paris is losing one of its best open mics – but I am sure there will be more to come. Oh, and by the way, as you will see in the little – actually waaaaay too long film (for Internet purposes) – there was some kind of prize-giving last night to the people who had come to the open mic the most and contributed the most, etc. I got that, and so did Wayne, John and Sven. I hope I have not forgotten anyone – I made frequent trips from the music to the bar to the street, playing, talking, having a great time – as usual. There must have been close to 30 musicians, but I only managed to grab a few of them for this.

Oh, and I have to mention that 1) a massive thanks to Brislee Adams for using my Zoom to film me – and somehow I was elsewhere when he played his great open mic song – and 2), the bit in the film towards the end where my interview cuts off brutally with Yaco/Ollie happened because there was no more space on the 8 gigabyte SD card!!!! But as he had just talked about the mic cutting out abruptly and brutally one recent night, it seemed like a great way to end the interview!

Hope you like it, and please bear in mind that in the interest of getting this out on the site tonight before midnight, it is a bit roughshod – but it is intended as being as off-the-cuff as the average open mic night at the P’tit Bonheur la Chance…..

PS, the bar will not close until Saturday night, so there is still time to go and imbibe – and in principle, there is supposed to be quite a celebration on Saturday night….

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….

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