Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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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….

First Round of Existential Camera Question Goes to Zoom

August 4, 2012

I have been hanging around home for the last three days as I edit my documentary film about open mics, and prepare my memoir and my novel for adolescents for submission to publishers/agents. What this has meant is wonderful experiences using the new Final Cut X, which got so hugely criticized when it first came out last year. It has also meant thinking a LOT about cameras, films and editing; and meeting an existential question to do with cameras, which was started off by a recent experience.

First, a note on Final Cut X. I had a week’s worth of training – 35 to 40 hours – on Final Cut Pro 7 in 2007. I then bought Premiere Pro for my home use, as I was only using a PC at home. Then after I started assembling all the rushes on my documentary about traveling around the world to open mics last year, I realized that my PC was antiquated and could not deal with the 100 hours or more of sound and footage that I had accumulated for the film, from interviews in 20 countries last year.

So I decided to buy a heavy duty Mac Pro – one of those PC-looking Macs that sits on the floor – and to buy Final Cut X. I had heard all sorts of crappy things about it, since filmmakers were as unhappy as I was, no doubt, at having learned how to use Final Cut Pro 7 and then discovering that Final Cut X had re-written the paradigm, and it looked like iMovie.

I needed one thing in particular that it had just come out with, and that was the new multicam aspect that came out after the first version. I had often done interviews with three cameras operating at once, as well as a sound recording device. I needed to sink all of that, and the Premiere Pro system – even using PluralEyes’ synching software – was not great…in fact it was a pain.

Now that I have started editing in ernest, I can say this is better than like driving a limousine. This is like sitting in a television studio and snapping your fingers during a live feed to mix and mash all the camera angles as the show goes on. It is FUN as hell, and works incredibly. I never thought editing the film would be so much fun. Additionally, Final Cut X does all the rendering in the background without you having to ask it to do so. It is sooooo simple, so beautiful, so cool.

Now to get down to figuring out what to discard from my film, making the storyline work. But I think I have that approach worked out now! In any case, it’s as fun doing it as it was interviewing people and putting the footage together.

zoom q3hd

zoom q3hd

So, that other thing I mentioned? That was to do with hardware and recording. I continue going to open mics for fun and for this blog, and I carry around a little portable Zoom Q3HD recording device, which is mainly made to record great sound, with a camera recording device added almost as an afterthought.

But it is so simple to use and to carry – on my belt – that I have always thought it was the ideal device for this blog. Unfortunately, sometimes when the lighting is really bad, the image quality is trash. Having said that, it can see in the dark to a degree, and has three basic settings for the lighting, so it is easy to use brainlessly.

But when last week I saw a video that Patrick Lamoine did of me playing at the Coolin open mic two weeks ago I was struck by the extraordinary quality of the image, and I asked him what he filmed it with. It turns out it was done with a Canon DSLR camera. That is, a camera for taking photographs that also does video. This has become a very common way to make videos, and some people are even making full length films with DSLRs.

I had noticed Patrick using the camera with a large microphone attached to it, as he attends all the Coolin open mic sessions and takes the official photos and videos – it is a great concept. I seriously wondered if I should change over to a DSLR for my blog. But Patrick had also used for a separate sound device at Zoom H4, placed above the bar – and that is apparently what he used on the video of me.

(If the video does not work correctly, click the link above it:)

Brad Spurgeon par Coolin_Open_Mic

Check out the video – even if it is not my most vital performance – in fact, I was a spaced out on this first song, “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart, and I did a better job on the next song, my own, “Except Her Heart.” (And you may notice people behind me leaving as soon as I start, and another looking at his cell phone – but you can’t win them all!) But the quality of the image when compared to most of what I deliver on my blog is just fabulous.

My interest piqued, I then started looking at more of the videos Patrick has taken in recent weeks. I was able to find one of the same performance that we both made a video of. It was the delightful trio of starring the deadly Alix on guitar and the fun Ansaya on vocals. The video done by Patrick was not done in the same light as the one he did of me, but it was with the same camera.

This is the video I took of the trio with my Zoom Q3HD:

So if you actually compare the two videos, my portable – and half-the-price – Zoom Q3HD really stands up to it, and the sound is far better. So I don’t think, all things considered, that I will run out immediately and buy a DSLR. But I think I will keep looking around to see if there is anything irresistibly cool on the market, now that I have had my attention turned that way….

This is the video Patrick Lamoine took of the trio with his DSLR at the same time as I took mine with my Zoom Q3HD (if the video does not work correctly, click the link above it.):

Alix Thierry, Anzaya Khan & Mohamed Azzouz par Coolin_Open_Mic

Still, I’m so busy with the film that I should probably calm my buying ardor and just get on with it.

Aborted Highlander – for Me, Anyway (oh, and a video)

June 21, 2012

I managed to get to the Highlander open mic in Paris last night earlier than I got there the week before – around 9:20. But that still made me too late for a good spot on the list. I think I must have been around 15th. Given that I had to get up early to travel to Valencia today, I stayed and listened to a few interesting performers, and then cut out and called it a night. That’s always the problem with a popular and successful open mic – you HAVE to get there first, to have a good chance at playing before 1:30 AM! I guess I could call that an aborted night out, and this, an aborted post…. (Except for the cool videos in the darkness of the Highlander – oh, the video of Scott Bywater is aborted too after my Zoom Q3HD camera was inadvertently knocked to the floor…. :-))

Good Night at the Bonheur; Though Not for Me

February 1, 2012

After the amazing Monday evening at three open mics in Paris, I figured there was no way Tuesday could stand up to that. Well, I was sort of right. Personally speaking, that is. I went to the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic and found it just jammed with people, I found some new music, new spectators, and I even managed to get there late but be the last one to play for the evening. So what was not quite right about it?

Well, due to all the excitement of the night before, a) I had developed my second cold in three weeks, b) I pulled out my Zoom Q3HD sound and image recorder only to find that I had only enough battery power for about two minutes of recording and no spares, c) it was so full I could only get a seat at the back and so got even worse quality video. But I was lucky to get a seat, and lucky to be able to play. Oh, forgot this one: d), partly because of the cold, partly because of the heights I had felt I had reached playing on Monday night, and partly because I was still “coming down” my singing felt absolutely crappy to me. I did “Runaway Train,” and it felt dreary; and I did this new song I have just started singing – actually, it is not entirely new, but I had dumped it a while back and then revived and changed it. But I’m still not sure what I have, and it did not feel sensational last night.

The good in all this? The wonderful, huge crowd at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, and some of the really interesting musicians, especially that flute player.

So on the blog today, I have managed to put only the four videos I managed to get, two short ones on my Q3 and another two captured on my iPhone 4, with both its crappy image – due to the dark – and crappy sound, due to the mic. But anyway…. as someone said last night after I expressed my disappointment, things can’t be great ALL the time!

Single Paragraph Post: I Return to Paris, Zoom Returns to Life

March 29, 2011

Not much to report on after a 26-hour trip back from Melbourne to Paris. The only musical story was the watching of the film Burlesque, and the fact that I had to stow my guitar in the luggage compartment, rather than carry it onboard. This was Singapore Airlines. But the flight did seem to have a fine effect on my Zoom Q3HD that I mentioned had fallen in the toilet last Thursday and died: Upon my return home today, the Zoom came back to life!!!! After four days of repeated efforts to turn it on, it finally worked. It seems it was just protesting against that bad treatment. Now, of course, this means I have two Zoom Q3HDs!! But that will be perfect for taking two different angles at the same time and editing them together. Oh, Sunday there was a little musical story as I saw Motorhead sitting in the paddock of the Australian Grand Prix. End of story….

Three Dead Leads and Another Tale of Woe from a Friday in Melbourne

March 26, 2011

Friday is not the best night for open mics anywhere in the world. But in Melbourne last night, it turned into a nearly comical search for a grail that would never be found as I followed three leads only to be disappointed three times, each in an odd way.

I had never so far played in an open mic in Melbourne but yesterday I found traces of three possibilities. One in a place called ET’s Hotel in Prahran, another in St. Kilda at a place called Greyhound Hotel, and a third at the Junction Hotel in Newport.

I settled on walking from the F1 circuit to ET’s Hotel, as I judged it would be no more than a 30 minute walk and my phone calls and emails to the organizer had not been answered. In fact, with the telephone calls to the hotel, there was simply no answer. But I thought I could walk there, and then backtrack to St. Kilda’s, which is also near the F1 track.

et's gloom hotel in Melbourne - closed down, no more open mic

et's gloom hotel in Melbourne - closed down, no more open mic

So I walked the 30 minutes or so to ET’s Hotel hoping that I would not be let down, but when I arrived I found the worst possible thing: The hotel had turned into an extraterrestrial carcass of a place. It had closed down and been gutted and turned into a construction site. There remained posters outside for shows that had long since past. It was a little eerie. No more open mic at Et’s Hotel!

et's hotel is now a construction site

et's hotel is now a construction site

Out front of the hotel I finally managed to connect with my phone call to the Greyhound Hotel in St. Kilda.

“Hello,” I said to the man who answered, a man with a slight affectation to his voice. “Do you have an open mic tonight?”

“No,” he said. “But we have a drag show.”

I knew that the drag show had nothing to do with drag racing cars, and thanked him very much and decided to move on to trying to contact the third venue. After all, I was not prepared for a drag show, even if I do open myself up to all different kinds of open mics and jam sessions….

So I called up the Junction Hotel with the number I found on an Open Mic venue list on the Internet.

“Hello,” I said to the man who answered. “Do you have an open mic tonight?”

“What? Oh, no. You have the wrong number, I’m afraid.”

“This is not the Junction Hotel?”

“No. You have the wrong number.”

I checked the number and saw I had dialed the number from the Internet correctly.

So end of open mic story for Friday. It made me feel once again just how wonderful it is when I actually DO connect and find a place to play on this adventure. When that happens it feels like the world is easy, the trip is easy, cool, all fits, and life is a ribbon of dream. Meeting with adversity, suddenly I realize how difficult the task can sometimes be to parachute into a country and hope to find a place to play music instantly and every night.

Having said that, the hazards of travel are multiple, and I neglected to mention the one of Thursday night before I went off to perform at the U-Bar and meet Lara. I had spent a very productive day at the track doing interviews with drivers, team directors and other important people. I had used my Zoom Q3 HD video and sound recorder, the same one I use for the video images of this blog.

At the end of this long and productive day and as I prepared to leave the circuit and go and do my open mic and record with the Q3 some of the stuff for this blog, I went to the toilet. Suddenly, without the slightest warning or provocation of any kind at all, my two-month old 250 euro Q3 recorder fell into the toilet bowl. I removed it in 3 seconds flat, no more. I shook out the water and tried to dry it. I ran back to my desk in the media center at the race track – desk C13, which I had hesitated to take that very morning as it had the No. 13 and was therefore bad luck – and I promptly plugged in the recorder to my computer. The computer message read: “USB device malfunction.”

All was lost, a full day’s work, and even my ability to record the coming nights of open mic shows. Unless… I realized that although the Q3 had died through 3 seconds of toilet water exposure, perhaps the 32 gigabyte SD card that held the data had survived. It was 18:10. I did a quick internet search to see if anyone sold the Zoom Q3 HD in Melbourne.

I found a place called Mannys music store. I called them up. They closed at 7 PM. But they had six of the Q3s in stock. I asked how long it would take to get there from Albert Park, where the race takes place. The guy said about an hour with the traffic there was – or 25 minutes if there was no traffic.

I took a cab and kept the man at Manny’s informed of my progress through the interminable traffic and everlasting traffic lights.

“Tell you what,” he said finally when I told him I would be five to ten minutes late. “I will stay here for you. I will wait.”

So I arrived at Manny’s, it was closed, but the staff let me in. I bought the Q3 and I bought a Zoom H2 hand held sound recorder as well in order not to use the Q3 in the paddock. As I paid for the recorder I removed the 32 gig SD card from my pocket that I had taken from the toilet water damaged recorder, and I put it in. Eureka!!!!! My 9 interviews were all intact! I had been saved by Manny’s and by the SD card. Now all I had to do was take the cab back to my hotel, grab my guitar and get to the All Nations U-Bar as soon as possible to not miss my two dates: The open mic, and Lara.

It worked. Isn’t the life of the traveling minstrel full of unexpected barriers, which can all be overcome with a little persistence.

Hope I find a place to play tonight. Already have two dates lined up for the next race, by the way, including an open mic with a 30 minutes slot at Laila’s Cafe & Lounge for the Wednesday, and another 30-minute slot opening for a local band at a TexMex restaurant, which I will post later.

Mini-Post: Literal Spotlight on Belleville Blues Band

January 21, 2011

A simple night last night on a visit to the Cabaret Culture Rapide where I played four songs, along with the members of the Belleville Blues Band. I’ve written a lot about this place and band in the past, so I won’t add anything now, except to say that each time I play with them is a greater pleasure than the time before. But the unique thing about last night was that I finally had enough light on the stage to get a video of the band in which you could see the performers and the surroundings very clearly. That’s one of the drawbacks of my Zoom Q3 recorder, and I’m hoping that the Zoom Q3HD will have helped on that – it films badly in dark light. So check out the image and music in the video of the band last night:

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