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The Highlander Open Mic in Paris Celebrates its 9th Anniversary This Wednesday

October 5, 2015



PARIS – If there is just one open mic you have to go to this week in Paris, then you must have a problem. There are so many worthwhile, fun and neat open mics in Paris. But now one of the most enduring is the Highlander, run since the beginning by Thomas Brun, which will celebrate its 9th anniversary of its existence this Wednesday.

If I was in town this Wednesday, I would be going. As it turned out, I thought the celebration was happening last Wednesday, so I went. Well, that just set up the right situation to get some videos up on this blog for the preparation for the ninth anniversary!
Highlander Open Mic 6th Anniversary Cake

Highlander Open Mic 6th Anniversary Cake

I’ve been attending this open mic more than half of that time, although all sorts of personal commitments have meant that I have not attend as much as I would like to in the last couple of years. But attending last Wednesday, I found the same open mic in the basement of this neat Scottish pub in Paris, run by Thomas Brun in a way that I would like to say is inimitable, but that would not do justice to the many open mic MCs in Paris who have, in fact, used Thomas’s presentation as a model – and imitated it to the last detail.

But as someone said last Wednesday, there are no other open mic MCs quite like Thomas – and that’s what makes an open mic work or not. (In addition to the location and the management…!)

Anyway, enough frothing at the mouth. Just check out the videos to get an idea of the atmosphere – and check out Thomas’s accompaniment of a rapper.

Pandemonium at the Harmonium Parlour at the Plastic Factory at Nagoya

September 29, 2015

plastic factory nagoya japan

plastic factory nagoya japan

DUBAI – Just sitting half wiped out in the Dubai airport on my return flights from Japan to Paris, I’m still thinking about my last night in Nagoya, where I finally got to take part in the open mic of the Plastic Factory. I’ve played at the Plastic Factory a couple of times before, but I was never there on the last Sunday of the month when the official open mic takes place. This time I was, so I have something new to report.

The Plastic Factory is a bar, music and art venue run by a German-speaking Swiss, a longtime expat in Nagoya, and the place is about to celebrate its 11th year of its existence. I discovered it four or five years ago – I think! – and always wanted to try the open mic. But my timing to get from Suzuka to the edge of Nagoya, by way of my hotel to pick up my guitar, was tight, to say the least.

Brad Spurgeon and others jamming at the Plastic Factory in Nagoya.
So when I arrived, the evening was already well advanced, with a nice big crowd of spectators and musicians, lots of expats, but many Japanese as well. I love the mix at this place. On the other hand, I was in such a state having gulped down a fast food hamburger of a kind I don’t dare mention, and having stopped off and got my guitar, and arrived to find that my name had just been announced for me to play, but I’d missed the slot….

Third at the Plastic Factory
No problem! I was up next! So I took a beer, tuned my guitar, warmed up my voice and got on stage. Turned out that I hadn’t been there long enough to realize that the crowd can be quite talkative when there’s just some guy with an acoustic guitar and vocals, since this is really a very hot spot for socializing and meeting fellow expats.

Sixth at the Plastic Factory
So, OK, I sang my three songs to myself, and got off stage, took another beer, and watched as the evening got better and better. The talk would continue for most of the other acts, but bit by bit the stage took over as the center of interest of the room, and bit by bit it turned into a jam session with various of the musicians mixing together on stage.

Seventh at the Plastic Factory
That’s when I pumped up my courage again and after the MC of the evening went up with a woman on violin, another on bass guitar and a guy on washboard, I said to myself, “I want a bit of this action!” So I asked the MC if I could do a song with the band, and his guitar. He immediately agreed, and the other musicians agreed too, and so we leaped into “Mad World.” And it was mad. I had a great time, I think the other musicians enjoyed it, and the people who remained in the crowd weren’t talking so much anymore but whooping it up with the music.

Second at the Plastic Factory
A memorable night! My only regret is that I did not get a chance to take a look at the apparently wildly cool art exhibition on the upper floor. When I went up to check it out, it had just ended.

Fourth at the Plastic Factory
I hope that my date for a return trip to Japan – if there ever is one – will again coincide with the last Sunday of the month, and the so-called “Harmonium Parlour” open mic of the Plastic Factory in Nagoya. It’s a real happening.

First at the Plastic Factory

Fifth at the Plastic Factory

Eighth at the Plastic Factory

Checkin’ Out the R&B Melrose in Nagoya for the Seventh Straight Year

September 25, 2015

R&B Melrose Open Mic Nagoya

R&B Melrose Open Mic Nagoya

NAGOYA, Japan – It has become a tradition for me now to spend Thursday nights in Nagoya at the R&B Melrose open mic. This cellar room full of musical instruments and warmth, is one of the more laid-back and friendly open mics I know of in Japan. It is also not one of the most crowded in terms of participants….

But that’s always a great way to start off my weekend in Nagoya, relaxed, low key, amongst friends. I calculated last night that it was my seventh time at the R&B Melrose – seven different years!! And it has not changed. Arrive, choose your instrument, play alone or with other clients, play what you want in terms of musical styles.

Drums, keyboards, bass, all sorts of different electric and acoustic guitars. And some great music piped in between times in the nice choice of the hosts…

Second group at the R&B Melrose open mic in Nagoya.

First one at the R&B Melrose open mic in Nagoya.

An Update to My Singapore Open Mic Guide

September 22, 2015

Ritz Carlton Singapore

Ritz Carlton Singapore

Just a note to say that I have updated my Singapore open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Singapore Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

I have added The Beast open mic to my main list of places I have played in, I have added some links, and I have tried to highlight other links, since my WordPress environment is absolute crap when it comes to display of hyperlinks to the reader – you.

Finally, a Look at the Open Mic of Molly Malone’s Irish Pub in Singapore!

September 20, 2015

Molly Malone's Pub Singapore

Molly Malone’s Pub Singapore

SINGAPORE – I’ve been waiting a couple of years to try out the Molly Malone Irish Pub open mic in Singapore. The problem is that my work at the racetrack keeps me late on Saturday nights, and I get there too late to check it out – literally, after 1 p.m. Until yesterday, that is. I had done so much advance work in the last crowded three weeks that I was able to leave work at a reasonable hour, and make it over for the open mic. And do I NOT regret it!

I had visited Molly Malone’s on Wednesday, as the blog item below shows, but I had just played as a guest invited by the entertainment for the night. Last night it was the official open mic night, so I got to see the thing in action, and play myself for the first time.

Second little bit at Molly Malone’s
So among the things I learned was that while this is a classic open mic where you can play by yourself or with your group, it is also one where the two organizers are willing to play along with you, as well as any of the other musicians in-house who may want to join you, or vice versa. I took advantage of that to play with a drummer, a bass player, a guitarist, and the only one really missing whom I would have liked to join was the keyboard player. No problem, it was a hell of a lot of fun, even if I did pull the rug out from under the band’s feet at the end of just about every song, never really letting them know when I was about to stop….
First little bit at Molly Malone’s

There were several other really cool acts, people who I understand play together quite a bit at the open mic, so a lot of the songs were quite together. And if they do not play together often, and I’m jumping to conclusion, well, all I can say is, “Great stuff.”
Crazy bit at Molly Malones

The feel of playing in this open mic is very cool, it’s laid back, easy, open, and no hassle. The audience is quite receptive, and if they’re not interested in the music, they can go out into the horrendous heat and humidity of the sidewalk in this lively part of Singapore, to drink and talk there.
Classic bit at Molly Malone’s

I had problems with low batteries on my recording device so it was a bit of a pain to try to charge the batteries and then make some recordings, then recharge, etc. So that’s why my recordings are really just very short snippets…. And the music was so loud I should have compensated for that on the device, and the result is that it’s pretty distorted. But you’ll definitely get a sense of the party atmosphere at the open mic at Molly Malone’s in Singapore….

Singapore Sing: First Two Nights in Singapore….

September 18, 2015

The Beast

The Beast

SINGAPORE – First night in Singapore and it was over to Molly Malone’s Irish pub to meet up with a couple of friends – Mike Spinks of the famous Beast and other open mics in Singapore, and Aman Wadhwa, musician and F1 fan…. It was Aman’s night at Molly Malone’s as he was providing the entertainment, but he invited Mike, me and another client up behind the mic, so it turned into an open mic, several days before the official open mic at Molly’s, on Saturday.

a final Aman at Molly Malone’s in Singapore
I used the night to catch up, and to keep up…. I was suffering not what you would call jet lag, after the 20-hour trip via Dubai from Paris to Singapore, but rather what you might better describe as a “red eye.” Wiped out, fatigued, tired, anyway you want to call it: But once I got beyond my first song behind the mic, and my errors in chords I have played 8,000 times, I was good for the rest of the evening.

Mike at Molly Malone’s in Singapore
Aman was hammering out hits and using his Martin to generally fabulous effect, and then Mike took the mic and demonstrated his fabulous country-sounding voice, and strong presence. I left the Irish pub to have a late-night, early-morning meal of noodles and other hot stuff at the outdoor food market just up the street – near the Actors Jam bar – and finally felt like I was in Singapore, and not in Ireland….

And off it was to the open mic at The Beast, in Singapore

Last night was Part II of the Mike Spinks (and even Aman) show, as I left the track to take the MRT line just one stop over to the Bugis station and go to the open mic at The Beast. I first attended this open mic in this American expat, southern Kentucky-like bar, last year. It turned out that last year’s was a bit of an atypical, quiet night at The Beast. So last night I got a taste of what it’s really like at The Beast: A beast of an open mic.

third at The Beast open mic in Singapore
Full up and down the long bar area, and flowing out into the street, this is a classic open mic of the best kind, and with a fabulous laid back presentation by Mike. The sound system is spread out throughout the bar and outside, so even people who are out having a drink and talking can hear the performer, and if they really want to, can run back inside to catch it all.

second at the beast in singapore
And Mike let’s you play for up to half an hour if there are not too many musicians. It went on until around 1 a.m.

Hiram at the beast in Singapore
Definitely worth trying when you’re in Singapore – and increasingly, I get the feeling, people are coming to Singapore….

Fourth at the beast in singapore

Fifth at the beast in Singapore

Quick Notes From Milan, Nice, Paris and Singapore….

September 16, 2015

singaporeSINGAPORE – Looking back to see what my last post on this blog was, I’m stunned to see it was about my trip to Belgium! Since then I’ve been to Milan, Nice, Paris, and now I’m writing from Singapore. I’ve done an open mic in Nice, another in Paris, and I’m going out for music tonight in Singapore. I did a gig on Saturday night too, by the way, in Bondy, just outside Paris, in a neat restaurant called, L’Atelier. Time goes too quickly sometimes. But there really is a good reason for the lack of activity on the blog during that period.
First performer at the Snug open mic.

I’ve just emerged from my busiest period of the entire year in my job as a Formula One writer, having produced 16 full-length feature articles for the next two races, Singapore and Japan, which you will be able to find amongst my Brad Spurgeon stories on The New York Times site in the coming days; I have written a 5-page profile of the Ferrari racing boss, Maurizio Arrivabene, in the October issue of Road & Track magazine, which just came out on the newsstands yesterday, and I have also been preparing the visas, flights and hotels for the remaining part of my world travels, which will be hugely intensive over the next two and a half months, taking me around much of the world….
Fourth performer at the Snug open mic in Nice.

So it is that occasionally, just occasionally, I can truthfully say that I’m not updating the blog because I’m a slacker who has run out of steam, but because it’s totally full-steam ahead in other areas, leaving no time for this. But now I’m back, and I’m hoping to keep this going massively in the coming months!
Second performer at the Snug.

But first, I want to report that I finally got to play at the Monday night open mic in Nice at the Snug & Cellar pub. I’d been wanting to go to this for years, but I was never in Nice on a Monday night – until last week when I had to interview a legendary author – of one of the greatest car racing books ever written – and so I had a bit of time to check out the Snug.
Third performer at the Snug.

It was a pretty good atmosphere, full of people, full of musicians, a nice presentation by the MC, but the sound system was not the best on earth. And it tended to be a very vocal audience – during songs, I mean.
Fifth performer at the Noctambules.

In Milan, I think it was the first year ever that I did not get to play anywhere, as there too I had on the only night I usually play in a jam, I had an important interview to do for my job, so I had to let the music drop there. That was the first race at which I have not played at a venue in I have no idea how long, but it seems like years!
First performer at the Noctambules.

So it was that once back in Paris, it was with a vengeance that I went and played at Raphaëlle’s open mic at the Noctambules bar on the Place Pigalle – which I actually help organize a little too, making sure the sound is good for every performer…. It was another fabulous night, in any case, mostly because of Raphaëlle’s extraordinary MCing, and her incredible singing too, between the other wonderful musicians of the evening….
Fourth at the Noctambules.

And that takes me to Singapore, where I am quite exhausted as I write these words and prepare to go out and force myself to keep awake, as the more than 20 hours of travel without any real sleep have begun to weigh on me…!
Second at the Noctambules.

Sixth at the Noctambules.

Third at the Noctambules.

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