Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

A Bit of Texas in Paris at the Café Oz, meanwhile a bit of Paris in the Féline

July 14, 2016

Spectator with Tea at Tom's Tabooley

Spectator with Tea at Tom’s Tabooley

PARIS – No sooner did I return from Oxford on Monday – Oxford, England, by the way – than I decided to attend very quickly the open mic on Tuesday night at the Feline bar, since I can never get to the Café Oz early enough for a good spot, so popular has that open mic become. So I went to the Feline, played my songs, and THEN wen to the Café Oz, because I knew there would be some friends performing from Texas….

And no sooner did I arrive at the Café Oz than I found the place bubbling with energy and activity, and guess what? It was precisely the moment that Christy Moore from Austin, Texas, and her friends began their invasion of the “stage” at the Café Oz.
Christy and friends at Oz

So we spoke when we could, sat around and listened to the talent, and then called it a fairly early night. I was still recuperating from the Oxford trip, in any case, and preparing for the next…. But it was a great pleasure to see Christy Moore – who used to run an open mic in Austin called “Tom’s Tabooley,” and her friends, four women from Texas, lighting up the stage in Paris near the Moulin Rouge. I always feel sort of surreal when I see people from one country where I play, playing in another country – as I do myself all the time, but somehow don’t expect of others….
third at Feline

christy duet at Oz

P.S., I hope I did not provide any confusion to anyone with my headline for this post, as in the past I wrote about a French friend who used to call himself “Texas in Paris,” and did some pretty crazy songs. He’s now Baptiste W. Hamon, and still does some crazy songs, although not quite as crazy, oh, and now in French!

first at oz

final at oz

second at feline

Update of Thumbnail Guide to Oxford Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music

July 13, 2016



I have updated my Thumbnail Guide to Oxford Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. I’m happy to be able to say that I did not remove any open mics from the list, as all the ones I know are still running. On the other hand, I’d have liked to add one or two that I know about but have never been able to attend, and that remains the case.

But I did do a considerable amount of housekeeping on the page, and added links of stories and items that were not there before, and I updated information as my knowledge and understanding of certain open mics grows….

So take a visit to my Thumbnail Guide to Oxford Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

So check it out!

A Last Stop at the Open-Mic Friendly Harcourt Arms, Despite the “Football”

July 12, 2016



Britain may be imploding – and my last five days in England confirmed to me that it has indeed lost its significance – but I do leave the formerly great Britain feeling that at least they do know how to hold an open mic during a major soccer match. My last night in Oxford I had to stop by the Harcourt Arms open mic, which I have been attending for the last five or so years – and before that it was at another pub down the street – and I entered the place finding the open mic in high gear on one side of the pub, and the soccer match final between France and Portugal being screened on a television on the other side of the pub, with no volume. And so unlike so many other pubs that do not understand how to double their clientele – rather than just dropping the open mic in order to hear a bunch of fans singing out of tune at the event over the TV, the Harcourt managed to keep two things going at once.

Having said that, as the English had already long ago performed their Brexit in the soccer tournament – unlike the victories of Lewis Hamilton in the Grand Prix on Sunday just a little before Andy Murray won at Wimbledon – there was little enthusiasm for the soccer game amongst the viewers in the pub, after all.

second at harcourt

That left room for much enthusiasm amongst the open mic participants, but unfortunately, there were so many of them that it ended up being just one song behind the mic, as quickly executed as the EU would like to see the departure of Britain. So I then decided that I would go down the street to see if for once I could take part also in the open mic of the Bookbinder’s pub, which I have always been too late to attend in years past.

I arrived to find that it was not – exceptionally running – and the pub was closing down for the night. And soccer was not to blame. It had something to do with an annual carnival that happened earlier that day in Oxford…. whatever that might mean.

first at harcourt

So it was that left the weekend nevertheless slightly frustrated at trying to cram everything in, and finding not enough time or room. I also discovered that I had left my recording device at the hotel and my phone was practically uncharged, so I could only films a couple of quick bits at the Harcourt to let the readers of this blog see and hear for yourselves….

Next stop, Budapest…. (Well, after a bit of time at home in Paris.)

Tales of Indian Food, Catweazles, Disappearing Money and Half Moons – First Night in Oxford

July 8, 2016



OXFORD – For the first time since the first time, I was too late arriving in Oxford last night after working at the circuit to be able to sign up for one of my favorite open mics in the world. That is the Catweazle open mic in Oxford, which is unlike any other open mic anywhere. The only problem it you really have to be there around 7 PM to be sure of getting a spot on the list, lining up in the front hall and waiting half an hour until the real sign up time – and I got to Oxford after 8 PM. But I nevertheless made a short visit to the open mic, had 20 pounds stolen when I lost my wallet for a couple of minutes, and then I went on to the Half Moon open mic down the street and had the best time I’ve ever had there before….

And I must mention that I also ate one of the best Indian food meals I’ve ever had, with his huge prawn or gambas or whatever it was in some kind of Bangladeshi dish, and some nice Indian red and white wine, and great rice and wow! This must be the UK.
First at the Catweazle

Right after the Indian meal on the Cowley Road just around the corner from the East Oxford Community Centre, where Catweazle takes place, I decided to see if I could drop in for a bit to the open mic. I arrived precisely at the end of the mid-show break, and so I got in easily. In taking out my camera to make a couple of videos – you’ll see the uniqueness of the place – I dropped my wallet from my guitar bag without realizing it. Or maybe it dropped out as I left. In any case, I left without my wallet and noticed that it was gone, and then returned before leaving the place, and the wallet had been found and was returned to me. Minus 20 pounds! Damn! But thank goodness the pound went down so massively last week. I mean, had they not voted for Brexit, I’d have been out a lot more euros than I was! 😉 And anyway, I was so grateful the wallet was returned. Imagine if I had lost everything.
Second at Catweazle

And from Catweazle on to the Half Moon with ITS open mic

So, I decided to go on to the Half Moon pub just down the street that I knew also had an open mic on Thursday nights, and although I’ve probably been there almost every year since I started this open mic journey in 2009, it was the first time that the man who runs it was actually present. That is the cool lumberjack, Sparky, and I can tell you that when Sparky is there, the open mic is another affair…. Cool sound, nice ambience and a man who cares about his open mic – and who has been running it for maybe 15 years….
his mama at half moon

I came late, but he still managed to find a spot for me near midnight, and I was the last guest. A really funky pub, by the way. Really feels like someone’s living room. Oh, and back to Catweazle, what makes it so different? It’s a vast room, everyone is sitting on pillows on the floor or the few chairs and couches available, and there is a backdrop to the stage, and there is complete silence amongst the spectators. A religious appreciation of the acts, you can hear the proverbial pin drop. And a vast cross-section of talent from this great university town. Still one of the top of my list. Unfortunately, Matt Sage, the usual witty and fantastically adept MC was not there last night, and I much enjoy his patter. But the replacement was excellent, and obviously following to some degree the role model of Matt….
sparky poem at half moon

first at half moon

P.S. By the way, the first time of the first time was the time in 2009, which was my first time…. (Does that sound like a sentence that Gertrude Stein might write?)

Romain Leaves the Galway, Takes to All the Roads

July 6, 2016

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – But on Monday, knowing it was Romain’s last open mic, I drove as fast as I could from Graz to Vienna, then flew as fast as I could from Vienna to Paris, and then took the RER public transport as fast as I could from the airport directly to the Place St. Michel and the Galway pub, as I was not going to miss that last night for anything in the world….
A Romain from the Galway a while back

For the last I don’t know how many years, Romain Bretoneiche has been hosting the open mic on Monday nights at the Galway Pub in Paris, beside the place St. Michel. He has been doing a great, a fabulous job, having taken over from the previous man, who was already a very tough and seemingly impossible act to beat. As of this week, last Monday, in fact, Romain has left the job as the MC in order to pursue a life on the road. Given that his band’s name is, “All the Roads,” that seems fitting. But Romain will be missed in the Paris open mic scene – for the next year or so, or however long it is he will be on all the roads travelling the world. The open mic will go on, though.
A Romain from last year at Galway

And I did not regret a minute of it. In fact, I was so deeply involved in enjoying the open mic that I was completely loath to do my usual thing of making videos, and to record this momentous last event. Can you imagine?
Romain three years ago at the Galway

Of course, I had to get a little bit of Romain doing his act, so I got a few bits of a song he did with a violinist, and then I got someone else, and I must say, though, that I have mountains of videos of Romain on this blog, so any search for Galway will lead to them.
Romain’s last night at Galway

Romain pointed out to me that I attended his first open mic at the Galway, and there I was at the last, remembering some of the first times I met Romain. At the time, he wore Elvis Costello-like horn-rimmed glasses. And when I first heard his velvety voice, I thought, hey man, this IS Elvis Costello – a French Elvis Costello, 40 years later! He dropped the glasses – to my great regret – but his sound only got better.
Another at last night for Romain at Galway

Check out the Galway videos on the blog, and return to the Galway for the new master of ceremonies – who, I understand, will be the amazing Tess…. more on that later….

And so Finally Back to Graz – but Dammit, Someone Said, “Out Damned Spot!”

July 4, 2016

The Spot in Graz

The Spot in Graz

And so the European soccer tournament destroyed another open mic. Or did it? Not really sure. I know that the only open mic that I know the existence of in Graz, Austria, was closed for the summer when I arrived at its venue on Thursday, my first day of four in Graz. I’ve blamed it on the soccer. But when I think about it, dropping by to The Spot, where the open mic takes place, I found not a single client, and not a single television showing anything at all – or I’m so immune to the soccer that I didn’t notice. Whatever may be the case, my four days in Graz, Austria were devoted to playing my guitar in my hotel room – when not eating, dry, aged beef.

Do I like Graz? In a way I love Graz. But have I ever seen a second-biggest city in a country to be so devoid of live music? No, never.

I walked the streets from dried, aged beef restaurant to dried, aged beef restaurant in search of the slightest evidence of live music, from Thursday to Sunday night. And never did I ever find the least bit of evidence that live music exists in the second biggest city in Austria.

Aside from the complete lack of live music, though, I love the city of Graz, with its historic, museum-like old town, which is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe. And I love the surrounding mountains, the long flowing highways and the pretty good weather I had, compared to the Paris rain….

But when I arrived at The Spot to find that the news I had already on Facebook was true, that there was no more open mic for the rest of the summer, I was pretty disheartened. After all, the open mic of The Spot is an absolutely fabulous open mic…. Hopefully I’ll get another chance in some future year….

A Last, but not Least, Night in Baku

June 22, 2016

Finnegan's Baku

Finnegan’s Baku

What can I say? The last night in Baku, Azerbaijan I had been invited to play again at Pancho’s Mexican joint by the house band, the previous night. I was feeling wickedly tired – sleeping in the fleabag hotel was a bit of a trial the whole trip – and I thought I would probably just have a quiet meal and go back to the fleabag. But on the way to a meal I passed by Finnegan’s pub, popped my head in to see if the band played on a Sunday night, and who should I see sitting at a table but the whole band…that then greeted me with open arms, a beer and an invitation to play again!

I could not refuse such a warm hearted invitation from a fabulous band. And the crowd was a little thinner on Sunday night than on Saturday night, so I thought, this seems like a great way to pass the evening.
and an acoustic one at Finnegan’s in Baku

And boy, was it ever. I played maybe seven or more songs, including a couple entirely “acoustic” with the vintage copy Telecaster. But if you look at the videos, you can see that the band was playing more for itself on Monday night, too, and NOT just to please the crowd.
something pink in Baku

A fabulous night at Finnegan’s, and I hope I get back again next year – or even sooner, why not???
cool lead breaks in Baku

Oh, I should mention that my return flight to Paris was at 6:30 AM on Tuesday morning, which entirely preluded sleep on Monday night, which meant that arriving back in Paris on Tuesday morning I had almost zero inclination to go and partake of the annual Fête de la Musique. I say “almost” because I did actually want to go out. But fatigue from deathly efforts to sleep on the flight and my afternoon nap and a few other things made me decide against it….
the lady gets fever in Baku

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