Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Update of Thumbnail Guide to Melbourne Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music – And a New Approach to the Guides…From You

June 14, 2017
bradspurgeon

Melbourne Skyline

Melbourne Skyline

After creating a total of 26 Thumbnail Guides to open mics in 26 different cities around the world – and almost as many countries – the year 2017 marks the end (at least for the moment) of the world travels that enabled me to create these guides. This year, after more than 20 years covering Formula One auto racing around the world, I have opted to live a more sedentary life as I finish all sorts of personal projects – my film, books, music, etc. But the result is that these open mic guides risk going out of date. In fact, I have now come up with a potential solution: I will update all the guides via confirming the open mics I have visited still exist (using various methods, including the Internet), and for the first time, I want to open up the guides to the users to make contributions.

If you are interested, read all about that on my updated Thumbnail Guide to Melbourne Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, my first guide after the original one that was about Paris open mics.

An Update to My Paris Open Mic Guide

June 9, 2017
bradspurgeon

Thumbnail Open Mic Guide

Thumbnail Open Mic Guide

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

The last time I updated, in March, I brought the sad new of the closing of the Caveau des Oubliettes. Now, I bring great news in the recent addition of an absolutely fabulous Paris open mic, which takes place at the Rush Bar on Mondays (heading for its 20th edition this Monday). I have also tweaked bits and pieces throughout the rest of the guide to try to keep it as up-to-date as possible.

So The Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, remains the most extensive and up-to-date guide of the Paris open mic scene. Check it out!

A Real Rush, at the Rush Bar Open Mic in Paris

June 6, 2017
bradspurgeon

Rush Bar open mic

Rush Bar open mic

PARIS – Last night was yet another example that you cannot write about something reliably if you have not experienced it yourself. That may sound like something so obvious it need not be said. But I must admit that I had begun to hear so often from disparate people about this new open mic in Paris at bar called Rush, that I was tempted to put it on my Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, and put a note that said I had never attended. But the principle of my list has always been – unlike many other such sites and lists – that I have to have attended the open mic myself. And so I finally got a chance to go to the Rush Bar open mic, and I can say that it would have been as huge, huge mistake to write anything about this open mic without having attended. It is simply the most fabulous open mic I have attended in Paris in a long, long time.

I was wondering when Paris might have a newcomer open mic to rival the great ones of the past (like Earle’s open mic that started at the Shebeen, moved to the Lizard Lounge and then to the Truskel, or like the Ptit Bonheur La Chance open mic), these places that attract a loyal crowd of spectators and musicians and almost feel like – or are – a scene. Last night I found a worthy successor to the best of them at the Rush Bar. And this open mic has only been running for 18 sessions, weekly, which brings it to what, nearly five months?
momentary glance of Charlie Seymour opening the Rush bar open mic

I found all the perfect ingredients at the Rush last night: A bar manager who loves the open mic and music – and no doubt behind him a bar owner – a fabulous, friendly and fair presenter in Charlie Seymour – a longtime Paris expat musician –, and finally, a locale of the kind that seem to always work: A very small, cosy room where everyone is tightly knit together before the stage area. Interestingly, the Rush Bar also has a couple of very cool cellar rooms, and a kind of back room, or secondary room on the ground floor, all of which could host the open mic.
Kinky one at Rush bar open mic

But I think in that immediate entrance room of the bar – that also contains the bar itself – they have found the best location for the open mic. Additionally, this open mic is located in a cool part of Paris, not far from the Bastille, about halfway to Republic. In other words, ALL of the important ingredients are there. And the result is that the Rush Bar open mic has attracted a loyal and very diverse group of spectators and musicians.
French one at Rush bar open mic

The sound system is great for the voice, and not bad for the guitar, and they are open to adding instruments like lead guitar and bass. The styles played last night run the full gamut from folk to pop rock and blues. The age of the performers and spectators also runs the full gamut, from 20s to 60s…at least I think so…! So this is not just a young scene, but a real, vibrant open mic with all sorts of nationalities represented as well: Brits, Irish, Canadian, lots of French, North African and who knows what all else!
Diggin for Gold at Rush

It’s interesting that the Rush Bar open mic has become such a clear success in such a short period of time. There has been apparently not huge labor to attract people to it, for as one spectator and participant said to me last night, there has been practically no internet campaign to make it known. I think it just lit up because Paris still needs great open mics – despite the many it has – and because, above all, of those essential ingredients I mentioned.
nice quiet one at rush

Oh, by the way, I was happy to play near the beginning of the night, because I got to do five songs, even though the usual number is 2 or 3. There were not as many musicians early as there turned out to be later – the place was packed! And I felt that the guitar that was already plugged in was good enough and I chose not to use my new D-42. It did, indeed, turn out fine. I felt great, and what I noticed above all is a detail I have not yet mentioned: The spectators were there to listen. Or if they wanted to talk briefly, they would do so outside the bar, on the street, or on the exterior tables.
Perry at Rush

A perfect open mic evening at the Rush bar. Or as I say in my headline, a real rush!!!
Great Beatles one at Rush

A Piano City Day Ends on a Note From a Guitar Open Mic

May 30, 2017
bradspurgeon

Salumeria Open Mic

Salumeria Open Mic

I am late, late, late in coming out with this one, since a personal blog is all about momentum, and recently I lost the momentum. But I always say there is nothing to worry about on a personal blog – and in life itself – that if the momentum dips, pick up the momentum again! I’m referring to a day on my last trip to Italy that started with a piano event at the TAC Teatro that was just one of dozens set all around Milan, and ended with a fairly last-minute decision to hold an open mic at a bar-restaurant, which turned out to be a great success.

The first event, at TAC, was part of a city-wide event called “Piano City,” in which for a three-day weekend there are small piano concerts all over Milan. TAC hosted one of these little concerts, with a demonstration of four-handed piano playing. It was quite successful, with perhaps close to 30 spectators. When you consider there were dozens of these events in various locations throughout the city on the same day, that must have brought together quite an audience for the piano!

“This year, once again, pianos will invade houses, yards, stations, roofs, farmsteads, museums, schools, libraries, laboratories, parks. Music won’t stop from the sunset to the dawn and from the dawn until the sunset in a continuous love declaration for the piano, its music and for the city of Milan,” says the Piano City web site. “In these last six years, like a kaleidoscope, we changed and shaped ourselves to give voice to the music and to the most surprising urban sites. 2017 edition wants to tell about these five years of changes throughout Milan. A two-day&night journey from the centre to the suburbs on the notes of our pianos spread in the best spaces telling the story of the city from historical locations to new areas.”


Piano City event at TAC Teatro

That same night, I went to an impromptu open mic at the cool bar/restaurant near the Via Padova called, Salumeria del design. It seems the open mic was part of another related musical day event, but in any case, the bar decided to open the mic to any musicians who wanted to play. It turned out to have a wide-cross-section of styles, if there were only four or five of us in total. But that gave us the opportunity to share the mic throughout the evening.
Fifth at the Salumeria open mic in Milan

And I enjoyed hearing the different Italian musicians singing Italian songs I had never heard, and keeping the English to a minimum – or leaving it to me. I got to close the evening, playing to just a handful of people at the end who wanted to hear me, after quite a raucous night of music before that with the crowd singing along to the popular Italian repertoire….
Second at the Salumeria open mic in Milan

From the Arci Turro Jam to an Impromptu Jam at Ligera

May 20, 2017
bradspurgeon

MILAN – Wednesday night in Milan for me has mostly two significations: The Arci Turro jam and the jam at the Milan Joy bar. But last Wednesday I decided after a spell at the Arci Turro – in fact, when it ended at midnight – to go off to the Spazio Ligera bar for a nightcap and forgo the Joy bar jam. But Ligera being Ligera, I found myself invited to open my guitar case and play a few songs. Then one of the owners decided to play a song on my guitar behind the bar, then another one decided to bring out a bongo and invite me to play more while he played the bongos. And so there I was with a jam anyway…!

The Arci Turro was only slightly calmer than the last time I attended and reported about it on this blog. But that too gave me to the opportunity to play more songs behind the mic – and to expose myself as a complete beginner on a classic Chicago blues song….
Jam at Arci Turro

The Spazio Ligera bar proved itself to be the genial, warm and open place I have always said it was. There is often the possibility to just pick up a guitar and play, if not much else is going on – especially not in the concert room in the basement.
jam moment at Spazio Ligera

In any case, it was a fine feeling of fulfilment from the jam point of view last Wednesday in a completely unexpected way – par for the Milan course….

The First Open Reading at TAC Teatro in Milan – Bluegrass Style….

May 13, 2017
bradspurgeon

TAC Open Reading

TAC Open Reading

MILAN – TAC Teatro has a very cool theater room with spotlight and pulpit and seats for the spectators that had been set up to host the company’s first Open Reading on Thursday. But as the guess piled in bit by bit they gravitated towards a room at the back of the theater with a couch, tables, chairs. And bit by bit that gravitated group took the form of a circle. So when it came time for the first Open Reading to commence, Ornella Bonventre, the brains behind TAC, decided that it would be worse than a sin to break up the magical circle. She started the reading in the round. I realized it was very much like the traditional bluegrass jam in the round, round a microphone – but at TAC there was no need for a mic, either.

And so began, and so continued for at least four hours, the intimate reading in the round, featuring a fabulous cross-section of writers, poets, musicians, and just plain “normal people” with something to read or say – including a local representative from a refugee squat who had something to say about his peoples’ rights.

Alessio Lega at TAC Open Reading

I even had my turn to play a couple of songs and break up the literary feel of the evening by a kind of Trou Normande of music. I was not the only musician, there was the poet, writer, storyteller and musician by the name of Alessio Lega, with his guitar and his tales. And there was the up-and-coming rap artist, Cisky, whose discovery of rap and writing led him to rearrange his life during a stint in prison after a false start in life.

The most illustrious guest was certainly Maddalena Capalbi, a well-known, award-winning Milan-based writer. She did not read her own text, however, but left that to a fabulous, dramatic reading by Cisky.

Cisky at TAC Open Reading

All in all, it was a great evening of warmth in the circle – I just wish I could understand more Italian! But it was a fabulous event that shows once again the vast spectrum of shows that TAC hosts with success, whether that be a serious play like Edipo Rap – in which Cisky appears, by the way – a clown show – in which I have appeared in a kind of George Plimpton moment – a piano show, acting or writing lessons, or a group to defend against violence against women.

Trying Out My New Martin D-42 at Brislee’s Open Mic

May 3, 2017
bradspurgeon

Martin D-42

Martin D-42

PARIS – What better environment to try out a new guitar than Brislee’s open mic at La Fabrique just off the Place Blanche in Paris? I bought the new Martin D-42 yesterday afternoon so late that I only had time to return home and prepare dinner and eat, giving up all idea of attending his popular open mic, as I knew there would be no room on the list. Last week he had 21 musicians playing from that usual time of just after 9 pm until midnight. Then came a message on Facebook that he still had room – so I finished off the dinner quickly and took the metro and my new Martin Dreadnought over to the Place Blanche, to find, as I expected, the perfect environment to test my new guitar….

As it turned out, as there were a few fewer musicians signed up last night than usual, Brislee ended up giving me the time to play five songs behind the mic. Fortunately, I got to listen to the other musicians first before my turn came, and so I wasn’t just thinking about my new guitar all night. There was the regular Ash Orphan, with his distinctive Lowden guitar, and there was another guitarist doing tapping and slapping with another great guitar, and Triinu doing her melodic stuff. So all together, a nice night – in addition to other musicians and Brislee’s final closing number.
Ash Orphan at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

My Martin D42 does not have a mic inside it, of course, because this is all about one of the greatest acoustic guitars in the world with the fabulous wood it comprises. And I have strong doubts that I will set up any kind of mic system in it. I did buy an L.R. Baggs M1 Active Body-sensitive Active Magnetic pickup that you can strap into the hole, though, since it can also be removed whenever you want. But although I had it with me last night, I decided not to fool around with trying to put it in the guitar in the dark while listening to other performers.

slap n tap at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

So I asked Brislee if we could just use a mic for my new guitar, and he agreed. In a way, in fact, it seemed to me the most appropriate way to christen the Martin on its first public performance. Suffice it to say that I felt immediately, immediately at home and at one with the Martin in this live performance. I started with a Bob Dylan (“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”), then did my “Borderline,” then did my “When You’re Gone Away,” then Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train.” I decided to end with a Dylan too, with the simple, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” When I hit the end of that song, the Martin told me to do some flat picking instead of the strumming I usually do. And that was pure joy.
Triinu at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

This is not a review of the D-42. There are hundreds of those online. Let me just say that everything I have read in the reviews is true: It feels like the perfect guitar. I still love my Gibson J-200, but it has a very limited use for me, where as the vast range of this D-42 is a great all round guitar for my music. And I was really pleased to hear exactly the same comment from Ash Orphan at the open mic, as I did from my son earlier in the day when I was buying the guitar at Woodbrass: “This guitar really suits your style.”

second by Brislee at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

Amen. It feels great too, to know that my D-42 has a note inside it stating that it is one of the Centennial edition guitars of the Martin Dreadnought. Martin’s first Dreadnought was made in 1916, mine – although it came straight to France from Nazareth, PA, was made in 2016.

another at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

And thanks again to Brislee’s great open mic for this first time playing the new guitar – a great replacement for my semi-retired, weary, 8-times-around-the-world-Seagull-S6.

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