Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Total Musical Release and Relief at the Blues-sphere in Liege, Belgium

August 27, 2016
bradspurgeon

blues-sphere

blues-sphere

LIEGE, Belgium – That was easily one of the longest periods that I have ever gone in the more than six years of this blog without putting up a post. In fact, and of course, it was almost one of the longest periods during that same period where I did not go out and play music in public somewhere, crying out my insides on stage for all those willing to subject themselves to it. And it all goes down to my summer vacation, which was spent entirely working on my job writing and writing and writing, and doing all sorts of other administrative chores that I really don’t even want to have to think about, let alone talk about. And it all ended last night in Liège, at the Friday night jam of the Blues-sphere club not far from the Meuse in this fabulous Belgian city.

The Blues-sphere is a really classic kind of blues-jazz bar with a long front entrance leading into a room full of photographs of historical blues and jazz musicians, with a big stage with keyboards and drums, and a multi-pronged room allowing for every kind of spectator – from those who want to listen, to those who want to talk. A great sound system, and above all, a barman-manager who not only loves music, but also loves to get up and play his harmonica from time to time when he feels inspired by the music.

I’ve written about the Blues-sphere before, and I’ve probably usually mentioned about how intimidated I am about going to this very cool venue outre-Meuse because it is so much Blues and so little mainstream pop or rock – at least in my perception of it each time I go. But last night, debating with myself as to whether or not I should go, I found myself realizing that I had really no excuses whatsoever, and having overcome a few of the biggest hurdles of my year in other levels, I decided I needed the break, and the first time on stage in more than three weeks….
Third at the Blues sphere in Liege

So I went with much trepidation. I need not have worried. It turned out to be just the elixir that I needed. I was also very lucky in finding that at this open jam evening there was a crew of people from nearby Aachen who were there and looking for someone to play along with – they were a bass player, guitarist, keyboard player, and a local drummer. And I said, “Sure, but forget the blues with me!” Well, except to the extent that all rock and pop comes somehow from blues roots. Pretty much.
Interpretation at the Blues sphere in Liege

So we got up after some pretty fabulous local musicians – and an American from a nearby Dutch town – and we played whatever came into our heads. I got to exchange between leading the group with my guitar and vocals on my songs, to playing along with the bass player doing his songs and singing. I was almost invisible during those moments, as my capacity to really jam is somewhat limited! But sometimes that’s the best thing, is to be invisible on stage.
First at the Blues sphere in Liege

In any case, it was a fabulous night of music and human warmth at the Blues-sphere, and it recharged my batteries, and I highly recommend this venue to anyone wanting to recharge theirs….
Second at the Blues sphere in Liege


Fourth at the Blues Sphere

Fifth at the Blues sphere in Liege

Blinded by the Light: A Great New Host at the Galway Open Mic in Paris, and The Guinness Tavern’s Rock ‘n’ Roll

August 9, 2016
bradspurgeon

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – Now that is the first time I’ve seen a woman at an open mic singing “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen! Or maybe I should say that it is actually the first time I have seen ANYONE at an open mic singing “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen. But not only did it inspire me just now to pick up my guitar and seek out the chords and lyrics myself to give it a try, but it also made me realize in just what good hands the Galway Pub open mic is now after having passed from the second or so generation host – All the Roads – to Tess Liautaud. Nor should I be surprised about Tess singing Blinded by the Light – after all, this is the woman who got invited up on stage by the Boss himself at Paris’s Bercy stadium (it has a different name now, I believe) a few weeks ago to join him for a song on guitar and vocals….

And so there I was last night at my first visit to the Galway run by Tess. I also realized tonight just how devoted Tess must be to Springsteen, as I realized that learning all those lyrics is the mental gymnastic equivalent of learning any of a number of Dylan songs, like maybe, “Shelter From the Storm,” and requires huge memory skills…. what?:

Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
D G A7 D
In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
D G A7 D
With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin’ kinda older I tripped the merry-go-round
D G A7 D
With this very unpleasing, sneezing and wheezing, the calliope crashed to the ground

Tess doing Blinded by the Light at the Galway

Anyway… back to the open mic. It was a quiet night in August, with half of the open mics closed down for the month of streets emptied of Parisians by night, but full of tourists, and I decided to check out the Galway and Tess’s new presentation of the evening.

And there, I immediately discovered that not only was I seriously low on battery power on my Zoom recorder, as well as seriously low on my telephone, as well as having no charger for the phone and no charged batteries for the Zoom, but I was also around No. 10 or 12 on the list at the Galway, and it was 3 songs each and after 10 PM when it all started.

So having met a friend at the Galway who suggested we go check out a band at a bar I’ve never gone to, I accepted, and decided not to perform.

So off we went to the Guinness Tavern, a Paris institution for live music, with house bands that play until after 4 AM every night – I think it’s every night! Located on the rue des Lombards, I did notice that across the streets, the Duc des Lombards, the famous live jazz music joint, was closed. That was either because it was Monday, or again the month of August. No idea.

Anyway, we stayed an hour and a half or so and listened to the highly adept band play hits from the time of Blinded by the Light until today. And had a nice time listening to the band, Jesters, and when the musicians saw a couple of us had guitars, they even invited us at the break to go up and play. I will regret it for the rest of my life that I did NOT go up and play. How dumb of me. How unlike me. I’m always ready for a musical adventure. I guess I was feeling my music was so different than what the band was doing that I’d only let either me or the spectators down – but now I regret it.

Oh well, the Guinness Tavern will stay there, I assume….

And so, the good news is the Galway continues despite the departure of Romain “All the Roads.” I’ll miss his time there, but at least we still have the joint, and a fabulous new host…. Decidedly, the calliope has not yet crashed to the ground!

P.S. How strange is memory. I discovered as I was adding the tag for Guinness Tavern that I had actually already been to this joint, way back in 2011, just for about half a song or something, as I was clearly not impressed at the time!

High Gear Before Low Gear in Paris Open Mic Scene, at the Beginning of the Dead Month

August 6, 2016
bradspurgeon

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

PARIS – Regular readers of this blog over the past whatever many years it has been will know that I hate the month of August in Paris. This is the period when a vast majority of the open mics close down because they think that the national addiction to vacationing in August will mean fewer customers. But it entirely overlooks the huge influx of tourists who want not only to be climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, but want to attend an open mic at night. Anyway, over the last four days I attend four open mics, as they wound down, or continued valiantly forth….

It was, in fact, three days in a row, although I chose not to perform at an open mic on Thursday where I had otherwise been aiming to, but did go to two on Tuesday, one on Wednesday and another one on Thursday at which I did not perform…. (I re-wrote that sentence a couple of times, so if it’s a mess, that’s why!)
Ant Henson’s great new protest song

The Tuesday night was the usual trip to the Café Oz open mic of Brislee Adams, near the place Blanche. It was the last open mic of the summer while it closes down maybe for two weeks or so. A classic night with some great performers, including my friend Ant Henson, who runs his own open mic in London, and who was here for a summer trip. He tested out a fabulous new protest song of his, and I suggest you listen on the video below….
another at oz

From the Oz we went less than 10 minutes walk off to the real Oz, which is to say the one where Dorothy found herself. I’m referring to the Pigalle Country Club, which is one of the most open and crazy open mics of Paris, where anything goes, the mic is not just open, but has to be grabbed between performers, and where there are indeed some pretty cool performers, with the emphasis usually on the 1960s garage rock…. A crazy cool clientele also at this joint.
Ash Orphan at oz

Wednesday was one of the most intelligent, consistent, fun open mics of Paris, and one that does NOT close down for the summer – knowing its clientele perfectly – although the regular and founding host, Thomas Brun, does go off on a summer vacation. So Wednesday was Thomas’s last night at the Highlander before his vacation, from what I understood.
bit o pembroke at oz

Again, it was a classic Highlander night, with each musician singing three songs and the list going to some 20 or more performers, and the crowd ready to be entertained – mostly by crowd pleasers, but not exclusively – and all together I had a great time there. Except my guitar pick up was acting up again, as it has frequently since the horrible day when a woman used the guitar as a dance floor at the Pigalle Country Club earlier this year….
Jake at oz

And finally Thursday I dropped in to the Cabaret Culture Rapide for the weekly open mic of the Paris Lit-Up group, which is mostly an expat thing geared towards spoken word, but includes music, poetry, prose, comedy, just about anything you want to do up there behind the absent mic. Yes, it’s a tiny cool café in Belleville, with no mic, and a consequential pillar in the middle of the room that blocks the view of about 50 percent of spectators in the place. But those who present their schtick loud will be heard.
john cotton at oz

I was admirative of the Paris Lit-Up people that they are continuing into August, but the crowd of spectators and performers was a lot smaller than the last time I saw this open mic. On Thursday, thanks to arriving late, having had a good dinner and feeling open-mic-ed-out, I decided not to play any music. In fact, in a very atypical manner for me, I didn’t even make any videos.
yet another at oz

But I made so many videos at the other open mic evenings that there are far too many to look at on this page ANYWAY!!
another at Pigalle Country Club

Back next time with more open mic madness in Paris, no doubt. Or maybe not. Depending on how many close down for the annual August Parisian exodus….
craziness at pigalle country club

another great cover by Scottish guy at Highlander

another at highlander

Ant Henson’s great cover at highlander

final one at highlander

last moments of another great cover at highlander

on his mind at Highlander

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

July 30, 2016
bradspurgeon

chain bridge budapest

chain bridge budapest

I have updated my Thumbnail Guide to Budapest 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 only have three nights on the list….

I did, however, find a fabulous new link to a list on another site, which I have added, and if I ever get to Budapest on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, I’ll be able to try those places.

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

So check it out!

A Sure-Fire-Thing at Jack Doyle’s in Budapest

July 29, 2016
bradspurgeon

jack doyle's budapest

jack doyle’s budapest

HEIDELBERG, Germany – I may be a week late writing about my night at the open mic in Jack Doyle’s Irish pub in Budapest, but there was no way I was going to let this one slip away. Budapest is not the greatest city for live music, unless you like double bass, guitar and violin players in chintzy restaurants coming up to your table and interrupting a deep and loving conversation. But open mics and open jams have become increasingly present compared to just six years ago when I started looking for them in Budapest in my around-the-world open mic journey. And about four years ago, maybe, I first found the Thursday night open mic at Jack Doyle’s, just off Vaci Street, and I’ve attended every year since.
Wild voiced lead player at Jack Doyle’s in Budapest

This is by no means a hugely successful open mic by the standards of the kind I often write and rave about on my blog. But it has been animated by the same MC – with the very cool voice and repertoire – since I’ve been going, and he is always accompanied by an excellent guitar player, this time being no exception. In fact, it was an exception this time in that the lead guitar player also suddenly decided to sing at one point, with the most amazing, unique bass voice! You have to hear it on the video.
MC at Jack Doyle’s in Budapest

There are never that many musicians present, but there is a steady flow, and that means you can have a chance to do more than just the usual two or three songs at the mic, if you’re lucky.
Great not dire lead

The bar staff is great, and what I’ve found incredibly, is that the clients of the bar are really happy to listen to music too. It’s not one of those Irish pubs where clients are present for anything BUT the music.
third at Jack Doyle’s

So all in all, it’s an excellent night at Jack Doyle’s in my experience, and last week was no exception – it was, in fact, exceptional. I got to sing and play to my heart’s content, and the guitarist played along with me, adding much value.
Fourth at Jack Doyle’s

The rest of my weekend got derailed by personal things I don’t need to get into right now. Suffice it to say that I did not get to attend my other favorite open mic/open jam at the Szimpla Kert, but I know someone who did, and so I do know that it was still happening. I also heard that there were mountains of people waiting to get in this jam-packed beer garden complex in what looks like a squat. So it remains as popular as ever….

I’m now in Heidelberg, and so far so bad, in terms of live music. The university town decides to turn off for the summer…. But I will continue to explore…. I ended up at another Irish pub last night, and who knows….

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

July 14, 2016
bradspurgeon

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
bradspurgeon

catweazle

catweazle

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!

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