Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Playing at the Anthracite in Paris

June 3, 2011

I am always ecstatic when I discover a new open mic anywhere, but when one pops up in Paris that I did not know about, it always seems even more miraculous. Yesterday I learned of an open mic at a cool, chic club/bar called Anthracite, in the 4th Arrondissement in Paris.

I don’t know how long it has existed, but there it was on the Anthracite web site, and on a day, Thursday, when there is little else available. So I took my guitar and went. When I arrived, I found out quickly, however, that it is not a classic open mic of the kind where musicians go up with their instruments and sing cover songs or their own songs, both their own way. It is the kind of open mic/jam session thing that the Cavern bar has in Paris, and several other places around the world also do: Where a house band plays the music, and members of the audience go up to sing songs from the band’s set list.

In other words, it is a kind of live karaoke. It turned out also, however, that the drummer in the house band at the Anthracite is a friend, and member of the Natas Loves You band, and he saw me with my guitar and told me that they occasionally have people go up with their own instruments too. This lit things up in my head, as I have never felt comfortable in the Cavern kind of situation, or even in the real karaoke situation. In fact, I’m usually pretty bad at it.

But when I play my guitar and do my songs my way along with a band, I really enjoy that now (although even that took a while to get used to), and on top of it, there were at least three songs no the regular set list that I do in my repertoire: Jealous Guy, Mad World and What’s Up.

I opted for What’s Up, even though I had learned it only a couple of weeks ago and still do not have a really solid hold on the rhythm. But the band played along, sang along, and I had the time of my life. And afterwards I was stunned to find several audience members complimenting me. I knew I screwed up in a couple of spots, but it did seem to hold together.

The other performers had a wide range of styles and approaches, but as I find at the Cavern, most of the stuff had a soul feel to it. I enjoyed a lot of the songs, and am putting up a few of the videos. This is a really different kind of audience, a high class kind of place, and the band was tight and cool.

Above all, however, I have to give the Anthracite full marks, compliments and heartfelt kudos for allowing a musician they do not know to go up and plug in his guitar and play along and sing. The Cavern won’t allow that with guitarists – although I have seen sax players.

That said, I will be delighted when I manage to raise my game high enough to be able to play by the same rules as all the other singers.

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