Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Eureka! Finally Did the Caveau des Oubliettes

July 21, 2011

As I mentioned yesterday I was pressed for time. In fact, I wrote my stories for the upcoming German Grand Prix all day long, finished after 9 PM and debated if I should leave the house to go play music. My philosophy of life for the last three years has been, if you can do it and it hurts no one, do it. The problem was that the Highlander open mic was certain to be too full to accommodate me at that late notice.

I arrived after 10 PM at the Highlander, met a friend I had not seen for months, and felt the whole night was already worth it thanks to that. She then disappeared to chat with someone else and I listened to the music and said, “I will not get up until 1 AM and I have to drive to Germany tomorrow.” The list was maybe 17 people long.

So I left the Highlander and decided to head over to the Caveau des Oubliettes. This is a Paris fixture in the jamming scene, with a different kind of jam or concert every night of the week. It is on the rue Galande, near Notre Dame and the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Every time I have gone there in the past I have been either too intimidated to play or I have felt that the music was not my kind: the blues night is pure electric blues, the rock ‘n roll night is pure electric blues… last night I saw it was a “soul” night.

I do not sing soul, but I do have that song I do so often by Van Morrison, that has been sung by soul singers, and which I always call “Irish Soul.” So hey, why not try? I asked a couple of people how it all worked, and the second guy I spoke to was organizing the evening. He put me up immediately, with a bass player, keyboard player and drummer. The room was crammed with people, the room was bopping, jiving, just a great vibe.

And I couldn’t believe what I was doing finally. We got through the song with only a problem or two when I leapt into the bridge and that changes the chord structure, and momentarily on the chorus when it changes. Otherwise, it went pretty well. The key to this kind of jam, though, the difference between it and say the open mic or the live-band-karaoke, is that All the musicians are members of the public going up to play their moment of fame for the night. So I had a lot riding on my shoulders and had to play several bars of the song without singing to allow for long solos from the bass player and then the keyboard player. Hard to judge and play it right to be fair to the other musicians.

But I loved it. And the organizer apparently thought I did well enough to ask me to do another. I told him I only had the one song that could be considered soul – and I completely forgot my own song “Memories” could fit the bill – but he said that was all right. So I chose “What’s Up!” and did it and the audience sang along and the solos were longer and it all just fell into place and we had a fabulous time. Well, except I STILL have not got the count down on that one perfectly so I wandered off a bit at a couple of points leaving the other musicians at sea – but it went well and they thanked me.

I thanked the organizer and I felt like pushing myself out the door was the best thing I could have done. Got the Caveau des Oubliettes done finally after two years worrying about it! Afterwards, though, when I saw the level of the other singers and performers, I was grateful that I got on immediately. Had I seen the others play, I might once again have sucked out, they were so good.

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