Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Nightmare in the Cavern, Revenge at the Highlander

December 23, 2011

I went to the Highander open mic last night too late, finding I was last on the list, which meant playing near 1 AM. So I went after a while up the street to the Cavern, thinking I could take part in the vocal jam, which is like a live karaoke, ie, with a live band. I’ve gone there many times but only had the courage to sing about twice before. Last night, I gave up, lost courage, went to the metro and was about the catch the metro home…when I said, “You’re depressed as hell! No playing at the Highlander, no playing at the Cavern.” Go back, go back and sing with the band.

So I returned to the Cavern and asked to sing “What’s Up,” which is one of only two songs I feel I can do with that band. The band is very, tight, very cool, very nice, very professional. But I still feel very threatened by getting up in public and doing a karaoke, be it with a live band or a recording. When I sing a cover song, I do it to a great degree my own way, not the way it was recorded by the original band. So I got on stage at the Cavern all delighted with myself about having the courage to return and sing with the band. The bass player asks what key, “just like the original?” I say yes, of course, why not. I had, after all, done it there to moderate success once before, and done it at the Bus Palladium, to much more success. I had also done it in a karaoke in Mokpo, South Korea, and worked very well. So of course I thought I could do it in the original key – despite that I knew that when I did it on my guitar I put the capo on the sixth fret and that was what I needed to suit my voice.

The result? I was totally, completely and irreparably LOST. I sang in this low, low voice as the guitar player did the song with no capo, in G I imagine, but I’m not sure. My timing was off, I had no energy in my voice, it looked like it was the effort and result of a complete amateur who apparently did not even have any singing talent whatsoever. I sounded like complete crap, singing in this low voice with no power and energy, no conception of what the song was supposed to be. While I sang I made faces at the musicians of – “I’m so sorry, I’m lost, what a fuck up!” – and then I began to ask the audience for help with expressions of the same lost worthlessness. Some tried to help, but basically, I was the worst performer of the evening, and it was a complete and total mess. And if anyone saw me that night and only that night, they would laugh and say, “How could this guy get up there and do that when he obviously has not a shred of singing talent?”

I actually apologized to the audience afterwards and told them when I played it myself, I put the capo on the sixth fret – to which the bass player said, correctly, that I should have told him this myself…. Yes, but I didn’t. I was feeling out of control the moment I went on the stage, but also certain that things would take care of themselves…. Makes me feel like never returning to do such a thing again.

But what I did do was to go back to the Highlander and ask Thomas Brun if I could please have my slot back again and play just one song: “What’s Up.” And I told him why and how badly I had done at the Cavern. So Thomas, bless his soul, made room for me, I went up and I did the song, and I put the capo on the sixth fret and I had the whole room clapping, singing along and wanting more! “Why only one song, Brad!?!”

Is it not amazing how the same person, depending on the circumstance, can be considered a complete non-talent wipe out, or a star of the evening? My lesson? Probably nothing more than making sure I get the key right before doing a karaoke, and stopping the band if I haven’t got it right. Still, it would have been soooooo much better if I had been allowed to play the guitar at the Cavern; not just for me, but for the spectators, who would have had a real musical moment and not that embarrassing farce. My fault, however, not the band’s fault.

PS, aside from that, on Tuesday night I attended the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic as usual and heard some very cool and unusual musicians as usual, for which I will just put up a few videos and not go into detail, as I am about to run out to another open mic tonight.


  1. I once came off a horse going over a 1,75-metre jump. And you know what my instructor made me do, although I was covered in dirt and scratches, and all banged up? He made me get back on and jump again. Good for you for going back to the Highlander, and fair play to Thomas for working you in! I’m so glad your evening ended on a high note (pardon the pun).

  2. I love Thomas Brun!

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