Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

From Montreal to Baku, Azerbaijan – Too Much, Too Fast to Keep Up-to-Date

June 16, 2016
bradspurgeon

Shirvan shakir's Palace located in the Inner City of Baku, Azerbaijan, It was built in 14-15th century. The Inner City of Baku is in the list UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Shirvan shakir’s Palace located in the Inner City of Baku, Azerbaijan,
It was built in 14-15th century.
The Inner City of Baku is in the list UNESCO World Heritage Site.

BAKU, Azerbaijan – What? Baku? And this is supposed to be about Montreal because I was last there and…? I left off on this blog in Wakefield, Quebec, I am now in Baku, Azerbaijan, and I spent the weekend – and more – in Montreal. So what happened to all those adventures?!? Before they fade from mind – which they will never do entirely – I want to take note here of the extraordinary three nights I spent doing open mics across the world. Starting with the fantastic Mariposa Café open mic in Montreal, where I had an incredible meeting with a guy I know from many, many open mics in Paris! Ventru….
another xprime at Brutopia

It was Thursday night, and I had just arrived in Montreal. I had written my story as a preview for the race, and I was pretty exhausted from the travel from Wakefield to Montreal, the story research and writing, and I thought, hey, take the night off the open mic scene. But one of the most interesting and fun open mics of Montreal drew me on, inexorably. Well, especially also because I had heard that a colleague from the paddock, Luis from Brazil, was going to attend.
dylan hennessey at mariposa open mic

So I packed up my courage and my guitar, and headed off to the Mariposa Café open mic that I had discovered last year. Located in a really funky bar/café/restaurant, the open mic was in full swing when I arrived. And it was clear through seeing the crowd and performer through the front window that this was a vintage edition. But what awaited me at the top of the stairs as I entered was, at first, something I took to be an hallucination.
third at mariposa

I see sitting there the performer from Paris who goes by the stage name of “Ventru.” We have done many open mics together for the last three or so years, in Paris, and the last thing I expected was to see him in Montreal. In fact, my brain was sent for a strange ride through its recollection files as it tried to compute how it could be that this Ventru guy was here in Montreal – was it really him? Or did I know him from Montreal, rather than Paris? All sorts of dementia tricks came into play before I realized that it was just simply Ventru on a visit to Montreal and attending an open mic where I was attending, and where, I should say, he half expected to see me!
Brad Spurgeon at mariposa

Anyway, the place was just bursting with performers, audience and vibe. And although I arrived late, my name was on the list as I had warned of my coming in advance, and they have a big heart at the open mic in the Mariposa Café – Victor, the organizer, was awaiting me….
another at brutopia

Ventru destroyed the audience, which was mostly anglophile who spoke some French, but also many French speakers. At least I think there were quite a few! In any case, it was a quiet, respectful audience as usual, and some fabulous performers. Oh, and Ventru filmed my first song – where I was nervous as hell, scared shitless at that attention paid to me, and unpracticed thanks to all the work.
another xprime

And from Mariposa Café to the fabulous night at the Brutopia open mic

Another of my favorite open mics in Montreal is the Sunday night Brutopia bar’s open mic on Crescent Street. I did not attend this one last year, as I chose to try another in another part of town. I ended up missing Brutopia, so there was no problem choosing to return this year.
aussie at brutopia

It started as a quiet night, and by the time the open mic began, there were only two names on the list, including my own. So I feared I had made a bad choice. But as the night progressed, so progressed the number and quality of performers. I could not believe what a fabulous evening it turned in to, and it had one of the those events that I so enjoy at open mics: A fairly well established young band of musicians – or two of the band – decided to go up and expose themselves in the open mic environment, i.e., using instruments not their own, in a makeshift arrangement of mic and sound system, and just going for it.
cool one at brutopia

That was the young band, Xprime, from Niagara Falls. They have a very, very cool sound, but at the same time they were capable of doing one of the neatest, most exact Beatles covers I have ever heard live. This night at Brutopia, in which I got to play twice, or like six songs, was just way beyond my imaginings. A must-attend open mic in Montreal.
duet at brutopia

And from Montreal it was on to Baku and a first – or rather, second – night of open mic

The travel onwards from there was pretty dire. I had an Air France flight from Montreal to Paris for Monday night to Tuesday, and then an Azerbaijani Airlines flight from Paris to Azerbaijan, 3 hours after arriving in Paris. At least, that was the plan. But there was a pilot’s strike in Air France, and the Paris airport and city were embroiled in all sorts of labor actions….
xprime cover

Also, I had a final one of 6 articles to write for my preview to the Le Mans race this weekend, and by consequence did not sleep on the flight from Montreal to Paris. Or only about an hour and a half absolute max. Once in Paris I spent three hours trying to get my boarding pass for Azerbaijan, and then the flight was delayed two hours.
Mc Quentin at Brutopia

So by the time I got to Baku, I was washed out (as the French say). On my first day, though, just before leaving the Formula One circuit, I decided to check out the open mic scene and…FOUND an open mic that was about to begin less than an hour later!!! It looked like it might be the last of the open mics available to me this week, so I jumped on that opportunity immediately.
rapping at brutopia

It is not often that I arrive in a completely new city for me, and find an open mic the first night. This was the last open mic before their summer break at the Pancho’s Mexican/Adam’s Curries bar restaurant. I could not believe my good fortune to find a real, bona fide open mic in the middle of Baku on my first night. (Barring the late night arrival on the first day when my brain was in a state of molasses and it was too late anyway.)
very cool one at brutopia

So I go to this bar, which felt like a cross-section of a little of everything – part Mexican, part curry, part Baku, Turkic Azerbaijani whatever – and found that the MC was from Colombia, the musicians from the U.S., England, Azerbaijan and … Colombia (the MC).
yodelling at brutopia

And so I got to go up and play, and had I not had plans to go out and eat at a real restaurant afterwards instead of the bar, I would have had a chance to play a second set. Oh, and it was so remarkable: The Azerbaijani band actually started off by singing a song in French!!!! You don’t even find that in Paris, let alone Baku.
second at Mariposa

I’m hoping to play at least one more time here, and if I can find more places, even more. For the moment, I can only recommend this amazing city very, very highly. I’m staying in the old town, finding it picturesque and warm and the people are fabulous. I have not been this close to an Iranian type of situation since the Revolution. But it also reminds me of Turkey; another of my favorite places in the world….

first at poncho’s in baku

second at poncho’s

third at Pancho’s

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