Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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United States Open Mic Adventure Consolidated:

A micro trailer from the film: From the United States segment of “Out of a Jam.”

A podcast with an open mic MC, this one being Chris Olson, aka, Johnny Fargo, of B.D. Riley’s open mic in Austin, Texas: :

The Thumbnail Guide: Thumbnail Guide to Austin Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music

A link to a favorite blog item from the past: STUMBLING INTO THE LAST OPEN MIC AT A NEW YORK INSTITUTION – BANJO JIM’S

A favorite video: Kate Sland and Erik Frandsen 86d at Caffé Vivaldi in NYC:

An excerpt from the Book: from the New York City chapter of OUT OF A JAM: An Around-the-World Journey of Healing and Rebirth Through Music:

After our short visit to Kenny’s, and while still on the way to my former residence, I decided to try to find where Gerde’s Folk City had been located. The man in the music shop had said it was on the corner of East Third Street and First or Second Avenue. But after 26 years living in Paris and returning to New York City only once during that time, the Village looked so different, unrecognizable to my memory, and I could not situate myself at all. It was much more wide open than I remembered it; bigger streets, fewer trees and more concrete. The village, in my memories from the mid-70s, felt like a village. Today it felt like a city, a downtown area. It felt like nothing of the Manhattan that I remembered. My memories threw together all of the clubs into the same spot – Gerde’s was around the corner from The Bitter End and the Village Vanguard was across the street, they were all together, giving very much a village feeling, a little stomping ground. Today I found it all wide-open, broad; nothing distinguished the village from the rest of the city. And as I searched for Gerde’s Folk City my memory of where it was, in a tree-lined location, bore no resemblance to where I found myself.

I saw something that looked like it might have been a door leading into Gerde’s, but it did not seem anything like my memory either. I had remembered it as a warm place, a warm bar at the front and a cosy room at the back with a large stage. There, I had once met David Peel of the Lower East Side Band, a friend of John Lennon’s. There, I had seen Steve Forbert play two or three times at the open mic, and I spoke to him while the two of us stood in a line-up outside as we waited to put our name on the performers’ list. It was all gone. I recognized none of it.

The first time I played at Gerde’s open mic, I had done my traditional Celtic song, Raggle Taggle Gypsies and a Bob Dylan song. I could not keep time on the guitar; I had not memorized the lyrics. I was an 18-year-old kid who did not know the difference between “achieving something” and “becoming famous.” For me the goal was as much fame as it was music or comedy or acting. The goal was to “make it.” How I got there didn’t really matter. True, I had begun working on my entertainment skills in order to refocus my boundless energy on something constructive after a period of frittering away my energies on drugs. But at that time, I was as keen to “make it” as I was to create art, thinking there I would fill the emotional void in my life with the love of the audience’s applause. I would play song fragments with little skill, but nevertheless with a raw emotional and melodic quality to my voice. I hoped to seduce and capture the audience with my presence alone. None of this world I was looking at now, more than 30 years later, felt anything like that one; but that, I now realize, was also because I was seeing it through different eyes. Still, knowing it was there somewhere, that it might be this door, it might be that door, but to not know precisely which one was the Gerde’s door of the past, or if it was really any of them, was strange. It was haunting.

And so it was that, in a way, I felt that whatever might happen, my return to New York City would not so much be about my return to play in the New York City places of my past. I was not the musician I had been; I was not the same man I had been back then. I was a new musician; I was a new person in many ways. In other ways I was not: In some senses I was still the boy of 18 searching for meaning in life, for a reason to live, for happiness and the right way to live – above all the right way to live, the way that best suited me.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Worldwide Open Mic Journey 2014: The Multimedia Consolidation – United States | Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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