Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

From the Feline to the Pigalle Country Club, two open mics in Paris on the same night, one after the other just down the metro line….

April 12, 2017
bradspurgeon

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – I used to dislike the fact that the Féline open mic in Paris ended so early. I used to dislike the fact that the open mic of the Pigalle Country Club in Paris started so late. Last night, for the first time in a long time visiting the open mics in Paris, I realised that it was the absolute perfect combination to have the one ending early and the other starting late: A few stops along the same metro line carries you from the one to the other, and that way, you can do two, two open mics in one night! As I did last night at the Feline and then the PCC near the place Pigalle….
a French song from Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire at La Feline in Paris

A highlight of the night at the jam-packed Féline open mic was the feature act that opened the evening: All the way from Canada, Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire, performed a set before the open mic. I missed it! I arrived late. But I say it was a highlight, because, as it turned out, Ariane played a short set AFTER the open mic as well, and I can say that even without seeing her opening act, I could tell that it had to be a highlight… her closing act was the highlight of the open mic.
Adeline and Syd at the Pigalle Country Club open mic in Paris

I too, as it turned out, had a great time behind the mic during my turn, and I was delighted that the room was full – mostly of Ariane’s audience! I was hugely, hugely relieved that in only the second time ever that I have tried to sing “So Long Marianne” of Leonard Cohen, which I have recently learned, the audience began to sing along.

another at La Feline open mic in Paris

From the Féline, I took the Line 2 of the metro over to the Place Pigalle and walked down the short distance to the Pigalle Country Club and it’s Tuesday night open mic, run by the people of the band, Burnin’ Jacks. It was the strangest thing when I entered this tiny little hole-in-the-wall bar and heard music, and I headed straight to the bar. I thought it was far too early for the open mic, and in my mind’s eye the music I heard was coming from the radio, the sound system.

Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire first at La Feline in Paris

By the time I got to the bar I realized that the music was coming from two of the Burnin’ Jacks playing behind the mic. I interrupted to tell them just that.

half the Burnin’ Jacks at the Pigalle Country Club open mic in Paris

Then, after they played, it was already my turn. That was two open mics in a row where I had to wait barely 10 minutes before I got up behind the mic. And in the PCC, I got to play around 40 minutes – at least that’s how long it seemed – and I had the accompaniment of two different members of the band, at two different times.

PAB at La Feline open mic in Paris

Of course, I decided to try to do that Leonard Cohen song again, and again it seemed to go well, as a head or two turned and a voice or two seemed to join in….

Sebastyen’s finale at La Feline in Paris

And that, I must say, is what feels like my first report on Paris open mics in a long, long time! May it be less long the next time….

tiny little bit of end of Canadian woman’s talk at La Feline open mic in Paris

An Update to My Paris Open Mic Guide

March 29, 2017
bradspurgeon

Thumbnail Open Mic Guide

Thumbnail Open Mic Guide

Just a note to say that I have updated my open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, for the first time since last June.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest open mics and jam sessions in Paris has now ceased: Caveau des Oubliettes. How such and institution could disappear is beyond imagining. I have also updated information in Brislee’s open mic at the Café Oz at place Blanche, as the bar has changed its name to La Fabrique – and I’ve updated the times Brislee runs the evening, since I realized it was slightly out of date – and I have also now shifted over, yet again, the Tennessee Bar open mic from the Thursday back to the Tuesday – and apparently we can forget its traditional date of Monday! I have also updated the shifting scene at the Oasis 244 bar, with its three open musical nights per week. There are other open mics in Paris, of course, that I have not even put on the list, as I only put those I attend, and there are several new ones I have not attended….

But The Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, remains the most extensive and up-to-date guide of the Paris open mic scene. Check it out!

A Jam in Milan, a Jam in Paris – and the Jamming Goes On….

February 13, 2017
bradspurgeon

Le Paradis

Le Paradis

PARIS – Back in Paris now, I attended a great open mic/jam on Saturday that I have written about several times. It has never ever let me down, even though it can vary from week to week. But the feeling at Le Paradis bar jam is invariably worth the attendance. And when I think of it, the second version of the Joy jam bar in Milan on Wednesday was even better than the first edition. In any case, despite their differences, there is a similarity of feeling between the two: People loving to play and people loving to listen, to music.
In bars, in open jam situations with no stage, just musicians getting up and playing together, musicians who do not know each other, and the clients who do not know the musicians.
Joy jam milan second

I’m just running on at the mouth at the moment, trying to make text areas on this page with which to divide up the space where I will put the videos from each of these open jam sessions.
joy jam milan first

I waited longer than usual to post, and so therefore, I have been terribly irresponsible, and only the general, fantastic vibe of the two nights has remained with me. Along with the point that a jam session, whether it is in Milan or Paris or Shanghai or Seoul or Melbourne or New York or London, is ALWAYS a moment of great emotional celebration, togetherness and release.
joy jam milan fourth

Too bad the rest of the world could not learn from that!
atmosphere at le paradis jam

Check out the videos….
fifth at le Paradis

third at le Paradis

sixth at le paradis

second at le paradis

Joy jam milan third

Learning by Osmo-sis. (Osmo at the Oz – Part II)

February 1, 2017
bradspurgeon

Oz Open Mic Paris

Oz Open Mic Paris

PARIS – So already another week has passed and somehow I have put nothing on my blog since the Osmo camera post last week after visiting the Café Oz open mic in Pigalle. And here I am a week later with Chapter II: Visiting the Oz open mic again, again with my new Osmo camera. On the other hand, I am happy to report that not only did I get a tiny little bit better with handling the camera, but the open mic itself was miles more fun for me than last week, thanks to the presence of a few friends who suddenly all showed up for the visit of the amazing Aaron Bowen of San Diego, on one of his frequent visits to Europe….

So there I was again with the handheld Osmo steady cam, and this time figuring out how to use it a little better in terms of the image and camera movements, but unfortunately, it was only halfway through the evening that I learned how to improve the sound reception. Unfortunately, for Aaron Bowen’s set, the sound level was still a little low, and so the volume is not very high, and the sound not as crisp as it should be.
Brislee Introduces Bowen and Saxo

I managed to correct that problem for the set of the amazing Ash Gray and his fabulous Lowden guitar and playing and singing. Is it possible to say that Aaron Bowen and Ash Gray are opposites in style? No, not really, there’s something that ties their music together, though I’m not sure what it is – maybe just the commitment. In any case, Aaron was in from San Diego, and this time with his electric guitar, and his ever melodious vocals. And this time, joined by Stephen Saxo, who plays…yes, you got it….
Bowen and Saxo first

Stephen, with whom I have played many times in the past, also played along with me last night, on my “Borderline,” and a song I rarely sing, but feel inspired to sing in the context of the Trump presidency, since the song is a kind of protest song against the establishment trying to take away our personal freedoms…. (It’s called “Sing It” and has a very 1960s feel and inspiration to it.)
Ash Orphan first

Also present was Ventru, whom I have written about many times on this blog, including when I ran into him at an open mic in Montreal, although he is from France and was only in Canada on a holiday. At the time he played last night, I was no longer filming, though, so I’ll wait for a future occasion to Osmo him.
Another Bowen and Saxo

In any case, as the experiences grow with the Osmo, I’m hoping it will all come together soon in the best sound AND images possible for this blog….
A second long Ash Orphan in 4K

Osmo at the Oz – A New View for Open Mics?

January 25, 2017
bradspurgeon

DJI Osmo

DJI Osmo

PARIS – I started this blog in 2010 at the same time as I bought what felt to me like a revolutionary little video and music-filming device, my first Zoom recorder. It was the device that since that time – with upgrades – allowed me to make quick and easy videos with great sound of open mics and open jams all over the world. Now, finally, seven years later, I have found a new device that could entirely revolutionize again the way I make videos for this blog. Or maybe not. Last night was the first time I got to try my new DJI Osmo steady camera video recording device, and I did so at a pretty typical kind of open mic space. The experience was mixed – with some really great high points, and some lower ones….

I first learned about this fabulous camera called the Osmo, from a fellow journalist covering the Formula One series; and that he was using this camera for pit and paddock interviews for NBC, the major American network, made me perk up my eyes and ears. The Osmo looks like some kind of extraterrestrial, some kind of ET, mixed with your mobile phone. I am using a Samsung, but any phone can connect to it. The telephone is used as your eyes on what the camera is doing, and it also is the base for the program you download to run the camera. The connection is done over a wifi that the camera itself produces – i.e., the telephone connects to the camera via the camera’s wifi.
Oz mic second

The beauty of this thing is that it is portable, it is not very expensive – I got it on sale for 499.99 euros at Fnac, since the newer model is out at about 700 euros, but also has a zoom – and that it films in 4K and, above all, is a steady cam. That means you can walk around with it in your hand and the image looks as if it is on rails. You move it with the movement of your arm, and with the joy stick that gives nearly 360 degree movement of the camera, as well as an up and down range. In short, for 500 euros you can produce perfectly still footage that looks like it came out of The Shining.

You also have a wide choice of resolution, including 1080p, which allows you to use a digital zoom, and right up to the latest 4K, as mentioned. I tried it in several different lighting environments, and it remains a natural image throughout.
Oz mic third

So where’s the down side? Well, I’m not sure entirely, yet, after just one use in an open mic. On the other hand, I know what I loved about my Zoom devices in open mics: I could carry a Zoom camera in my pocket, drop it, send it sliding across the floor of any barroom, without damage, even dropped the Zoom in the toilet in Australia only to have it return to life a week or so later, never having lost any footage on the camera. The Osmos is more delicate, has to be treated with respect, and while it cannot be carried in the pocket, it can be carried in my guitar case with no problem.

But ultimately, part of the advantage of this beast might also be a problem: With its almost fish-eye like capture, I may be ending up with more image from an open mic room than I want. I mean, does the open mic crowd want to be part of the film or not? With the Zoom, I could film just the performer. I can do that with the Osmo, too, but this gadget looks so strange and bulky compared to the subtle Zoom or any handheld camera device or telephone, that I cannot go filming in an open mic without being noticed as a geek, and potential threat to the naturalness of the situation. It stands out, and I do not want to get too close to the performer and interrupt the attention of his or her performance by everyone staring at my weird gadget.
Oz mic fourth

Next, there’s the sound. The Osmo has a built-in microphone that is absolute trash. Mine also came with a strange external mic you attach to it, but here, it is hell for music recordings as it picks up all of the sound of the camera and its motors as it turns about and swivels and stills the jagged movements of the handheld device. There is a setting where you can turn off the fan while filming, but the mic that hangs off the device still picks up all this mechanical movement sound.

Enter my hand held Sony mic that I bought more than a decade ago for my minidisc recorder. I plugged it into the Osmo and found a fabulously quiet way of recording. But while it was perfect for my voice talking, I feel that the sound quality difference to the Zoom is big for music, based on last night’s recordings at the Café Oz open mic. But I’m hoping this has to do with it being a vocal mic, and not a good mic for music – I’ll explore that. On the other hand, there is the “hands problem.” I mean, with a Zoom, you hold the device in one hand – with this Osmo, you are obliged to use both hands: One for the device, another for the mic.
Oz mic sixth

What is undeniable, is that for 500 euros, this is an insanely fabulous video camera. DJI invented its cameras first for drones, and then it came up with the idea of doing these handheld steady cam devices. And it is a real fabulous winner for what it does, and for someone wanting to make videos – music videos, reportages, etc. – this is a winner. I’ll just have to see if it really is great for me and my open mic adventure. Oh yes, and it seems to eat up my phone battery, and the battery for the device goes pretty quickly too….

So I’m not yet decided as to how practical and great this will be as a replacement for the Zoom – but this remains an amazing, amazing discovery and I will find lots of ways to use it – especially for my next music videos….

Check out the videos I did last night at the Café Oz open mic in Paris….

More Paradise at the Paradis Jam in Paris

September 26, 2016
bradspurgeon

Le Paradis

Le Paradis

PARIS – After a long summer break – I HATE THOSE THINGS – the open mic and jam session of the Paradis bar in Paris has started again. I attended on Saturday night, and I can say that this place just cannot put a foot wrong. This time, they changed the location of the “stage” area by putting it in front of the door. In the past, they’ve had it at the opposite end of the main room, and before the past, they had it in the middle of the room. It makes no difference: Once this open mic and jam gets going, it really gets going.

Located just a few steps away from the Barbès metro in one of Paris’s seediest areas, the ambience at this bar could not be better for an open mic. There are always good musicians, there is a manager and owner who loves to have the jam, and there are organizers who never let go.
Cool bit o Brice at Jam at Paradis

And the thing can go on so long that it can tire even me out, and I can arrive later, and still get to play. I really like this place. You don’t have the classic stage where you stand in front of the audience, but one of the things that makes this Paradis bar open mic and jam special is that you are in amongst the audience. Standing on the floor, playing the guitar or bass, or drums, or sax, or whatever you like, and you are not “confined” to a music area. Music is everywhere.
first at jam at Paradis

And then you can go outside and chat on the sidewalk out front.
fourth at jam at paradis

Or go in the back room and sit at a table and chat there. But mostly you’ll want to stand inside and listen to the music or take part. Everything from solo stuff to jamming with a bunch of like minded musicians.
funky rap type thing at jam at paradis

And the beer price is good too!!! Designed for poor musicians.
Nice intro we all know at jam at paradis


nother cool bit o brice guitar

Second at jam at Paradis
https://youtu.be/EbzadbQhX0o
Third at jam at paradis

How the New Ville d’Epinal Open Mic in Paris Inspired Me to Fix the Pick Up of My Guitar – and Other Irrelevant Frivolities

September 12, 2016
bradspurgeon

Ville d'EpinalPARIS – It was a kind of quiet night on Friday and I had planned to stay home and do some work on my various projects, as I have all week. But I received a message from a Facebook acquaintance who told me he had a friend who was as fascinated with open mics as I am, and I should contact him. So I did, and then I found that he had recently started an open mic near the Gare de L’Est in Paris, and it was for Friday night – which is a pretty barren night for open mics in Paris. So I decided to go and check it out, and use some of my meal tickets to treat myself to a meal out, at what turned out to be an interesting, hidden-away old-time Paris café on a kind of lost street running parallel to the railroad tracks.

It turned out to be the third time the open mic had taken place at this bar restaurant, called the Ville d’Epinal. And it had a nice crowd of people eating, dining, and wanting to see what the even was all about. I ate in the opening of the café with a view of the Gare de l’Est on the one side, and the stage area on the other.
first at the Ville d’Epinal open mic

I then went up and played a few songs, but found that once again my Seagull guitar was lifeless in the amp. Ever since the guitar had been used as a dance floor, despite having the wood surface fixed, the electronics had ceased to be reliable, working only in some places and not others, and giving off a buzz in yet others.

b-band-pick-up-like-the-one-in-my-seagullThis was enough for me, being once again in a situation where I was taking my guitar to an open mic and it wasn’t working. So the next night, Saturday, I decided I would take the whole thing apart and see if I could fix it. The B-Band pick up was, it turned out, pretty cluttered with a furry substance – no idea where that came from – and the connection between the bridge and the pick-up processor looked suspiciously not quite entirely plugged in to its limit. So I unplugged that, then plugged it back in, straightened out some of the wiring, restrung the guitar and put it all back together, and… it worked in an amp and with a cable that half an hour before it had not worked from.

second at the Ville d’Epinal open mic in Paris

So I have concluded that the guitar’s pick-up is now fixed! But I’ll see this week if it continues to work in Singapore, that humid city-state where in the past the pick up has failed to work upon arrival due – I think – to the flight and humidity….

Anyway, this long and meandering post is all to say that I had nice evening out – eating home cooked food – at the new open mic of the Ville d’Epinal café restaurant in Paris near the Gare de l’Est and that thanks to my frustration over my guitar in that place, I have finally got up off my butt and fixed the guitar! Thanks Ville d’Epinal. And I hope the open mic continues, and prospers. Paris has always needed a good Friday-night open mic…as the success of the briefly run open mic at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle last year showed….

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