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A Real Rush, at the Rush Bar Open Mic in Paris

June 6, 2017
bradspurgeon

Rush Bar open mic

Rush Bar open mic

PARIS – Last night was yet another example that you cannot write about something reliably if you have not experienced it yourself. That may sound like something so obvious it need not be said. But I must admit that I had begun to hear so often from disparate people about this new open mic in Paris at bar called Rush, that I was tempted to put it on my Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, and put a note that said I had never attended. But the principle of my list has always been – unlike many other such sites and lists – that I have to have attended the open mic myself. And so I finally got a chance to go to the Rush Bar open mic, and I can say that it would have been as huge, huge mistake to write anything about this open mic without having attended. It is simply the most fabulous open mic I have attended in Paris in a long, long time.

I was wondering when Paris might have a newcomer open mic to rival the great ones of the past (like Earle’s open mic that started at the Shebeen, moved to the Lizard Lounge and then to the Truskel, or like the Ptit Bonheur La Chance open mic), these places that attract a loyal crowd of spectators and musicians and almost feel like – or are – a scene. Last night I found a worthy successor to the best of them at the Rush Bar. And this open mic has only been running for 18 sessions, weekly, which brings it to what, nearly five months?
momentary glance of Charlie Seymour opening the Rush bar open mic

I found all the perfect ingredients at the Rush last night: A bar manager who loves the open mic and music – and no doubt behind him a bar owner – a fabulous, friendly and fair presenter in Charlie Seymour – a longtime Paris expat musician –, and finally, a locale of the kind that seem to always work: A very small, cosy room where everyone is tightly knit together before the stage area. Interestingly, the Rush Bar also has a couple of very cool cellar rooms, and a kind of back room, or secondary room on the ground floor, all of which could host the open mic.
Kinky one at Rush bar open mic

But I think in that immediate entrance room of the bar – that also contains the bar itself – they have found the best location for the open mic. Additionally, this open mic is located in a cool part of Paris, not far from the Bastille, about halfway to Republic. In other words, ALL of the important ingredients are there. And the result is that the Rush Bar open mic has attracted a loyal and very diverse group of spectators and musicians.
French one at Rush bar open mic

The sound system is great for the voice, and not bad for the guitar, and they are open to adding instruments like lead guitar and bass. The styles played last night run the full gamut from folk to pop rock and blues. The age of the performers and spectators also runs the full gamut, from 20s to 60s…at least I think so…! So this is not just a young scene, but a real, vibrant open mic with all sorts of nationalities represented as well: Brits, Irish, Canadian, lots of French, North African and who knows what all else!
Diggin for Gold at Rush

It’s interesting that the Rush Bar open mic has become such a clear success in such a short period of time. There has been apparently not huge labor to attract people to it, for as one spectator and participant said to me last night, there has been practically no internet campaign to make it known. I think it just lit up because Paris still needs great open mics – despite the many it has – and because, above all, of those essential ingredients I mentioned.
nice quiet one at rush

Oh, by the way, I was happy to play near the beginning of the night, because I got to do five songs, even though the usual number is 2 or 3. There were not as many musicians early as there turned out to be later – the place was packed! And I felt that the guitar that was already plugged in was good enough and I chose not to use my new D-42. It did, indeed, turn out fine. I felt great, and what I noticed above all is a detail I have not yet mentioned: The spectators were there to listen. Or if they wanted to talk briefly, they would do so outside the bar, on the street, or on the exterior tables.
Perry at Rush

A perfect open mic evening at the Rush bar. Or as I say in my headline, a real rush!!!
Great Beatles one at Rush

A Piano City Day Ends on a Note From a Guitar Open Mic

May 30, 2017
bradspurgeon

Salumeria Open Mic

Salumeria Open Mic

I am late, late, late in coming out with this one, since a personal blog is all about momentum, and recently I lost the momentum. But I always say there is nothing to worry about on a personal blog – and in life itself – that if the momentum dips, pick up the momentum again! I’m referring to a day on my last trip to Italy that started with a piano event at the TAC Teatro that was just one of dozens set all around Milan, and ended with a fairly last-minute decision to hold an open mic at a bar-restaurant, which turned out to be a great success.

The first event, at TAC, was part of a city-wide event called “Piano City,” in which for a three-day weekend there are small piano concerts all over Milan. TAC hosted one of these little concerts, with a demonstration of four-handed piano playing. It was quite successful, with perhaps close to 30 spectators. When you consider there were dozens of these events in various locations throughout the city on the same day, that must have brought together quite an audience for the piano!

“This year, once again, pianos will invade houses, yards, stations, roofs, farmsteads, museums, schools, libraries, laboratories, parks. Music won’t stop from the sunset to the dawn and from the dawn until the sunset in a continuous love declaration for the piano, its music and for the city of Milan,” says the Piano City web site. “In these last six years, like a kaleidoscope, we changed and shaped ourselves to give voice to the music and to the most surprising urban sites. 2017 edition wants to tell about these five years of changes throughout Milan. A two-day&night journey from the centre to the suburbs on the notes of our pianos spread in the best spaces telling the story of the city from historical locations to new areas.”


Piano City event at TAC Teatro

That same night, I went to an impromptu open mic at the cool bar/restaurant near the Via Padova called, Salumeria del design. It seems the open mic was part of another related musical day event, but in any case, the bar decided to open the mic to any musicians who wanted to play. It turned out to have a wide-cross-section of styles, if there were only four or five of us in total. But that gave us the opportunity to share the mic throughout the evening.
Fifth at the Salumeria open mic in Milan

And I enjoyed hearing the different Italian musicians singing Italian songs I had never heard, and keeping the English to a minimum – or leaving it to me. I got to close the evening, playing to just a handful of people at the end who wanted to hear me, after quite a raucous night of music before that with the crowd singing along to the popular Italian repertoire….
Second at the Salumeria open mic in Milan

From the Arci Turro Jam to an Impromptu Jam at Ligera

May 20, 2017
bradspurgeon

MILAN – Wednesday night in Milan for me has mostly two significations: The Arci Turro jam and the jam at the Milan Joy bar. But last Wednesday I decided after a spell at the Arci Turro – in fact, when it ended at midnight – to go off to the Spazio Ligera bar for a nightcap and forgo the Joy bar jam. But Ligera being Ligera, I found myself invited to open my guitar case and play a few songs. Then one of the owners decided to play a song on my guitar behind the bar, then another one decided to bring out a bongo and invite me to play more while he played the bongos. And so there I was with a jam anyway…!

The Arci Turro was only slightly calmer than the last time I attended and reported about it on this blog. But that too gave me to the opportunity to play more songs behind the mic – and to expose myself as a complete beginner on a classic Chicago blues song….
Jam at Arci Turro

The Spazio Ligera bar proved itself to be the genial, warm and open place I have always said it was. There is often the possibility to just pick up a guitar and play, if not much else is going on – especially not in the concert room in the basement.
jam moment at Spazio Ligera

In any case, it was a fine feeling of fulfilment from the jam point of view last Wednesday in a completely unexpected way – par for the Milan course….

The First Open Reading at TAC Teatro in Milan – Bluegrass Style….

May 13, 2017
bradspurgeon

TAC Open Reading

TAC Open Reading

MILAN – TAC Teatro has a very cool theater room with spotlight and pulpit and seats for the spectators that had been set up to host the company’s first Open Reading on Thursday. But as the guess piled in bit by bit they gravitated towards a room at the back of the theater with a couch, tables, chairs. And bit by bit that gravitated group took the form of a circle. So when it came time for the first Open Reading to commence, Ornella Bonventre, the brains behind TAC, decided that it would be worse than a sin to break up the magical circle. She started the reading in the round. I realized it was very much like the traditional bluegrass jam in the round, round a microphone – but at TAC there was no need for a mic, either.

And so began, and so continued for at least four hours, the intimate reading in the round, featuring a fabulous cross-section of writers, poets, musicians, and just plain “normal people” with something to read or say – including a local representative from a refugee squat who had something to say about his peoples’ rights.

Alessio Lega at TAC Open Reading

I even had my turn to play a couple of songs and break up the literary feel of the evening by a kind of Trou Normande of music. I was not the only musician, there was the poet, writer, storyteller and musician by the name of Alessio Lega, with his guitar and his tales. And there was the up-and-coming rap artist, Cisky, whose discovery of rap and writing led him to rearrange his life during a stint in prison after a false start in life.

The most illustrious guest was certainly Maddalena Capalbi, a well-known, award-winning Milan-based writer. She did not read her own text, however, but left that to a fabulous, dramatic reading by Cisky.

Cisky at TAC Open Reading

All in all, it was a great evening of warmth in the circle – I just wish I could understand more Italian! But it was a fabulous event that shows once again the vast spectrum of shows that TAC hosts with success, whether that be a serious play like Edipo Rap – in which Cisky appears, by the way – a clown show – in which I have appeared in a kind of George Plimpton moment – a piano show, acting or writing lessons, or a group to defend against violence against women.

Another Fabulous Find in Milan at the Arci Turro Open Blues Jam

April 22, 2017
bradspurgeon

Arci Turro

Arci Turro

MILAN – This is just the kind of thing that confirms my increasing belief and understanding about the Milan cultural scene: It took until Wednesday evening for me to discover one of the coolest open jams in the city. And the Arci Turro open blues jam has been going on weekly for more than three years. How could I have missed it? The answer is simple and goes back to that bit about my understanding….

Milan is spread out all over the place. There is no real concentration of any particular kind of life in the city – except perhaps the most easily recognizable Duomo kind of life and its major commercial center in the middle of the city. Elsewhere, to find an open mic, an open jam, a theater, a music venue, you have to know where they are, either by word-of-mouth, or long, long experience and contacts.
Arci Turro blues jam second

Of course, it is all up there on the internet in one form or another, but that seems not very clearly communicated either. In any case, the xxx open jam takes place in one of the coolest bars I have discovered so far.

Located in a completely residential and/or business area just off the via Padova area, the venue sits on a side street with complete anonymity. It has a completely laid back club house sort of feel to it, with large dining tables in the front room, a neat bar in the back, a giant billiards table – the kind with no ball pockets – and a multi-level back porch with more tables and chairs. It is also decorated in almost a clubhouse kind of way, with newspaper clippings pinned to a corkboard, books in shelves, and various other bric-a-brac.
Arci Turro blues jam first

In fact, it is something of a clubhouse, as it is the location of an association that is linked to all sorts of events, and just happens to have this bar and jam – the blues jam is run by Giulio Brouzet, who joins in on harmonica and vocals, depending on the situation. There is also an upright piano, and basically it seems every kind of instrument is accepted.

I played with my guitar and sang, and accompanying me were a trumpet player, a violin player, a harmonica player, a drummer, and a lead guitar player. There may have been more, but as you sit in something close to a circle halfway between the two main rooms of the venue, I’m not sure I saw all the people who were playing along when I did my number! And, yes, I did not do a blues song, since I don’t know how to play any – so although the emphasis here is about 90 percent blues, the jam is open to other things, or at least a broad definition of blues.
Arci Turro blues jam … after the jam around midnight….

In any case, the atmosphere is so cool at the Arci Turro in both the jam and the bar in general, that I will be sure to return whenever I can. It also happens to be on the same night of the week as the Joy Milano jam that I have written about several times, but as it turns out, the Arci Turro ends around 23:30 and the Joy Milano only really gets swinging into high action at around that time, so you can go from the one to the other. As did several of the musicians last Wednesday, I was told. But I was so comfortable at the Arci Turro that I hung around for another hour or so talking to people on the back porch and drinking some of the many available wines….

Another, Even Better, Night Playing at the Bachelite Clab (sic) open mic in Milan

April 14, 2017
bradspurgeon

Bachelite CLab Milano

Bachelite CLab Milano

MILAN – I finally had the chance to attend my second Bachelite Clab open mic in Milan last night nearly four months after my first time there. As I have mentioned many times before on this blog, Milan is not really that rich in open mics and open jams. But the ones it does have, are fun – maybe for that very reason of their rarity. In any case, last night, what turned out to be my second taste of this new open mic in Milan also turned into basically something like a 1-hour gig, complete with a drummer and pianist backing me up with my guitar….

Running every second Thursday, this Bachelite bar open mic has so far had a perfect score for me in terms of enjoyment. And much fun as I had the first time at the Bachelite, last night was even better. They changed the location of the stage from the high “bird’s nest” mezzanine at the back of the bar to the front area between the bar and the entrance to the venue.

first at Bachelite Clab open mic in Milan

So it was that the piano and drum set were also located in that quite sizeable area, and for the musician you now have a view of the whole venue, including the bird’s nest part, which is now a mezzanine for customers to sit at tables. The effect is that the open mic is much more intimate. This new stage area is also located next to the front pane glass window and the bar entrance, so you can see and play to the people standing outside smoking cigarettes.

second at Bachelite Clab open mic in Milan

In any case, I managed to play in two sets – the closing set being just two songs – a total of probably close to an hour. And most of that with a pianist and the drummer. Great fun. I do wish there were more Italian musicians showing up to this open mic, but the word still has to pass around, no doubt.

third at Bachelite Clab open mic in Milan

The bar, in any case, and its owner, are clearly made for music. There is also a weekly blues jam, as I have pointed out on my Thumbnail guide to open mics in Milan….

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

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