Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

It’s Sundown at Some Girls for Olivier the MC (of Ptit Bonheur fame), as He Takes His Leave From Open Mic Presentation – Big Party

July 23, 2017

Some Girls

Some Girls

PARIS – This just in: Olivier Yaco Mouchard (also known under several other IDs over the years) has just announced that on Tuesday, this Tuesday, 25 July, he will be presenting the final open mic of his musical career. This will take place at the latest of the venues where he has hosted open mics over the years, the bar on the rue de Lappe, off the Bastille, called Some Girls. It is the end of an era, but I have a suspicion that it is just the beginning of another era of another kind.

I first met Olivier at the original Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic in that cellar joint near the Pantheon. Actually, we met before that, but what the heck. Olivier took over the running of the Ptit Bonheur very early in the history of this astounding open mic, inheriting the job from his friend Olivier. (Don’t ask for an explanation on that, please.)

The open mic of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance lasted around three years, give or take a year, and it was the coolest open mic of the period. It attracted cool musicians from all over the world and was set in a very neat, intimate, cellar environment in a fabulous bar. The ground floor was a meeting place and a talking place, leaving the cellar room the quiet place for listening (or singing along).

Eventually the bar lost one of the three or four key ingredients when its owner decided to leave to open a café-restaurant not too far away in the neighbourhood. Another owner came – renaming it La Tireuse – and despite being somewhat sympathetic, they managed to screw up some of the ingredients, like changing the design of the basement room where the music took place, and it was never the same again.

I made a little film of the last open mic at the first incarnation of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic (before La Tireuse), which I will put on this page to allow people to remember this period – and Olivier, if you are not quite sure who I mean!

Short film of the end of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic

Olivier had a stint running the open mic of the Tennessee Bar as well, but it never recovered from the loss of its original MC, James Iansiti, despite being a cool setting. Olivier then moved on to take a role in running one of the longest-lasting open mics in Paris, the one at the Pop In. The Pop In being the only bar in the world from which I have been banned – read about that horrible Pop In story on this blog – I never did take part in Olivier’s MCing at that place.

Finally, Olivier ended up starting this open mic at the Some Girls bar what feels like a couple of years ago, but may be less, or may be more! I went many times, and found Olivier to be doing his usual great MCing, and music playing.

Olivier in his new bar???

Olivier in his new bar???

I have seen something somewhere about Olivier advertising for some kind of bar staff, so without actually speaking to him, I have a suspicion he may be involved in setting up his own bar. But that is completely speculation on my part. If he does, of course, maybe we will be lucky enough to find him having an open mic at his own bar. Then we’ll have two of the essential ingredients of a successful open mic combined: An enthusiastic and sympathetic bar owner, and a great MC.

(Note: I have learned since posting this that Olivier has indeed bought his own bar. It is called Le Rosalie, and it is located near the St. Ambroise metro, not far from the Rush bar open mic I have mentioned many times in recent posts. So a great stop off point before the open mic????)

Olivier, I cannot forget to mention, since it was the key to all the rest, is a great musician too. His latest musical effort being a band he calls Sundown.

So if you really want to take part in what I can only imagine as a great final night for Yaco on Tuesday at the Some Girls bar (not sure yet if the bar itself will continue an open mic), I’m linking again the Facebook invitation as I did in the first paragraph above, for the last Some Girls open mic, and the last of Olivier Yaco Mouchard Sundown.

Rushing Onwards Through the Summer at the Rush Bar Open Mic in Paris

July 22, 2017

Rush Bar open mic

Rush Bar open mic

PARIS – I’ve waited to run this post as a preview to the Rush Bar’s open mic this coming Monday, in Paris, rather than running it as a post-view. (Does this word exist?) It is a way of compensating for what has become my favourite open mic in Paris of the moment, for which I am writing far too many blog posts – but not praising enough!

Yes, the Rush Bar is approaching its six months of existence on the Paris open mic scene in another week or so, and the spirit that is carrying it through the summer months while so many other open mics close down, is testament to its coolness….
jamming at the rush bar

Last Monday’s edition was as warm as ever, and in addition to many regular musicians, there is a constant flow of new ones, providing just the refreshing feel that any open mic needs to remain vital.
more at the rush bar

What is all this frothing at the mouth writing I’m doing on this place? Actually, just a way at this particular moment of filling in the paragraphs to provide lines between which to place the videos of some of last Monday’s performances….
blues at the rush bar

See you Monday….
Varzu at the Rush

A Night at the Harp to Welcome Home All the Roads after a Year Travelling all the Roads

July 17, 2017

All the Roads on the Road

All the Roads on the Road

PARIS – Just a quick note to note the notes noted at The Harp on Saturday night in honor of the return after a year to Paris of Romain Bretoneiche, also known as “All the Roads,” also known as the longtime MC of the open mic at the Galway Pub open mic in Paris. Romain and his girlfriend took a year out of the daily slog to live a little by travelling all the roads of the world in an around-the-world voyage.
Romain and his sister at the harp

On Saturday, at The Harp pub which is located halfway between the Place Clichy and the Place Blanche, Romain and his friends and family organized a party celebrating his return. This is kind of a personal sort of blog item, but I feel that since I must have reported at least 50 times on my visits over the years to the Galway Pub open mic (which is happening tonight, by the way), it was appropriate to report Romain’s return….
Ludow at the Harp

Brad Spurgeon  at The Harp(Photo by: Ludow Forget)

Brad Spurgeon at The Harp (Photo by: Ludow Forget)

Why it was not celebrated at the Galway, I have no idea. But the evening of music and imbibing at The Harp was perfect. I had never been in this pub, and it lives up to its name.
jamming at the harp

A great night, and lots of fun playing on the small stage at the back of the room, despite the general atmosphere of talk, welcoming Romain back in town. Let us see what this fine musician does next….
jake at the harp

Another Little Open Mic Crawl in Pigalle

July 14, 2017

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – I suddenly realized on Tuesday night in Paris that without even putting my mind to work to think about it, I had a possible four open mics to attend as well as the gig of a friend, and that three of these were in Pigalle, within a short walking distance of each other. Unfortunately, the gig at the Chat Noir – of Simon Ferrante, who is now doing the Cavern open mic I wrote about last week – was already finished when I arrived. But not far away, on the Place Blanche, Brislee’s open mic at the Fabrique was in full swing. And I followed that one with another visit to the Pigalle Country Club open mic, near the Place Pigalle.

Brislee’s was as fun and as musical as usual, and he announced that next week’s edition is the last before the summer break. So don’t miss it, get there on Tuesday – preferably early….
second at Pigalle Country Club

Down the road, or up the road, whatever it is, was the Pigalle Country Club, where I walked in to find a familiar sound of voice and playing I had not heard for years. There was a fairly large cross-section of performers including the usual suspects, some members of the Burnin’ Jacks, and even some Italian tourist women (whom I did not get to make a video of for this blog, since they asked if I could make a video of them with their phone!).
First at Brislee’s

I was happy to find myself being able to play when most people went out for a cigarette break (!), so that gave me the kind of peace and freedom to try again a song that I have rarely performed in public, and so therefore need to practice in a live environment: “So Long Marianne,” by Leonard Cohen. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think one or two people who didn’t smoke also enjoyed it well enough!
First at Pigalle Country Club

In any case, it was a fun and relaxing time at the Pigalle Country Club, and I love this place’s quirkiness, and its decision to keep going through the summer (unlike so many Parisian establishments that close down their open mics)….
Second at Brislee’s

Stay tuned in for more summer open mic adventures in Paris!

Le Cavern Relaunches an Open Mic Night in Paris – or Maybe….

July 8, 2017

Simon Ferrante helping a singer at Cavern open mic in Paris

Simon Ferrante helping a singer at Cavern open mic in Paris

PARIS – A few years ago one of the best vocal jams in Paris took place at a bar fabulously well-located, on the rue Dauphine in the Latin Quarter. Better than the location was the extraordinary basement room where the jams took place it wore its name perfectly: Le Cavern. The bar seemed to have done everything perfectly for the vocal jam, with a great group of musicians backing anyone who wanted to come on stage and sing the rock and pop standards, the great room, a bar owner that must have loved the jam. Everything was there for several years. Then suddenly I went one day to find it had ended. No idea why. Anyway, the Cavern still exists, it still has its great little stage in the comfortable cavern cellar room, and on Thursday it tested out a new open mic format. Run by Simon Ferrante, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter from the north of France, but who has lived in Paris for years, the night was a kind of “anything goes” evening mix open mic and open jam. I went, and I’ll probably go again….
Simon at Cavern open mic

I immediately fell back in love with being in the Cavern, but I also immediately had the same sense of stagefright on the stage that I always had there. This time, though, I was much more in my own personal element as it was possible just to play the acoustic guitar and sing – with the previous jam, you virtually had to play with the band, and an acoustic guitar – or even playing the instrument yourself – was not hugely encouraged.
Rockin blues at Cavern open mic

That said, the open mic on Thursday welcomed all kinds of band formations, there is a drum set, and electric guitars in addition to the acoustic, and I was allowed to call up a drummer once I decided to get a bit of movement into the playing – after much of the stagefright had subsided.
first at Cavern open mic

In the end, it was quite a successful night in terms of the number of musicians and spectators. So I hope the Cavern will continue the gig. Ferrante, whom I met the first time at the Highlander open mic around the corner a few years ago, said that Thursday’s was just a trial gig and he would have to wait to see what happened.
Duet at Cavern

So I will keep my fingers crossed.
another at cavern

bit o bob at cavern

Explication of the Text of My Life at the Moment, and the Future of that Life and this Blog

July 7, 2017



PARIS – No I am not in retirement!!! In recent weeks I have bumped into friends and acquaintances who have wondered about my working status as they have been slightly confused by some of my recent blog posts that make them think that I have, or am about to, “slow down” and “retire.” After another such moment at a bar in the Latin Quarter last night, I decided it was time to make clear to readers of this blog one of the biggest changes in my life “situation,” that came about in phases over the end of last year and the beginning of this year. This blog was always linked to a degree to my world travel to F1 races, so while this is a long, drawn-out and personal post that may not even interest many of my friends let alone a casual reader of the site, it seems to make sense to lay down some markers for the future of the blog as well….

I worked at the International Herald Tribune – which then became the International New York Times – in Paris from December 1983 until December 2016. Last fall, The New York Times decided to close down its editorial and production operation in Paris as part of a global expansion. (Don’t ask me to try to explain that!) This essentially put an end to the 130-year run of creating a newspaper in Paris that started as the European edition of The New York Herald, and that morphed into the Herald Tribune and then in 1967 to the International Herald Tribune (owned by The New York Times, The Washington Post and Whitney Communications), before turning into the International New York Times in 2013 after 10 years under sole ownership of the NYT.

While there was a lot of focus from the media – and rightly so – on the death of this long tradition of an American newspaper in Paris, I want to also note that there still remains a staff of some nearly 50 people in the advertising department and other areas of the New York Times International Edition based in Paris, with many of these people having started out decades ago at the IHT. But as far as producing a newspaper in Paris, with its own editorial and production staff, as had been done since 1887, that came to an end last fall, and 69 people were fired. I was one of these 69 people. But my last, long-standing gig at the paper, which was a full-time job reporting on Formula One car racing, was not one of the aspects of the newspaper that they actually wanted to get rid of. But apparently it made sense to management to fire me along with everyone else, and then offer to me that I continue covering Formula One as a freelance.

This, in any case, is what happened. I at first said yes to the proposal to freelance (I had no choice on the firing business!). It seemed fabulous that I could have my cake and eat it too – i.e., I would receive my indemnities, and my unemployment insurance, and the help from various French organizations designed to aid us in our transition back to employment or, as I chose, to start a new company, and I would continue to work as a freelance. (It’s not quite that straightforward a situation, but that’s what it amounts to.)

But then, in early 2017, I learned that the newspaper would massively reduce the number of special reports about Formula One – the backbone in recent years of my work at the newspaper – to the point that the job I had been doing really and truly no longer did exist! Yes, I would have a handful of articles to write, but not enough to make a living or support a career.

To remain a Formula One expert to write those few articles would nevertheless mean being “on” all of the time regarding the series. Being an expert on F1 is a full-time job, a full-time passion and a full-time preoccupation. All of this would in turn mean that I would not be able to focus enough on my more important job of starting the company – my new legal entity – to build a future life and career. I decided to forgo the bits and pieces of freelance. So it was that the day before I received my 2017 full-season accreditation acceptance for Formula One, my F1 reporting career had officially ended.

Henceforth, I would devote myself to the founding of my new company, which I am calling “Unfinished Business,” and which will be launched officially in November. This will be the legal entity for all of the projects that I am passionate about and was never able to focus on seriously enough while working full-time covering Formula One racing. Before that all-consuming job covering F1 – a gig that lasted me nearly 25 years! – I had many other goals, ambitions and passions in life. This included lots of different and disparate writing projects that had nothing to do with racing. (When I decided to become a writer at age 20, it was never in order to specialize on a single subject, but to explore the world.)

Clown Brad and Ornella Share a Secret

Clown Brad and Ornella Share a Secret

I also have many other areas of my life that are important to me, that need either finishing or further expansion: Making music, finishing my documentary film about open mics around the world, doing future such documentaries, finishing and selling my memoir book about open mics around the world, selling the saleable novels in my drawers, making music videos, writing new songs and making another CD, selling my skills in making and editing videos, and yes, finally, continuing to write for newspapers and magazines around the world, but on all of the many subjects that full-time F1 writing overshadowed. I also want to expand and develop my reach into magazine and web markets that I still have an ambition to write for, but never made it into before. I intend to continue a few sideline activities as well, like clowning around riding my unicycle and juggling!

So while I am in a phase of starting up my company and putting together decades’ worth of paperwork for the transition to this new life, the concept of “retirement” – i.e., losing my ambition to create and execute personal artistic and journalistic and musical projects and earning money – that some people thought might be my current situation is something I can never imagine happening to me either now or in the future.

Ultimately, my life has little changed since I was fired from the NYT last December: I have always worked on personal creative projects outside of the jobs I have done to earn a living to pay for my – and my family’s – livelihood as I dreamed of the creative projects leading to my future livelihood. In that I have been more successful in some areas than others, but that is the way my career grew. Now, I am continuing exactly the same approach to life, but my financial earnings are simply no longer coming from the payslips of the two newspapers where I worked for more than 36 years. (I began at The Globe and Mail in Toronto in July 1980 to September 1983, when I moved to Paris and joined the IHT in December of that year.)

So, for anyone who might have thought that I am about to shrivel up and the sizzle has gone from my life – and therefore from this blog – I just wanted to let you know that the exact opposite is happening. I’m more creatively active and working harder than ever before on the projects that count most to me. And strangely, after working for 36 years in the precarious business of newspapers – I seem to remember a big wave of layoffs at the Globe in around 1982, and the trend never stopped – I have never been, or felt, so financially secure and been able to look so far ahead in terms of where my livelihood might come from as I can since last December when I was fired. That, of course, is thanks to the French social system that was such a big part of my decision to stay in this country during the several occasions when I thought I might leave – the same social system that is apparently part of the reason some international companies want to leave France…. Merci la France!

Ulysses Induced – a Short Story That Took 17 Years to Publish

July 6, 2017

First edition of James Joyce's Ulysses

First edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses

Continuing in my diversions from my main thrust on this blog of writing about my open mic and other musical adventures, today I am adding another story to the section on the blog comprising some of my fiction. This is my short story “Ulysses Induced,” which was the only printable material that emerged from a 300-page novel, and also took 17 years to find a publisher for…. That was a real lesson in perseverance, as I say in my little introduction to the story on my fiction page: Today I have decided to add a new section to the blog, comprising some works of my fiction, either published or unpublished. Today I am starting with my short story, “Murder in the Abbey,” which was published in 1996 and nominated for a crime writing prize in Canada in 1997. So here is Ulysses Induced,” an obsessional tale of antiquarian books and writerly inspiration – to say nothing of greed….

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