Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Crazy Mad Night at 3 Open Mics in Paris

January 31, 2012

coolin irish pub paris

coolin irish pub paris

I had no idea what I was getting into last night after three days away from performing in open mics in Paris. I thought I’d take in a bit of the Tennessee Bar and the Galway, as usual, with the focus being entirely on the latter, in its first evening with the new MC, Romain of All the Roads. But I ended up having someone slip me a calling card and telling me there was a new open mic in Paris on Mondays as well, and I could not resist the visit. Thank goodness I did not resist!

First, the Tennessee Bar was as crowded as ever, and thanks to my usual effort to get there on time with a metro system that always works against me – just one change, but a 7-minute wait for both trains – I arrived far to late to have an early playing time. So I took a beer and watched a few acts and then went to the Galway. There were some cool acts at the Tennessee, by the way, with the Swiss named Mathieu, who had been at the Mazet on Thursday, and some other new guy who had a very interesting, high pitched, melodious voice and some nice lyrics and good guitar playing.

There was absolutely no way that I was going to miss the first open mic at the Galway without Stephen Danger Prescott running it, as he moved off to some other country and Romain took over the show. Romain did a fine job last night, and there were some musicians new and old – I don’t mean old like me, I mean ones who had been there before.

I played my set, but I was getting a little tired and decided to go home. But I had this calling card I was given for a place called Coolin Irish Pub, just off the Boulevard St. Germain, not far at all from either of these venues. And so I thought I’d just take a glance inside before catching a cab back home.

Coolin is this large, wide open pub in the building where there used to be the St. Germain market. It has apparently been there for 15 years, and I have never set foot in it. That will now change. The atmosphere was immense: Free, free-wheeling, young, vibrant, fun, loud – no nasty neighbors to complain – and the sound system was even not bad at all, although they plan to improve it.

Run by Henry, one of the bar tenders, the open mic was on about its fifth night. And it, like Henry, was full of insouciance and good nature. In fact, the moment I entered the bar and someone spotted my guitar, I was invited up to the mic to play. Didn’t even get a chance to order a Kilkenny. Nor did i care. This was too cool to be able to enter and get up behind the mic instantly.

And I loved the fact that I found myself in front of this new audience after I’d already warmed up at the Galway, and none of these people had heard any of my songs before. So I just belted into a few of them with abandon, doing some covers and my own “Borderline.” Had ’em singing along, and it was just generally a visit to the high reaches of the joy that an open mic, and singing in public can provide.

I then got out from behind the mic and took my beer and sat and listened to the others. There wer a number of cool musicians, including Henry, and the Irishwoman, Eithne O Connor – and don’t bother asking me how to pronounce her first name, but think something close to Anne – as well as another Irishman and some of the people in the audience.

In fact, I learned that this open mic begins around a table at 10 PM – sounds like the Bar Varal jam in Sao Paulo, right? – and then it goes on to become the traditional thing behind the mic. And then sometime after midnight, it transfers back to a jam session at the table. You can see in my videos just how amazing and free the atmosphere is.

This place has big, big, big potential. In fact, it’s already 100 percent there. It has a little bit of everything, including lyrics and song books with chords, just in case! It just needs more people, and a little history – and then it will be a Paris classic.

Ever Shifting Flow of Open Mic Attendance

January 17, 2012

I went to the Tennessee Bar’s open mic to start with last night and found the place almost entirely empty. I think that aside from the three or four musicians there were only there non-musician spectators. For the Tennessee Bar, that is very rare. It turned out that James was absent as MC, but I doubt many people knew that…. It gave me a chance to play early, however, and go to the Galway open mic a little earlier than usual, and there I find a huge crowd and lots of musicians….

I heard this guy named Connor from Ireland for the first time, and he had a great voice and delivery. Very inspiring. He had been there last week, and had complimented my songs, but I had not heard him play. So last night I was inspired by his voice to do my Gary Jules cover, “Andalucia,” and because I was not otherwise prepared to play it, I promptly forgot the words to the second half of the song and had to abort….

The evening ended with the wonderful duo of two former bandmates from Australia, Stephen Danger Prescott, the MC, playing with his friend from Melbourne, who sang in German and played a miniature synthesizer. This was an act from outer space – well worth watching, at least for a little…. Especially since next week will be Stephen’s last time MCing this great evening after three years – before it continues under the direction of Romain of All the Roads.

New From New Year of Open Mics

January 3, 2012

It was a wonderful return to two Paris open mics last night for several reasons, not the least of which personally was the absence from behind the mic for four nights for me…. But I have a little news and a little observation to make. Oh, and I was clearly not the only one to be happy to get to the open mics again: There were lots of people at both the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub.

The bit of news I learned last night at the Galway was that Romain Bretoneiche, who performs under the name of his band All the Roads, will be taking over the MC job at the Galway Pub open mic every Monday. Stephen “Danger” Prescott, who has been doing it for three years is leaving the country. It is a sad moment in that regard, but great that Romain is taking over, too, as he is a great singer, a nice guy and very enthusiastic. So it will be very interesting to follow…. I got a couple of videos from last night of each of them, one with Stephen doing a Dylan duet with Julia Lins-Gordon, who works behind the bar – and is also a writer – and another of All the Roads doing a Damien Rice song, really well, as usual….

I found myself having fun when an Irish spectator sitting at the bar in front of the stage made a request to me during my set: “Do you know any Christy Moore songs?” Wow! I couldn’t believe that for once I could actually fulfill a request, and this time on a performer who is not obscure, but not mainstream pop, rock, folk either. Or rather, pretty much a mainstream kind of guy in Ireland in the folk area, but a million miles from being a household name elsewhere in the world. He was the singer with the band Planxty, and part of the traditional folk revival of the 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, I was so stunned by the request that it took me a while to find a song I should do, and I missed the most obvious one. I started by trying to do his own beautiful “January Man,” but I forgot the lyrics, which I have barely ever memorized. I then realized that although he did not write the “Raggle Taggle Gypsies,” he certainly sang it with Planxty, and so I did that one, which I have done for years. It was only after I left the pub that I recalled that I should have done “Only Our Rivers Run Free,” which Moore did, although it was written by Mickey McConnell, and I also do it occasionally.

At the Galway we were also treated to a performance by Tory Roucaud, who was on a Christmas visit to Paris from her new home of Switzerland, where there are not enough open mics for her in Zurich….

At the Tennessee I was immediately treated to two songs by James Iansiti, the MC, who when I arrived was playing one of his own songs – This Next Song – with his bass player. Then he joined another guitar player singing a song by the Police.

There were a lot of interesting bits going on at the Tennessee but the one that probably took my attention more than any was the combination of two people I met separately but who have written some songs together and travelled together and developed into an interesting and cool duo…. This was Zoe Kelly from Australia and Jamie Turner from England. They travelled in Ireland and wrote a song about being stopped on the highway by the police – and they wrote another song together as well. It was nice stuff, and very cool to see how open mic relationships can develop into something. Unfortunately, Zoe is about to return to Australia after many months in Europe….

Another Brad Spurgeon Rock Music Video, Following the Demiller, Oh Yes, and the Bridgestone

November 7, 2011

Sorry for speaking of myself in the third person. But there has been a very cool and satisfying thing that has happened in the last two weeks that kind of makes a little concrete confirmation of a project I’ve been working on all year. As regular readers of the blog know, I have been filming people at open mics, and especially interviewing people on-camera at open mics and jam sessions around the world since last February or March in a nearly one-year filming project that will come to an end at the end of this month, or early December. In the last two weeks, two different talented young French musician friends of mine have taken some of the rough footage that I shot of them during performances in Paris and edited these into video clips.

It was done with footage I had NOT intended to use in my open mic film, and some of it was pretty rough stuff done with simple cameras – to say the least. But these two guys, Niki Demiller, and a guy who calls his act/band, All-The-Roads, both put together very cool little music videos with what was available. And they both credited me with the filming. Talk about a beautiful encouraging thing. Check out the footage below. They’re both interesting musicians as well, I have to add. Niki used to front a band called The Brats, which along with BB Brunes, was one of the great hopes of the last decade in the wave of new bands that came out of French youth. He’s now worked on this solo project. All-The-Roads has just begun playing in the open mics around Paris, and I think the guy has a lot of talent – to say nothing of both a physical look to him and a sound/quality of voice as well, that reminds me of Elvis Costello…


Niki Demiller:

PS, these were not the first time my video footage was used in a cool little video. The Red Bulletin Formula One paddock newspaper used more than an hour’s worth of footage I shot on my Canon HV20 HDV tape camera in 2008 and they edited it down to a minute and a half for a little trailer on their web site. It was a race of former F1 drivers and journalists in go karts near the F1 circuit in Spain. Check it out:

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