Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Burnin’ Jacks Burn ’em Up at the Culture Rapide

December 10, 2010

A day after the snow storm with all Paris closed down, I still decided to go out and try my luck at the open mics. I ended up with a back-up plan, too. It turned out that the open mic at Aux Copains bar on the rue Victor Letalle was just up the street from La Feline, the bar where my friend Syd Alexander was planning to celebrate his birthday with friends.

So what could be better than turnin’ up and doing a bit of both things? I assumed Syd’s party would go on all night, but it turned out to be a few drinks only. I assumed more than just a handful of people would turn up for the open mic at the Copains, but it turned out only about five of us made it.

So I had some quick thinking to do. I did a song at the open mic, and I went down the street and invited Syd, and his friends to come to the open mic too. After all, it turned out that Syd’s group, the Burnin’ Jacks, was there to celebrate his birthday. But the atmosphere at the Copains ultimately struck me as not right for the Burnin’ Jacks – it is mostly a spoken word open mic, and there was just another feeling, and so after I played I rushed back to the Feline to find Syd and the gang of about 10 people just about to come and meet me.

“Change of plan,” I said. I proposed to them that we all go up two metro stops away, to Belleville, where I knew there was the blues jam of the Cabaret Culture Rapide. This, I was sure, would be perfect for the Burnin’ Jacks, and for the jamming blues musicians and the audience.

Turned out I was right. The Burnin’ Jacks did four or five songs, got the place really rockin’ and rollin’ and even the Belleville Blues Band looked like it enjoyed the set. Then I played a couple of songs, and later in the evening I did more. The Burnin’ Jacks, I think, had fun, and they got to advertise their upcoming gig next Friday at the Feline….

I, at least, was happy that I could turn around an otherwise potentially boring night after the snow storm when few Parisians dared go out, into something fun and cool.

Incidentally, the guy who plays the cool lead guitar is Félix, and he also played on two of my recordings at the Point Ephemere in July, on the songs, “Memories” and “Except Her Heart.”

Life Goes on Bro

November 12, 2010

Back from Brazil to Paris, I played in the Highlander and the monthly open mic at the Copains bar. I felt a sudden warmth at living in a city where there is an open mic just about every day of the week, not to mention music of all other kinds everywhere.

On the other hand, there’s little new to add to this blog, since I’ve gone over that ground so often. The only new thing, I would say, is that the song I wrote when I was 16 about losing a lover has become part of my regular repertoire now that I figured out how to transpose the chords down lower so that my voice – now deeper than when I was 16 – can sing it without being burned out. And the song is still, as the French say, “d’actualité.”

So rather than blah blah blahing, for once I will keep it short and just put up a few videos of the two nights. All are from the Highlander except the guy who has a guitar that he converted into a sitar….

Four Years of Highlander, and an Annual Open Mic at the Copains Bar in Paris

October 1, 2010

Missed a day on the blog, but went out both Wednesday and Thursday to open mics – as usual. The first was one of the usual Wednesday places I have written about so often, but this time there’s news! It was the fourth anniversary of The Highlander’s open mic on Wednesday, and Thomas Brun had balloons and other party decorations hanging from the walls and ceiling, and he greeted people – well, me, in any case – with: “Happy Birthday!”

Four years for an open mic is a long time, I have begun to learn, as I have traveled the world and found simply from last year to this year a huge number of open mics have closed down, while others have opened.

Highlights at the Highlander were a new guy from the United States who has just moved to Paris and who calls himself, Glass Petals, and another woman singer, named Megg Farrell, who is also from the U.S., and who played with a ukelele and sang. But unlike so many of the young women I see these days playing the uke and singing, she really made the uke sing and got the crowd stomping along with her strong voice. It was a high moment.

On Thursday I went to Isabelle Sojfer‘s open mic at the Copains bar in Menilmontant. This is a tiny hole-in-the wall bar with a very big friendly atmosphere once the night gets going. And last night it REALLY got going. Isabelle Sofjer is an author, slam artist and…ukelele player and singer. I have seen her at two different open mics, and I learned that she has her own open mic once a year. So I went last night to the annual edition not only to find that it was just full of performers and quite wild and warm, but also to discover – with everyone else – that she would be holding the open mic again in two weeks, on 14 October, exceptionally running a second time in the same year.

Isabelle does not run the open mic the same way as most people, and while I was a little upset as the first performer to be invited to leave the “stage” after only one song – “Borderline” – I soon discovered that everyone had only one chance. Well, at least in the first round. She did a second round and all the remaining people got to do another number. I decided that since the bar was so small I would not use a microphone, and that enabled me to succeed for the first time ever in public in doing a half-decent job of my interpretation of the Hank Williams song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” I do it with a pretty strong blues approach. The bar owner, Momo, jumped up and started playing a bongo drum with me and it turned out to be quite a powerful moment, I think.

On the other hand, there were only about four musicians throughout the evening, and the accent was on slam poetry. So the music was no doubt happily received as a break from the slam….

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