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Friday Night in Paris – Time for the Noctambules…a Word from Sochi, Russia

October 9, 2015



SOCHI, Russia – Wait, is this for real? I’m sitting in Sochi, Russia, and writing about Paris on a Friday night? Yes, it’s the Noctamubles open mic tonight on the Place Pigalle, and this is not the first time I have written about it while abroad. Basically….
another Chief at Noctambules open mic in Paris

I attended the Noctambules last Friday, and made some videos, and had another great night on the Place Pigalle in Paris with Raphaëlle’s amazing open mic at the Noctambules. I then had tons of work to do, and a priority to write a little entry about the Highlander open mic’s 9th birthday party, and so I decided to hold onto my videos and my blog post about the Noctambules open mic until today.
Julien at Noctambules open mic in Paris

In between times, I flew from Paris to Istanbul, then Istanbul to Sochi, did some complaining about not being able to bring my guitar with me on a flight for the first time in 7 years thanks to Turkish Airlines, got a bad cold, did jogging along the beach on the Black Sea in Sochi, got chased by a couple of the many thousands of stray dogs that live in Sochi, and tried to shake my cold along with my fear.
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03: A stray dog walks through Olympic Park ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 466979991

SOCHI, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 03: A stray dog walks through Olympic Park ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 466979991

So today, sitting in Sochi, I’m thinking that if I was in Paris, I’d be at the Noctambules open mic for sure! One of the best in Paris. Check out the videos of last week’s edition of Raphaëlle’s open mic at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle in Paris….
First at Noctambules open mic in Paris

Piaf stuff at Noctambules open mic in Paris

Randy Dwight at Noctambules in Paris

Chief again at Noctambules in Paris

Quick Notes From Milan, Nice, Paris and Singapore….

September 16, 2015

singaporeSINGAPORE – Looking back to see what my last post on this blog was, I’m stunned to see it was about my trip to Belgium! Since then I’ve been to Milan, Nice, Paris, and now I’m writing from Singapore. I’ve done an open mic in Nice, another in Paris, and I’m going out for music tonight in Singapore. I did a gig on Saturday night too, by the way, in Bondy, just outside Paris, in a neat restaurant called, L’Atelier. Time goes too quickly sometimes. But there really is a good reason for the lack of activity on the blog during that period.
First performer at the Snug open mic.

I’ve just emerged from my busiest period of the entire year in my job as a Formula One writer, having produced 16 full-length feature articles for the next two races, Singapore and Japan, which you will be able to find amongst my Brad Spurgeon stories on The New York Times site in the coming days; I have written a 5-page profile of the Ferrari racing boss, Maurizio Arrivabene, in the October issue of Road & Track magazine, which just came out on the newsstands yesterday, and I have also been preparing the visas, flights and hotels for the remaining part of my world travels, which will be hugely intensive over the next two and a half months, taking me around much of the world….
Fourth performer at the Snug open mic in Nice.

So it is that occasionally, just occasionally, I can truthfully say that I’m not updating the blog because I’m a slacker who has run out of steam, but because it’s totally full-steam ahead in other areas, leaving no time for this. But now I’m back, and I’m hoping to keep this going massively in the coming months!
Second performer at the Snug.

But first, I want to report that I finally got to play at the Monday night open mic in Nice at the Snug & Cellar pub. I’d been wanting to go to this for years, but I was never in Nice on a Monday night – until last week when I had to interview a legendary author – of one of the greatest car racing books ever written – and so I had a bit of time to check out the Snug.
Third performer at the Snug.

It was a pretty good atmosphere, full of people, full of musicians, a nice presentation by the MC, but the sound system was not the best on earth. And it tended to be a very vocal audience – during songs, I mean.
Fifth performer at the Noctambules.

In Milan, I think it was the first year ever that I did not get to play anywhere, as there too I had on the only night I usually play in a jam, I had an important interview to do for my job, so I had to let the music drop there. That was the first race at which I have not played at a venue in I have no idea how long, but it seems like years!
First performer at the Noctambules.

So it was that once back in Paris, it was with a vengeance that I went and played at Raphaëlle’s open mic at the Noctambules bar on the Place Pigalle – which I actually help organize a little too, making sure the sound is good for every performer…. It was another fabulous night, in any case, mostly because of Raphaëlle’s extraordinary MCing, and her incredible singing too, between the other wonderful musicians of the evening….
Fourth at the Noctambules.

And that takes me to Singapore, where I am quite exhausted as I write these words and prepare to go out and force myself to keep awake, as the more than 20 hours of travel without any real sleep have begun to weigh on me…!
Second at the Noctambules.

Sixth at the Noctambules.

Third at the Noctambules.

Another Noctambules Open Mic, but This Time With a Difference

August 21, 2015

Spitting Image of the Noctambules Crowd

Spitting Image of the Noctambules Crowd

Has anyone else noticed what I have noticed? When you do nothing of something, it leads to doing more nothing of something. When you do a lot of something, it leads to doing a lot more of something. I wonder why that is? I any case, I have not put up a blog post on this blog all week, and for any regular readers out there, my only excuse is that … I didn’t put anything up…. So the more I did not put anything up, the easier it became to not put anything up. And eventually….
The rapping lady at the Noctambules.

O.K., that’s enough running on at the mouth, and in fact, I do have other excuses, for instance, a mountain of articles to write for my job! But when I think about the amount of time it really takes to put up a post, I think I’ll return to my original thought: Too much of nothing leads to a lot more of nothing….
Les Spleens play the Noctambules.

And yet still, I have all the videos from Raphaëlle’s open mic at the Noctambule in Paris last Friday, and I have yet to put them up – although I am going to solve that problem right now and put them up here.
Igor at the Noctambules.

In fact, I must say that last week’s was another “vintage” Noctambules open mic, and for the first time Raphaëlle and the bar tested out the format that eventually the open mic will be taking throughout the winter, which is to say, setting up the open mic in the back room, rather than on the front terrace. O rather, it started on the terrace and then later moved to the back room.
Insu plays the Noctambules.

It was interesting, and although I love to sing on the terrace and look out into the Place Pigalle, there were other aspects to the back room that I had not foreseen – such as more attention from the spectators sometimes, and a more cosy and together feeling from the crowd of all taking part in the open mic. (When it happens on the terrace, there can be a feeling that a lot of people are there to sit on the terrace, and have the music as background – although there’s nothing wrong with that.)
Claudio plays the Noctambules.

The monitoring of one’s own performance while performing was also better in the back room than in the front, and there was a lot more dancing and carousing going on in the back. All in all, it was a success, and a massive, massive amount of fun. So check it out tonight again, if you happen to be in Paris and looking for something to do….
Rony Boy’s short intro at the Noctambules.

Another Wild Noctambules Night in Place Pigalle

August 9, 2015

Aux Noctambules

Aux Noctambules

PARIS – I personally have never seen such a long list of musicians showing up for the Noctambules open mic night on the Place Pigalle on Friday. Apparently there have been one or two nights with more musicians, but I wasn’t in town. This was clearly a great edition, and it was yet another surprise that it happened in the month of August, when so many other Paris venues decide to close down their open mics for want of musicians….

Very cool mouth harp playing.

In a reflection of the previous weeks, it was again a hugely eclectic evening, with even one woman who did a song a cappella in Russian. A musician with an electric guitar did a medley, another did the most amazing little act I’ve ever seen on a mouth harp – think electro – and there were some very welcome new participants from around the other Paris open mics, people who had not yet tried the Noctambules.

Woman singing song in a cappella in Russian.

And, of course, Raphaëlle’s MCing seems to be getting better every week, and it was already great to start with. And her cabaret interlude, and personal songs at the beginning and end of the night, just make the whole thing a fabulous treat for the musicians, spectators and passersby – many of whom become spectators….

Pierre singing at Noctambules.

Of course, I will not be able to say something new about the Noctambules open mic every week, I’m pretty sure of that, so even now I think I should stop and let the videos do the talking….

Les Spleens doing a Beatles song.

Insu does one of his songs.

Leandro takes us to Brazil again.

Trelys returns to the Noctambules.

Marie Jal plays the Noctambules.

Playing Stand By Me.

Second guy at the Noctambules.

Three Sort of New Open Mics in Paris….

August 7, 2015

Spitting Image of the Noctambules Crowd

Spitting Image of the Noctambules Crowd

PARIS – I’m in the middle of attending three nights in a row of open mics in Paris. And that’s pretty amazing for the month of August. It’s also pretty amazing that they are all recent additions to the city’s open mic scene – more or less….

On Wednesday, it was a trip back to the Oasis 244, where our friend Trelys had been holding a weekly open mic on Wednesdays for a while – until she wasn’t. Now, that slot has been taken over by Julien, whom I had met before at Belushi’s bar. The location and style of room of any bar will have an effect on its open mic. The rest will come from the bar owner or manager and from the open mic MC.

Looping at the Oasis 244.
Because the first two bits at the Oasis have not changed, I was keen to see what Julien could do with the bar in his version of the open mic. From my single visit on Wednesday, it looks like pretty much a winner. The sound was OK, the organization was perfect, the crowd was great, and Julien’s MCing was smooth. He has attracted a different crowd to the bar as well, and the whole looks very neat and cool. Definitely worth checking out on a Wednesday evening – a difficult day, what with the Highlander’s hold on the city’s Wednesday nights in most other senses….

Cool-voiced woman singing at the Oasis 244 open mic in Paris.
Last night, it was a new venue, tucked away in the cellar of the Baryton bar in an off-the-beaten path of the fifth arrondissement on the Rue des Bernardins, between place Maubert Mutalité and Notre Dame. I thought I was entering a high-class nightclub at first, with a bouncer expected to appear to frisk my guitar. But it turned out to be totally laid back, and the room in the basement is very comfortable.

Julien opens the open mic at Oasis 244.
Most of the evening is designed to be like a live karaoke, with Vincent Lafleur playing the keyboards, and participants singing into the mic. But it’s open, and Vincent let me play my guitar and sing. I classify this as a “sort of” new open mic, too, because readers of this blog will know that I ran into basically the same open mic as this in at least two prior bars, both hosted by Vincent. One was the Orphée, in Pigalle….

Third act at the Oasis 244 open mic in Paris.
Oh, Pigalle! And that brings me the next step of the three-step Paris open mic journey: Tonight’s Noctambules bar open mic on the Place Pigalle, hosted by Raphaëlle! This addition to the Paris scene enters its third month of action, and as regular readers on this blog will know, it has been a wild, fabulous three months so far. Hoping that the month of August does not subdue attendance at what has otherwise been a fabulously well attended open mic so far, both from spectators and musicians….

Unusual second act at the Oasis 244 open mic.

The earlier part of the looping at the Oasis 244 open mic.

First singer at the Baryton open mic.

Second singer at the Baryton open mic in Paris.

Eclectic Night at the Noctambules Open Mic in Paris

August 3, 2015



PARIS – Is it a reflection of the location of this most interesting Paris open mic, one of the latest additions to the open mic scene in the city of lights? The Place Pigalle is nothing if not eclectic – music stores, strip joints and sex shops, but also the cool quarter at the foot of the Sacré Coeur, bars of every variety…the area around the Place Pigalle is a sea of contrasts. And Friday night, in mid-summer, it was the most eclectic crowd of musicians I’ve seen so far at the open mic.
Guitar and sax, Brazil and U.S. at the Noctambules:

I think it is a reflection of the neighbourhood, the fact there are a number of open mics closed for the summer so the musicians congregate here, and the MCing by Raphaëlle, whose own music is vastly eclectic.
A bit of gypsy jazz stuff at the Noctumbules open mic in the Place Pigalle:

In any case, there was gypsy jazz, Brazilian music, rock, pop and soul; there was spoken word of two different kinds; saxophone playing, bongo hitting, a mandole, as well as some telephone soundtracking. It was all there at the Noctambules on Friday evening. While there was a long list of musicians – but everyone got to play until around 1 a.m. and most people played twice – there were maybe a tad few drop-by spectators, as a large percentage of the Paris population left for the August vacation.
Deborah Elina plays at the Noctambules open mic in the Place Pigalle:

But the Noctambules open mic will continue throughout August, and I’m already looking forward to every edition in the coming weeks….
A bit of spoken word at the Noctambules open mic:

Simon Ferrante doing All Along the Watchtower at the Noctambules open mic:

A small bit of a wonderful song at the Noctambules:

Leandro’s new song at the Noctambules:

First one at the Noctambules:

Mandole gets in on the act at the Noctambules open mic in Paris:

Playing the Open Stage at the Szimpla Kert in Budapest, and Thinking About the Noctambules Fun in Paris

July 25, 2015

Szimpla Facade Budapest

Szimpla Facade Budapest

BUDAPEST – Timing was everything at the Szimpla Kert open stage in Budapest last night. I had only previously ever played in the open jam session at the Szimpla Kert on Sunday nights, but I had noticed this trip that there is an open stage on Friday. So, figuring it was another one of these open nights that starts around 9 PM and closes early, I decided to check it out before eating dinner. Good thing I did….

The Szimpla is a fabulous garden bar place that looks like a squat, and is made up of all sorts of different bars, rooms, chicha smoking areas, a recording studio, everything. It has always been one of my favorite places to go at least once while in Budapest, and it gets absolutely packed tight with thousands of people in the various mazes of the rooms and halls.

The stage for the open jam and open stage is a wonderful, quite large, end-of-a-long bar room and last night there was a pretty sizeable and receptive audience, and a could of guys who were running it, jamming throughout. I showed up in time to get on the stage as the next performer and played a number of songs, with one of the guys accompanying me on bass and the other on a drum. The mic was great, so I enjoyed the singing.

After my set, unfortunately, I had to make off pretty quickly to find a restaurant. Crossing the street from the Szimpla I immediately heard a gypsy band playing in a restaurant, and a crowd around the outside, in the street. I filmed a bit but did not go in there. Instead, I found a great little Hungarian food restaurant, a traditional one, a few streets over, completely abandoned of clients – all of whom wanted to get robbed paying for crappy food where the tourists congregated.

After dinner, well before 11 PM, I returned to Szimpla, but as I expected, the open stage was finished already.

The Noctambules open mic in Paris a success again

During this time I had received some messages from Paris and the the Place Pigalle, however, hearing that Raphaëlle’s weekly Friday night open mic at the Noctambules bar was yet another fabulous one; one, in fact, it turns out that was among the best, with probably the biggest crowd yet. I regretted missing it, but it is not possible to be in two cities at the same time, unfortunately, since I love both Budapest and Paris…. But I’ll be at the Noctambules next Friday…(and thinking about Szimpla?!!).

The Vibrant Point of Paris in Mid-July – Aux Noctambules

July 19, 2015



PARIS – With so many open mics closing in Paris for the summer, the Noctambules open mic on Friday night was again a magnet for those who don’t take vacations in July in Paris. Oh, and for those who take vacations in other countries and come to Paris in July. Whatever, there was magic again at Raphaëlle’s open mic on the Place Pigalle in Paris at the Noctambules bar on Friday.

The combination of the open front of the café looking over the place, and Raphaëlle’s warm and riotous MCing, along with all the variety of musicians who have turned out week after week have really made this one of the best open mics in Paris, and at the most difficult period of the year for such things in Paris, during a hot summer month of July. August will be the real test….

Great sax and electric guitar moment in the doorway of the Noctambules at the open mic.

Raphaëlle was back to doing some of her amazing cabaret songs as well, by the way, a point that makes this open mic so different from most, as the musical styles range from everything to everything else; including poetry, spoken word and spoken word with guitar music. It was no doubt the high point of the open mic, although coming well after midnight, a lot of the early people had left, but many new people came, drawn in by her extraordinary voice. We’ve also had the good luck to have Viny Vince with his keyboards in the last couple of weeks, and his kindness in lending the keyboards to other players.

Les Spleens doing duet at Noctambules open mic in Paris.

What will it be like when it rains and the front terrace is less inviting. Or in the winter time when it will not doubt be moved back into the huge, unused, but comfortable back room of the bar? I, for one, am looking forward to it.

A little spoken word and guitar at the Noctambules open mic in Paris.

He doing a Bashung cover at the Noctambules open mic in Paris.

Bad Fantasy goes solo at the Noctambules open mic in Paris.

Guy doing gal song at Noctambules open mic in Pigalle.

Ripper story slam at Noctambules open mic on the Place Pigalle in Paris.

Paris Roundup – From the Flea Market to the 2 Moulins and the Baroc, and Onwards to the Noctambules

July 16, 2015

St. Ouen Market after Closure © Brad Spurgeon

St. Ouen Market after Closure © Brad Spurgeon

PARIS – Aside from a great long cool and fun evening at the Baroc on Tuesday evening, I’ve just had spots of music here and there, and mostly there, over the last few days since Raphaëlle’s open mic at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle last Friday. (Speaking of which, do NOT miss Raphaëlle’s Noctambules open mic tomorrow at this absolutely fabulous location, as this is becoming a not-to-be-missed Paris open mic, playing music overlooking the historic place….)

On Sunday night it was a quiet walk over the St. Ouen flee market and a small temporary art gallery where Joris Delacour was showing off his artworks, and holding an informal jam on the sidewalk in front. I managed to get this one nice little bit of music on video, having spent most of the jam wondering what or if I should play next. This one gives an idea of the feel of the area, which seems not to be anywhere near Paris, if even France.

The jam outside the gallery where Joris Delacour was showing his art.

From there it was on to a quiet Monday night stopover at the gig of Brislee Adams, who organizes and MCs the excellent Café Oz (Blanche) open mic on Tuesday nights. He had one of his once per month gigs at the Aux 2 Moulins bar restaurant on the Rue Lepic. This café is known lately for its appearance in the Amelie Poulain film. But Brislee brought it to life with his one-man band of popular music, and at least one invited guest….

Brislee Adams playing a Van Morrison song at his gig at the 2 Moulins.

And so onwards to Tuesday night at the Baroc, one of Paris’s longest running and best open mics. It felt in many ways like a classic night at the Baroc since you never know quite what to expect, and we got that, but also because the regular MC, Réjean, was on vacation, so the task was taken up with enthusiasm by Paul Cash. Cash is a character who has long been a part of Paris’s open mic scene, but interestingly, his contribution has been more in the area of the Slam spoken word open mic than in the music open mics. I say “interestingly” because Cash, in addition to being a poet, is also a highly talented pianist and composer.

The hippie jam at the Baroc open mic.

With his draw there were some unusual acts, like the band of jammers that took us all back a few decades into something very hippie-like. At the end of the evening Paul handed out prizes for a draw, mostly consisting of small art books he put together, as he is also an artist….

A ripper rapper at the Baroc open mic.
A very cool last few days in Paris…. So don’t forget the Noctambules open mic tomorrow!!!!

Isabelle on her ukulele at the Baroc open mic.

Another singer doing some soul at the Baroc open mic.

Another Exceptional Night at Raphaëlle’s Open Mic on Place Pigalle in Paris

July 12, 2015



PARIS – You know an open mic is successful when even in the middle of July in Paris it continues to be full of musicians, poets, spoken word artists and drunks, and that it just keeps on transforming and mutating. That’s how I felt at Raphaëlle’s open mic in the Noctambule bar on the Place Pigalle on Friday.

It was only the sixth edition of the open mic, but the combination seems nearly perfect so far: Raphaëlle’s amazing hosting, her amazing singing, the amazing location on this famous Paris place, and a managerial team at one of Paris’s longtime music locations that makes no serious complaints so far about the raucousness of the open mic.

And the great thing on Friday was certainly the moments of four or so spoken word things happening, taking the open mic onto a another level. There were keyboards this time as well, as Vinny brought his keyboards and a violinist.

There were several regulars and many new faces as well, which also indicates good health for an open mic. I just never tire of this one on the place Pigalle, standing there singing behind a mic looking out into the streets and trying to see if anyone is listening on the other side of the Place!!!! Summer in Paris is a particularly difficult time to fill up an open mic, given the vacation ritual – on the other hand, there are also tourists aplenty, and the open mic is a great place for an expat to vent their thing to the Paris air….

Oh, and this time, finally someone caught me on video doing some of my singing – Léandro Bronze, of Brazil, filmed me doing my song, “Since You Left Me,” which I haven’t played for a while….

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