Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

A Boat on the Quay, Three Down-and-Outs and a Coolin Definitely Not Dry

July 31, 2012

I made my way back from Budapest yesterday to Paris and then crossed town to the Batofar open mic, which happens so rarely that I decided I had to attend despite it being on the evening of the great Coolin open mic. Oh, and I must not forget to mention the last night in Budapest: Again I saw how open mics and open jams are such ephemeral things that from one year to the next you never know if they will still exist. The great and wonderful and extraordinary open jam session that ran on Sunday nights at Szimpla Kert in Budapest is no longer running. I went to Szimpla and met some musicians from Greece – one with an oud on his back – and they told me the jam no longer exists thanks to noise. They have to stop the music at 10 PM. These musicians, one of them said, had taken the jam slot for their group and they play there on Sunday nights. Anyway, back to Paris.

I was very happy that I made the most of my time at Becketts on Saturday, but I was really looking forward to playing again, having not played on Sunday. So I went to the Batofar, that great boat venue on the Seine, only to discover it was closed…but that the terrace of the Batofar located on the quay opposite the boat hosted the open mic. Or rather, it was the genial Vincent Lafleur on keyboards and vocals who hosted the evening.

The sound was clear and strong as I approached, and I found a nice duo of women singers with Vincent on piano. I bought a beer, then went up a few minutes later and played several songs, had a guy doing tambourine along with me, and one of the women singers joining in occasionally. Then I listened to a few more bits, including Vincent, and then I left for Coolin.

Oh, not far down the quay three clochards who had heard me playing and liked it, asked if I could sing them a song. So I sang, “Miles From Nowhere,” by Cat Stevens, which seemed appropriate, and then “Jealous Guy,” which was not appropriate, but they wanted a Beatles – and that was the closest I could come.

Took a cab to Coolin, listened to a few acts and then did my own. Just when I was certain Coolin would run out of steam and customers – it being right in the middle of the summer – I found the place just buzzing and jumping with customers and musicians. In fact, it got more and more raucous as the night went on, with people dancing all around the pub by the end. And for some reason, after they said the open mic was finished, someone then pumped up the house music and everyone continued singing and dancing to the recordings…. Another cool’un at the Coolin.

Circumstances Beyond My Control Meant a Wonderful Evening at the Batofar on the Seine

April 5, 2012

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, but I find myself learning all sorts of fabulous life-affirming lessons that make me resolve to rise to higher levels of existence – and then I fall back into the old habits, entirely forgetting about how important it is to force myself to apply myself to exercising what I learned from the lessons! That long-winded statement may better be illustrated by the story of last night’s sortie in Paris.

I wrote in my post yesterday that I was rushing off to go to the Highlander open mic and that I was making excellent time and could not waste time writing too much on the blog. I also said that it would all come to nothing as it always does, this rushing about to go early to the Highlander, that I would find myself being delayed by the Paris metro and arriving late as usual. So, hey, guess what? I was right!

So I get to the Highlander at around 9:30 and find that the place is just bursting full of people and that I am No. 20 on the list of potential performers. That means certain death, as the playing only goes on until about 1 AM, and that seems to be capable of hosting maybe 18 performers maximum. That’s my experience, in any case.

Well, the point to this is that before I went to the Highlander, I knew that there was a new open mic taking place on a boat on the Seine called the Batofar. This is a very cool venue in the neighborhood where I used to live, just below the Tres Grande Bibliothuque – that massive national library building built by Mitterrand.

So anyway, I knew that my new friend Vincent Lafleur – the Frenchman with the Quebecois name – was hosting this new open mic, and I had already attended his new one at the El Tonel on Sunday. But instead of getting up off my butt and getting out of my old habits and becoming a fossil in the habit of going to the Highlander and the Cavern on Wednesday nights, I had decided I would not attend the Batofar open mic and would keep up my old habits.

This is entirely counter to my whole new philosophy of life since this open mic adventure began a little more than three years ago. Since it began I have always found great adventure, fun and love of life in making changes and trying out new things and patterns of existence. But there I was saying, “It’s Wednesday, I’ll do the Highlander.” And yet I knew that the Batofar was a great venue, a very cool boat on the quay of the Seine, with several floors, and a veritable hive of musical activity and innovation.

Yet the draw of habit kept me away. Until I found myself No. 20 on the list at the Highlander.

“Sorry, Thomas,” I said to Thomas Brun, the MC, “In fact, I think I will be adventurous. I know of another place doing something tonight, so I will go there.”

So I went, found the deck of the Batofar just buzzing with revelers, a DJ was playing dance music when I arrived, I ordered a beer, met Vincent, he introduced me to some musician friends, then within 15 minutes of my arrival, he started the open mic. The crowd was large, none of them had ever heard my music, and with the exception of Vincent, I had not heard any of the others.

Unfortunately I made few videos, and the video of the best performer of the evening … well, he asked me to please not put it up on the internet. He has a bit of a reputation and was not happy with what he thought his excellent performance would do for that reputation. Of course, I’m always disappointed, but he was so kind – oh, and massively complimentary about my performance – that I said to myself and to him, “No problem!!!”

Anyway, the videos I made do not properly show the great vibe and scene of doing an open mic on the deck of the Batofar. But if it happens again, I’ll be there. Until another one arises on a Wednesday and I have to change my habits again. (Nor will I abandon the Highlander.) In fact, the point of all of this is that I had an exceptional night at the Batofar, it was wonderful to play to an audience that had never heard my songs, and I loved the image of the Seine beneath, and I met several interesting people…. Conclusion, again, don’t get stuck in habit.

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