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Trying Out My New Martin D-42 at Brislee’s Open Mic

May 3, 2017
bradspurgeon

Martin D-42

Martin D-42

PARIS – What better environment to try out a new guitar than Brislee’s open mic at La Fabrique just off the Place Blanche in Paris? I bought the new Martin D-42 yesterday afternoon so late that I only had time to return home and prepare dinner and eat, giving up all idea of attending his popular open mic, as I knew there would be no room on the list. Last week he had 21 musicians playing from that usual time of just after 9 pm until midnight. Then came a message on Facebook that he still had room – so I finished off the dinner quickly and took the metro and my new Martin Dreadnought over to the Place Blanche, to find, as I expected, the perfect environment to test my new guitar….

As it turned out, as there were a few fewer musicians signed up last night than usual, Brislee ended up giving me the time to play five songs behind the mic. Fortunately, I got to listen to the other musicians first before my turn came, and so I wasn’t just thinking about my new guitar all night. There was the regular Ash Orphan, with his distinctive Lowden guitar, and there was another guitarist doing tapping and slapping with another great guitar, and Triinu doing her melodic stuff. So all together, a nice night – in addition to other musicians and Brislee’s final closing number.
Ash Orphan at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

My Martin D42 does not have a mic inside it, of course, because this is all about one of the greatest acoustic guitars in the world with the fabulous wood it comprises. And I have strong doubts that I will set up any kind of mic system in it. I did buy an L.R. Baggs M1 Active Body-sensitive Active Magnetic pickup that you can strap into the hole, though, since it can also be removed whenever you want. But although I had it with me last night, I decided not to fool around with trying to put it in the guitar in the dark while listening to other performers.

slap n tap at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

So I asked Brislee if we could just use a mic for my new guitar, and he agreed. In a way, in fact, it seemed to me the most appropriate way to christen the Martin on its first public performance. Suffice it to say that I felt immediately, immediately at home and at one with the Martin in this live performance. I started with a Bob Dylan (“You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”), then did my “Borderline,” then did my “When You’re Gone Away,” then Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train.” I decided to end with a Dylan too, with the simple, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” When I hit the end of that song, the Martin told me to do some flat picking instead of the strumming I usually do. And that was pure joy.
Triinu at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

This is not a review of the D-42. There are hundreds of those online. Let me just say that everything I have read in the reviews is true: It feels like the perfect guitar. I still love my Gibson J-200, but it has a very limited use for me, where as the vast range of this D-42 is a great all round guitar for my music. And I was really pleased to hear exactly the same comment from Ash Orphan at the open mic, as I did from my son earlier in the day when I was buying the guitar at Woodbrass: “This guitar really suits your style.”

second by Brislee at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

Amen. It feels great too, to know that my D-42 has a note inside it stating that it is one of the Centennial edition guitars of the Martin Dreadnought. Martin’s first Dreadnought was made in 1916, mine – although it came straight to France from Nazareth, PA, was made in 2016.

another at Brislee’s open mic in Paris

And thanks again to Brislee’s great open mic for this first time playing the new guitar – a great replacement for my semi-retired, weary, 8-times-around-the-world-Seagull-S6.

High Gear Before Low Gear in Paris Open Mic Scene, at the Beginning of the Dead Month

August 6, 2016
bradspurgeon

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

PARIS – Regular readers of this blog over the past whatever many years it has been will know that I hate the month of August in Paris. This is the period when a vast majority of the open mics close down because they think that the national addiction to vacationing in August will mean fewer customers. But it entirely overlooks the huge influx of tourists who want not only to be climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, but want to attend an open mic at night. Anyway, over the last four days I attend four open mics, as they wound down, or continued valiantly forth….

It was, in fact, three days in a row, although I chose not to perform at an open mic on Thursday where I had otherwise been aiming to, but did go to two on Tuesday, one on Wednesday and another one on Thursday at which I did not perform…. (I re-wrote that sentence a couple of times, so if it’s a mess, that’s why!)
Ant Henson’s great new protest song

The Tuesday night was the usual trip to the Café Oz open mic of Brislee Adams, near the place Blanche. It was the last open mic of the summer while it closes down maybe for two weeks or so. A classic night with some great performers, including my friend Ant Henson, who runs his own open mic in London, and who was here for a summer trip. He tested out a fabulous new protest song of his, and I suggest you listen on the video below….
another at oz

From the Oz we went less than 10 minutes walk off to the real Oz, which is to say the one where Dorothy found herself. I’m referring to the Pigalle Country Club, which is one of the most open and crazy open mics of Paris, where anything goes, the mic is not just open, but has to be grabbed between performers, and where there are indeed some pretty cool performers, with the emphasis usually on the 1960s garage rock…. A crazy cool clientele also at this joint.
Ash Orphan at oz

Wednesday was one of the most intelligent, consistent, fun open mics of Paris, and one that does NOT close down for the summer – knowing its clientele perfectly – although the regular and founding host, Thomas Brun, does go off on a summer vacation. So Wednesday was Thomas’s last night at the Highlander before his vacation, from what I understood.
bit o pembroke at oz

Again, it was a classic Highlander night, with each musician singing three songs and the list going to some 20 or more performers, and the crowd ready to be entertained – mostly by crowd pleasers, but not exclusively – and all together I had a great time there. Except my guitar pick up was acting up again, as it has frequently since the horrible day when a woman used the guitar as a dance floor at the Pigalle Country Club earlier this year….
Jake at oz

And finally Thursday I dropped in to the Cabaret Culture Rapide for the weekly open mic of the Paris Lit-Up group, which is mostly an expat thing geared towards spoken word, but includes music, poetry, prose, comedy, just about anything you want to do up there behind the absent mic. Yes, it’s a tiny cool café in Belleville, with no mic, and a consequential pillar in the middle of the room that blocks the view of about 50 percent of spectators in the place. But those who present their schtick loud will be heard.
john cotton at oz

I was admirative of the Paris Lit-Up people that they are continuing into August, but the crowd of spectators and performers was a lot smaller than the last time I saw this open mic. On Thursday, thanks to arriving late, having had a good dinner and feeling open-mic-ed-out, I decided not to play any music. In fact, in a very atypical manner for me, I didn’t even make any videos.
yet another at oz

But I made so many videos at the other open mic evenings that there are far too many to look at on this page ANYWAY!!
another at Pigalle Country Club

Back next time with more open mic madness in Paris, no doubt. Or maybe not. Depending on how many close down for the annual August Parisian exodus….
craziness at pigalle country club

another great cover by Scottish guy at Highlander

another at highlander

Ant Henson’s great cover at highlander

final one at highlander

last moments of another great cover at highlander

on his mind at Highlander

8 Bars, 2 Days, One Week Later in Paris – One Closure, One Opener

January 25, 2016
bradspurgeon

O'Sullivans

O’Sullivans

PARIS – If it were not for the fact that a few things dictate that I keep a record of my Sunday and Tuesday last week, I would let it slide. I was so busy in the intervening time with having received my CD, “Out of a Jam,” that I led the blog slide and did not write about those two nights. But both the fact of the CD, and the fact of taking part in one new open mic on the Tuesday, and then discovering that I had also taken part in the last open mic of one particular venue on the Sunday, mean I gotta write a little about it.

I have to just at least acknowledge those two nights, 8 bars, and the end of the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar on Sunday night last week. This was a fairly cool open mic run by Etienne Belin, the host of the absolutely phenomenally cool Coolin’ bar open mic that closed down a while back after the bar was bought up by a big conglomerate. The Rebel open mic was a great place to go on Sunday night’s in Paris, but unfortunately it did not consistently reach the highs of the Coolin, and Etienne has said he has many other projects he needs to focus on – like a CD – so that’s the end of that.
Duet at the Green Linnet

It was fabulous night, that last one – which we did not know was the last – and followed on the 4-bar crawl I was doing: I started out at the lnce-monthly Green Linnet bar open mic right near the Coolin’, where it was calmer than the previous month, but still fun – with Stephen Saxo and Andy Bone’s warm MCing – and then I wandered off for a look at the Ondulatoire Mechanique’s big birthday party for a friend. That was also to feature a new band by some friends, but alas, I was too late for the show, and arrived just as they were packing up.
Duet at the Galway

After the Rebel Bar, I then moved on with some friends to the Galway, where there was a duet playing most of the night. Some nice talk, a Kilkenny, and it was back to home for a day of recuperation.
French trio at the Rebel Bar

The CD arrived on Tuesday, and I HAD to get out to the bars again and start handing out some copies. (More on this blog soon about the CD!!!) I started by checking out the Zebre Rouge open mic, which had turned into a real jam session, and because I needed to do several bars, I opted not to stay. I handed out a few CDs at the Zebre Rouge, then went over to finally try out the nearby Féline bar open mic, which has been running for two or three months now.
Her hopes and expectations at the Green Linnet

This could be one of the best open mics in Paris if it gets the crowds it merits – although with so many other open mics on Tuesday nights in Paris, it is not sure that will happen. The stage is absolutely fabulous, and the management loves music. In fact, the management created this fabulous little stage – complete with a kind of proscenium arch style, spotlights and half decent sound system – because he wants more music, clearly.
Jules at the Rebel Bar

I handed out some CDs there and played a long set of maybe five or six songs. Then I went on to the Pigalle Country Club bar’s open mic, not far from the place Pigalle (!!). That is the place where the photo that adorns the cover and back of my CD was taken. So I had to go there and leave a few copies. It was a very lively night, and I was offered the mic, but I wanted to get going to my final destination, the Café Oz bar open mic next to the place Blanche.
Young one at the Green Linnet

I was too late to make the list, but the Oz was buzzing with musicians and music as usual. Some great acts, and a nice environment, and the usual great presentation of the evening by Brislee Adams….
In their heads at the Pigalle Country Club


First at the Feline Bar open mic

Duet at the Café Oz

Duet at the Feline

Another from duet at the Pigalle Country Club

Open Mic Hopping Through Paris in the Warm Winter

December 18, 2015
bradspurgeon

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – Last time I posted I was blaming Paris for being in Christmas-break mode and not having so many open mics as usual. Now I must lay blame on myself for being in Christmas break mode for not posting on this blog this week despite doing three or more open mics! In fact, I’m not in any kind of true “break” mode; I’m in overdrive on my own projects in the areas of my life where I am not yet earning my living, but where I still have ambitions: Editing my open mic film, putting together a CD, working on novels, memoir and other projects. To say nothing of household chores and a minimum of socializing. So here is a short report on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday open mic adventures in Paris….
Brit Style at Galway

Sunday it was off to the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar open mic near Chatelet, where Etienne Belin held court again for his weekly open mic in this fabulous and cool bar, which also hosts a billiards tournament during the open mic. Now THERE is a solution for all the bars that are not sure they want to do an open mic for fear of alienating other sectors of their patrons: Do everything at once!
First at Pigalle Country Club open mic

I heard some nice stuff, met some nice people, and generally had an excellent time.
Julia at Rebel Bar open mic

Monday, it was off to my first visit to the Galway open mic for a long long time. It was not the usual MC, but rather Thomas Brun, who is the MC of the Highlander open mic. And Thomas, as any reader of this blog will know, is a consummate MC of open mics…and a wonderful musician. I had a video of him opening the evening’s show, but unfortunately I was placed behind a very, very, very loud group of Americans who were standing at the bar just in front of Thomas, and in the video as at the pub, it’s not so easy to distinguish anything between their loud voices and his music. I can’t understand how anyone on earth can be in a bar directly in front of a small, intimate stage with a single musician opening a show, and how they can continue to yell at the top of their voices about nothing at all….
Group at Rebel Bar open mic

Fortunately, the group went outside eventually to talk – they had the upper floor and the back of the bar, if they wanted – and the evening went on in acceptable manner.
Duet at Galway open mic

Tuesday, I dropped by Brislee Adams’ excellent Café Oz open mic in Pigalle, but it was too early and he had not yet arrived; so I could not put my name on the list. I went down the street and had a meal of raclette with a newfound friend, and then after the fabulous meal, we went back to the Café Oz, to find the place just brimming with open mic musicians, and a list that was so long I knew that although it was only 10:30 p.m., I would not get behind the mic until 1 a.m., if at all.
Paul at Galway open mic

So we left and went to look for a place to have a drink, and that’s when it came into my mind – after visiting one or two other noisy bars – that there was the Pigalle Country Club open mic, run by my friends of the Paris band, “The Burnin’ Jacks.” This is a fabulous, very little publicized open mic that is used mostly by the Burnin’ Jacks and their friends. But that is by no means the point of the thing, so anyone can go and grab the stage, mic, guitar, and play away when it’s free.
Second at Galway open mic

So both I and my friend did play, after hearing much fun rock ‘n roll and Buddy Holly played by a couple of the Burnin’ Jacks, and others….
Japanese going wild at Rebel Bar open mic

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

July 16, 2015
bradspurgeon

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.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1384499518523842/1384505788523215/
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.

High Quality Night at the Great Café Oz (Blanche) in Paris – and on a “Foot” Night!

May 14, 2015
bradspurgeon

Café Oz Paris

Café Oz Paris

PARIS – It was worth the wait on Tuesday night. The open mic at the Café Oz Blanche decided to hand over the bar to the soccer lovers to watch the Barcelona-Bayern Munich match until the game’s end, and then start the open mic really late. IE, at the end of the match, at 10:30. I started getting pretty worried when the score was 2-2 not far from the end of the match and thinking maybe the open mic would be pushed even later; but fortunately Bayern won the match, and Barcelona won the … I’m getting too deeply into soccer here….

So the great thing was that here was a bar that holds an open mic but also shows the matches, and for once it was not just a case of closing down the open mic this week, in favour of the “foot” and they just pushed the time back. And it was all so much worth the wait. There were some amazing musicians, including some Paris regulars from elsewhere, like Aaron Bowen and Isaac Cheong, both from San Diego, but regular visitors to Paris and its open mics.

Brislee Adams, the host, even managed to get the bar to let the open mic go on until 1:30 AM, so despite the delay for the match, it was a fabulous open mic, and a lesson to bar owners to not forget about the open mic when there are sports. But would I expect anything different from the Café Oz Blanche? No. This, after all, is an open mic where the bar offers each performer one free drink – and although that happens here and there, it is not common.

A wonderful evening, wonderful bar, wonderful open mic. But the best thing about Tuesday was the talent. Check it out in the videos….



From the Café Oz to the Baroc, Two Contrasting Paris Venues on a Tuesday Night

April 29, 2015
bradspurgeon

Café Oz Paris

Café Oz Paris

PARIS – Can there be any two open mics in Paris so different the one from the other as that of the Café Oz, Blanche, and the Baroc, in Belleville? Certainly last night it was a taste of something different in the same night, as I managed to play a set in each of them.

Got to the Oz early enough to get my name down fourth or fifth on the list. Went out to eat a fondu at the Savoyard restaurant down the street, then got back just in time to meet with an open-mic friend met in South Korea, in Seoul, at the open mic called, The Local – which no longer exists. He was passing through Paris and wanted to check out the local color here, and so we did the Oz and then had time to go to the Baroc.

A couple of Paris open mics with a difference at Oz and Baroc

To put it succinctly: The Oz, run by Brislee Adams, is a very classic open mic in a bar that caters to quite a few expats, but not ONLY expats. Brislee is very well organized, and he thinks about the needs of the moment: IE, last night he had lots of musicians so decided it was just two songs per musician, till we saw if there was time for more later. The level was really high when I was there, with all of the singers before me having very good, even exceptionally good, voices.

But I could not resist taking my friend – and his Korean girlfriend – off to the Baroc to have a taste of something different, and maybe a little more Parisian. It was a jam-packed night – no pun intended – at the Baroc, with its usual wide cross-section of performers and styles. The feel was completely chaotic compared to the Oz. The Oz tends to attract a young, serious kind of musician, whereas the Baroc attracts absolutely every kind of musician, from the young and serious to the old and decrepit. (Which is sometimes me.)

Check out the videos!





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