Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

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

Cabaret Culture Rapide Lit Up With New Cool Open Mic

April 7, 2015
bradspurgeon

cabaret culture rapide in the snow

cabaret culture rapide in the snow

PARIS – I have written quite often about the Cabaret Culture Rapide open mic night over the years, specifically the Friday night one that has changed MCs quite a bit, and also the Thursday night jam session. Now, the Thursday night jam has long ended and it has been replaced fairly recently by a new, wild, very open kind of open mic – and very English – that calls itself “Paris Lit Up.” It is run by the genial Jason Francis Mc Gimsey, and is open to music, spoken word, poetry, just about anything.

I do warn again that it is very English expat oriented, but it is also open to everything. Like all the other open mics at the Cabaret Culture Rapide, there is no microphone. Unlike the other open mics there in my experience, people at this one sit and listen religiously! There is complete silence during each person’s moment behind the mic, and that is wildly appreciated. It makes the need for a mic much less pressing….

The atmosphere is really one that reminds me a lot of one of the world’s best open mics, the Catweazle Club in Oxford, that I attend annually in June or July or whenever there’s a British Grand Prix. Very cool, with lively MCing, intelligence, anything goes.

Paris Lit Up is also part of a whole little group of writing, and a small press of the same name, which is why this is so cool and intelligent and laid back. I highly recommend checking it out at least once – and you’ll probably end up returning, as I know I will!

Le Petit Balcon, a Great New Musical Bar to Watch – and a Stopover at the CCR

November 17, 2014
bradspurgeon

Koutla

Koutla

PARIS – I just had to get a word down about Friday’s fun in Paris. I saw that an open mic acquaintance was putting on a little show at a bar called the Petit Balcon in the Menilmontant area, and I saw that the stage would then be open to other musicians – an open mic.

So I went to this place at 48 rue des Maronites, the Petit Balcon, and there I met Koutla, who put on his set before opening the stage to anyone – i.e., me and several other musicians.

I had a chance to talk with the bar’s owner, and so learned that he has been running it for a couple of months and is a huge fan of music, and wants to have regular musical evenings, including a regular open jam session on Wednesdays. The basement is a dream come true for an open mic or jam session, as it is a classic Paris cellar, well isolated from the neighbors, and so hopefully there will not be any volume complaints.

They are already doing Wednesday sessions, as well as nights on Friday and Saturdays featuring groups. Koutla, with his dramatic lyrics and delivery, was a great warm host for what amounted to an open mic, and I had a fabulous time, listening to some great music, and playing a couple of my own songs.

A Short Visit to the Cabaret Culture Rapide in Paris

Then it was off to the Cabaret Culture Rapide, which was only around a 10 minute walk away, and taking in the last half hour or so of the show, as it usually starts around 22:00 or later, and ends around midnight. There I caught two or three acts – (one of which has since requested I remove the wonderful video I did of her fun song (note published 1 Dec. 2014)) – as you’ll see. I did not play, or even ask to play, as I had been quite satiated already by the evening at the Petit Balcon.

Let’s hope the Petit Balcon develops into a regular venue – the divide between the ground floor and the intimate basement room, is really promising – as is the owner’s clear love of music and plan to turn it into a great little concert venue.

The Lesser Visited – for the Moment and for Me – Open Mics in Paris

October 21, 2014
bradspurgeon

cabaret culture rapide in the snow

cabaret culture rapide in the snow

PARIS – I’m a little late in reporting about my open mic activities from last Thursday and Friday, but as so often happens, life intervened. But I just had to mark my marking of my territory in these two cool open mics in Paris where I have been in the past but rarely go to. Any other theme? Yes, both have recently had their MCs change, and both have taken on a new feel for it.

The first is in the bar near the Bourse called the Kolok. Every Thursday night now for two or three years there has been an open mic. I attended maybe only once in the past, and at the time I was a little disappointed with the wall of sound from the customers who did not seem to be there for the open mic, but just as a neat, cool, little bar alternative to the more busy Truskel, not far around the corner.

Last Thursday, though, with the open mic now being run by Guillaume, a rock-spirited guitar player and singer who uses and acoustic guitar, the feeling was quite different than my first experience there. I met several people I know from other open mics, and the evening closed off with a jam. Always a great sign. I will returned.

From the Kolok, to the Cabaret Culture Rapide

On Friday night I decided to venture forth to the Cabaret Culture Rapide, an open mic I have attended and written about a lot more than the Kolok. In fact, I often used to go to the Cabaret Culture Rapide Thursday jam session, even though it was not quite my style. But when I learned recently that the delightful Terrebrune has taken over running the Friday open mic, I went.

The one drawback and challenge of this open mic is that it is now, and always has been, completely acoustic. No mic for the voice, and no amp for the guitar or other instrument. So although the bar is postage stamp size, you still have to have a voice that carries – or you have to select your songs where your voice carries best.

Terrebrune has brought a great feel of organization and a warm personality to this open mic, and it was a thoroughly fun evening, again, playing a first set of two songs, followed by a final song near midnight, after the full list of performers for the evening had finished playing. Definitely worth the occasional visit, but keep in mind that lack of mic – both a disadvantage and a challenge…which has its advantages.


From the Velvet Veins at the Feline to What? at the Cul. Rapide

January 26, 2013
bradspurgeon

I got to see my friend and sometime-lead-guitarist Félix Beguin in his new band the Velvet Veins in their show at the Féline just in time for the end of their act. On the other hand, the bar was so full of rockers that coming so late it was impossible for me to get close to the playing area, and I had to content myself with standing at the back of the bar, by the door, holding a beer in one hand and holding my Zoom Q3HD in the other hand…as high in the air as possible so I could try to film this cool rockin rollin band. But most of all to get a bit of a sample of the sound on the Zoom’s good mics. It turned out I got neither image nor good sound, and the best view I got of the band was today when I played back the videos for myself. Still, you get enough of an idea to see what the Velvet Veins are about. I’ll have to go earlier at their next concert…at the Gibus in a little over a week. So after the Féline, I made my way over to the Cabaret Culture Rapide, which I have shortened to Cabaret Cul. Rapide.

This is one of the longer lasting of the Friday night open mics, but every time I go I have a hard time figuring out how this open mic – that has no mic – has been able to last these years now. I mean, the crowd last night had single individuals in it who were much more clearly heard than the performers, to say nothing of the crowd as a hole. (No, you got that right, I said “hole,” not “whole.”)

But I like to take any potentially negative situation and turn it into a positive one, if at all possible. So I decided that when it was my turn to take to the stage to perform for a crowd that was louder than the lack of a sound system I had to project my voice – read, no mic – I decided that the best thing to do was to go and stand right in amongst the loudest tables and to play my guitar and sing, “What’s Up!” from there. It worked like a dream. They all sang along. Of course, I did not help my efforts that they immediately jumped into “And I said, hey, hey, hey, hey… what’s goin’ on” well ahead of the moment. In fact, they were singing that while I was singing the first two verses.

Okay, they then jumped back in again and sang it when I did, and then then let me do the next verse, and then they joined me again with that chorus…. It was a great success – if you like mad houses.

Then the MC of the show seemed to decide the same thing: If you can’t beat them, join them. He managed to get the loudest voice of the room up to sing a couple of songs, even though he was not there to sing. That turned the night into a riot.

Oh, fortunately for the dear Laura of Pennsylvania, the crowd WAS more polite when listening to her songs – so at least one performer had a little bit more of a pure open mic experience. They really should invest in a mic, though….


Mini-Post: Rapide Post, Culturally Speaking

June 16, 2012
bradspurgeon

Last night the plan was to stay home and take care of things I never have the time for. Then a friend contacted me and asked if I wanted to go out for a drink. I sure did! Took my guitar, suggested we go to the Cabaret Culture Rapide, which is cool little bar in Belleville that has an open mic on Friday evenings – without a mic. Ended up listening to diverse musical and comical acts and talking with my friend and playing six different songs myself on three stints on stage. A fabulous night, in short!

But have to keep this extra short itself, as I have a potential three things lined up for tonight: The Village Voice party to mark the closing of this monument of a story in the Latin Quarter after 30 years; a performance at the Swan Bar to mark an evening of festivities surrounding Bloomsday; and finally possibly a jam in Menilmontant, if there is any time or energy left over….

Cabaret Culture Rapide Revisited

January 21, 2012
bradspurgeon

To my knowledge there are not many open mics or open jam sessions in Paris on Fridays or Saturdays. So last night, in the company of Conn Bux, the cool Irish singer songwriter I have shown videos of several times this week as he makes a brief visit to Paris, I ended up last night going to the only venue I know of in Paris that has an open mic on Friday nights. That was the genial Cabaret Culture Rapide, near the Belleville metro station.

This is a completely acoustic open mic, and it is open to music, song and dance, comedy, rap, slam, crap, anything you want, really. I have seen it go through two previous MCs, and therefore two previous incarnations. Last night, it had yet a third MC, and so a third incarnation. The format remained basically the same: You do a number, you go off and watch others do theirs, then once the complete round of performers has happened, you go up and do another number.

The new MC, who calls himself Paparenda, called on Conn and I to sing a couple of things that we had not planned to do, like…singing “When the Saints Go Marching In,” with him. Well, anyway…. moving right along…. Here are some videos from the evening, including the cool one of Conn Bux doing the U2 song Paparenda, which as it turned out, was also not planned in advance, but went down pretty well indeed….

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