Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

An Update to My Paris Open Mic Guide

March 29, 2017
bradspurgeon

Thumbnail Open Mic Guide

Thumbnail Open Mic Guide

Just a note to say that I have updated my open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, for the first time since last June.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest open mics and jam sessions in Paris has now ceased: Caveau des Oubliettes. How such and institution could disappear is beyond imagining. I have also updated information in Brislee’s open mic at the Café Oz at place Blanche, as the bar has changed its name to La Fabrique – and I’ve updated the times Brislee runs the evening, since I realized it was slightly out of date – and I have also now shifted over, yet again, the Tennessee Bar open mic from the Thursday back to the Tuesday – and apparently we can forget its traditional date of Monday! I have also updated the shifting scene at the Oasis 244 bar, with its three open musical nights per week. There are other open mics in Paris, of course, that I have not even put on the list, as I only put those I attend, and there are several new ones I have not attended….

But The Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, remains the most extensive and up-to-date guide of the Paris open mic scene. Check it out!

Learning by Osmo-sis. (Osmo at the Oz – Part II)

February 1, 2017
bradspurgeon

Oz Open Mic Paris

Oz Open Mic Paris

PARIS – So already another week has passed and somehow I have put nothing on my blog since the Osmo camera post last week after visiting the Café Oz open mic in Pigalle. And here I am a week later with Chapter II: Visiting the Oz open mic again, again with my new Osmo camera. On the other hand, I am happy to report that not only did I get a tiny little bit better with handling the camera, but the open mic itself was miles more fun for me than last week, thanks to the presence of a few friends who suddenly all showed up for the visit of the amazing Aaron Bowen of San Diego, on one of his frequent visits to Europe….

So there I was again with the handheld Osmo steady cam, and this time figuring out how to use it a little better in terms of the image and camera movements, but unfortunately, it was only halfway through the evening that I learned how to improve the sound reception. Unfortunately, for Aaron Bowen’s set, the sound level was still a little low, and so the volume is not very high, and the sound not as crisp as it should be.
Brislee Introduces Bowen and Saxo

I managed to correct that problem for the set of the amazing Ash Gray and his fabulous Lowden guitar and playing and singing. Is it possible to say that Aaron Bowen and Ash Gray are opposites in style? No, not really, there’s something that ties their music together, though I’m not sure what it is – maybe just the commitment. In any case, Aaron was in from San Diego, and this time with his electric guitar, and his ever melodious vocals. And this time, joined by Stephen Saxo, who plays…yes, you got it….
Bowen and Saxo first

Stephen, with whom I have played many times in the past, also played along with me last night, on my “Borderline,” and a song I rarely sing, but feel inspired to sing in the context of the Trump presidency, since the song is a kind of protest song against the establishment trying to take away our personal freedoms…. (It’s called “Sing It” and has a very 1960s feel and inspiration to it.)
Ash Orphan first

Also present was Ventru, whom I have written about many times on this blog, including when I ran into him at an open mic in Montreal, although he is from France and was only in Canada on a holiday. At the time he played last night, I was no longer filming, though, so I’ll wait for a future occasion to Osmo him.
Another Bowen and Saxo

In any case, as the experiences grow with the Osmo, I’m hoping it will all come together soon in the best sound AND images possible for this blog….
A second long Ash Orphan in 4K

Osmo at the Oz – A New View for Open Mics?

January 25, 2017
bradspurgeon

DJI Osmo

DJI Osmo

PARIS – I started this blog in 2010 at the same time as I bought what felt to me like a revolutionary little video and music-filming device, my first Zoom recorder. It was the device that since that time – with upgrades – allowed me to make quick and easy videos with great sound of open mics and open jams all over the world. Now, finally, seven years later, I have found a new device that could entirely revolutionize again the way I make videos for this blog. Or maybe not. Last night was the first time I got to try my new DJI Osmo steady camera video recording device, and I did so at a pretty typical kind of open mic space. The experience was mixed – with some really great high points, and some lower ones….

I first learned about this fabulous camera called the Osmo, from a fellow journalist covering the Formula One series; and that he was using this camera for pit and paddock interviews for NBC, the major American network, made me perk up my eyes and ears. The Osmo looks like some kind of extraterrestrial, some kind of ET, mixed with your mobile phone. I am using a Samsung, but any phone can connect to it. The telephone is used as your eyes on what the camera is doing, and it also is the base for the program you download to run the camera. The connection is done over a wifi that the camera itself produces – i.e., the telephone connects to the camera via the camera’s wifi.
Oz mic second

The beauty of this thing is that it is portable, it is not very expensive – I got it on sale for 499.99 euros at Fnac, since the newer model is out at about 700 euros, but also has a zoom – and that it films in 4K and, above all, is a steady cam. That means you can walk around with it in your hand and the image looks as if it is on rails. You move it with the movement of your arm, and with the joy stick that gives nearly 360 degree movement of the camera, as well as an up and down range. In short, for 500 euros you can produce perfectly still footage that looks like it came out of The Shining.

You also have a wide choice of resolution, including 1080p, which allows you to use a digital zoom, and right up to the latest 4K, as mentioned. I tried it in several different lighting environments, and it remains a natural image throughout.
Oz mic third

So where’s the down side? Well, I’m not sure entirely, yet, after just one use in an open mic. On the other hand, I know what I loved about my Zoom devices in open mics: I could carry a Zoom camera in my pocket, drop it, send it sliding across the floor of any barroom, without damage, even dropped the Zoom in the toilet in Australia only to have it return to life a week or so later, never having lost any footage on the camera. The Osmos is more delicate, has to be treated with respect, and while it cannot be carried in the pocket, it can be carried in my guitar case with no problem.

But ultimately, part of the advantage of this beast might also be a problem: With its almost fish-eye like capture, I may be ending up with more image from an open mic room than I want. I mean, does the open mic crowd want to be part of the film or not? With the Zoom, I could film just the performer. I can do that with the Osmo, too, but this gadget looks so strange and bulky compared to the subtle Zoom or any handheld camera device or telephone, that I cannot go filming in an open mic without being noticed as a geek, and potential threat to the naturalness of the situation. It stands out, and I do not want to get too close to the performer and interrupt the attention of his or her performance by everyone staring at my weird gadget.
Oz mic fourth

Next, there’s the sound. The Osmo has a built-in microphone that is absolute trash. Mine also came with a strange external mic you attach to it, but here, it is hell for music recordings as it picks up all of the sound of the camera and its motors as it turns about and swivels and stills the jagged movements of the handheld device. There is a setting where you can turn off the fan while filming, but the mic that hangs off the device still picks up all this mechanical movement sound.

Enter my hand held Sony mic that I bought more than a decade ago for my minidisc recorder. I plugged it into the Osmo and found a fabulously quiet way of recording. But while it was perfect for my voice talking, I feel that the sound quality difference to the Zoom is big for music, based on last night’s recordings at the Café Oz open mic. But I’m hoping this has to do with it being a vocal mic, and not a good mic for music – I’ll explore that. On the other hand, there is the “hands problem.” I mean, with a Zoom, you hold the device in one hand – with this Osmo, you are obliged to use both hands: One for the device, another for the mic.
Oz mic sixth

What is undeniable, is that for 500 euros, this is an insanely fabulous video camera. DJI invented its cameras first for drones, and then it came up with the idea of doing these handheld steady cam devices. And it is a real fabulous winner for what it does, and for someone wanting to make videos – music videos, reportages, etc. – this is a winner. I’ll just have to see if it really is great for me and my open mic adventure. Oh yes, and it seems to eat up my phone battery, and the battery for the device goes pretty quickly too….

So I’m not yet decided as to how practical and great this will be as a replacement for the Zoom – but this remains an amazing, amazing discovery and I will find lots of ways to use it – especially for my next music videos….

Check out the videos I did last night at the Café Oz open mic in Paris….

A Bit of Texas in Paris at the Café Oz, meanwhile a bit of Paris in the Féline

July 14, 2016
bradspurgeon

Spectator with Tea at Tom's Tabooley

Spectator with Tea at Tom’s Tabooley

PARIS – No sooner did I return from Oxford on Monday – Oxford, England, by the way – than I decided to attend very quickly the open mic on Tuesday night at the Feline bar, since I can never get to the Café Oz early enough for a good spot, so popular has that open mic become. So I went to the Feline, played my songs, and THEN wen to the Café Oz, because I knew there would be some friends performing from Texas….

And no sooner did I arrive at the Café Oz than I found the place bubbling with energy and activity, and guess what? It was precisely the moment that Christy Moore from Austin, Texas, and her friends began their invasion of the “stage” at the Café Oz.
Christy and friends at Oz

So we spoke when we could, sat around and listened to the talent, and then called it a fairly early night. I was still recuperating from the Oxford trip, in any case, and preparing for the next…. But it was a great pleasure to see Christy Moore – who used to run an open mic in Austin called “Tom’s Tabooley,” and her friends, four women from Texas, lighting up the stage in Paris near the Moulin Rouge. I always feel sort of surreal when I see people from one country where I play, playing in another country – as I do myself all the time, but somehow don’t expect of others….
third at Feline


christy duet at Oz

P.S., I hope I did not provide any confusion to anyone with my headline for this post, as in the past I wrote about a French friend who used to call himself “Texas in Paris,” and did some pretty crazy songs. He’s now Baptiste W. Hamon, and still does some crazy songs, although not quite as crazy, oh, and now in French!

first at oz

final at oz

second at feline

A Mile-Long Post About My Week of Open Mics in Paris – But Some Real Discoveries!

March 14, 2016
bradspurgeon

Le Paradis

Le Paradis

PARIS – I cannot believe that it has already been a week since I last posted about my escapades in open mics and jam sessions in Paris, and that I’ve done another pretty full slate of open mics in Paris again since that post! That was not the way this blog has gone for the now six years of its existence. I’m usually very timely in my writings about the open mics – a day or two maximum afterwards. But like I mentioned recently, I’m really hard at work, and very excited (that’s corporate-speak, but true!) about the progress of my open mic documentary, which, like my CD that I just got finished and made, will also be called, “Out of a Jam.” But now, on to a few notes about the last week….

Monday, I decided to return to some old territory I had not been to for a very long time: The Tennessee Bar has started its Monday open mic again. This, remember, was one of the best in Paris when it was run for well over half a decade by James Iansiti. After some kind of difference of opinion between James and the bar owners – if I have my facts straight – James left the open mic. And so began what would be eventually a descent into the dark ages, and the open mic fell so low that it stopped. Now there is a new MC, and it is trying to build its way back into its once glory days. There is no reason that it should not succeed, if the environment of the fabulous cellar room were the only thing that counted. Let’s wait and see! (Oh, it also continues on Thursday nights, by the way.)
First bit o jam at Paradis

I then headed over to the new open jam session on the Ile St. Louis, at the Chez Madame Louis bar. It turned out to be as lively and kicking hot as usual. I managed a couple of songs on stage with a bassist, drummer, lead player and me on my guitar. But what ended up being the highlight of the night for me was that on my way out of the joint, I found some people outside the front door to the bar, struck up conversations, and pretty soon one of the guys took out his guitar and started playing out there. In all, a couple of people ended up playing and singing. But in the end, the bar owner decided it was time to take pity on the neighbors, so the music had to stop. But it was a fun moment of the kind I love at open mics and jams – spontaneity.
Second bit o jam at Paradis

On Tuesday, I finally decided to see if I could show up on time for sign-up at the Café Oz open mic near Place Blanche. I ended up maybe 12 to 14 or so on the list! But it was just two songs each. Still, I calculated that would give me at least two hours before I got up. I then thought of going to the many other open mics along the line 2 of the metro on Tuesday nights, but ultimately I calculated that, Hey, I bet I could take the metro all the way across Paris down to the Bastille, and then walk over the open jam session at the Nul Bar Ailleurs and take part in that, and then return to the Café Oz and do my bit there.
Third at Zebre Rouge

I was actually really kind of proud of myself when it turned out that I COULD do that. In fact, I was quite simply happy as anything because I thoroughly enjoyed my moment at the mic in the Nul Bar Ailleurs jam. It’s called, “Jam around the table,” because it has that kind of feel to it, and there are tables around it…. But it is very intimate, and extremely well organized. My only criticism would be that in between the main bits where you get to the mic, the jamming of the rapping and reggae kind can go on a long, long time, as it did Tuesday – but that’s only a criticism because I was so excited to get behind the mic again myself!
Second at Zebre Rouge

In the end, I figured I better get off to Oz again…. And I did, and I played, and I had time for a beer before, and after. So it was the perfect night!
First at Zebre Rouge

Thursday, it was back to the Zebre Rouge open mic and another fabulous time in the cellar of this bar. In fact, I had to go and pick up my entirely re-fretted Seagull S6 in Pigalle before the Guitar Garage closed, so I was very early for the open mic. But I decided that I would try out the food at the Zebre Rouge, and man did I have a great African meal! And I managed to find a table in the back of the room very secluded, where there were about four or five places in the wall where I could charge my telephone and plug in my computer. So I spent an hour sitting there, drinking my dinner wine, eating, AND editing my documentary film. Can things get any better than this?
Third at Nul bar ailleurs

Evidently, they can! For on Saturday night, I finally had the time and inclination to go and check out the jam at the bar called, Le Paradis, which is near the Barbès métro. I had seen this one for months, since there is little else on a Saturday night in Paris. And because it is usually run by the same guy who runs the Nul Bar Ailleurs jam. So I went to le Paradis, and found myself in Paradis! The bar is just the right size for a jam, i.e., small, with a back room where you can go to breathe, nevertheless. But best of all, the bar manager lets the music go on until nearly 2 AM or so, and it is loud, and it is drums, it is saxophones, it is guitars, basses and keyboards and vocals.
Second at Nul Bar Ailleurs

But it IS a jam, and the audience is so big and crowded around the “stage” area that you are best off playing crowd pleasers of one kind or another and having the audience sing along. To my total surprise, I also met Stephen Saxo there, and so we managed to jam together. There is no doubt for me whatsoever that I will be returning to this fabulous jam, which I finally got to. In addition to everything else, I arrived and found the mic ready for me the instant I arrived, and in ripping off my coat, buying a beer and taking out my guitar in about one movement, I did not see it but I had dropped my expensive new cell phone on the floor by the bar. An hour later – after they had announced the discovery of the phone, and I had not heard them – they still had the phone behind the bar and when I was running around in a panic thinking I’d lost it, that it was stolen, there it was being kept in a safe place for me.
First at Nul Bar Ailleurs

“We’re serious in this establishment,” the manager said. I agreed, and thanked him profusely.
First at Café Oz

I will definitely be back to the Paradis – it’s a paradise (for jammers, anyway).
More jam at Madame Louis


Jamming outside Madame Louis

First at Tennessee

Bit o jam at Madame Louis

Three Open Mics and Two Jams (one non-existent) in Paris

March 6, 2016
bradspurgeon

O'Sullivans

O’Sullivans

PARIS – Days are slipping by so fast as I move into overdrive on the editing of my open mic film. That has not prevented me from attending four open mics and one jam session this week over a three-day period. But it did prevent me from writing about it on the blog…. If excuses are allowed. But the open mics allowed for plenty of discoveries, and fun moments, and some videos to show that….

On Tuesday, it was the Féline open mic time again. I played a three-song set, and left in the middle of the open mic like an ungrateful guy who doesn’t like to listen to other musicians or socialize. But that was not the case: I had simply said that I would attend Rim Amine’s gig at the Petite Mercerie, about a seven minute walk away on Oberkampf. I did that partly – and mainly – to listen to Rim, who I had discovered the week before at the Zebre Rouge. But I also went for what had been announced as a jam session afterwards.
A bit of Melodie’s own song

Since there was no jam – I think they started the gig late – I decided to head on and take my chances at the Café Oz, metro Blanche, thinking I’d be too late to get to play. But no, when I arrived, I found that most of the musicians and spectators who had been there earlier on had now left, and there was room for me to play – so I did. I actually enjoyed singing to the small remaining crowd, since it allowed me to do some quieter, less “crowd pleaser” stuff. (I finished with “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”)
a final one at Murphy’s

Thursday I decided to go all the way out to St. Germain des Près and the O’Sullivan’s Pub where I wrote about the great open mic a couple of weeks ago. This time, it was not an open mic, but a gig – there is an open mic every second week, and a gig followed by a jam in the other week – but I went because I knew that it was guaranteed a fun night, and there would be the jam afterwards. And this time, there WAS the jam, and I played for maybe 30 minutes or more. Played with other musicians, too, and it was fabulous – thanks to the great organization of the pub and Stephen Saxo….
another at Murphy’s

From there, Friday, it was the monthly open mic at Murphy’s in Paris, behind the Opera. Again, I was so certain the atmosphere would be convivial and friendly and that there would be lots of interesting people, that I had no difficulty choosing this open mic over other possibilities. And I was not let down. Plus, I got to meet a new Canadian friend (visiting Paris) and her daughter, who played int the open mic.
band at La Feline open mic

All in all, a worthwhile time at the open mics in Paris – although I’m not sure it makes for great reading…. So there’s always the videos to fall back on!

Rim at the Petite Mercerie

trio at Murphy’s

band at O’Sullivan’s in St. Germain en Laye

duet at Murphy’s

another at the feline

first at the Café Oz

last at the Feline

mc at the feline

Melodie at Murphy’s

second at the Café Oz

Two Days, Seven Open Mics – Sort Of…

February 24, 2016
bradspurgeon

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – Monday and Tuesday in Paris. Didn’t know if I would stay in or go out. Chose to go out each time, kind of late each time, too. Ended up going to the Bastille, playing at Some Girls open mic, walking past and poking my head in the window of Yellow Mad Monkey open mic (both of these are on the Rue de Lappe) and deciding I was too late to sign up at that monkey one, so went off to the Galway pub open mic, for the first time in months. It was the midway point, or not even, of some great nights at open mics in Paris.

The Galway was as busy as ever, and it was great to hear the host again, All the Roads, after many months. I was actually very happy to go from the very crowded, but very noisy, Some Girls open mic to the Galway, where the good sized crowd was more attentive, and the sound system much better. I needed a bit of intimacy. Turned out a friend with whom I’d done a major pub crawl on Saturday passed by with another of the participants of the pub crawl, just as I was going “on stage.”
All the Roads at the Galway

Tuesday night was another matter: Returned to the Café Oz open mic for the first time in a very long time (playing) as well, and found myself third on the list as I decided to eat dinner in first in the nearby raclette restaurant. But here again, like at the Some Girls, there was chatter that was louder than the sound system. So here again, I decided I needed more intimacy.
Host at Some Girls

So after my set at the Café Oz I headed on over to the Pigalle Country Club where I met… the friend from the Saturday pub crawl and the Galway the night before…. He was with someone new this time, though! Well, it turned out the Burnin’ Jacks who usually host the open mic at the Pigalle Country Club were not yet – or just not at all – there, so I asked if I could take to the “stage.” It was agreed upon immediately, and I did about a half hour set. More talking, of course, much, much talking. But I really enjoyed playing for myself, and a few people spotted about here and there who listened.
first at some girls

From there, it was off to the Féline… but by the time I arrived, the open mic had been so long since finished that the stage was entirely naked of any instruments. No problem. I decided to saunter over to the Zebre Rouge bar for the Tuesday night jam session. It was in full swing when I got there, and never ceased to be in full swing. I took out my guitar and played along, played some lead, but sitting at a table, having a beer, and not plugged in.
final at galway

I then went into the back room, played some chords, and decided that the evening was far too reggae for me, and I headed back home. But with three open mics played at in one night, and two the night before, that was about all the fun I needed in Paris for the moment….

Jam at Zebre Rouge

Baptiste at Café Oz

Another from jam at Zebre Rouge

jan at galway

rappin the galway

Blog at WordPress.com.