Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

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

May 14, 2015

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

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!

Two Nights, 3 Open Mics – or Almost – in Paris

December 31, 2014

Outside the Coolin

Outside the Coolin

PARIS – Monday night was the first time I did an open mic “crawl” in Paris for a long time, on a route I used to take all the time: First the Galway, then the Coolin. The latter was the place I had not been to for the longest time, and I did not regret returning at all!

In fact, I always loved the Coolin, but for one reason or another, I haven’t been since around the beginning of the year; or was it just the summer??? If I possibly can, I’ll have to return more often in the coming months because the Coolin is closing down on 22 March. Apple is buying the whole block of the location of this fabulous Irish pub, the block being the former St. Germain Market, and for years converted into kind of shopping area full of different boutiques. Apple is buying the whole thing, if I understand correctly, to make a humongous Apple Store – as if we need another in Paris. But I may be wrong on the intentions….

The intentions of the two open mics, though, are clear: Celebrate music, give anyone a chance, play a few songs, and drink too much. I did them all, and don’t regret it. Both of the open mics were in full-swing when I arrived a little late at each one, but both made room for me to play some songs. It was pure pleasure playing at both places, but I found a particularly hot audience at the Coolin, and so I played to them the stuff I felt they wanted. (Cover songs: “Mad World,” “What’s Up!” and “Wicked Game.”) Judging by the amazingly warm response (and call for an encore after “What’s Up!,” when I was supposed to pass on the mic to someone else!).

Back to the Café Oz Blanche on Tuesday, and Another Full House

So it was off to the great and successful open mic at the Café Oz on Tuesday. The only problem with arriving there while it was already in full-swing just shortly after 9 P.M. is that this open mic is such a success now that if you get there even by 9 P.M., you are not likely to play before 1 A.M., and even then you’ll probably get only one song! Such is the cost of success – get there early. s

Ultimately, I got fed up after two pints, and despite enjoying a lot of the music, I decided to move on and not play – so for this blog, it has to be considered as a “sort of” open mic experience. But it was good, and I’ll return again – earlier next time….

From Singapore to Paris, via the Ritz Carlton Party, the Café Oz and the Baroc – and by Way of an Interesting Musical/Racing Moment

September 26, 2014

Ritz Carlton Singapore

Ritz Carlton Singapore

PARIS – I blame my convoluted headline on the horrendously long time I have not written a post on this blog, and on the jet-lag, the two open mics and one big party at the Ritz Carlton, and on the red wine I had for dinner – a Cotes de Bourg that won a prize at the Macon wine fair in 2013…. Now, if that sounds weird, listen to this cool thing:

So Sunday night in Singapore after my day at the racetrack covering the Formula One race, I had to make a decision about what I’d do that night as I waited for my flight back to Paris early the next morning: I had at least two main choices, one being to attend an open mic that I had never attended before, at a pub called Molly Molone’s, and the other being to attend a post-race party where a friend was performing.

It would sound like a no-brainer for me – i.e., the open mic, since my work life is involved in attending all the F1 races anyway – but as it turned out, I was worried the open mic might not last that long after the night race, and more than that, I had actually been invited to the post-race party by a guy named Luke Buirski, who is a friend, a fabulous lead guitar player, and who I had met a few years ago at the Actors’ jamming bar open mic in Singapore. So because I had missed Luke last year, and because he was playing at this party, I thought there was no way I could miss it, and so my choice was easy: The Ritz Carlton ballroom, a short walking distance from the racetrack.

So I get there, and guess what? I find myself surrounded by people I know from the media, from F1, former Formula One drivers, current racers and, well, a large number of people from the F1 world I inhabit. It was, however, a very high-class nightclub thing that apparently costs a fortune to get into – unless you’re invited – and so here I was amongst the people I work with all the time, but…I had been invited to the party by one of the performers of the night!

So it was that I felt completely at home, but much more indebted to the man with the guitar than to the people I usually work with. For this was a really, really high-class nightclub thing with performances going on all the time, DJs, local stars, and Luke…. catch a bit of his performance on the videos I put up here….

And From Singapore it Was on To Paris and two of the open mics of Tuesday night, the Oz and the Baroc

So once back in Paris on Monday night, I got just enough sleep to manage to get the energy to go out on Tuesday night and take part in the Café Oz open mic, which I have attended something like four times in the last five weeks. And as has been my wont in these recent weeks on several occasions, I decided that in addition to the Oz, I would move on from there to another open mic.

This time, however, it was not that of the Pigalle Country Club, but that of Le Baroc, which is one of the mainstays of the the Paris open mic scene. While it started a little slowly, it turned into a pretty epic evening, with some final jamming and some really cool stuff between a guitarist – Guillaume – and a fabulous woman pianist at the end of the evening.

Amazing stuff! So have I landed yet? Back from Singapore? Well, tomorrow I have a gig in the streets of Paris at the Menilmontant metro station at 13:30. So I’ll tell you after that!

Third Week in a Row at the Café Oz Open Mic in Paris, and Still Happy

September 11, 2014

Café Oz Paris

Café Oz Paris

PARIS – The Café Oz open mic in Paris at the Café Oz bar near the Blanche metro started off a little slow a few months ago. But the bar, the location and Brislee Adams’ MCing job and sound system and methods, have made this the latest open mic in Paris to be a “must attend.”

In fact, I’ve just gone for the third week in a row. Tuesday night I came close to deciding to go to one or another of the other Tuesday-night open mics in Paris, but my experiences at the two previous editions of the Café Oz made me feel like I would be most assured of getting the kind of night I wanted if I attended it. I was right.

In fact, I had even gone with the intention of possibly doing two or three open mics in the same night…but the Café Oz was just too much fun. IE, cool and interesting people and musicians, plus the cool ambience of the barmen and women, and one thing I think I habitually forget to point out: The Café Oz open mic is one of those where they really think of the well-being of each musician who plays a set: You get a free drink after you play!

I had a great time with my set, too, by the way, playing “Year of the Cat” and having a harmonica player and an accordion player play along. Then I did my new song, “Chanson d’Amour,” followed by a bit of risk taking by playing a song I have only sung I think once before in an open mic, that never-ending Bob Dylan song that starts: “When you’re lost in the rain in Jurez….” The fact that it’s the same lilting chords from beginning to end was not overly boring this time thanks again to the accordion and harmonic….

There were some of the same faces as the week before, but there were also some discoveries. I’ll be back!!

And For the Second Week in a Row – 3 in Open Mics in 2 Nights … Different Ones

September 3, 2014

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – I have no idea how this happened, but somehow, another week has passed, and it turns out that I have once again just done three open mics in two nights, though not the same two nights as last week – this time it was Monday and Tuesday. So this time, I repeated only one of the three open mics as last week.

I returned to the Galway pub earlier this time than last time, and I managed to get my name on the list! That’s not to say there were not a lot of people – it was still a huge list. It was just the fact of getting there earlier that saved me.

But since I was still 9th only the list, and the open mic had not started yet, I decided to go around the corner to the Tennessee bar again, and there I found a new experience! Yes, six years attending the Tennessee Bar open mic, and it was the first time I had seen the open mic take place on the ground floor and not in the basement. So that was really cool.

It was the new MC, and he played a few songs, had someone play along with him at one point, and then it was my turn. Part of the reason I wanted to do three open mics in a row this week, though, had was because I wanted to try singing a song in French for the first time – I’d failed last week – and I also wanted to try out my new song.

This time, at the Tennessee, I made three false starts on the French song, and then finally got through it from beginning to end. This was thanks much to the bulk of the audience being in talk mode, and so I said to myself, “OK, no one is listening, so I can sing this as if I’m in my living room.” It worked.

The French song is “Et Dans 150 Ans,” by Raphael. My new song is called, “Chanson d’amour,” and it too contains some French….

I went on from the Tennessee to the Galway and again managed to repeat sing both songs, and got through both with no problem. My own song went down better at the Galway, since here a lot of people were listening, and they clapped along with the rhythm. I felt great! And it was a fabulous open mic, with the birthday celebration of the MC, Romain.

And from the Monday nights open mics it was back to the Tuesday at the Café Oz and some cool discoveries

Last night, it was off to Brislee Adam’s Café Oz open mic again, near Pigalle, by the Blanche Metro. This is the one I did last week as well. But last night was an even better night than last week. The evening was full of amazingly interesting performers, as you will see in the videos I made.

And I managed to get through the French song even better than on the night before, so objective achieved. But I did not feel like I wanted to sing my new song, and instead did an older one of mine.

But the emphasis here should be on the other amazing acts of the evening, particularly Tom Laroy, on his slide guitar and with his voice a little like Eric Clapton’s…and another guy, from England, who looks about 14 and sings like he’s about 65. (And I mean that in a good sense! Bluesman 65.)

3 Paris Open Mics Over Two Nights, Paris Wakes Up – Or Maybe it Was Just Me

August 29, 2014

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – Anyone who has visited or lived in Paris during the month of August knows that the city comes as close as it ever will to closing down during this month in the summer when most of France goes on its annual vacation. On Tuesday and Wednesday I went open mic crawling and managed to attend three different open mics over the two nights, and felt a wonderful sense of the city returning to action, but still sitting in the twilight zone of the end of summer.

There was a fabulous community feel at the first of the open mics I attended, at the Café Oz near Metro Blanche, run by Brislee Adams. It seemed every time I turned around I encountered some open mic host, taking what the British call a “busman’s holiday.” Hosted by Brislee, who does a great job, and often takes up a role as lead player or simply hand-clapping audience rouser, when he’s not photographing or recording videos, I turned around at one point to find Réjean Mourlevat, the host of the other Tuesday night open mic, that of the Baroc, just up the way in Belleville.

He said he was just dropping around to have a drink as he lives nearby. But I wondered if he was checking out the competition! It was the last Tuesday of the summer shutdown for the Baroc, so maybe he wanted to see how things were done at Brislee’s place….

Next time I turned around, I ran into Thomas Brun, the longtime host of the Highlander open mic, that runs on Wednesdays. I’ve seen Thomas going to other open mics from time to time to check them out – the Galway, the Lizard Lounge, the now defunct Ptit Bonheur la Chance…. But seeing him and talking to him reminded me that I had a meeting lined up for the next night from a reader of my blog who said we ought to meet and play together at the Highlander the next night….

But before I leave the Café Oz, where I made a mess of trying to sing a song in French for the first time, by the way, I decided to go up the way to Pigalle, just a short walk from the Café Oz, and check out the Pigalle Country Club open mic, which I learned was holding its first open mic of the season, after having taken a break for part of the summer as well.

There I found not only the usual crowd of the young rockers – the Burnin’ Jacks, among others – but I also found a few friends I did not know took part in that one, including my violin and lead guitar playing friend who accompanied me in my concert in London last month, Joe Cady. I ended up playing a bit with my other lead guitar playing friend, Félix Beguin of the Burnin’ Jacks, however. But he did not play lead, he sang along with me, and then I did the same with him.

And Then Back to the Highlander and a Cool Meeting

Well, I’d pretty much wiped myself out on those two open mics and meeting old friends and acquaintances and imbibing in way too much beer, wine and shots, but after at first deciding I would not attend the Highlander, I decided I had to go and meet that reader of my blog after all. And boy do I not regret doing that. It was a man named Paul Penfield, who put out a couple of albums in the mid-70s and who was on a brief visit to Paris, primarily to play an open mic or two.

We asked for another guitar from the audience, and on my second and third songs we played along together – first on my song “Memories” and then on “Mad World.” It reminded me of how much I love playing with other musicians – as if the previous night had not already done that – and that I do it far too little.

There were some great discoveries both nights, or rather, a discovery and a reacquaintance with someone I’d already heard before. Check out the videos of Desmond Myers at the Café Oz and of Simon Ferrante at the Highlander. Oh, yes, and that of Paul Penfield doing his solo number….

Brislee Adams, the Wizard of the Café Oz Open Mic in Paris

April 23, 2014

Oz Open Mic Paris

Oz Open Mic Paris

PARIS – There came a moment when I was deeply ensconced in singing and playing “Year of the Cat,” in fact, winding it up, when suddenly I seemed to enter into some kind of acid sound hallucination with my voice and guitar starting to go multiple…. I kept singing a moment, looked over at Brislee and thought that he was doing some kind of wizardry. It turned out that I had simply put my foot on a machine button of some kind that had rocketed off my singing and guitar into a zone from which it would never return….

Until Brislee pressed a few buttons. Then we were back to normal – or rather, back to the open mic at the Café Oz bar in Pigalle, an Australian pub where Brislee has been hosting a new open mic for several weeks now. It was my first time there last night, and I will definitely return. This open mic has a different feel to it than the others we know so well in Paris, and part of that is what feels like a clear, warm acceptance by the bar to hold this thing.

The sound systems is better than at most, Brislee does a great hosting job, and there was a very impressive list of performers there last night. That included the interesting San Diego musician Aaron Bowen, who has a voice that on his web site someone likened to a cross between Paul Simon and Michael Jackson. It’s too bad they did that, because I had not thought that for a moment last night, just being subjugated by his virtuoso and cool guitar playing, and his velvety and flying voice. Now, yes, I can hear the Paul Simon part – but no Michael Jackson. Check it out yourself! (And I mean both the open mic and the velvety smooth voice of Aaron Michael Paul Bowen.

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