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The Imminent Closing of the Coolin and its Crazy Cool Open Mic in Paris: And the Definitive Video of an Open Mic at the Coolin

March 1, 2015

Outside the Coolin

Outside the Coolin

PARIS – It will not be news to most people who attend open mics in Paris, since we’ve known about this for several months, but there are only three more occasions to take part in one of Paris’s best open mics at one of Paris’s best Irish pubs: The Coolin Irish Pub.

I have written so much about the Coolin open mic over the years since I first discovered it around four or five years ago – I cannot find my first post!! – that I do not need to introduce it to many regular readers of this blog. Suffice it to say that it quickly became one of the most fun, crazy and popular open mics in the city thanks to the usual recipe that makes open mics a success around the world: A great pub environment (this one is pretty voluminous, and that’s pretty rare for success); a great pub owner who loves music and never complains about the “noise”; a great MC in Etienne Belin (and his assistant MC, Ellen Banville); and a usually full and great audience and musicians….

You can see all of that style, feel and sound in a wonderful video on the Coolin open mic filmed and edited by my daughter Emily Spurgeon, posted on this page, above. Emily attended a night recently in order to film me for a school project documentary she called Rebellious Youth, and she was so fired up by the evening that she decided to use a whole lot more of the rushes she got from the evening to string together a fabulous final video – and advertisement for the last three open mic nights – of the atmosphere of an evening a the the Coolin open mic. Check it out and see all the incredible moments and emotions a single night passes through….

Yes, Coolin had everything. Oh, if there was one downside, it might be that this was far from the intimate kind of environment that the Ptit Bonheur la Chance could provide to artists testing new, tender material – but I assure you, those moments could happen as well at the Coolin, especially at the end of the evening ’round midnight, when most listeners had exhausted their frenzy, and some musicians were called up a second time to perform, and launched into something more intimate….

Anyway, in general, the environment at the Coolin was always one of good cheer and warmth, and the staff was always part of that environment. I only ever saw the pub on open mic nights on Mondays – and tomorrow will be the third to last Monday for that before the pub closes for good on 21 March, so get there!!!!! – but I understand that many of the other musical nights, like Paddy Sherlock’s Sunday, were among the most popular in Paris.

The pub is not closing out of any kind of failure, it is closing on success. It is closing because the fabulous Marché St. Germain in which it is located has been bought by a technology company that doesn’t need any more real estate in Paris, but feels it does. I’m not so happy about the fact that I’m writing these words on one of the computers made by that technology company, and that while I love the computer, I am sorry to see that another real world meeting place is being replaced by a company that prefers virtual worlds….

Where Was the Action? Tennessee, Galway or Coolin?

February 3, 2015

coolinPARIS – I’ll start by saying that my little crawl through the open mics of the Latin Quarter last night began with putting my name on the list of the Galway Pub open mic. It then went from there to dropping by at the Tennessee Bar open mic; and finished cool at the Coolin. And which was the best, hands down???

The Tennessee, I must say, was the worst. This place has recently died. The Tennessee, for years run by James Iansiti, was one of the best open mics in Paris. And one of the things that made it that was the amazing location of the bar, and the fabulous basement layout, its amazing stage, the possibility to go to the ground level or outside to talk and smoke. Then James left the place (now at the Café Oz, Denfert), and the Tennessee went through some kind of transition period using several different MCs, and this has now led to its current state of disaster and death. So if you want a really hideous night at an open mic in Paris on Mondays, drop by the Tennessee. Really, this fabulous bar and musical venue – potentially – must do something to save its current descent into hell.

If it looks like I was drinking some good whiskey while writing the above paragraph, then that’s right. But maybe I had better say something more concrete: First, there is no longer any ambience, the MC seems nice enough, but that’s not enough. There were five musicians present, it was a jam session not an open mic (which can be great, but there was no sense of cohesion here), and it seems that all those kinds of people who used to flock to this place to have a sense of home and fun, have abandoned ship. The stage is there, climb aboard and do what you want. Each musician for his or herself.

Next: So I spent only a few minutes there, grabbed a bit of video footage of some people playing – before THEY abandoned ship and turned up at the Galway – and I went to the Galway. The regular MC, All the Roads, Romain, was not there last night, and was being replaced. That meant an immediate downer, since Romain is so much a part of the vibe at the Galway now. The replacement was just fine, and is alway a regular musician at the Galway. But at least for as long as I stayed, I did not find the atmosphere I was looking for exactly, and I DID get to play early and therefore have the time to move on to the Coolin as I wanted.

In the meantime, I learned a response to the question I had posed to myself the last time I visited the Galway: The two tickets that every musician who plays now receives (that I mentioned last time) are worth Happy Hour prices for the drinks. This is a fabulous innovation at the Coolin, and really shows how much the pub respects and encourages musicians. My Kilkenny cost me five euros instead of something like seven euros fifty or so.

And Then Off to the Grand Finale of the Evening at the Coolin Pub in Paris

But I wanted to check out the Coolin in this last period of the pub’s existence. How horrible, the Coolin, after some 20 years, will be closing March after the market building in which it is based was bought out and kicking out all the businesses.

It was a relatively quiet night at the Coolin in terms of the numbers of musicians present – as it had been at the two previous joints (thanks no doubt to the cold weather) so despite arriving late, I got my name on the list.

I managed to play, got an encore, played again, then played another song at the end of an evening that ended at 1:30 AM or later! How can I describe the riotous musical fun at the Coolin last night? There were all sorts of talented, manic and crazy musicians, a great team running the show as usual between Ellen and Etienne, and a bar staff that is bounteous in its generosity. Oh dear, and each musician actually receives a ticket for an entirely free drink. (This is an old tradition at the Coolin, and possibly something the Galway heard about.)

Just check out the videos to get an idea of the fabulous atmosphere at the Coolin last night. And go every Monday until 16 March, the last night for the open mic – before the closing day of the bar with the final musical day of madness on the 21 March.

Coolin wins hands down last night in the Latin Quarter.

Paris on Monday and Tuesday, at the Open Mics

January 8, 2015

Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo

PARIS – Woke up yesterday with the horrendous news that the entire world is trying to absorb: How three deranged idiots could go and kill 12 people at a newspaper because they don’t like the newspaper’s art. Five public figures, five brilliant, fun and life-affirming artists among the dead at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, as well as a couple of policemen who were clearly not as well-armed as the deranged guys. So it was that I did not much feel like writing my insignificant blog yesterday of my insignificant visits to open mics on Monday and Tuesday in this same city of Paris.

But since life does go on, I am going to put up my usual collection of videos and a few words about the evenings: Monday was the Galaway and the Coolin, like the previous week. Oh, wait, I also dropped into the Tennessee Bar open mic, which was long one of the best in Paris. I have no idea what has happened to it at the moment, but it seems to be floating in a netherworld of insignificance as no one seems to be running it, but the stage seems to be occupied by musicians as they feel fit to take to it.

I was so depressed by the lack of atmosphere that I immediately moved on to the Galway and had a nice dose of what I expect from this mainstay of Paris, which never ceases to try to improve and expand the open mic show. Catch the TV screen to the left of the performers showing performers at the open mic in the past throughout the evening. Neat idea. And now there are calling cards that seem to offer happy hour drink rates or something like that – I’ll have to confirm what the meaning of that is during another visit!

The Coolin was cool again, and yet it was so low on musicians on Monday night after New Years that I still managed to get a couple of songs behind the mic despite arriving around 11:30 p.m. Although I’ve had some of my best moments in the raging madness of the Coolin when it is full of people and I can belt out a crowd-pleaser, some of my warmest moments are like those of Monday, when there are few people, and you can sing quiet songs to a quiet crowd. And on Monday, there was the pleasure of discovering the interesting Melanie Horsnell, an Australian singer songwriter of international stature.

Tuesday was off to the Baroc again, and there I found a slightly more quiet night than usual as well. But it was fun. We couldn’t know that it was the calm before the storm.

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….

Cool Time at Jack Doyle’s Open Mic in Budapest

July 25, 2014

jack doyle's budapest

jack doyle’s budapest

BUDAPEST – Budapest is one of the coolest, swingingest and musical cities I know of. It is one of the cities with the seemingly youngest hippest populations. There are sectors of the city that look like Berlin ( – or rather, what I imagine Berlin to be like, since I’ve never been there!!!!). But there is the weirdest thing about this city: I have a hard time finding open mics here, year after year. Open mics and jams and their venues last such a short period of time that they disappear fast. Or maybe it is just not in the mentality of the place – but that seems unlikely, since the open mics I HAVE attended have always been great.

Last night, therefore, I was really pleased to see that the open mic I discovered last year – or whenever it was – and that takes place at the Irish pub called Jack Doyle’s, right near the busy pedestrian tourist trap street of Vaci, still exists.

Jack Doyle’s is a pretty typical Irish pub, with the nice touch of a little library and reading area at one end, and a small stage located centrally in the room so providing great viewing and excellent sound for all spectators.

In fact, the sound system last night was really amazing, and I don’t remember it being that good last year. The vocals came through so crisp, so clear, and you could even hear yourself singing and playing. The guitars might have done better to be a little louder, but that was ok.

It turns out that the Irish owner/manager of the place used to work in the Coolin in Paris! It turns out he is friends with John Murphy, the once upon a time MC of the musical activities at the once upon a time Beckett’s Irish pub in Budapest, that was closed in January. So it is a small, small world – well, especially in the international world of Irish pubs!

Battle of the Mics on Monday Night in Paris

January 14, 2014

PARIS – It was quality all around at the open mics in Paris last night in the Latin Quarter, and it was clear that the musician were running from one to the other in order to find the best venue….and realizing there was no best…. At least, that’s the way it felt and looked between the Coolin and the Tennessee Bar, and I did not even make it to the Galway.

The last two or three times that I went to the Tennessee Bar open mic on Monday nights, business was a little slow. I had gone to Coolin and found business either as usual, or bigger than usual, and the quality continuing to climb. So last night, naturally, I decided to go to the Coolin first to sign up for the open mic at around 9:00 PM, and then go off to the Tennessee to put in a set there first, since I was already 12th on the list at the Coolin.

I was taken slightly by surprise to find the Tennessee Bar having returned pretty much to its own affluence of wonderful vibes and great musicians, and a nice sized crowd. I had a beer, listened to the acts, and kept my eye on my iPhone clock…. I kept watching and thinking that I would fail in my bid to play at both places, as the Tennessee had come seriously back to life and it was full of performers.

By the time my slot was announced, it was 10:43 and there were two or three others to go up before I would. I had situated my slot at the Coolin for around 11:00 PM. So I had to desist, pack up and leave a great open mic at the Tennessee Bar. I would never sign my name up to an open mic and disappear permanently without telling the MC, and I did not want to be late.

So I returned to the Coolin and there, what did I see? A vast number of the performers who had played early at the Tennessee were now there at the Coolin and about to play, or had already played! I also knew there was another at the Tennessee who would soon arrive for his slot at the Coolin…!

Both open mics last night were well attended and attended by cool musicians, and both had nice crowds. What might be happening at the Galway open mic not far from those two, I have no idea. But I suspect there may have been some who did all three….

In any case, I was glad to see the open mics in the Latin Quarter had all come seriously back to life!!!

Back to the Fold in Paris Open Mics

January 7, 2014

Outside the Coolin

Outside the Coolin

PARIS – I think that was the longest period I have ever had of not posting something on my blog. It just sort of happened. The last post was the day before Christmas, and then all hell of pleasure broke loose and it was Christmas, New Year’s, all that holiday stuff. I’d say that I took a holiday from the blog, but that would be too much like saying the blog is work! The blog is a labor of love, not work – at least not in that sense.

So anyway…last night I decided to return to the Coolin open mic again, this time not at the end of the evening but at the beginning of the evening to sign up early like everyone else. Good thing I did. I got there at 8:10, it was too early; went to a restaurant across the street and ordered a meal; returned at 8:45 to sign up, and that was the right time. I was 10th on the list of at least 20 people. That meant getting on at precisely 11:00 PM.

But my own slot was not the main aspect of the evening for me. It was an amazing night of great talents at the Coolin, and I left feeling as if there has been a shift in the Monday night open mics in the Latin Quarter. I always loved the Coolin. But now that they have changed the sound system, now that there has been a change at the Tennessee (the Galway has remained what it has always been) there is a feeling I had last night that a lot, I mean a LOT, of the talent has gravitated toward the Coolin as the base for Monday nights.

The sound system is better than it was in the Coolin’s early days, the crowd is now mostly musicians – and their friends – there to hear other musicians, but still just enough people just dropping in and listening and discovering; and while they may have reduced the free pint to a free half pint for all performers, well, they remain one of the few venues where the actually offer something to drink to every performer. And that is massive!

A great, great vibe continues at the Coolin….

Magic Returns at Coolin Open Mic in Paris

December 10, 2013

coolinPARIS – Well last night it was at the last minute that I decided to go to the Coolin open mic for the first time in months. I started the evening at the Tennessee open mic, and it was a nice quiet evening with lots of musicians despite there not being as many spectators as usual. And I may only have recognized two or three of the musicians at the Tennessee.

Ollie, the MC, who also MCs the Tireuse open mic on Tuesday nights, asked me if I was going to sing Cat’s in the Cradle, which I have not done for a very long time, so I decided to do it. I then did my song, “Except Her Heart,” and finished with “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” of Bob Dylan.

But I finished off feeling somehow restless, and decided to wander over to the Coolin to see what was happening, as it turned out that my musical friend Brislee Adams was hosting the evening instead of the regular host, who was apparently ill. Arriving at the Coolin, where I had not been for months, I found a place that has developed over the years since its first open mics, with now a wonderful sound system, a nice Persian carpet for stage, and various guitars standing up behind the stage.

I found a relatively small audience there, too, but they were quiet and respectful of the musicians, despite this being a usually massively lively Irish pub where often the musicians are little listened to unless singing loud, raucous crowd pleasers. On that subject, when it came my turn to sing, I decided for the first time in as long as I can remember at the Coolin to NOT do a crowd pleaser. Now that there is a decent sound system, and a respectful audience, I played “May You Never,” by John Martyn (minus his genius touch on the guitar, substituting my own fake version of the chords), and then I played my song, “Crazy Lady.” Both are quite and fingerpicked, and there too I decided to change by using a classical guitar instead of a folk steel string as usual. It was a real pleasure and I got some good responses.

A Return to the Magic of the Coolin

But the real magic came with the other musicians. It was the quiet end of the night, and people like Chiffre L, or Raphaëlle did some of their quieter songs – Chiffre L doing his Leonard Cohen – and then to finish off came the incredibly interesting Stephen James Newton, from Newcastle. Had I not heard him talk after his first song, I’d have thought Newton was from the deep south in the U.S. somewhere. His guitar playing is superb, and he graced us with some slide guitar after his initial deep south kind of song. You have to check out Stephen James Newton’s Soundcloud site too, to hear more of this interesting musician’s stuff. He’s living in Paris and seeking gigs.

So that was it, a touch of magic at Coolin, like those of the early days…or maybe I haven’t got a clue of what I’m talking about, and it was just all the travel I’ve been doing in the last several months that prevented me from getting there on Mondays that has put me out of touch with what is happening there every Monday…..

Another Lesson for Life at Paris Open Mics

April 3, 2013

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I often learn lessons about how to tackle life through the adventures of my open mic attendance around the world. The last two days were yet another example.

Monday night, I showed up at the Coolin open mic to find that I was too late to get on the list for any reasonable playing slot – ie, maybe if I was lucky I’d get a slot close to 1 AM, if they went on that long – so I felt completely let down and a little like that was the end of my night. But I did not give up. First I went to the Tennessee. There, though, pretty much the same situation, and after buying a pint of beer and listening to a few musicians, I decided to leave half the beer and head off to the Galway Pub.

There, eureka! A wonderful crowd of spectators and a sizable number of musicians and an available slot midway through the night made this the ideal open mic of the evening – even better than Coolin, as there were plenty of people to talk to, much talent, and a great sound system – which is lacking at Coolin.

So I played my set, had fun, spoke with people, and left feeling like it didn’t really matter if the first option failed, there was a second option, if I persisted.

Well, last night I was so busy with a work-life crisis, that I did not get to post on this blog. But that in itself worked out fantastically, as I had the exact same thing happen as on Monday night as far as the open mics went. I arrived at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic and found that I was 17th on the list and it was not even certain I would get a spot to play.

Again, I had bought a pint of beer, and again I decided to drink part of it, and leave the rest on the bar and head off to another open mic that I knew existed. So I took the metro and went to the Pigalle Country Club where I had attended the new open mic a few weeks ago, and not felt like it was totally my thing.

This time, it WAS. And how! It started kind of quietly, but after I went up and played a few songs with my guitarist, Félix Beguin, and people began to sing along, suddenly, the night turned from fairly quiet and low speed, into a magic, rocking, rolling, hot musicathlon of wild craziness and amazing young Paris rock talents. I not only enjoyed my slot, but I enjoyed as much that of the others, and all the people going crazy in the crowd, dancing, moving, shaking – and I even had one crazy uncouth woman feel me up on the dance floor. Which was clearly because of my singing talent (and nothing to do with the amount of booze she had imbibed)….

Anyway….the moral of this story is clear: If you think all is lost, just keep going, there will be an alternative out there that could end up not being an alternative but the thing you were actually really looking for in the first place. Check out the videos.

Exhaustion at the Paris Open Mics

March 26, 2013

That is a purely subjective headline, nothing to do with the state of the Paris open mics on a Monday night. Pure indulgence on my part as I write about how I went from a 32-hour day right into my favorite Paris open mics without a break.

It started, that day, at 9 AM in Kuala Lumpur, continued in Sepang at the race track, went on to dinner and preparations for the flight at the airport outside KL, continued on the flight to Dubai with a 300 pound giant sitting beside me and nailing the entire left side of my body to my seat for 7 hours, continued in a break for air in Dubai, and then on a nice flight back to Paris with the weirdest couple of brother and sister team sitting next to me – exasperation even an Emirates air hostess – and then ended with the RER, Metro, home cleansing and finally the open mics.

So I went to the Tennessee bar open mic first and found it to be a very exceptional night of talent, everyone seeming really in high form. Could that have been thanks to my own particularly low form? In fact, when I arrived, I fooled myself into believing that I was in great shape! Little by little, despite the great music my eyelids began to drop.

I began giving in to the grip of the fatigue so badly that I decided to no wait around to play my own set, preferring to go off and play at the Coolin, where I was sure no one would listen. I was right. There were more good acts there, but the spectators were not of the most listening kind, which suited me really well in some ways – but depressed me in other ways.

I decided to sing two fairly quiet songs for once, and not feed into this particular audience’s need to sing along. I did “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and “Father and Son.” It worked, the talking continued. When someone else went up after me and roused the interest of the audience, I decided I was definitely too tire, and had to go – I’d been too lifeless to elicit any audience reaction anyway.

Returned home, forcing myself awake with my iPhone in the taxi ride, and then dropping into bed and sleeping straight through to this morning at 9 AM. I feel certain that the jet-lag has been beaten in one night….

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