Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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2 Open Mics and a Traffic Jam at a Jam in Paris

December 3, 2013

PARIS – I finally feel really back in Paris. After so much travelling the Paris I feel back in has moved into full swing in the open mics and jam sessions. In fact, last night I decided to visit a jam session that I went to a few times in the past, but have not been to for a long long time, and found so full that it was impossible to get down into the basement room from the groundfloor bar to hear – or play. But I’m jumping ahead.

The jam crawl started Sunday night with my visit to the Lizard Lounge open mic, which had been closed down for several months as they sought a new group of people to run the open mic. This is one of the longest standing open mics in Paris, and it is run only on the first Sunday of the month. I was not in Paris for the first one last month, the first of the return. But I was there on Sunday, and the place was bopping when I arrived a little late.

The format has not really changed: The basement room of the Lizard Lounge lends itself perfectly to music and an open mic, and thank goodness they have started again. There is a drum set, a couple of mics, and you can play solo or with a group. I was lucky to arrive late and still get a spot on the list, playing second last or so.

From there I went home and nursed my jet lag and then decided to change things on Monday night and instead of going to the Tennessee Bar or the other open mics in the St. Michel area, I decided to go up to the jam session at the Cariatides bar that happens every Monday night and is run by Doréa SisDee, who also has a great Facebook page on Paris jams and open mics. I had been to her session once at the Cariatides, but the previous times I went it was somewhere else. So last night I was completely taken by surprise to find the Cariatides absolutely bursting with spectators and musicians.

It was impossible to get down the stairs and get a chair to listen or play. So I settled for recording a few minutes of the jam over the speaker on the groundfloor bar, just to give you a taste and mark my territory with the video camera.

Realizing quickly that it was gig over at the Cariatides, I headed on over to the mainstay Galway Pub open mic. There I find it equally kicking up a storm with copious musicians and spectators. And I managed to get a table and listen to a night of music, with some very inventive stuff, and I got to do four of my songs. The only downer was that I did not have enough charged batteries for my Zoom Q3HD recording device and had to revert to my iPhone for a couple of the songs – and the rotten sound quality that entails….

In any case, it was a fine, fine night at the Galway, and I was pleased all in all to see so much life in the Paris open mics after I’ve been gone so long….

Monday Night Jam at the Nilaja, Near the Bastille

September 13, 2011

Last night I decided it was finally time to step out of my habit of attending the two usual Paris open mics – the Tennessee Bar and the Galway – in order to try a jam session I had been hearing about, at the Nilaja restaurant, which specializes in African food. Actually, I intended to check out the Nilaja jam and then go to the Galway, but that soon proved impossible as I got sucked up by the atmosphere and other things at the jam.

I had heard about the jam through Facebook where I recently discovered a Paris jam session and open mic information page run by Doréa SisDee, a singer who runs an organization for musicians called La Factory Afropéenne. It’s a collective of musicians and Doréa organizes jams, plays in them, does all sorts of different events for musicians around Paris. Doréa had discovered my Thumbnail Guide to open mics in Paris on this blog and had been really praiseful and encouraging and enthusiastic.

So it was no surprise that she was the same in person as online. What WAS a surprise was when I arrived in the middle of one of her songs and the stage was beside the entry to the restaurant and as I closed the door the door handle fell to the floor with a loud metallic ring. She stopped, I picked up the door handle and apologized for doing that as a replacement for a triangle…. She then recognized me, asked my name, and then introduced me to everyone, the whole audience of 20 or so people who were there at that moment. She was effusive in her praise for my world travel to jams and open mics and my blog.

I was thankful, but suddenly felt enormous pressure about playing in the jam – more so when I realized that it was a real classic jam session kind of thing where musicians all go up together and play jamming music while someone sings. I am still at the very early stages of my development in that area, as I usually just play my own memorized material rather than improvise with a group. Of course, that is fabulous exercise and essential for any musician. But I was scared as hell, and felt very inadequate, given that I felt the audience rightfully had great expectations of the world traveller.

Having said that, the jam was very warm, wonderful, laid-back, and there were some interesting musicians – very interesting ones. My personal favorites were Isiah Shaka, Doréa and Marianne BP, who more than anything recited a text she wrote – and reminded me of Patti Smith, and of course, the genial Hervé Samb, who organizes these jams every Monday night.

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