Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

A Night at the Harp to Welcome Home All the Roads after a Year Travelling all the Roads

July 17, 2017
bradspurgeon

All the Roads on the Road

All the Roads on the Road

PARIS – Just a quick note to note the notes noted at The Harp on Saturday night in honor of the return after a year to Paris of Romain Bretoneiche, also known as “All the Roads,” also known as the longtime MC of the open mic at the Galway Pub open mic in Paris. Romain and his girlfriend took a year out of the daily slog to live a little by travelling all the roads of the world in an around-the-world voyage.
Romain and his sister at the harp

On Saturday, at The Harp pub which is located halfway between the Place Clichy and the Place Blanche, Romain and his friends and family organized a party celebrating his return. This is kind of a personal sort of blog item, but I feel that since I must have reported at least 50 times on my visits over the years to the Galway Pub open mic (which is happening tonight, by the way), it was appropriate to report Romain’s return….
Ludow at the Harp

Brad Spurgeon  at The Harp(Photo by: Ludow Forget)

Brad Spurgeon at The Harp (Photo by: Ludow Forget)


Why it was not celebrated at the Galway, I have no idea. But the evening of music and imbibing at The Harp was perfect. I had never been in this pub, and it lives up to its name.
jamming at the harp

A great night, and lots of fun playing on the small stage at the back of the room, despite the general atmosphere of talk, welcoming Romain back in town. Let us see what this fine musician does next….
jake at the harp

Rushing from the Rush to the Some Girls to the Galway on a Monday Night in June

June 30, 2017
bradspurgeon

Rush Bar open mic

Rush Bar open mic

PARIS – I can confirm on my second visit to the Rush Bar open mic in Paris that this place is really cool. As it turned out, I was late to arrive, and despite a very full list and an open mic that had to end precisely at midnight, the MC made room for me to play as the last man on the list, acoustic. It turned out to be a huge pleasure, despite my fear of confronting a large audience without a mic for the voice or amp on the guitar.
Third at the rush bar

That was the way I was treated personally, but the other positives were the huge crowd, the great vibe and a new batch of musicians I had not seen the last time I was there. In addition to a few of the same. The bar is soon going to have a new owner, and the new owner also happened to be there and assured us that there would be no change in the attitude toward the open mic.
second at the rush bar

So long live the Rush.

And I noticed that Charlie Seymour, the MC at the Rush, apparently used that word “rush” near the end of the night without noticing it, as he said they had to rush along and do only one song per person when near midnight in order to let everyone play. So it is that after using the silly pun in my post a couple of weeks ago, I could not resist using it in a different way in my headline above.
first at the rush bar

Yes, after performing in the Rush bar I was still hungry for more. So I rushed on over to the Bastille in cab, as it was only a few minutes away and I knew there was another open mic at the Some Girls bar.

And then it was off to the Galway Pub open mic

Unfortunately, when we got there, we found that that open mic had also ended some 20 or so minutes before. So it was that I decided to rush over the more distant Galway Pub open mic at the Place St. Michel, again in a cab. There, I found the stage occupied, and the wonderful Tess running the show as quietly and efficiently as ever, and she offered to let me play, despite her having already announced to the crowd that the open mic was about to end.
outside view at the Galway

I got to do four songs! And then it turned out another late-comer got to play as well. And so it was that the Galway open mic must have ended at around 1 AM or later. And once again it confirmed my warm feelings for this longstanding open mic in Paris, which has changed MCs three times since I started attending in 2008 or so, but which has maintained its quality and standards….

It was all worth the rush….

Blinded by the Light: A Great New Host at the Galway Open Mic in Paris, and The Guinness Tavern’s Rock ‘n’ Roll

August 9, 2016
bradspurgeon

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – Now that is the first time I’ve seen a woman at an open mic singing “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen! Or maybe I should say that it is actually the first time I have seen ANYONE at an open mic singing “Blinded by the Light” by Bruce Springsteen. But not only did it inspire me just now to pick up my guitar and seek out the chords and lyrics myself to give it a try, but it also made me realize in just what good hands the Galway Pub open mic is now after having passed from the second or so generation host – All the Roads – to Tess Liautaud. Nor should I be surprised about Tess singing Blinded by the Light – after all, this is the woman who got invited up on stage by the Boss himself at Paris’s Bercy stadium (it has a different name now, I believe) a few weeks ago to join him for a song on guitar and vocals….

And so there I was last night at my first visit to the Galway run by Tess. I also realized tonight just how devoted Tess must be to Springsteen, as I realized that learning all those lyrics is the mental gymnastic equivalent of learning any of a number of Dylan songs, like maybe, “Shelter From the Storm,” and requires huge memory skills…. what?:

Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
D G A7 D
In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
D G A7 D
With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin’ kinda older I tripped the merry-go-round
D G A7 D
With this very unpleasing, sneezing and wheezing, the calliope crashed to the ground

Tess doing Blinded by the Light at the Galway

Anyway… back to the open mic. It was a quiet night in August, with half of the open mics closed down for the month of streets emptied of Parisians by night, but full of tourists, and I decided to check out the Galway and Tess’s new presentation of the evening.

And there, I immediately discovered that not only was I seriously low on battery power on my Zoom recorder, as well as seriously low on my telephone, as well as having no charger for the phone and no charged batteries for the Zoom, but I was also around No. 10 or 12 on the list at the Galway, and it was 3 songs each and after 10 PM when it all started.

So having met a friend at the Galway who suggested we go check out a band at a bar I’ve never gone to, I accepted, and decided not to perform.

So off we went to the Guinness Tavern, a Paris institution for live music, with house bands that play until after 4 AM every night – I think it’s every night! Located on the rue des Lombards, I did notice that across the streets, the Duc des Lombards, the famous live jazz music joint, was closed. That was either because it was Monday, or again the month of August. No idea.

Anyway, we stayed an hour and a half or so and listened to the highly adept band play hits from the time of Blinded by the Light until today. And had a nice time listening to the band, Jesters, and when the musicians saw a couple of us had guitars, they even invited us at the break to go up and play. I will regret it for the rest of my life that I did NOT go up and play. How dumb of me. How unlike me. I’m always ready for a musical adventure. I guess I was feeling my music was so different than what the band was doing that I’d only let either me or the spectators down – but now I regret it.

Oh well, the Guinness Tavern will stay there, I assume….

And so, the good news is the Galway continues despite the departure of Romain “All the Roads.” I’ll miss his time there, but at least we still have the joint, and a fabulous new host…. Decidedly, the calliope has not yet crashed to the ground!

P.S. How strange is memory. I discovered as I was adding the tag for Guinness Tavern that I had actually already been to this joint, way back in 2011, just for about half a song or something, as I was clearly not impressed at the time!

Romain Leaves the Galway, Takes to All the Roads

July 6, 2016
bradspurgeon

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – But on Monday, knowing it was Romain’s last open mic, I drove as fast as I could from Graz to Vienna, then flew as fast as I could from Vienna to Paris, and then took the RER public transport as fast as I could from the airport directly to the Place St. Michel and the Galway pub, as I was not going to miss that last night for anything in the world….
A Romain from the Galway a while back

For the last I don’t know how many years, Romain Bretoneiche has been hosting the open mic on Monday nights at the Galway Pub in Paris, beside the place St. Michel. He has been doing a great, a fabulous job, having taken over from the previous man, who was already a very tough and seemingly impossible act to beat. As of this week, last Monday, in fact, Romain has left the job as the MC in order to pursue a life on the road. Given that his band’s name is, “All the Roads,” that seems fitting. But Romain will be missed in the Paris open mic scene – for the next year or so, or however long it is he will be on all the roads travelling the world. The open mic will go on, though.
A Romain from last year at Galway

And I did not regret a minute of it. In fact, I was so deeply involved in enjoying the open mic that I was completely loath to do my usual thing of making videos, and to record this momentous last event. Can you imagine?
Romain three years ago at the Galway

Of course, I had to get a little bit of Romain doing his act, so I got a few bits of a song he did with a violinist, and then I got someone else, and I must say, though, that I have mountains of videos of Romain on this blog, so any search for Galway will lead to them.
Romain’s last night at Galway

Romain pointed out to me that I attended his first open mic at the Galway, and there I was at the last, remembering some of the first times I met Romain. At the time, he wore Elvis Costello-like horn-rimmed glasses. And when I first heard his velvety voice, I thought, hey man, this IS Elvis Costello – a French Elvis Costello, 40 years later! He dropped the glasses – to my great regret – but his sound only got better.
Another at last night for Romain at Galway

Check out the Galway videos on the blog, and return to the Galway for the new master of ceremonies – who, I understand, will be the amazing Tess…. more on that later….

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

Open Mic Hopping Through Paris in the Warm Winter

December 18, 2015
bradspurgeon

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – Last time I posted I was blaming Paris for being in Christmas-break mode and not having so many open mics as usual. Now I must lay blame on myself for being in Christmas break mode for not posting on this blog this week despite doing three or more open mics! In fact, I’m not in any kind of true “break” mode; I’m in overdrive on my own projects in the areas of my life where I am not yet earning my living, but where I still have ambitions: Editing my open mic film, putting together a CD, working on novels, memoir and other projects. To say nothing of household chores and a minimum of socializing. So here is a short report on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday open mic adventures in Paris….
Brit Style at Galway

Sunday it was off to the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar open mic near Chatelet, where Etienne Belin held court again for his weekly open mic in this fabulous and cool bar, which also hosts a billiards tournament during the open mic. Now THERE is a solution for all the bars that are not sure they want to do an open mic for fear of alienating other sectors of their patrons: Do everything at once!
First at Pigalle Country Club open mic

I heard some nice stuff, met some nice people, and generally had an excellent time.
Julia at Rebel Bar open mic

Monday, it was off to my first visit to the Galway open mic for a long long time. It was not the usual MC, but rather Thomas Brun, who is the MC of the Highlander open mic. And Thomas, as any reader of this blog will know, is a consummate MC of open mics…and a wonderful musician. I had a video of him opening the evening’s show, but unfortunately I was placed behind a very, very, very loud group of Americans who were standing at the bar just in front of Thomas, and in the video as at the pub, it’s not so easy to distinguish anything between their loud voices and his music. I can’t understand how anyone on earth can be in a bar directly in front of a small, intimate stage with a single musician opening a show, and how they can continue to yell at the top of their voices about nothing at all….
Group at Rebel Bar open mic

Fortunately, the group went outside eventually to talk – they had the upper floor and the back of the bar, if they wanted – and the evening went on in acceptable manner.
Duet at Galway open mic

Tuesday, I dropped by Brislee Adams’ excellent Café Oz open mic in Pigalle, but it was too early and he had not yet arrived; so I could not put my name on the list. I went down the street and had a meal of raclette with a newfound friend, and then after the fabulous meal, we went back to the Café Oz, to find the place just brimming with open mic musicians, and a list that was so long I knew that although it was only 10:30 p.m., I would not get behind the mic until 1 a.m., if at all.
Paul at Galway open mic

So we left and went to look for a place to have a drink, and that’s when it came into my mind – after visiting one or two other noisy bars – that there was the Pigalle Country Club open mic, run by my friends of the Paris band, “The Burnin’ Jacks.” This is a fabulous, very little publicized open mic that is used mostly by the Burnin’ Jacks and their friends. But that is by no means the point of the thing, so anyone can go and grab the stage, mic, guitar, and play away when it’s free.
Second at Galway open mic

So both I and my friend did play, after hearing much fun rock ‘n roll and Buddy Holly played by a couple of the Burnin’ Jacks, and others….
Japanese going wild at Rebel Bar open mic

Bombarding the Bombardier and Hopping the Galway – Two Paris Open Mics in One Night

May 19, 2015
bradspurgeon

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – Monday night has always been a great night for open mic hopping in Paris. But traditionally I have done the rounds of the Galway, the Tennessee Bar and the Coolin. Now, with the Coolin gone, and the Tennessee bar open mic in never-never-land, if it even exists anymore, the new roadmap enters around the Galway and the Bombardier, which has moved to Mondays from Thursdays. And also the Café Oz Denfert, which has moved to Monday from Sunday.

Last night I wanted to see if I could do all three of them, but the Denfert was too far out from the previous two, given my late arrival. But what I found, much to my delight and surprise, was that as far as the two I attended – within about 15 minutes walk of each other, the one being off the Place St. Michel and the other off the Place du Panthéon – there are two strong, and completely different open mics still available on Mondays in the Latin Quarter.

When I say strong, I mean that not only is the presentation top-notch, but the talent was great too. There was definitely enough of it to go around. I’m so sorry to have missed the Café Oz at Denfert to see how much talent was there last night too! (And knowing that the presentation by James Iansiti, formerly of the now-dead Tennessee Bar open mic, is great.)

I met old friends like Shelita, and new friends like Steve Kessler, and heard regulars like Ollie, who runs the open mic on Sundays of the Pop In and used to do the great Ptit Bonheur la Chance. There were people I’d never heard before, including a Scotsman singing Dylan, and some guy in his 40s or so daring to sing an Abba song, “Dancing Queen,” which I have never – fortunately – seen performed in an open mic before. I should have recorded it, but didn’t!

There are big differences between the two venues I did perform at, however. Despite moving to Monday nights, the Bombardier crowd was still one that goes more for the social visit, the sports, the drinking, than the music. But it is a great place for that, and to have music in the background via the open mic. So a musician can use it to practice playing live, but not really trying to worry about grabbing the audience’s participation. The talk will go on!

The Galway is by comparison more of a place where the musicians can listen to the musicians, and those who don’t want music, an retire to the back of the bar or the first floor and do as much talking as they want. The Galway has a strange sort of mix between the intimate and the public about it. And Romain’s presentation is as warm and smooth as ever. And the window out to the Quai des Grands Augustins remains one of the great things to perform in front of in Paris.

Both remain great places to try on a Monday night – as well as the Café Oz Denfert….

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