Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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The Mayonnaise Held at Two Open Mics in Paris

February 28, 2013

This feels like the first week in a long time where I have managed to do multiple open mics three days in a row – for a total of seven. Last night it was a set at the Vieux Leon followed by a set at the Highlander. The latter would NEVER have been possible were it not for the ongoing kindness and enthusiasm of Thomas Brun, the Highlander MC, who managed to get me behind the mic by the end of the evening despite it being a massively booked evening. There were, apparently, around 21 performers on the list at the start of the night….

I also managed to get a slot because a lot of those performers dropped out as the night went on…. It was a contrast to the Vieux Leon, where there were, I think, a maximum of 10 performers. I don’t know that for sure, though, as I left early for the Highlander.

Still, each of these open mics has their own character, and the Vieux Leon was very pleasant last night, with a crowd of musicians and spectators that was neither too many nor too few. And it was punctuated by the unique and even, rather odd, but drole, performance of Dick Turner, a trombone player and singer – ie, he does not play a guitar an sing, but a trombone….

At the Highlander, meanwhile, it was as lively and fun as ever – or more so…. And I have to thank Jake Weinsoff for accompanying me on violin on “Mad World” – which I threw at him by surprise at the last second, while behind the mic – and on “Wicked Game.” It is, truly, a lot of fun playing with as many different musicians as you can until, as the French say, “the mayonnaise holds.”

A Steve Forbert Connection in Mid-Summer in the Highlander Open Mic in Paris

August 16, 2012

Way way back when, in a period I shy to talk about on this blog it was just so far and long away, I met a young performer named Steve Forbert, while we were both playing at Gerde’s Folk City open mic in New York City, in the Village. I could barely keep a beat, was little able to express emotion in the singing, and had not memorized my songs. But this guy Forbert was blowing everyone in the room away and filling it with his presence, just knocking us all out. I just couldn’t figure it out. Like, who is he? Why is he here? How does he do that?

I arrived one day in the long sign-up line up outside the door on East Third Street and stood right behind him. It was fall, and his coat was full of holes with the cotton insides hanging out. This was not a cultivated look, it was poverty. Anyway, I asked him how long he had been playing the open mics, etc., and he said a couple of years – he was 21 – and he said he was also busking in Grand Central Station….

I made no sense of him until a couple of years later when I was in a taxi in London, England I heard on the radio his distinctive voice again, and then heard the announcer say his name. He was the next Bob Dylan, it seemed, and he had this album out that was making everyone go crazy. Anyway, today Forbert is comparatively forgotten, but really alive and kicking and playing small venues all over the States and occasionally England.

Well last night at the Highlander, when a performer named Jake Weinsoff broke a string on the house guitar, I offered Thomas Brun, the MC, for Jake – and others – to use my guitar while Thomas put a new string on his guitar. Thomas accepted, Jake took my guitar, and then he announced he was going to play a song by Steve Forbert! First time I have heard anyone – aside from me – do a Forbert song at an open mic! And it was with my guitar. I spoke to Jake afterwards, and he told me that he too had met Forbert…. Cool!

More generally, what to report? It was smack in the middle of the month of August last night, and the only joint offering an open mic in Paris as far as I could see – on the public holiday of the 15 August – was the brave Highlander. On the other hand, you almost had to have been brave to go there. It was so packed with spectators and musicians! I arrived one hour earlier than last week, and like last week I signed up as the 17th musician on the list. And as the Highlander offers three songs per night come rain, shine or sickness, that means going one well past midnight.

Still, unlike the week before, I did manage to do my three songs by 1 AM this time. That, too, gave me the great possibility of watching all the other acts of the evening. And there were a lot, and some original – even off-the-wall – performances. Well, all right maybe just one off-the-wall performance. But lots of great stuff beside that.

Still, as I continue this long, long stretch in the Paris open mics while I have my holiday and take a break from my world travels, I maybe don’t have a hell of a lot of different stuff to say about this – for me – local hangout.

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