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Paddy Sherlock’s Fabulous, Long-Overdue Paris Songwriters Club at the Tennessee Bar

November 27, 2017
bradspurgeon

tennessee bar facade

tennessee bar facade

PARIS – I could not go last month to the first edition of Paddy Sherlock’s open mic at the Tennessee Bar that he runs under the name of the Paris Songwriters Club. But last night, Sunday, I could get there, so I took the opportunity, because I had a feeling about this thing. My feeling was right. Paddy Sherlock, a longtime Paris musician from Ireland (who had a gig at the Coolin pub in Paris for 20 years!), really knows how to organize and run a great show. Last night might have been an open mic, but it was a great show – beginning to end. A fabulous addition to the Paris open mic scene.

The idea behind it is a slightly risky one, in that he basically demands that people play their own compositions and not cover songs. But that environment really pushes a musician with insecurities to go for the risk of playing their own song rather than falling into the safe zone of doing a crowd-pleasing cover that they know is a sure thing.
Second Paris Songwriters Club night compilation

What I found amazing last night – along with Paddy’s perfect MCing, and his own great music, and the good sound system, etc. – was that I really felt very often as if it could not be possible that everyone was playing his own song! Some of the stuff was just so good that I forgot for the duration whether I was listening to an unknown popular song, or a composition by an unknown songwriter.

In any case, it more than lived up to my hopes. And this is great news for the Tennessee Bar too – which has relatively new management – as it used to host one of the best open mics in Paris, with James Iansiti, but since that host left, the open mic has never been up to standard for long, if at all.

Paddy said he hopes to make this monthly open mic a weekly open mic, although that depends on its success. For the moment, one thing is for sure: The next edition is on 10 December. So I highly recommend you get your butt over there, songwriter or not!

PS. For the first time on this site, and in a baptising of my new camera, I have decided to make a compilation of short segments of all of the people I filmed during the open mic – which was far from the full number of performers.

PPS, I did not want to ignore that there is also a new open mic at the Tennessee bar on Thursdays, which is run by Etienne of Coolin fame, but which unfortunately the night when I went there, Etienne could not make it, so I decided not to stay as I wanted to see it in its real guise…. I’ll return again, for sure….

Finding Warmth in the Cold Night at the Café Oz Denfert Open Mic

December 29, 2014
bradspurgeon

Café Oz Paris

Café Oz Paris

PARIS – Winter finally came to Paris, the temperature was below zero – or certainly felt like it! – and on a Sunday night I could not imagine finding life, warmth or music in any of the open mics.

It turned out I found all three and more at the Café Oz Denfert open mic, finding myself not only surrounded by musicians at this great relatively new open mic – with the former MC from the Tennessee Bar, James Iansiti – but also finding a very big audience of spectators and imbibers all coming in from the cold to take in the music and drink some warming alcohol.

There were a few surprises amongst the musicians, including one whose really cool songs I have written about in years past, but who dislikes having videos put up on my site, so I won’t say anything more on that. But there were some regulars as well, like the fabulous Alvaro, who turned his set into a jam, as well as at least one person who came without musicians but managed to band them all together for a few popular and well-received songs….

I played around five or six songs, mostly covers, and then left as quickly as I arrived, back into the cold. Cold. Cold.

Doing This Backwards at Brad Spurgeon’s Blog – a Two-Week Log-jam

December 1, 2014
bradspurgeon

Café Oz Paris

Café Oz Paris

PARIS – I have been so busy in the last two weeks winding up my sixth worldwide open mic adventure with a visit to Abu Dhabi that I never did get back to the blog to talk about all the musical and other things I have been up to since my last post, two weeks ago. That is VERY unlike this blog. And I have no excuses – because I don’t believe in using “overwork” as an excuse, since we can ALWAYS do more.

Having said that, I’ve got stacked up in my brain of experiences and plans and projects over the last couple of weeks a bunch of different things and evenings and musical experiences to talk about. And I hate the idea of writing about them all at once on a single, never-ending post. So instead, I’ve decided to talk about the things freshest in my mind and memory first – i.e., the stuff I did yesterday – and each day when I come back (provided no new experience has been got) I will write about the experience of the day before.

That is the beauty of a blog: Anything goes!!! To hell with chronological order and the tyranny of time!

Visiting the New Open Mic at the Café Oz, Denfert in Paris

It has been running for a few weeks now, but I somehow only managed to get to the new Sunday-night open mic at the Café Oz at Denfert Rochereau in Paris last night for the first time. It’s even more surprising since I have been jogging past this pub for a year and a half on my nightly – ok, sometimes fortnightly – jog around the neighborhood. But what was even more surprising, in a pleasant way, was to discover that this new Café Oz open mic in this voluminous Australian pub, is run by the same guy who made the Tennessee Bar open mic such a great success for so many years, along with one of the regulars at that open mic night.

Yes, James Iansiti is the guy behind it, and he works with Chardes on the MCing, on musical backing, on announcing and organizing. And here we have an open mic with a difference in Paris: It may be the same format that James ran at the Tennessee Bar for so many years – until he did not do that anymore, a year ago??? – but this bar is such a different kind of place that the feel is quite different.

It confirms my feeling again that the success of an open mic is the sum of its parts: attitude of bar owner, size and shape of bar and stage, location of bar, MC, sound system, whatever. So this may be James and the gang running this Café Oz open mic at Denfert Rochereau in Paris (not to be confused with Brislee Adams’ open mic at the Café Oz at the Metro Blanche), but the feeling is different.

I personally just loved playing on this big raised stage area in front of the voluminous bar room, with hugely high ceilings, and a friendly staff. I even enjoyed the fact of the sports televisions showing their imagines as I played. All in all, this is one to recommend, and breaks a little the stranglehold of the Pop In on Sunday nights in Paris….

Life Goes on at the Tennessee Bar Open Mic in Paris – And Bursts Forth at the Galway

August 14, 2014
bradspurgeon

tennessee bar facade

tennessee bar facade

PARIS – As with my report from the Highlander open mic last week, I made a visit to play music at the Tennessee Bar open mic the other day for the first time in many months. But unlike at the Highlander, the Tennessee does not have the same long-standing MC running the show, but has gone through a few changes in the last year.

The first thing that happened was that the longtime MC and Tennessee bar open mic organizer, James Iansiti, left the job after something like six or seven years running the thing. He was immediately replaced by Yaco, the organizer and MC of the Petit Bonheur la Chance/La Tireuse open mic, which was one of the best in Paris. Yaco went on to run the Tireuse on Tuesdays and the Tennessee on Mondays and Thursdays. That was a lot of Yaco, and for reasons I have not found out, he left the Tennessee job and the Tireuse ceased to exist as an open mic.

That brings us to today. I didn’t catch the name of the new MC and like every good journalist, I didn’t bother asking him his name. Some day I will, no doubt! But he was doing a pretty good job – except for the occasional mystery disappearance – and it is safe to say by this one experience that the Tennessee Bar open mic seems to have reborn, somehow, into something similar but different.

But then, up the street from the Tennessee the Galway was overflowing with musicians….

I had the feeling it was a younger crowd, and I had the feeling that the new MC is a hands-on guy, playing with other musicians on guitar and percussion when they want. He makes a list, and basically gives musicians more than just three or four songs if it feels like they are being well-received – he asked the crowd a few times if they wanted more from musicians….

All good so far. The Tennessee may have found its way into a new territory. Having said that, I really only ended up at the Tennessee because the Galway – near by on the Quai des Grands Augustins – was overflowing with musicians and I’d be about No. 25 on the list despite not really being that late to sign up. So, keep an eye on these two Monday night open mics in Paris and let’s see where they go….

The New Combination at the Open Mic of the Tennessee Bar in Paris

October 22, 2013
bradspurgeon

tennessee bar facade

tennessee bar facade

DUBAI – I’m back to that strange situation of writing about the Tennessee Bar open mic in Paris while in a completely different part of the world. a few weeks ago I was writing all about the end of the open mic at the Tennessee Bar in Paris from my hotel room in Mokpo, South Korea. Now I’m in the lounge at the Dubai airport on my way to New Delhi, and I’m writing about the Tennessee open mic again. But this time it’s from firsthand experience, that of my attendance at the “new” Tennessee Bar open mic last night.

After many years of the open mic being run by James Iansiti, the Tennessee Bar open mic is now run by Ollie Joe, who also MCs the open mic at La Tireuse on Tuesday nights. Ollie has been doing it for a few weeks now, but last night was my first opportunity to attend the “new” open mic. And I am pleased to report that it is a live, well and really kicking.

Ollie has changed the format somewhat, as James used to have people play three or four songs or more, especially if they were new performers, while Ollie is doing the same thing here as he does at the Tireuse: two songs per performer, unless there is time afterwords for another round. The downside to James’s way was that sometimes people who came regularly found that there was no longer time for them to play by the end of the night.

Last night the place was just bursting at the doors with people, and it really felt to me like a cross between an open mic at the Tireuse and the old Tennessee itself. What really stood out for me was that it once again confirmed my belief that some bars are better than others for holding successful open mics, and the Tennessee is one of them. The fact of the basement being small, cosy, a great stage, but also isolated from the ground floor where people can go to talk, is one of the things that makes the Tennessee so good for an open mic.

Of course, Ollie’s superb moderating and MCing will also ensure that this place lives on.

One of the reasons I made sure I went last night despite having to pack up and get ready for my flight the next day to India was that Tim Menees was in town and intending to play. Tim wrote a fabulous article in the Pittsburgh Quarterly about his time playing at the Tennessee Bar last year while on a vacation in France, and I really wanted to meet him and perhaps play with him. I had a chance for both, and we did “Mad World” and “Wicked Game,” with me on guitar and vocals, and him on piano. And he is a mean piano player, as you will see and hear on the videos….

A New Open Mic at the Tennessee Bar in Paris

October 6, 2013
bradspurgeon

tennessee bar facade

tennessee bar facade

MOKPO, South Korea – (Note: Don’t skip the important update at the end of this post.) The news of Paris open mics coming from Mokpo, South Korea continues to develop and get stranger as it goes! Two days ago I updated my Thumbnail Guide to Paris open mics by re-instating the open mic of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, which closed down in May and then opened again in September under the new bar name of “La Tireuse.” No sooner had I put that post up on the site than I saw a message on the Facebook page of the open mic at the Tennessee bar in which it seemed to say that the open mic and downstairs bar concept had both closed down. As it was impossible for me in South Korea to find out immediately whether it was just the end of the cellar bar concept or whether the open mic had closed as well, I published my story, stating clearly the reservation that it was not yet clear if the open mic had been discontinued or not.

I then wrote an email to the host of the open mic on Facebook, and he and his girlfriend confirmed to me overnight that the open mic itself had ended. So I updated the post accordingly. Some hours later, I have now received a message from someone within the management of the Tennessee Bar that tells me that the open mic itself has NOT come to an end, and neither has the basement bar it seems…. It is simply the end of James Iansiti’s time hosting the open mic, according to the Tennessee management. The bar will continue to run an open mic, starting with tomorrow night.

However, given that this open mic has always been indivisible in my mind, and in the minds of many of its other musicians, from the presentation and administration of it by James Iansiti, and given that the concept has perhaps changed, I have decided that I will keep the open mic off of my list of Paris open mics until I get to go and try it out myself so that I can write about it in the same way as all of the other open mics on my Paris list: from my own personal experience. I also often like to wait a few weeks before I incorporate a new open mic on my list in order to see if it is really going to stick around!

One thing I can say is that the Tennessee bar has a perfect layout for an open mic, with a great sound system and the ability of the musicians and spectators to listen comfortably in the basement to the music, or to talk on the ground floor. So if the presentation and hosting turns out to be as good as what James did, then I have no doubt this will continue to remain one of the mainstay open mics of Paris.

The one thing this has now clarified for me is that clearly, the managers of the Tennessee have not closed their eyes to the business to the bar that I thought the open mic brought it.

I can’t wait to see how this all develops!

UPDATE at 23:22 in Mokpo on 6 Oct.: As a reaction to this post, I have just learned that the new host of the open mic at the Tennessee Bar on Mondays will be none other than the exceptional Ollie Joe, who also hosts the open mic at La Tireuse on Tuesdays. This is an hilariously ironic point, as this chain of news posts from Mokpo all started by the reinstating of the open mic at La Tireuse! Anyway, this great news can only be celebrated by re-incorporating the Tennessee Bar open mic on my Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music instantly.

The End of the Tennessee Bar Open Mic in Paris

October 5, 2013
bradspurgeon

tennessee bar open mic closing

tennessee bar open mic closing

MOKPO, South Korea – For the second day running, the news from Mokpo is about Paris! Mokpo is the little “bled” – to use a French word – where I am located this weekend in my worldwide musical adventure. There’s no open mic from what I can see – or have seen in the past. But lots is going on in Paris. No sooner did I yesterday update my Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, by reinstating the existence of the former Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic now reborn as La Tireuse, than I learned through a Facebook announcement that the longstanding and great open mic in Paris at the Tennessee Bar has just ended.

I have tried to contact the person who maintains the page to confirm that the statement they made means there is no longer an open mic, but I have not had a response (on my accelerated South Korea time). But that the open mic is finished is the way everyone else who has written in queries has interpreted the statement, and it is the way I think the statement has to be interpreted. (Note: Today, the following day in South Korea, Oct. 6, I received confirmation from Valerie and James that both the downstairs Whiskey bar concept and the open mic itself have now ended. Later in the day, however, I then received a comment on this post telling me that the open mic will continue on Mondays, but with a different host. As James Iansiti and the Tennessee Bar open mic have been part and parcel of the same thing, I will henceforth treat this open mic as a new one. I’ll put it back on my open mic list once I see that it is really here to stay, and once I get a taste of it myself, like all the open mics on my list in Paris.)

Here is what they said on the Tennessee Whiskey Bar Facebook page: “The Tennessee Whiskey Bar regrets to inform you that we are now closed. The owner and manager of the Tennessee Jazz Bar were not happy with the project. Thanks to all of our musicians and guests for sharing the bar we created.
James and Valérie love you!”

So what else can that mean? If it is not closed (see above note), I’ll update as soon as I get the news. But for the moment we have to assume the open mic has ended after many years. This is one of the best open mics in Paris, it was run by James Iansiti, and I have written about it extensively on this blog. After James and his girlfriend, Valerie, redesigned the fabulous basement room of the Tennessee bar over the summer and re-opened the open mic under the name of the Tennessee Whiskey Bar, it seems the experiment has ended, the owner and manager of the Tennessee Bar having decided that he did not like the new deal.

And so ends what I can only imagine was a great business deal for the Tennessee bar. But what do I know about the economics of running a bar in Paris and its open mic. It is not the first time I have seen an open mic just bubbling over with clients, bursting at the seams, incapable of holding all the spectators and musicians, and then seeing the bar owner say that they don’t like the business the open mic is providing them with. But why now? The Tennessee Bar open mic has existed for at least five years, and earlier this year it was so popular it became a twice-a-week event, putting on an open mic on Mondays and then also on Thursdays.

Of course, the last time a mainstay open mic in Paris collapsed, it rose from the ashes again – as the new owner saw the business and community value in it – and that was the very one I mentioned at the top of this post, now called La Tireuse. Well, the only good point to this loss of another great Paris open mic is that there were already two others in the neighborhood, and now musicians will no longer have to toss a coin to decide which bar to give their business to: The Coolin or the Galway.

Bye, bye Tennessee, and thanks for all fun years. May you rise up out of the ashes too!

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