Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Two Open Mics, a Concert and a Bit of Busking in the Metro – One Thursday Night in Paris

November 9, 2012

I had so many concerts, open mics, openings, things to do last night in Paris that I decided to play it all by ear – as I do my music – and see where it would lead and what I could do. It turned out a perfect evening, more or less, with a mixture of attending the opening and playing in a new open mic, taking part in a relatively new one, seeing a friend in concert and playing a song in the metro at the request of some adventurous people attracted by my guitar case….

I started it all off at the basement room open mic called Escargot Underground, which has the strange location of a travel agency on the ground floor and a concert room in the basement amongst the brick walls of the arched ceiling. I was invited by one of the organizers of the open mic at the Blanchisserie in Boulogne, to attend this new open mic, and I warned him that I might have to run out to attend the concert of a friend. “No problem,” was the basic response. But I was pleased to see that he also decided to let me go up and play before my turn in line. It was amazing playing in this little room with my Gibson J-200, as I elected not to use a mic or amplification for the guitar, and there was a small and attentive audience. Beautiful environment and feeling in this place, and I think it will be an interesting open mic to follow in future.

From there – by the way it is located at 7 rue de Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle, 75002 Paris – I went on to the International venue where my friend Ben Ellis was performing with his band after a long break from music. Ben I first met at the Lizard Lounge four years ago in what was for me the early days of Earle Holmes’s open mic. But for Ben and many of the other young Paris rockers, it was the end of an era, almost, as they had all started out at the Shebeen in 2004/2005. Ben had this band called Brooklyn, which had some amazing songs, an album, and appeared on national television more than once in France. Then Ben disappeared off to live for a short period in…Brooklyn, and Brooklyn fell apart. And Ben returned with some folk-inspired music that did not, basically, make the best use of his talents as a singer songwriter rock & roller.

Now, two years later, I think, Ben has returned with a band that DOES make use of his full abilities and talents, and has a fabulous mixture of both melody and cool rhythms. So many bands hook into either melody or rhythm. But check out the videos and you will see Ben and band excelling at both. Also, by the way, have some patience for my videos, as there were so many people at the International that it was hard to move around and get a good angle. I DID get some great angles, though, even moving around from place to place in the same video… so watch ’em from beginning to end….

From there I took the metro over to the Mazet bar which, readers of this blog will know, has an open mic on Thursdays. But now, as of a few weeks, it has been taken over by Yaco, the MC and organizer of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic, so it is a different vibe from what it was. I really wanted to check it out, and told Yaco that I might be late. He said come anyway. On the way to the Mazet from the International, these four or five people in the metro saw me with my guitar and asked me to play. So I played while we waited for a train, doing “What’s Up!” on the metro platform and really getting outside myself. I loved it -especially with my Gibson J-200!!! It turned out this group of people was heading over to the Caveau des Oubliettes for the jam session, and I persuaded them to go with me to the Mazet.

So we got to the Mazet just in time for me to play five or so songs, and then one of the group I came with, Damien, took my J-200 and played a couple of songs too – in Spanish.

Well, holy shit! What kind of night was that???? In fact it was so good that we all went off to the Caveau des Oubliettes afterwards and found it to be crap, so called it a night!

La Blanchisserie Revisted, Singing on the Métro and Another Burlesque

May 18, 2012

Last night I was hoping to do three different venues, two for my playing, one for watching someone else. Only managed the first two I had planned. But managed to create a third venue along the way….

The first stop was my return to the Blanchisserie open mic, the new open mic I mentioned a few weeks ago, at the art gallery and performance space in Boulogne-Billancourt. In addition to being a really original location for an open mic, both in terms of it situation next to Paris and by its art gallery and loft-like feel, the Blanchisserie has decided to use the concept of having a featured band before the open mic. And in very intelligent manner, the feature lasts only 30 to 45 minutes.

Last night the group, a duo called John and Betty – not their real names – had a very cool sound, lovely harmonies and some great musicianship on the guitar. Very fresh and original. It set the stage for me, as I had opted to go up first; but they were so good that I began to regret my choice. Then I thought, no, they were a great couple with harmonies, lovely bouncing melodious music. The only way I could respond, I thought, was to do something completely different from my previous time at the open mic with Félix on guitar, and something very singer-songwriterly. So I decided to do my new song, “Crazy Lady,” with fairly quiet fingerpicking, and my slightly older one, “Borderline,” to pick up the tempo a little more before ending off with the foot-stomping cover, “What’s Up!”

I had the feeling it worked out O.K. Then Spencer went up after me and his stuff is totally different to mine. So it seemed to all work out.

There were not as many acts as the last time I was there, but we heard some good stuff, and then I left with my friend Adam, who had come with me last time, to go off to see a burlesque show of Louise de Ville at Le Klub. This is the woman I mentioned a few weeks ago as well, who did her one woman show. This show last night was nothing like that one, it being this time pure burlesque.

But on the way to Le Klub, I decided to pull out my guitar and sing a few songs for Adam and his two friends, as they had all arrived too late at the Blanchisserie to hear my set. (Adam caught the end of my last song.) So I ended up singing four or five songs on the Metro. There, I was able to totally let loose – but the you never realize how loud the metro is until you try playing music in it – and felt that whatever may happen later in the evening, I’d had a good fix of performing…..

In fact, the Klub event lasted a little too long for me to go to The Mazet, as I had intended, so I ended my night there, making a fairly early return home, in fact.

Well, it was not quite the monumental evening of the Cavern the night before,

Blanchisserie Open Mic, Like Going to Brooklyn for an Evening of Laid Back Whatever

May 4, 2012



I was sitting at the Blanchisserie art gallery, performance space, bar and myriad other venues contained in one, when I turned to my friend Adam Hay-Nicholls, a fellow Formula One journalist and friend, and said, “This is really kind of cool here, this open mic. But at the same time, we’re way the hell out in the middle of nowhere!” I was worried about how this new open mic on Thursday nights would fare, being located in Boulogne-Billancourt, so close to Paris yet so far at once from the center of town. Adam, with his usual perspicacity and world traveler’s knowledge, said: “Actually, it feels like we’re in a performance space in Brooklyn.” He got it! And then pointed out how a lot of NYC’s alternative cultural life is moving to Brooklyn – and people are going.

So bury my thought for the moment. In fact, the Blanchisserie is indeed a very cool location for an open mic. Just look at videos to see who showed up and what backdrop they played against. It was a great idea for the Blanchisserie to use the main room for the open mic, instead of the concert room where I have seen bands in the past. This way, like at any open mic, people can hang around the bar and listen to the music at the same time. Had they held it in the concert hall, no doubt it would clear out whenever there is an act people don’t want to focus on.

The loft feel to the place is very neat, the terrace a great place to go for a break, and the organization and people it attracted were cool. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In, fact, as it turned out, if it had not been for Adam, I was ready to drop the long trip to the Blanchisserie at the last moment and go to my usual haunt of the Mazet. I had been severely distracted around dinner time and so ended up being very late, not arriving until 10 PM. But I checked out the situation with Adam on SMS, and he encouraged me to show up and he got me signed up on the list.

Boy was I happy to discover that my favorite lead player, Félix Beguin decided to show up with some of the other members of his band, The Burnin’ Jacks. I immediately asked if he would accompany me on lead, and he immediately agreed. We had a great time doing, “Mad World,” “Wicked Game” – for only the second time together – and my song, “Except Her Heart.” I loved it, and Félix encouraged me to book some dates so we can continue the jam more often.

There was quite a great mixture of musicians, but it was hardly overflowing with them, either, with probably around 8 to 11 acts total. A comfortable, fun and laid back night – and great to hear the Burnin’ Jacks in acoustic mode again. Definitely a Brooklyn-like evening in Boulogne-Billancourt.

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