Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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From the Feline to the Pigalle Country Club, two open mics in Paris on the same night, one after the other just down the metro line….

April 12, 2017
bradspurgeon

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – I used to dislike the fact that the Féline open mic in Paris ended so early. I used to dislike the fact that the open mic of the Pigalle Country Club in Paris started so late. Last night, for the first time in a long time visiting the open mics in Paris, I realised that it was the absolute perfect combination to have the one ending early and the other starting late: A few stops along the same metro line carries you from the one to the other, and that way, you can do two, two open mics in one night! As I did last night at the Feline and then the PCC near the place Pigalle….
a French song from Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire at La Feline in Paris

A highlight of the night at the jam-packed Féline open mic was the feature act that opened the evening: All the way from Canada, Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire, performed a set before the open mic. I missed it! I arrived late. But I say it was a highlight, because, as it turned out, Ariane played a short set AFTER the open mic as well, and I can say that even without seeing her opening act, I could tell that it had to be a highlight… her closing act was the highlight of the open mic.
Adeline and Syd at the Pigalle Country Club open mic in Paris

I too, as it turned out, had a great time behind the mic during my turn, and I was delighted that the room was full – mostly of Ariane’s audience! I was hugely, hugely relieved that in only the second time ever that I have tried to sing “So Long Marianne” of Leonard Cohen, which I have recently learned, the audience began to sing along.

another at La Feline open mic in Paris

From the Féline, I took the Line 2 of the metro over to the Place Pigalle and walked down the short distance to the Pigalle Country Club and it’s Tuesday night open mic, run by the people of the band, Burnin’ Jacks. It was the strangest thing when I entered this tiny little hole-in-the-wall bar and heard music, and I headed straight to the bar. I thought it was far too early for the open mic, and in my mind’s eye the music I heard was coming from the radio, the sound system.

Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire first at La Feline in Paris

By the time I got to the bar I realized that the music was coming from two of the Burnin’ Jacks playing behind the mic. I interrupted to tell them just that.

half the Burnin’ Jacks at the Pigalle Country Club open mic in Paris

Then, after they played, it was already my turn. That was two open mics in a row where I had to wait barely 10 minutes before I got up behind the mic. And in the PCC, I got to play around 40 minutes – at least that’s how long it seemed – and I had the accompaniment of two different members of the band, at two different times.

PAB at La Feline open mic in Paris

Of course, I decided to try to do that Leonard Cohen song again, and again it seemed to go well, as a head or two turned and a voice or two seemed to join in….

Sebastyen’s finale at La Feline in Paris

And that, I must say, is what feels like my first report on Paris open mics in a long, long time! May it be less long the next time….

tiny little bit of end of Canadian woman’s talk at La Feline open mic in Paris

A Bit of Texas in Paris at the Café Oz, meanwhile a bit of Paris in the Féline

July 14, 2016
bradspurgeon

Spectator with Tea at Tom's Tabooley

Spectator with Tea at Tom’s Tabooley

PARIS – No sooner did I return from Oxford on Monday – Oxford, England, by the way – than I decided to attend very quickly the open mic on Tuesday night at the Feline bar, since I can never get to the Café Oz early enough for a good spot, so popular has that open mic become. So I went to the Feline, played my songs, and THEN wen to the Café Oz, because I knew there would be some friends performing from Texas….

And no sooner did I arrive at the Café Oz than I found the place bubbling with energy and activity, and guess what? It was precisely the moment that Christy Moore from Austin, Texas, and her friends began their invasion of the “stage” at the Café Oz.
Christy and friends at Oz

So we spoke when we could, sat around and listened to the talent, and then called it a fairly early night. I was still recuperating from the Oxford trip, in any case, and preparing for the next…. But it was a great pleasure to see Christy Moore – who used to run an open mic in Austin called “Tom’s Tabooley,” and her friends, four women from Texas, lighting up the stage in Paris near the Moulin Rouge. I always feel sort of surreal when I see people from one country where I play, playing in another country – as I do myself all the time, but somehow don’t expect of others….
third at Feline


christy duet at Oz

P.S., I hope I did not provide any confusion to anyone with my headline for this post, as in the past I wrote about a French friend who used to call himself “Texas in Paris,” and did some pretty crazy songs. He’s now Baptiste W. Hamon, and still does some crazy songs, although not quite as crazy, oh, and now in French!

first at oz

final at oz

second at feline

An Update to My Paris Open Mic Guide

June 17, 2016
bradspurgeon

Thumbnail Open Mic Guide

Thumbnail Open Mic Guide

Just a note to say that I have updated my main open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

I removed the open mic of the Bombardier, and I added a couple of new ones which I should have added long ago, but for some reason did not, as these open mics – the one at the Féline and the one at the Paradis – have been around for a while now, and are both excellent in their own ways. I also added information about the Baryton, which actually takes place on three days a week….

Three Open Mics and Two Jams (one non-existent) in Paris

March 6, 2016
bradspurgeon

O'Sullivans

O’Sullivans

PARIS – Days are slipping by so fast as I move into overdrive on the editing of my open mic film. That has not prevented me from attending four open mics and one jam session this week over a three-day period. But it did prevent me from writing about it on the blog…. If excuses are allowed. But the open mics allowed for plenty of discoveries, and fun moments, and some videos to show that….

On Tuesday, it was the Féline open mic time again. I played a three-song set, and left in the middle of the open mic like an ungrateful guy who doesn’t like to listen to other musicians or socialize. But that was not the case: I had simply said that I would attend Rim Amine’s gig at the Petite Mercerie, about a seven minute walk away on Oberkampf. I did that partly – and mainly – to listen to Rim, who I had discovered the week before at the Zebre Rouge. But I also went for what had been announced as a jam session afterwards.
A bit of Melodie’s own song

Since there was no jam – I think they started the gig late – I decided to head on and take my chances at the Café Oz, metro Blanche, thinking I’d be too late to get to play. But no, when I arrived, I found that most of the musicians and spectators who had been there earlier on had now left, and there was room for me to play – so I did. I actually enjoyed singing to the small remaining crowd, since it allowed me to do some quieter, less “crowd pleaser” stuff. (I finished with “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.”)
a final one at Murphy’s

Thursday I decided to go all the way out to St. Germain des Près and the O’Sullivan’s Pub where I wrote about the great open mic a couple of weeks ago. This time, it was not an open mic, but a gig – there is an open mic every second week, and a gig followed by a jam in the other week – but I went because I knew that it was guaranteed a fun night, and there would be the jam afterwards. And this time, there WAS the jam, and I played for maybe 30 minutes or more. Played with other musicians, too, and it was fabulous – thanks to the great organization of the pub and Stephen Saxo….
another at Murphy’s

From there, Friday, it was the monthly open mic at Murphy’s in Paris, behind the Opera. Again, I was so certain the atmosphere would be convivial and friendly and that there would be lots of interesting people, that I had no difficulty choosing this open mic over other possibilities. And I was not let down. Plus, I got to meet a new Canadian friend (visiting Paris) and her daughter, who played int the open mic.
band at La Feline open mic

All in all, a worthwhile time at the open mics in Paris – although I’m not sure it makes for great reading…. So there’s always the videos to fall back on!

Rim at the Petite Mercerie

trio at Murphy’s

band at O’Sullivan’s in St. Germain en Laye

duet at Murphy’s

another at the feline

first at the Café Oz

last at the Feline

mc at the feline

Melodie at Murphy’s

second at the Café Oz

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

From Hero to Zero in Two Crappy Days – That’s Liv(f)e for You!

February 17, 2016
bradspurgeon

Live Music

Live Music

PARIS – Something I did not mention in yesterday’s blog post – out of modesty – about some great new open mics in and around Paris was that I received lots of insanely warm compliments for my performances in two of those open mics. In fact, I did feel really good behind the mic, sensed a really warm and direct connection with the audience, and the sound systems in both places allowed me to be extra comfortable with my guitar and vocals; I was floating in that outer space place we aim for while playing live music. But live performance is a beast that cannot be tamed. And I was reminded of that again last night at two open mics in a row: Feeling like crap, like the worst musician of the night, not hearing my voice, not hearing my guitar, not connecting with the audience, being “outside” myself, outside the music.

In the intervening two days – Sunday and Monday – between those stage experiences, I had a minor ear infection that was treated by a specialist on Monday, but while the pain was gone last night, the ear remained slightly plugged. Playing music with a plugged ear is probably ambitious. But it was far from the only problem. In the first venue I played at, my first visit to Le Clin’s 20, I discovered that although it is kind of like an open mic, it is much more like a live karaoke, with a pianist who will play along so you can sing, on a stage where there is no real set up for musicians who need a good guitar and vocal amp and monitor. The evening was wonderful, with a warm atmosphere, great hosting, full of nice people – and some musicians with guitars, saxes, etc. – but unfortunately for me, with just one real ear and no monitor, I could hear neither my guitar nor my voice.
Nicolas Chona at the Feline

To make matters worse, I felt pressure that I should try to sing a “crowd pleaser,” since the evening is made mostly of cover songs. It is usually a bad idea to try to please a crowd. You have to start by pleasing yourself. I found myself yelling into the mic, forcing my guitar playing, forcing my voice, forcing my effort to connect with an audience that seemed almost as connected to talking to each other as they were to listening to the performers (not a problem in itself, but fatal for me last night), and I left the stage feeling as bad within as I had on stage. Worse, there was a guy in the audience who has seen me perform at two other locations, and when I said I did crappy, he actually confirmed this to his friends, assuring them that there was no comparison to what he had seen me do before!!!!
Bunch of musicians at Le Clin’s 20

So it was that I left this really neat venue, that has open mics and live karaokes several times a week, and I walked on down to La Féline for the open mic there. For the first time in my attendance there, the place was just popping at the seams with performers and audience members. I have a small suspicion – maybe even a big one – that one of the reasons the crowd was so big was because the Café Oz open mic that usually runs on Tuesday night in Pigalle was cancelled due to a soccer match, and therefore, the habitués of Oz went to the Féline.
First at La Feline

Whatever may be the reason, the resulting anonymity that I had half hoped for in order to gather together my feelings of control over my stage presence and singing was far from present. Worse, much worse was to come. It turned out that I would be the last musician of the night, but that going on stage JUST before me was fabulous young blues guitar player and singer named Nicolas Chona who blew everyone away with just the right kind of hard-driving, hard pumping, slide guitar playing and singing for the moment.
Another Nicolas Chona at La Feline

In fact, dare I say it again, that the vocal mic at the Féline also sounded like it had cotton wrapped around it, and the guitar amp wasn’t sounding that much better. Especially from the stage. So the result was that I had to get up on stage with half an ear, not a great mic and having just followed one of the best musicians of the night – whose hard-driving slide sound felt right at home with that particular sound system.
First at Le Clin’s 20

I decided I would nevertheless forge onward, choosing, “I Won’t Back Down,” by Tom Petty, to start with, as my statement for the evening. I then did my “Borderline,” and I decided to hell with the bad mic sound and the increasingly restless audience, talking to themselves, and having been let down by me after the great Chona, and I just decided to sing a nice quiet, finger picking song – the way I do it – and please myself with that, “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” by Bob Dylan. Unfortunately, pleasing myself did not do the trick to please the spectators here either, as I felt like crap through all three songs, failed to hear much of myself – or even the crowd – and left the stage to a huge reception of people clearing the path for me back to the bar without a single compliment or nod or smile….

Well, I do have a category on this blog called “rant,” and this is clearly one of them. On the other hand, what it REALLY is, is just another confirmation that when “live” really works, you can be really happy for it, and you can say that it’s thanks to a certain magic in the air. And when “live” does not really work, so fucking what! Move on to the next live! The delight will return when it wants to…. That’s the beauty of live.

In fact, this whole thing reminds me that I read in The New York Times the other day that even one of the performers in the Grammy Awards ceremony, Adele herself, suffered a setback during her live performance thanks to a malfunctioning piano string, from which she never recovered! She’ll be back doing live, I’m sure….

Four Nights of a Week, Culminating in a Gig (And thence onward to Wynton Marsalis, the Olympia, the Giant, the Orgasmic Master and the Smelly Woman)

February 7, 2016
bradspurgeon

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

PARIS – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Those were the nights out this week. More than lately as I work on various personal projects and the blog gets left a little bit behind. Where I would have done four posts in the past, I’m doing one. Things will no doubt change as the projects I’m working on get caught up…. But in any case, it was a great four nights out and it varied from regular open mics to a cool new jam to an incredible concert at the Olympia by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra!
Someone at Bliss

On Monday I dropped off at an open mic that just began its second year: The open mic of the Bliss bar near Les Halles. This is a posh back room to a sizeable bar brasserie, and the sound system is great, there are lots of musicians, a jam feel to the thing, but ultimately also if you are into live karaoke – i.e., you sing but need a backup band – then this is also the place for you. They say they accept basically all styles, but from what I saw, the accent is on soul – maybe funk too. I’ll have to return to confirm, as I got there too late to get up on stage, and I only stayed for around three songs.
Group at Some Girls

Knowing I had failed to arrive early enough, I moved on fast to the Some Girls open mic on the Rue de Lappe, which is quickly becoming a personal favorite, and which is quickly become a personal favorite for many other musicians, I can see that! From there I went up the street to the Yellow Mad Monkey, but I was too late to play there as well, alas.
Someone at Some Girls

On Tuesday, I decided to drop over to the Zebre Rouge to see if the open mic was still happening there, as they now have a new open mic and jam on Thursdays. In fact, no. The old open mic was not happening, but there was a wild and cool jam in the basement. This was jazz, funk, far out stuff, sax players, drummer, guitar, bass, all sorts of mad stuff. Very free and easy and worth it if you want a classic cool instrumental jam.
Jam at Zebre Rouge

I went from there to La Féline to take part again in this, hopefully, growing open mic on the amazing stage of this popular bar near the Menilmontant metro. I know it would be a much wilder success already if it took place on one of the bar’s busier nights – but in fact the bar does not need the open mic on the busier nights, obviously, because the place is packed on those nights….
Another at the Feline

From there I wandered over to the Café Oz open mic where things were just booming. It felt at that time of around 10:30 PM as if the verdict is in and the old Coolin vibe – of one of Paris’s then best open mics now defunct – has now transferred to the Café Oz. Again, though, I was too late to get my name on the list. But I had a great time talking to friends….
One at the Cafe Oz

And thence onward to Wynton Marsalis, the Olympia, the Giant, the Orgasmic Master and the Smelly Woman

Thursday was the day of being a spectator, no playing music for me – although I still find it difficult to go somewhere as a spectator alone. And I must say, although attending a concert by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was a musical experience I will remember for the rest of my life, the seating arrangement as a spectator was something that made the trip nearly persuade me that I never wanted to be a spectator again!
Threesome at the Feline

I bought a very, very expensive ticket of 90 euros in order to get as close as my bank account would reasonably allow, and I found myself in a triple disaster situation: Sitting two rows ahead of me was the tallest man in the audience, which blocked my view of the stage (which was still half the hall away). Sitting behind me was a man of perhaps 60, 65 years old who seemed to enjoy the music so much that during periods when the entire audience was quiet due to being enthralled by the virtuosos onstage – particularly during a solo, piano, sax, trumpet or other – the man seemed to have mini-orgasms, letting out high-pitched, rather feminine cries of joy that while intended for no one but him, seemed to come directly into my ear on every important note of the solo. But the final horror outweighed both the orgasmic master seated behind, and the giant seated in front. This was the woman sitting one seat away from mine on my right, who smelled of some absolute horror killing odor that was impossible to identify. As soon as she came in and sat down, looks from all around – including the orgasmic master right behind – centered on the woman and whatever her smell was. It was so bad that you gagged. In fact, I had to breathe through my mouth for the entire concert. Had she failed to correctly dry her coat after a wash, and it spoiled? Had she spilt milk all over the whole thing a few hours before and let it dry out? Did the putrid chemical smell in fact come from her???!!! It was this latter possibility that led me to hold my breath on speaking to the usher and asking that I be moved to some better seat – but the place was pretty much full….
Communal Well at les Agapes

But still, the concert was so good, I mean the music, that I had no regrets about my fluke seating situation. These were amongst the tightest playing, most modern jazz musicians I’ve ever heard live. My references range from seeing as a child or teenager both the Duke Ellington Orchestra (with Ellington) and the Count Basie Orchestra (with Basie) and this Lincoln Center orchestra with Marsalis was just so crisp and hot. The sound quality reminded me that however good recorded sound is, live sound is better. These people played those saxes and trumpets like they were keyboards – just astounding. Hearing the clarinet of Rhapsody in Blue in a live situation for the first time, was an amazing experience like few I’ve had before, musically. (And I even enjoyed the Tuba rendition at the end of the Jackson’s song “Blame it on the boogie.”)

Friday was more relaxed. I was invited to perform a gig, as a warm up act for a local Paris band of Americana and blues, called, The Communal Well. I had met one of the members a couple of years ago, and had been meaning to go for some time to see a gig. Well, when I announced my CD being out a couple of weeks or so ago, the guy invited me to perform as an opening act in a 30 minute set for them at show they were putting on at a bar/brasserie in the 16th Arrondissement in Paris, a restaurant called, “Les Agapes.” I jumped at the chance, asked Félix Beguin if he could join me on lead (yes, he said), and so went and had a fabulously fun 45 minute or so set just before the main act.
Another Communal Well at les Agapes

Communal Well were very cool, a cross between The Band and … their band…! Very much how they describe themselves, in fact: between Americana and blues, a little of both, and more. I took some short videos to put up here.
Woman singer with Communal Well

From there, I went on to celebrate the birthday of a friend, and we ended up, of all places, spending quite some time drinking down the Pigalle Country Club, which is where the photo on my CD was taken….
Yet another Communal Well

A fabulous week, all in all…. Oh, and now it’s time to go watch the Super Bowl. So excuse me….

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