Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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2 Lit Visits, 1 Open Mic; 1 – 0 Open Mic over Lit Visits

December 15, 2012



In keeping with my promise to go out to as many “literary events” as I can, I went to a couple last night. There was a gathering at Shakespeare and Company to honor George Whitman, who died a year ago. And there was a little Christmas get together at the Abbey Bookshop, around the corner from Shakespeare and Company. The Abbey is run by Brian Spence, a Canadian whose bookstore on Harbord Street in Toronto I used to sometimes go to when I was at the University of Toronto. Shakespeare and Company, of course, I started going to shortly after that period, when George was already what seemed to me to be an “old man.” And he would go on to live another nearly 30 years.

I made a little film of someone playing piano at Shakespeare and Company, but aside from that, it was really just a question of wandering around and paying respects, and perhaps having a bit of tea or some other drink, which I did not do. Then I went off to the Abbey and there an author was reading out in front of the shop, standing a crate like a speaker at Speaker’s Corner in London, with a large crowd of people standing in the cold beneath him. I think his book’s title has the word “merde” in it, and so I decided to go into the store away from the crowd, where I was warmly greeted – as usual – by the genial Brian Spence, who was preparing goodies for the Christmas toast to follow.

I drank a deadly beverage offered by Brian who had received it from a client, and I read a few first pages of books to see if I wanted to buy any – the one I recall is Borges’ Labyrinths then an AJ Liebling book on boxing, but then the drink went to my head (it was from the Czech Republic or Poland or some equally strong, hardy nation) and I cannot remember the others – and decided I did not want to buy anything. I needed to eat something very quickly if I was to survive the rest of the night and a beer or two.

So I went to a restaurant around the corner, ate some fromage de tête (head cheese), which was as disgusting as it sounds – were it not for the fact that it was excellent quality – and then a terrine de volaille and then ris de veau (sweetbreads, i.e. thymus glands), and some wine, and I was all ready to go off and have some Delerium beer and use up all that delirium and even the tremens, on an open mic.

So I went to the open mic that I reported last week was a little like a literary salon, the one at the Arte Café. After all I had been through, I really did not expect the open mic to live up to my past experiences there, and I fully expected to stay a short time and leave. I thought I would stay long enough to drink the Delerium to digest the animal innards. But the open mic, once again, was really wonderful, and I enjoyed the music, enjoyed playing, and then enjoyed the jam session, and above all, meeting new and interesting people – as always at the Arte Cafe. Thanks again, Arte Cafe!

Art Café Saves the Day

August 25, 2012

Just when I thought that the month of August in Paris had hit its lowest ebb, I was perhaps proven correct! A message came in over Facebook from the organizer of the Friday night open mic at L’Art Cafe, Amelia Bolt, saying that the open mic had returned after its August break. So I tripped off to the Parmentier Metro with guitar over back and middling expectations.

When I entered this tiny bar with the colorful walls, photos, and barely a place to sit, I said to myself, “Okay, not that many people here. But I remember well how it turned out last time upon entering and finding it with a minimum audience.” That is, it ended up being a monumental night of jamming and open mic music.

So I went in with confidence last night, with delight that here I was on a Friday in August in Paris and there was actually a place to play and an audience – and WHAT an audience! A mix of musicians and listeners, the open mic proved to be almost exactly what it had been the first time I went. I have only been once before because it is a new open mic, and I went just before the summer break.

The Art Cafe in Paris is the proof that what makes an open mic great is the people who attend. Last night it was not as full as the previous time, as it is indeed still a new open mic. But it was just as fun and well organized. All musicians started by doing three songs, and then after that we jammed for an hour or so.

There were some wonderful acts, including, of course, Amelie herself, with her rock ‘n Roll Silvertone guitar and guitar case amplifier, with Theko – who is holding her own concert in the same place tonight – and with the big voice and emotion of little Audrey, whom I had never heard or met before. We jammed together quite a bit afterwards, and I have rarely had so much fun in a jam as I did with Audrey and her voice!

I will return again as this open mic is sure to grow – even if it has little space to do so!

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