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The Unexpected at the Imprévu and Other Nights in Paris

February 16, 2016

L'Imprévu bar

L’Imprévu bar

PARIS – Ever since the Baroc open mic ended with the closing of that fabulous dive bar in Belleville, there has been a huge hole poked in the Paris open mic/jam scene. If first impressions are everything, then the new open mic/jam session at the Imprévu bar on Saturday night could fill that void.

The bar has the advantage of being located just a few doors up the street on the same street – Rue Sambre et Meuse – where the former Baroc (now looking really dead) was located. It has the other advantage of having nearly the same kind of dive bar feel to it, and the final advantage of having a very high percentage of the same musicians and spectators from the Baroc in attendance. It was clear from my experience on Saturday evening that everyone in that place was looking for the “Baroc experience.”
Wild moment of jam at Imprevu

This open mic is run by Ivan, who occasionally – but far from regularly – took place in the Baroc open mic. The biggest difference that I can see – and it is one that could entirely put the lie to my thesis – is that although the Imprévu open mic and jam calls itself an open mic as well as a jam, the accent is clearly, wildly, on the jam side of things. So there could be a lot of musicians who like to play solo who will, in the end, not take part.
More imprevu

But on Saturday, the first night, it was wildness itself during the jam, and it was open mic to start with, and I don’t think anyone left the place really disappointed. I’ve rarely seen such a wild atmosphere. And the owner/manager/whatever behind the bar, made not a single comment about the craziness. And that will be the final factor as to whether or not it takes off.
Yet more imprevu

I had a great time playing with a keyboard player, a bass player (two different ones), drummer, cajon, and various other instruments, evening managing to get through my song Borderline with these people, most of whom had never played with me on it, or heard it. All a great, great sign of things to come. But it is true that frequently, the first night of an open mic can be the best, before they fall into whatever….
Karina at Imprevu

And even the suburbs can have swinging open mics….

Oh, yes, and earlier in the week – on Thursday night – I also tried another new open mic and to my absolute delight, but not total surprise, it was a huge success, a fabulous evening of fun. I wasn’t all together surprised since it was run by Stephen Saxo and Andy Bone, who have proven that they know how to officiate an open mic, with their Green Linnet open mic in Paris. But the big question on Thursday was whether it was worth going all the way out to the distant, posh, Paris suburb of St. Germain-en-Laye for this thing.
Post Jam at Imprevu

The answer, at least in terms of the fun to be had behind the mic – with fine sound system, and wonderful hosting, and a big crowd of locals and Parisians – was YES. That the open mic took place in one of the O’Sullivan’s pubs – there is a chain of them in France – ensured also that it would have a very good base of fun ensured. It will be run on Thursdays, but alternate occasionally with gigs by other musicians booked by Stephen. So I suggest you keep your eyes open on this one, and if you live out there somewhere on that other planet known as the banlieue, GO!
More post jam at Imprevu

And finally, or rather, firstly (as I’m going back in time here), I also made the rounds last Monday of the three open mics I mentioned a few weeks ago: The Some Girls on rue de Lappe followed by the Yellow Mad Monkey on the rue de Lappe and finishing off with the Chez Louis jam at Madame Louis on the Ile St. Louis. I was too late to play at the Yellow Mad Monkey, but I did get a few songs in at the Some Girls. The most fun this time turned out to be in the jam at Madame Louis, though, where despite arriving very late, I still got up to play, and found an old acquaintance on sax whom I met and played with frequently in the past at…the Baroc in Belleville…..
Jimi’s it at O’Sullivans

Bit o jam at O’Sullivan’s

Another bit o jam at O’Sullivan’s

Yet more jam at Madame Louis

More jam at Madame Louis

And more again at Madame Louis

More from Yellow Mad Monkey

More at Some Girls

Jamming at Madame Louis

Bit o Yellow Mad Monkey

Bit o someone else at Some Girls

Bit o Ollie at Some Girls

The Baroc is Dead; Long Live the Zebre Rouge….

November 27, 2015

Zebre Rouge

Zebre Rouge

I’m a few days behind on this, maybe even a few weeks – depending on how you view it – but a few weeks ago I announced the closing down of the Baroc, and so the end of an era of one of the best, quirkiest open mics in Paris. But that need for a quirky, Baroc-like open mic, took such hold of a group of the regular denizens of the Baroc, that they decided there should be another open mic in another seedy bar like the Baroc – impossible, right? – and that they should try to just carry on the tradition. Enter Paul Cash and the Zebre Rouge.

The Zebre Rouge bar/restaurant is located in a lost street off the Oberkampf, J.-P. Timbaud, bohemian quarter of Paris, and it has all the makings of a great location for a Baroc-like open mic. It has an owner manager who clearly likes music and the vibe of an open mic, it has a piano, it has a laid-back, small front bar open to the street; but it also has a cool multi-room cellar where music can be played as well. I attended the open mic for the first time on Tuesday, and it will not be the last time.
Paul Cash, the MC of the Zebre Rouge

The question remains as to whether the open mic itself lasts, as it will need – like any open mic – to build up its clientele and make itself known. Paul Cash, a brilliant pianist and composer, as well as a pioneer in the Paris slam scene, and above all, a longtime habitué of the Baroc, is running the open mic, and the night I went, it was made up mostly of former musicians, poets and barflies of the Baroc.
Another one at the Zebre Rouge

Will the spirit last? Will the Baroc find its tradition carried on at the Zebre Rouge? All the ingredients are there, only time will tell….
Bernie at the Zebre Rouge

Post-Mexico, Pre-Brazil, Paris-Interlude Ketchup Time

November 9, 2015

Le Baroc open mic

Le Baroc open mic

PARIS – So very quickly now. Got back from Mexico City and have still not managed to create my Thumbnail Guide to Open Mics in Mexico City; but having said that, with just one place to go on the list, no one will be missing much! So where does that bring us? Back home to Paris and a week of downs and downs, OK, an up or two….

So the first thing I did was to visit the Baroc last Tuesday to attend the final open mic in the history of this joint, dive bar, cool, quirky musicians’ place deluxe. The last open mic of its history – since the bar is closing for good, and in fact I believe is closed as I write these words – was a reflection of all those that I had attended since my first at the Baroc in 2008 December. Quirky, quirky again, and quirky finally again. With the sound system bopping around into worlds I never knew existed, the clients ranging from everything to everything, and a final meal of perfectly acceptable confit de canard, frites, and I had the honor of drinking the last bottle of red wine in the house – a Bordeaux of some unspecifiable domain.

Then it was on to see Paul Hazan play his French repertoire at the Alimentation Generale

From there, it was down under for a while, under I re-emerged to take in a concert at the great and cool concert venue called, “L’Alimentation Generale.” The concert was by Paul Hazan, a guy I’ve known equally since the fall of 2008, and who, again, in December of 2008, I featured on our own little double-bill at at bar then called the Rhubarbe, and later to be called the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, which was to feature hugely in my life after that, as the open mic venue of the best open mic in Paris, for a while. But when Paul and I each did a set in the Rhubarbe, it was my own first official music gig anywhere on earth, and Paul, at something like 20 years old at the time, was already an old hand.
Wonderful Guitar thing at the Baroc

Paul was then in a band called Mr. Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes, and it was one of the coolest French bands I knew of, with Paul’s raspy voice, and some sort of psychedelic, English-language, 1960s’ style garage band sound. Today, I was surprised – but not really – to find that Paul, like many young French rock musicians, has converted to a different religion: French lyrics and melodies. So that’s what he did at the Alimentation Générale on Saturday night. (Actually, he still has another band, called, “Electric Discharge Machine.”)

And finally off to an open mic that is still here in Paris, at O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar

And that leads me to last night and the open mic of O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar, in the Rue des Lombards. This is the warm and cosy open mic in the very cool and historic bar – that used to be home to a famous comedy troop – and which is run – the open mic – by Etienne Bélin, who used to run the open mic of the now defunct Coolin’ bar. (Seems every bar and open mic in Paris closing down and turning into something else less catholic.) (Is that two religious references in two difference grafs? Not really.)
French Rap at Baroc

Etienne closes down his open mic for the summer – i.e., for half the year, we’re in France! – and last night’s edition was the fourth of those after the break. It was not hugely full of musicians, although there was a respectable number, and so that meant that I had a chance to sing two sets and a total of 7 songs, which I was really happy to do. Playing at the Rebel Bar is nice because you not only have the cubby hole of the open mic at the back of the joint, but the people around the rest of the bar, including in the pool room near the open mic, can hear your music, and come over if they are inspired to do so.
his own karaoke at baroc

I sang a new song of mine that I wrote while in Mexico City, called, “Running,” and it went down really well from what I could tell. I was just frustrated that I am still not ready to sing my new cover, “Come Pick Me Up,” by Ryan Adams. Although I’m close to it.
Insu at Baroc

So that, dear reader, is the update. Next stop is Brazil and no doubt less writing about an open mic, but I hope to do at least one! And before that, maybe somewhere I’ll fit in the time to put up the Mexico City open mic guide … for that one joint.
young one at baroc

jam at baroc

PS, I almost forgot that I put that corny word in the headline because this is a blog and you can put whatever you want, even if it makes no sense….
She Me at Baroc

whatever at Baroc

Paul Hazan at the Alimentation Generale in Paris

another Paul Hazan

another one at the Rebel Bar

another duet at the Rebel Bar

Duet at the Rebel Bar

Etienne at the Rebel Bar

Gold Ship at the Rebel Bar

Seb at the Rebel Bar

Slick at the Rebel Bar

Obituary for the Baroc: End of Paris’s Most Quirky Open Mic

October 31, 2015

Le Baroc open mic

Le Baroc open mic

And speaking of Paris open mics – i.e., yesterday’s guest post – the news for next week is depressing: One of the mainstay open mics in Paris, and certainly the most quirky open mic in Paris – and I love quirky – will cease to exist as of this coming Tuesday. The Baroc bar’s open mic, which I have written about extensively, and which I first attended in December 2008, on my return after decades to playing in open mics, will put on its final open mic on Tuesday, because the Baroc bar is closing down. I will not say anything else, but rather, post this compilation video that I made for the open mic in July, not having any idea at the time that it would cease to exist within a few months. So here is its epitaph – or should I call it its “obituary” (well, it’s not dead until Tuesday, but what the hell!):

My compilation video of the Baroc bar’s open mic.

Paris Roundup – From the Flea Market to the 2 Moulins and the Baroc, and Onwards to the Noctambules

July 16, 2015

St. Ouen Market after Closure © Brad Spurgeon

St. Ouen Market after Closure © Brad Spurgeon

PARIS – Aside from a great long cool and fun evening at the Baroc on Tuesday evening, I’ve just had spots of music here and there, and mostly there, over the last few days since Raphaëlle’s open mic at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle last Friday. (Speaking of which, do NOT miss Raphaëlle’s Noctambules open mic tomorrow at this absolutely fabulous location, as this is becoming a not-to-be-missed Paris open mic, playing music overlooking the historic place….)

On Sunday night it was a quiet walk over the St. Ouen flee market and a small temporary art gallery where Joris Delacour was showing off his artworks, and holding an informal jam on the sidewalk in front. I managed to get this one nice little bit of music on video, having spent most of the jam wondering what or if I should play next. This one gives an idea of the feel of the area, which seems not to be anywhere near Paris, if even France.

The jam outside the gallery where Joris Delacour was showing his art.

From there it was on to a quiet Monday night stopover at the gig of Brislee Adams, who organizes and MCs the excellent Café Oz (Blanche) open mic on Tuesday nights. He had one of his once per month gigs at the Aux 2 Moulins bar restaurant on the Rue Lepic. This café is known lately for its appearance in the Amelie Poulain film. But Brislee brought it to life with his one-man band of popular music, and at least one invited guest….

Brislee Adams playing a Van Morrison song at his gig at the 2 Moulins.

And so onwards to Tuesday night at the Baroc, one of Paris’s longest running and best open mics. It felt in many ways like a classic night at the Baroc since you never know quite what to expect, and we got that, but also because the regular MC, Réjean, was on vacation, so the task was taken up with enthusiasm by Paul Cash. Cash is a character who has long been a part of Paris’s open mic scene, but interestingly, his contribution has been more in the area of the Slam spoken word open mic than in the music open mics. I say “interestingly” because Cash, in addition to being a poet, is also a highly talented pianist and composer.

The hippie jam at the Baroc open mic.

With his draw there were some unusual acts, like the band of jammers that took us all back a few decades into something very hippie-like. At the end of the evening Paul handed out prizes for a draw, mostly consisting of small art books he put together, as he is also an artist….

A ripper rapper at the Baroc open mic.
A very cool last few days in Paris…. So don’t forget the Noctambules open mic tomorrow!!!!

Isabelle on her ukulele at the Baroc open mic.

Another singer doing some soul at the Baroc open mic.

Video Composite of the Baroc Open Mic in Paris

July 11, 2015

Le Baroc open mic

Le Baroc open mic

PARIS – Tomorrow I plan to give a full report of the fabulous Noctambules open mic on the Place Pigalle in Paris from last night – another fabulous edition – but in the meantime, I decided to put together this little teaser composite of some fun moments of the Baroc open mic. One of my favorite open mics in Paris, on Tuesday nights, I hope you’ll see from this little teaser why the Baroc open mic is so much fun:

Short Report on Gig at Le Baroc

July 10, 2015

Brad Gig Photo

Brad Gig Photo

PARIS – After performing my gig at the Baroc last night in Paris with Joe Cady on the fiddle and lead guitar and David Hummel on percussion, I have realized that I do far too few gigs. Why? Because it was simply so much fun! I played two sets of nearly an hour each, and still had some songs in the pocket that I either forgot to play, or decided for various reasons not to do. David’s drumming was perfect, and Joe’s fiddle and lede guitar were gutsy and emotional – I realized what it is I like about Joe Cady’s playing. It has that quality that Neil Young has of raw, ripping feel and a personal sound.

Between the two sets a Japanese woman sang some songs in French – and part of a Gainsbourg translated in Japanese. And then after the second set the stage was taken over by jammers, and Joe and David stayed up and jammed with them while I cooled off with a cold beer at the bar….
Brad Spurgeon and band at Le Baroc

Brad Spurgeon and band at Le Baroc

A fabulous evening, and I rarely have so much fun singing my songs and the covers.

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