Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Backing Poetry Beauty, Open Mic Playing and Gig, Part II of the Whirlwind Adventures

April 8, 2016

Brian Scott Bagley

Brian Scott Bagley

PARIS – The adventures continue now in Paris, after the weekend in Bahrain and that last night of craziness mentioned in the previous post. Well, no sooner did I return home than I received a message from an old friend whom I had met at open mics a few years ago, and who recites poetry. She wondered if I could accompany her on my guitar while she recited her poetry, in French and in English. If you ever saw and heard this woman recite her poetry, then you know that I would never refuse such an offer….

So off I went on Tuesday late afternoon to practice with her and see if we could come up with some chords and rhythm for her poems in English and in French. We got it down in an hour, then trundled off to the Café Oz open mic, where Lisa Marie – the poet – wowed the crowd and I felt for the first time in my life comfortable accompanying someone on my guitar. Unfortunately, I could not make a video of her incredible performance, her outrageous poetry, which sometimes has themes that shock, surprise or titillate – like comparing a certain part of the male anatomy to the leaning tower of Pisa in the final lines of the suggestive poem….
Brad Spurgeon doing Except Her Heart at Soirée Buzz

From there it was off to the Pigalle Country Club, the scene of the crime of a couple weeks earlier, where a woman used my Seagull as a dance floor. I was not going to allow anyone to discourage me from attending my favorite Paris haunts, especially when I knew there was nothing personal to that attack on the poor Seagull. And my feelings were confirmed when within half an hour of attending this raucous open mic I barely missed being struck by someone else’s nice new acoustic guitar being hurtled across the room by a frustrated guitarist. Somehow the guitar resisted snapping to pieces upon landing at the foot of the microphone. (I swear I am not making this up!!!)
Brad Spurgeon doing Mad World at the Tres Honoré

This was no environment for poetry of ANY kind, so I simply took to the mic and jammed away with some old friends and other musicians at the Pigalle Country Club, playing for maybe half an hour and feeling triumphant to be doing so with my Seagull – which accompanied me wherever I happened to move in the bar throughout the evening.
Brian Scott Bagley performing at his Soirée Buzz

Late Wednesday afternoon – we’re in the next day already – I suddenly recalled that I had received a telephone message from a musician friend. I called him back to find that he was offering me a gig that very night at the crazy mad Soirée Buzz open mic at the very chic Très Honoré cocktail lounge on the Place du Marché St. Honoré. It was to start at 9 PM, and I would play until 10 PM, and be paid with a free meal and drinks! This I liked, and despite still recovering from the excitement of the previous days, I accepted.
Another bit of jamming at Soiree Buzz green room

No sooner did I accept than I invited the poetess to the evening as well, since after my feature act performance the evening turns into that crazy mad open mic, hosted and organized by the inimitable Brian Scott Bagley, American male cabaret and burlesque artist. And I KNEW that my poetess’s poetry would go down well at the Très Honoré.
Another act at the Soirée Buzz

So I arrived, showed the house band a few chords of the songs I thought I’d play – my own songs as well as some covers – and off we went to playing on this chic stage in this basement room, darkly lit and feeling like some purposeful high class contrast to the Pigalle Country Club. It would turn out to be what is the longest period of time I’ve spent playing with a band that has never played my songs before, as we did about four of my originals and four cover songs, and somehow it all felt just great. It got me to thinking about what it really means to play with really great musicians who can follow anything! Having now seen it on video, well, I could have done a lot better! But I include a couple of videos taken by my friend, Mr. Lafleur, who invited me to the soirée, and whose new album I will write about later….
Fun in the green room of the Soirée Buzz

Of course, it was all helped by the fact that I had my faithful lead-playing fiddle player, Joe Cady, who agreed to come and provide the necessary color between the drums and bass and my rhythm guitar playing. But somehow, it all felt like it held together, and it was a personal moment of satisfaction of doing something I never thought possible: IE, playing a series of my own songs respectfully with a band who had never even heard them before, let alone play them.
Second at Café Oz Open Mic

I also spent some fun moments in the artist’s “Green Room,” which actually has a green theme of wallpaper, and listened to and jammed with some of them. And there discussed the idea of doing our act again with Lisa Marie. She was all ready, we went on stage, and if the night before it had been my first challenge to accompany the poetess, well, it then grew into another challenge for both of us, as we were also joined by the drummer, bass player and Joe on the fiddle! And as predicted, her poetry was more than well received in this crazy mad, chic environment – to say nothing of her appropriate personal beauty.
Syd and Co at Pigalle Country Club

And so it went, from unpredictable to unpredictable, a series of musical adventures that I had never imagined Sunday morning as I awoke in the heat of Bahrain…. Tonight, another one awaits….

Another Baroc Night, Followed by Several More Adventures in Paris

November 15, 2014

Le Baroc open mic

Le Baroc open mic

PARIS – This has been a weird week: I arrived back very early on Tuesday morning from a two-day trip back from Sao Paulo via New York’s JFK airport, meaning an entire day spent in JFK, and two night flights in total to get back home. To say nothing of the number of time zones. And so I then arrived in paris early on Tuesday morning, and as I walked back to the apartment from the Port Royal RER station, I passed through a street market on the 11th November public holiday, and as they set up the market, several of the food hawkers said hello to me with bright, fresh morning smiles. Could this really be Paris? The place I was told decades ago that I would love for its city, but hate the people?

So anyway, I would end up sleeping off jet-lag that very same morning, then going to the Baroc open mic on the Tuesday night. It already seemed like a different culture, a different world, a different Paris, but the Baroc is also a fabulously atypical Paris. Or rather, it is perhaps one of the most quintessential Paris experiences in a bar that has kept its authenticity, and that loves music. The open mic, as usual, had a wide cross-section of fun and interesting acts, and the sound and MCing was done in the usual friendly manner by Réjean, the Frenchman with a more Quebec-sounding name than French French.

There were some familiar faces, but some new ones too. In any case, I need not go into detail, since you can just look at the videos…. Just needless to say, it felt like home after the two weeks away in Sao Paulo and Austin Texas….

On Wednesday night, it was off to the Swan Bar’s vocal jam of Wednesday night. And there, I found no familiar faces except that of the bar owner, the barwoman, and Sheldon Forrest, the pianist, MC, who has presented the vocal jam for several years now, as this has become one of the mainstays of the Paris scene, especially for those who like jazz – although Sheldon (who plays piano for the singers who need a musician) points out each time that all forms of music are welcome. My only problem with the Swan Bar is that it’s stiff prices won’t attract the majority of poor musicians, as there is even a cover charge for those wishing to play.

Thursday night it was off to a new open mic at the Bombardier pub at 2 place du Panthéon. But when I arrived I saw that this open mic – that night, at least – was one where the massively full student pub had a crowd more interested in talking than in listening to the music. So because I was planning to attend with several friends, some of whom had not heard my music before, it was not the right place to go. We ended up going not far away, to the Café Universel on the rue St. Jacques to hear the Liv Monaghan Duo, and a recitation of poetry – or verse – by Lisa Marie Jarlborn, whom readers of this blog will remember the rather provocative videos of from four years ago at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance.

Friday night, MORE open mics and concerts followed, but I’m going to give that more space tomorrow, with videos.

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