Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Change of Gears at Lizard Lounge Open Mic in Paris

April 8, 2013

The Lizard Lounge open mic is one of those that break the rule that an open mic has to be every week in order to be successful and last for years. Having taken place once a month for something like close to a decade, this open mic in a cellar of a bar in Paris near the Hotel de Ville has always been successful. Or at least since I have attended in the last two or three years. Taking place on the first Sunday of the month, somehow it has always been a great evening with a good audience and enough musicians to play through two or three hours. Now, though, it is heading for a test: Last night was the last night of the open mic as MCd by a group of close friends who have run it for five years.

It is scheduled to continue, but there is no final decision yet as to who will MC it. Before the current group of MCs, there had been another person, and it had lasted through it all – probably because the cellar is so appealing, the neighbors are not affected by the loud music, and there is a drum set and the possibility of having a full group, and not just a single musician.

So the Lizard Lounge has everything going for it. This Sunday night open mic even survived the brief period when Earle Holmes ran his open mic there on the Monday – for a few months in 2008 after he closed the Shebeen bar and its wildly successful open mic.

Last night the MCs did announce the end of the line, thanked people, hoped it would continue in a new life – but apparently they have had enough.

Long live Lizard Lounge open mic….

An Unexpected Kindness and Coolness at the Freedom Pub and a Great Open Mic at the Lizard Lounge

December 10, 2012

Here is the story as I see it, without doing extensive research: This guy shows up at the Coolin open mic last Monday and hands me a “VIP Invitation” to “The Soirée,” presented by FC Freedom at the Freedom Pub, a popular sports bar off the Champs Elysées. The guy sees I have a guitar – although he has not heard me sing – and asks if I want to take part in the “X-Factor” part of the evening. I am always looking to follow the music, so I agree to do so.

That was for last night, but it also turned out that there was the once-per-month open mic of the Lizard Lounge, and I did not want to miss it. Anyway, I learn afterwards that this so-called X-Factor evening at the Freedom Pub, in fact, has nothing to do with any TV show or talent search. It is an annual fund raising event held by a soccer team, FC Freedom.

Okay, that was not exactly what I had thought this thing was going to be about, considering the way it had been presented. The guy had sought other musicians too, by the way, at Coolin. Anyway, because I had already agreed to go with the guy giving out the invitations and also with another one or two people who contacted me via telephone – it sounded all very heavy and official even so, right? – I thought I would definitely have to go. By the time last night happened, I was beginning to feel tired and not inspired, and it was raining and I had lots of things to do. Then I thought, “But you said you would go.” Furthermore, I realized I could go to the Freedom Pub, check out the show and then take the same Line 1 metro on to the Lizard Lounge.

So I arrive at the Freedom Pub – across the street from the longtime home of the International Herald Tribune from the 20s to the 70s – and I walk in to hear some kind of amateur rapping on the mic and I see a place that is pretty sparsely inhabited, and it did have a fairly “football club”-like feel to it. The sound system was not great, and after my friend with the invitations greeted me – I was late on the agreed upon hour, by the way – I quickly inquired if it was possible for my guitar to be plugged in. It was not. Only a mic.

I was immediately thinking about my second possible date, the Lizard Lounge. Worse, the man organizing the talent show said I could go on as the first person in the second part of the show, after another three acts. I thought my night would be gone, and I tried to back out. But my man with the invitations insisted to the man organizing the talent to let me go up immediately, if I wanted to. I said I could go with only my guitar in acoustic mode and the mic for my voice, and I’d be happy to do it immediately.

So I went up, sang two songs, got a few people singing along, they seemed to enjoy it – What’s Up and Mad World – and then I started packing my guitar and told the guy I was sorry I wouldn’t stay but I had this other event to attend. He immediately offered me a fresh new bottle of Smirnoff Eristoff Black premium Vodka based spirit as payment for my attendance and performance! I could not believe the gesture, especially as I was not hanging around and had bought nothing to drink myself. It made me feel really good about him, about the FC Freedom and about the Freedom Pub off the Champs Elysées. And I also had a thought for the other people who had withdrawn at the last minute, did not show up and did not follow the music. Do it! Follow the music.

Anyway, I went off to the Lizard Lounge and had a GREAT open mic. Lots of cool musicians, some friends, a nice environment and an absolutely deadly sound system. I was feeling so good that my music went well too, and I actually got an encore and a request for a second Cat Stevens song after I sang a first – so I did Miles from Nowhere and Father and Son. A wonderful, wonderful evening. Thanks music.

The Wide-Ranging, Long-Lasting Lizard Lounge Open Mic

July 2, 2012

Last night was the last Lizard Lounge open mic of the summer. It was as cool as usual, with a large crowd of spectators and a lot of musicians – but not too many. The most interesting aspect of this open mic is just how many different style of musician and group are accepted. From the soloist to the full band with drum set, anything goes. That has its drawbacks too, of course, if you are a soloist and you go right after an amazing full sounding band.

I decided not to do my crowd pleasers last night, and felt it. But some people complimented me afterwards, so I assume it passable. I played my Crazy Lady, and Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train,” and Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” There was a fabulous group playing Depeche Mode, the closing group with its sax and two cool guitar players, and one or two other neat things – like the ever cool John McNulty and band.

But I ultimately left the open mic with the most interesting moment for me personally coming as I left and a couple of the organizers pointed out to me that this open mic has been around now for 10 years! Since I did not even hit the open mic road until three and a half years ago, and the first place I played in Paris was the Lizard Lounge’s Monday night open mic with Earle Holmes, I always connected the Lizard Lounge with Earle’s Monday night open mic which ended there in around early 2009 – if not earlier.

But the Sunday monthly open mic and jam session at the Lizard Lounge in its comfortable basement room was going even at that time. And although only once per month, it has its regulars and has never stopped. It’s easy to see why – it is very musician and spectator friendly. Last night’s session was the last for the summer – that means there will be no Lizard Lounge open mic until either the first Saturday of September or the first Saturday of October, it has not yet been decided which.

Now I have to run off to go and host the Galway Pub open mic just off the Place St. Michel, taking duties for one night as the regular MC takes a break.

Dividing Myself Up for the Paris Open Mics

April 2, 2012

As I mentioned yesterday before I went out for the evening, there was a larger than usual choice of open mics and jams to attend in Paris last night. I was not sure where I would end up entirely, but I settled for the novelty of a new one and the necessity of a once-a-month one.

The new one was at the El Tonel tapas bar near the Louvre, on the rue des Pyramides. This was a tiny little place so small that I wondered if there was even a toilet… I found there was, and made my grand entrance by falling down the stairs to the cellar as there was a loose step – twisted my ankle but thanked incredible luck that nothing really bad happened, no pain remains – and then I sat at the bar and had a great half an evening.

This open mic runs only every other week, it is new as I said, and it is run by the genial Vincent Lafleur, whom I met at the Cavern last Wednesday. It was a classic open mic, but there were enough musicians of different kinds that they joined in with their various instruments to make it a kind of jam in addition to an open mic. I had a woman sax player, and there was the cool Lyllou the woman violin player. There is also a slight karaoke aspect to it since there is a songbook and anyone wanting to join in singing a song to the music of the other musicians, may do so.

I was having a great time and I debated whether I should stay the whole evening. But I knew that the Lizard Lounge was only three metro stops away on the same line, near the Hotel de Ville, and I knew it ran only once a month – first Sunday – and I also knew that I had a great time there last time I went, two or three months ago. So I could not resist the temptation.

And I was glad I did not. The atmosphere was as usual superb, but this time every slot was filled by full bands. And as I arrived late and was the last slot scheduled, it meant having to follow full bands with my voice and guitar alone. In the end, it worked out fine as I did songs that I knew the people could sing along to….

We then all joined up afterwards and did a jam of two or three songs, with several of the musicians from the evening joining in, including me. All in all, I was delighted I did not miss either of these. Wish I could have gone to ALLLLLL of the open mics last night, but I would have had to divide myself into several pieces… which come to think of it, is almost what happened falling down the stairs at the El Tonel.

Sunday Afternoon Foreplay for Open Mics in Paris

April 1, 2012

Have spent the last two nights holed up in my apartment taking care of business and other bits and pieces and trying to finish off the writing of a new song. But I also knew that if I played nowhere on Friday and Saturday, I was spoiled for opportunities on Sunday. Somehow all the stars have aligned this weekend and there is an embarrassment of choices in open mics tonight. So I thought I’d put that slightly sneaky headline just as a foretaste to tonight’s full slate of open mics. It will be interesting to see where I end up….

Today is the once per month open mic at the Lizard Lounge, where they do the open mic only the first Sunday of the month.

There is also a new open mic at El Tonel, a tapas bar at 5 rue des Pyramides, metro tuileries.

The Pop In is every Sunday, of course.

For some time Belushi’s has advertised a Sunday open mic but every time I call they say it is not happening, as there is something more important like soccer….

And there is a big open mic, jam session in Bagnolet, at La Clinique des Arts Bis, 60 avenue Gambetta, 93170 Bagnolet

And never forget the blues jam session at the Caveau des Oubliettes tonight too….

I am not sure about this one, but it seems there is an open mic until 7 PM at the Bar des Familles on the rue de Lappe….

Unfortunately, I don’t know if the bar “Be There” still holds its Sunday open mic, and all searching on the internet yields nothing. Too busy to make a phone call today … so wherever I may end up, it won’t … be there…

Unexpected Fete at the Lizard Lounge

February 6, 2012

The Lizard Lounge bar near the Hotel de Ville in Paris is the place where it all started for me three years and three months ago, when I decided to try an open mic in Paris for the first time playing in public in nearly 30 years (with the exception of a night in Shanghai the previous month). And there I was greeted by Earle Holmes, who then ran the Lizard Lounge open mic on Monday nights. My slot went over really well and Earle showered me with compliments and it was the beginning of playing at open mics from three to five nights a week ever since – well, with the occasional reduction of attendance during periods of personal contentedness in my love life when I had far more inspiring things to do….

So, then Earle’s open mic moved on to the Truskel, which I revisited last Friday, by coincidence, and the Lizard Lounge ceased hosting open mics. It then eventually picked up again, but only on the first Sunday of every month. I never managed to get there – usually because I would forget about what day it was on, or what day it was – until last night I screwed in my courage and decided to brave the cold of the Paris winter the way I had said in my previous post I had decided to do on Friday and Saturday. IE, I had learned my lesson. And boy did I ever! For the evening at the Lizard Lounge was a fabulously fun one, complete with individual musicians playing behind the mic and then a jam at the end to which I was invited, with a drummer, a bongo player, a lead guitarist and vocalist and me on acoustic and vocals too.

There was quite a good crowd, the basement “cave” room of the Lizard Lounge was as cool as ever, and Ujji the barman – who was there in Earle’s day too – was as friendly as ever, and also a wonderful addition to several little jams on his bongo.

An evening to remember, and to go to again…. Above all, personally, it made me realize that in the three years since I so nervously and uncertainly took to the mic – and played for the first time with Félix, whom I mention in my previous post – all those open mics and intervening years have made me a different musician since then. Or at least one who has grown, thank goodness.

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