Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Facing the Face – Finally – and Chanting the Chansonniers (again)

December 21, 2014

Face Bar

Face Bar

PARIS – I have had a week of many open mics and little gigs, even if I have not much been present on this blog for another reason (the editing of a teaser that has sucked up all of my free time). But while I will not write about all the little gigs and shows and open mics that I attended, I do want to mention two that I did on Wednesday night.

I had heard of the very occasional open mic at the Face Bar on the Rue des Archives for what feels like at least a year, but I was never free and in Paris at the same time as the open mic. So I never attended. But on Wednesday evening, I had the time and was in the right place – Paris.

The Face is a tiny little bar that reminds me in some ways of what I think the Shebeen bar must have been like in its days as the wildest open mic in Paris in the middle and second half of last decade. And as it turns out, The Face open mic is run by a regular musician at the Shebeen and features others who go back to that period – or at least one other last Wednesday.

It is a free-for-all open mic with no list, and a pretty average sound system at the back of the room blocking entry to the toilets. So as you play, you get to move aside occasionally for the movement of clients going to the toilet…which is charming in its way!

The atmosphere is really cool and laid back, and it’s particularly “rock ‘n roll,” as was the Shebeen. It is run by Paul Hazan, who now has a band called Electric Discharge Machine, and was previously in Mister Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes. I’ve always been a fan of Paul’s raspy-voiced singing and the songs that sound like mid-1960s garage rock, and are strong on melody.

Unfortunately I missed Paul’s singing on Wednesday, and as it turned out, after I played several songs and listened to a couple of other performers, I decided to run off from the Marais to the once-per-month Chansonnier open mic in Menilmontant. There it was much more quiet and laid-back, and having lost its regular MC the open mic at this small hotel – in the lobby – has a completely different feel to it, and a completely different kind of “free-for-all.”

But the important thing was having fun singing, and that I did.

So that was my pretty short and insignificant blog post of the day – and unfortunately the week… but I’m hoping to show off that teaser at some point soon….

A Squat, a Brunch and a Be There

January 17, 2011

I have reported in the past about a squat art space in Paris, it was called 0XIII and it ended up being raided by the cops and closed down. Well, it seems the same gang found another location, much more chic, much more private, and much more music-friendly.

This one is called 08, and it is located near the the Place de la Madeleine and Place de la Concorde. It is on several floors, and in the basement is a great area for bands to play, with even a way of people in the upper floors to look down and listen – as you can see from a few seconds of video I took of the drummer from above.

Among the bands were one of my favorite young bands in Paris, Mister Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes. And last time I wrote about these guys – playing at the OPA – I said every time I see them they improve. It has happened again. They’re getting some faster tunes and sounds in with the slower more romantic stuff – something I need to do myself. And they sound generally more together than ever. So what do they need to do now to advance? Well, as one spectator said to me, “the smiling tomatoes never smile….” No problem!@!!

There was another cool duo, a guy on drums and a man on vocals and guitar – very primitive drum beat manic stuff.

And I enjoyed – for a minute or two – the gypsy jazz trio just jamming on the first floor. In fact, I managed to borrow the guitar for one song of my own, which I apologized would not be manouche, and not manically fast…. But the lead guy played along with me, and I enjoyed blasting it out.

That was Saturday night. Sunday turned into a double-header as I did my brunch from 3 PM to near 7 PM and I then went to an open mic I had long heard of but never visited. The open mic was quieter than last week, but I enjoyed hearing Rym and Elise doing a duo, among other songs. I also enjoyed using my new vocal harmony machine, which splits my voice into three-or-so-part harmony, and adds some sorely needed depth on certain songs.

The open mic I mentioned runs on Sundays and starts around 8 PM, and it is in a bar called “Be There.” It is located on the Ile St. Louis, which makes going to it a certain pleasure if you are not in the habit of going to the Ile St. Louis – which is sort of out of the way, despite being right in the center of Paris.

The small bar on two floors is very open and kind to musicians, and I felt great and relaxed – and well-oiled after my brunch – and so I followed a full-fledged band with no problem at all. This open mic is interesting in that it DOES allow full-fledged bands. There is a drum set read at hand, an amp, PA system, a perfect set up for bands. And although the place is mostly about rock & roll, the open mic accepts all kinds of music, acoustic and other.

The one constant, however, is that “Be There” insists that musicians play their own compositions, not cover songs. I liked that, and I played “Since You Left Me,” “Borderline,” and “Let Me Know.”

For me the revelation of the evening was a band of young musicians from various suburbs of Paris. Called, La Ronge, the band had some original sounds, and some charisma. I thought this band could go places in the young band music scene in Paris. The keyboard player sang most of the songs, and had some charisma, but one of the guitarists who also sang was a little disadvantaged by less sound on his mic. A band to watch.

Mister Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes at the OPA in Paris

September 19, 2010

I had no open mic to take part in last night so I decided to nurse my hangover by drinking a couple of beers – and no more – at the OPA in Paris, near the Opera de la Bastille, and take in the set by one of my favorite young bands in Paris: Mister Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes.

Unfortunately they did not play until nearly midnight, so I had to make those two beers go very far indeed. But the two bands before Mister Soap also gave some food for the ears….

Check out the videos:

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