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From the Feline to the Pigalle Country Club, two open mics in Paris on the same night, one after the other just down the metro line….

April 12, 2017
bradspurgeon

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – I used to dislike the fact that the Féline open mic in Paris ended so early. I used to dislike the fact that the open mic of the Pigalle Country Club in Paris started so late. Last night, for the first time in a long time visiting the open mics in Paris, I realised that it was the absolute perfect combination to have the one ending early and the other starting late: A few stops along the same metro line carries you from the one to the other, and that way, you can do two, two open mics in one night! As I did last night at the Feline and then the PCC near the place Pigalle….
a French song from Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire at La Feline in Paris

A highlight of the night at the jam-packed Féline open mic was the feature act that opened the evening: All the way from Canada, Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire, performed a set before the open mic. I missed it! I arrived late. But I say it was a highlight, because, as it turned out, Ariane played a short set AFTER the open mic as well, and I can say that even without seeing her opening act, I could tell that it had to be a highlight… her closing act was the highlight of the open mic.
Adeline and Syd at the Pigalle Country Club open mic in Paris

I too, as it turned out, had a great time behind the mic during my turn, and I was delighted that the room was full – mostly of Ariane’s audience! I was hugely, hugely relieved that in only the second time ever that I have tried to sing “So Long Marianne” of Leonard Cohen, which I have recently learned, the audience began to sing along.

another at La Feline open mic in Paris

From the Féline, I took the Line 2 of the metro over to the Place Pigalle and walked down the short distance to the Pigalle Country Club and it’s Tuesday night open mic, run by the people of the band, Burnin’ Jacks. It was the strangest thing when I entered this tiny little hole-in-the-wall bar and heard music, and I headed straight to the bar. I thought it was far too early for the open mic, and in my mind’s eye the music I heard was coming from the radio, the sound system.

Ariane Mahrÿke Lemire first at La Feline in Paris

By the time I got to the bar I realized that the music was coming from two of the Burnin’ Jacks playing behind the mic. I interrupted to tell them just that.

half the Burnin’ Jacks at the Pigalle Country Club open mic in Paris

Then, after they played, it was already my turn. That was two open mics in a row where I had to wait barely 10 minutes before I got up behind the mic. And in the PCC, I got to play around 40 minutes – at least that’s how long it seemed – and I had the accompaniment of two different members of the band, at two different times.

PAB at La Feline open mic in Paris

Of course, I decided to try to do that Leonard Cohen song again, and again it seemed to go well, as a head or two turned and a voice or two seemed to join in….

Sebastyen’s finale at La Feline in Paris

And that, I must say, is what feels like my first report on Paris open mics in a long, long time! May it be less long the next time….

tiny little bit of end of Canadian woman’s talk at La Feline open mic in Paris

High Gear Before Low Gear in Paris Open Mic Scene, at the Beginning of the Dead Month

August 6, 2016
bradspurgeon

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

PARIS – Regular readers of this blog over the past whatever many years it has been will know that I hate the month of August in Paris. This is the period when a vast majority of the open mics close down because they think that the national addiction to vacationing in August will mean fewer customers. But it entirely overlooks the huge influx of tourists who want not only to be climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, but want to attend an open mic at night. Anyway, over the last four days I attend four open mics, as they wound down, or continued valiantly forth….

It was, in fact, three days in a row, although I chose not to perform at an open mic on Thursday where I had otherwise been aiming to, but did go to two on Tuesday, one on Wednesday and another one on Thursday at which I did not perform…. (I re-wrote that sentence a couple of times, so if it’s a mess, that’s why!)
Ant Henson’s great new protest song

The Tuesday night was the usual trip to the Café Oz open mic of Brislee Adams, near the place Blanche. It was the last open mic of the summer while it closes down maybe for two weeks or so. A classic night with some great performers, including my friend Ant Henson, who runs his own open mic in London, and who was here for a summer trip. He tested out a fabulous new protest song of his, and I suggest you listen on the video below….
another at oz

From the Oz we went less than 10 minutes walk off to the real Oz, which is to say the one where Dorothy found herself. I’m referring to the Pigalle Country Club, which is one of the most open and crazy open mics of Paris, where anything goes, the mic is not just open, but has to be grabbed between performers, and where there are indeed some pretty cool performers, with the emphasis usually on the 1960s garage rock…. A crazy cool clientele also at this joint.
Ash Orphan at oz

Wednesday was one of the most intelligent, consistent, fun open mics of Paris, and one that does NOT close down for the summer – knowing its clientele perfectly – although the regular and founding host, Thomas Brun, does go off on a summer vacation. So Wednesday was Thomas’s last night at the Highlander before his vacation, from what I understood.
bit o pembroke at oz

Again, it was a classic Highlander night, with each musician singing three songs and the list going to some 20 or more performers, and the crowd ready to be entertained – mostly by crowd pleasers, but not exclusively – and all together I had a great time there. Except my guitar pick up was acting up again, as it has frequently since the horrible day when a woman used the guitar as a dance floor at the Pigalle Country Club earlier this year….
Jake at oz

And finally Thursday I dropped in to the Cabaret Culture Rapide for the weekly open mic of the Paris Lit-Up group, which is mostly an expat thing geared towards spoken word, but includes music, poetry, prose, comedy, just about anything you want to do up there behind the absent mic. Yes, it’s a tiny cool café in Belleville, with no mic, and a consequential pillar in the middle of the room that blocks the view of about 50 percent of spectators in the place. But those who present their schtick loud will be heard.
john cotton at oz

I was admirative of the Paris Lit-Up people that they are continuing into August, but the crowd of spectators and performers was a lot smaller than the last time I saw this open mic. On Thursday, thanks to arriving late, having had a good dinner and feeling open-mic-ed-out, I decided not to play any music. In fact, in a very atypical manner for me, I didn’t even make any videos.
yet another at oz

But I made so many videos at the other open mic evenings that there are far too many to look at on this page ANYWAY!!
another at Pigalle Country Club

Back next time with more open mic madness in Paris, no doubt. Or maybe not. Depending on how many close down for the annual August Parisian exodus….
craziness at pigalle country club

another great cover by Scottish guy at Highlander

another at highlander

Ant Henson’s great cover at highlander

final one at highlander

last moments of another great cover at highlander

on his mind at Highlander

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

April 8, 2016
bradspurgeon

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….

The Sad, Sorry End of My World-Traveled Seagull Guitar – As a Dance Floor

March 23, 2016
bradspurgeon

destroyed Seagull 2

destroyed Seagull 2

PARIS – Some woman decided to use my Seagull S6 guitar as a dance floor last night. This fabulous guitar, which has been around the world with me 7 times, which just had all the frets replaced two weeks ago for 260 euros (so much do I love the sound of this guitar), which has a few battle scars that added to its charm and changed nothing of its fabulous sound, it is finally dead. I have debated for several hours now whether I can again help this Seagull rise from the dead, so great a guitar is it. But reading up on guitar repairs, and looking closely at the damage both inside and out on the table of this fabulous guitar, I have decided it must be time to put it up on my wall for retirement. (Note posted later: After many kind reactions on my Facebook to this post, I was encouraged to contact my luthier, who, in the end confirmed that the guitar was so badly destroyed it would never sound the same again if it were to be reconstructed, as it would be too full of glue and added parts to maintain its original integrity.)
Out of a Jam

Out of a Jam


In a way, it closes a chapter: The guitar was used as a dance floor by a woman who was told to watch out for it, while I was waiting to take a piss, in the the back room by the toilets at the Pigalle Country Club, where I was intending to play in the open mic. I had left the guitar in its case against a pillar where I always leave it. It was a soft case, and the guitar got knocked over and stomped on by the manic woman. The Pigalle Country Club is the bar where the guitar features on the cover photo of my CD. The CD consists of songs from my life over the last few years, all of which were composed on that Seagull S6. The guitar actually features on only four of the songs, however, with the rest of the songs being performed with my Gibson J200.
Johnny Borrell sings Vertical Women with my Seagull S6

What is certain is that I will attend even fewer open mics in the future with my J200. For if the Gibson had served as a dance floor to this drunken woman, then I’d be finding it even more difficult to be light-hearted about it. And come to think of it, I’m not really light hearted about my Seagull. I’m as broken as the Seagull is.
Daniel Haggis of The Wombats playing my Seagull S6

This is the Seagull that has been played at various times and in various countries of the world by people like Johnny Borrell of Razorlight; by Daniel Haggis of the Wombats; by one of the guitarists of The Cribs; by many of Paris’s former “baby rockers;” by Andy Flop Poppy of the Flop Poppies; and by countless other great musicians both known and unknown, around the world.
Andy Flop Poppy using my Seagull S6

Having said all that, I seek solace and attitude in the memory of my meeting with the great, wonderful and hugely human singer-songwriter Harry Chapin when I was 18 years old. I’ve frequently recounted the story of how this fabulous performer with the hit “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and I met while he was performing on a television show in which I was both performing and working backstage. Called “Bang, Bang, You’re Alive,” it was recorded in Ottawa, at the CJOH studios. I met Chapin backstage and we were talking in his room while he awaited his moment taping in front of the cameras and live audience. We learned we were both born on the same day – December 7 – although he was maybe 15 years older than me. We learned we both wanted to get into acting school.

another seagull shot

another seagull shot


Chapin reached out his hand and said, “Let’s make a wager to see who gets to acting school first!” I don’t know if he was just trying to encourage me, or what. But we shook hands. Soon, an assistant producer came and told him that he had to go on stage. He leapt out of his chair, grabbed his Ovation guitar, lost his grip, it fell on the floor and a rib broke inside the guitar. Where I would have been furious, and frustrated and sad, Chapin broke out into laughter and said, “Well, I’ll just have to use it like that!!!” And he ran off laughing to the stage….
destroyed Seagull 1

destroyed Seagull 1

After all, it’s just an object, right?!!!? Still, I could never imagine using someone’s guitar as a dance floor.

Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin

neck area breaks

neck area breaks

Two Days, Seven Open Mics – Sort Of…

February 24, 2016
bradspurgeon

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – Monday and Tuesday in Paris. Didn’t know if I would stay in or go out. Chose to go out each time, kind of late each time, too. Ended up going to the Bastille, playing at Some Girls open mic, walking past and poking my head in the window of Yellow Mad Monkey open mic (both of these are on the Rue de Lappe) and deciding I was too late to sign up at that monkey one, so went off to the Galway pub open mic, for the first time in months. It was the midway point, or not even, of some great nights at open mics in Paris.

The Galway was as busy as ever, and it was great to hear the host again, All the Roads, after many months. I was actually very happy to go from the very crowded, but very noisy, Some Girls open mic to the Galway, where the good sized crowd was more attentive, and the sound system much better. I needed a bit of intimacy. Turned out a friend with whom I’d done a major pub crawl on Saturday passed by with another of the participants of the pub crawl, just as I was going “on stage.”
All the Roads at the Galway

Tuesday night was another matter: Returned to the Café Oz open mic for the first time in a very long time (playing) as well, and found myself third on the list as I decided to eat dinner in first in the nearby raclette restaurant. But here again, like at the Some Girls, there was chatter that was louder than the sound system. So here again, I decided I needed more intimacy.
Host at Some Girls

So after my set at the Café Oz I headed on over to the Pigalle Country Club where I met… the friend from the Saturday pub crawl and the Galway the night before…. He was with someone new this time, though! Well, it turned out the Burnin’ Jacks who usually host the open mic at the Pigalle Country Club were not yet – or just not at all – there, so I asked if I could take to the “stage.” It was agreed upon immediately, and I did about a half hour set. More talking, of course, much, much talking. But I really enjoyed playing for myself, and a few people spotted about here and there who listened.
first at some girls

From there, it was off to the Féline… but by the time I arrived, the open mic had been so long since finished that the stage was entirely naked of any instruments. No problem. I decided to saunter over to the Zebre Rouge bar for the Tuesday night jam session. It was in full swing when I got there, and never ceased to be in full swing. I took out my guitar and played along, played some lead, but sitting at a table, having a beer, and not plugged in.
final at galway

I then went into the back room, played some chords, and decided that the evening was far too reggae for me, and I headed back home. But with three open mics played at in one night, and two the night before, that was about all the fun I needed in Paris for the moment….

Jam at Zebre Rouge

Baptiste at Café Oz

Another from jam at Zebre Rouge

jan at galway

rappin the galway

8 Bars, 2 Days, One Week Later in Paris – One Closure, One Opener

January 25, 2016
bradspurgeon

O'Sullivans

O’Sullivans

PARIS – If it were not for the fact that a few things dictate that I keep a record of my Sunday and Tuesday last week, I would let it slide. I was so busy in the intervening time with having received my CD, “Out of a Jam,” that I led the blog slide and did not write about those two nights. But both the fact of the CD, and the fact of taking part in one new open mic on the Tuesday, and then discovering that I had also taken part in the last open mic of one particular venue on the Sunday, mean I gotta write a little about it.

I have to just at least acknowledge those two nights, 8 bars, and the end of the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar on Sunday night last week. This was a fairly cool open mic run by Etienne Belin, the host of the absolutely phenomenally cool Coolin’ bar open mic that closed down a while back after the bar was bought up by a big conglomerate. The Rebel open mic was a great place to go on Sunday night’s in Paris, but unfortunately it did not consistently reach the highs of the Coolin, and Etienne has said he has many other projects he needs to focus on – like a CD – so that’s the end of that.
Duet at the Green Linnet

It was fabulous night, that last one – which we did not know was the last – and followed on the 4-bar crawl I was doing: I started out at the lnce-monthly Green Linnet bar open mic right near the Coolin’, where it was calmer than the previous month, but still fun – with Stephen Saxo and Andy Bone’s warm MCing – and then I wandered off for a look at the Ondulatoire Mechanique’s big birthday party for a friend. That was also to feature a new band by some friends, but alas, I was too late for the show, and arrived just as they were packing up.
Duet at the Galway

After the Rebel Bar, I then moved on with some friends to the Galway, where there was a duet playing most of the night. Some nice talk, a Kilkenny, and it was back to home for a day of recuperation.
French trio at the Rebel Bar

The CD arrived on Tuesday, and I HAD to get out to the bars again and start handing out some copies. (More on this blog soon about the CD!!!) I started by checking out the Zebre Rouge open mic, which had turned into a real jam session, and because I needed to do several bars, I opted not to stay. I handed out a few CDs at the Zebre Rouge, then went over to finally try out the nearby Féline bar open mic, which has been running for two or three months now.
Her hopes and expectations at the Green Linnet

This could be one of the best open mics in Paris if it gets the crowds it merits – although with so many other open mics on Tuesday nights in Paris, it is not sure that will happen. The stage is absolutely fabulous, and the management loves music. In fact, the management created this fabulous little stage – complete with a kind of proscenium arch style, spotlights and half decent sound system – because he wants more music, clearly.
Jules at the Rebel Bar

I handed out some CDs there and played a long set of maybe five or six songs. Then I went on to the Pigalle Country Club bar’s open mic, not far from the place Pigalle (!!). That is the place where the photo that adorns the cover and back of my CD was taken. So I had to go there and leave a few copies. It was a very lively night, and I was offered the mic, but I wanted to get going to my final destination, the Café Oz bar open mic next to the place Blanche.
Young one at the Green Linnet

I was too late to make the list, but the Oz was buzzing with musicians and music as usual. Some great acts, and a nice environment, and the usual great presentation of the evening by Brislee Adams….
In their heads at the Pigalle Country Club


First at the Feline Bar open mic

Duet at the Café Oz

Duet at the Feline

Another from duet at the Pigalle Country Club

Open Mic Hopping Through Paris in the Warm Winter

December 18, 2015
bradspurgeon

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – Last time I posted I was blaming Paris for being in Christmas-break mode and not having so many open mics as usual. Now I must lay blame on myself for being in Christmas break mode for not posting on this blog this week despite doing three or more open mics! In fact, I’m not in any kind of true “break” mode; I’m in overdrive on my own projects in the areas of my life where I am not yet earning my living, but where I still have ambitions: Editing my open mic film, putting together a CD, working on novels, memoir and other projects. To say nothing of household chores and a minimum of socializing. So here is a short report on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday open mic adventures in Paris….
Brit Style at Galway

Sunday it was off to the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar open mic near Chatelet, where Etienne Belin held court again for his weekly open mic in this fabulous and cool bar, which also hosts a billiards tournament during the open mic. Now THERE is a solution for all the bars that are not sure they want to do an open mic for fear of alienating other sectors of their patrons: Do everything at once!
First at Pigalle Country Club open mic

I heard some nice stuff, met some nice people, and generally had an excellent time.
Julia at Rebel Bar open mic

Monday, it was off to my first visit to the Galway open mic for a long long time. It was not the usual MC, but rather Thomas Brun, who is the MC of the Highlander open mic. And Thomas, as any reader of this blog will know, is a consummate MC of open mics…and a wonderful musician. I had a video of him opening the evening’s show, but unfortunately I was placed behind a very, very, very loud group of Americans who were standing at the bar just in front of Thomas, and in the video as at the pub, it’s not so easy to distinguish anything between their loud voices and his music. I can’t understand how anyone on earth can be in a bar directly in front of a small, intimate stage with a single musician opening a show, and how they can continue to yell at the top of their voices about nothing at all….
Group at Rebel Bar open mic

Fortunately, the group went outside eventually to talk – they had the upper floor and the back of the bar, if they wanted – and the evening went on in acceptable manner.
Duet at Galway open mic

Tuesday, I dropped by Brislee Adams’ excellent Café Oz open mic in Pigalle, but it was too early and he had not yet arrived; so I could not put my name on the list. I went down the street and had a meal of raclette with a newfound friend, and then after the fabulous meal, we went back to the Café Oz, to find the place just brimming with open mic musicians, and a list that was so long I knew that although it was only 10:30 p.m., I would not get behind the mic until 1 a.m., if at all.
Paul at Galway open mic

So we left and went to look for a place to have a drink, and that’s when it came into my mind – after visiting one or two other noisy bars – that there was the Pigalle Country Club open mic, run by my friends of the Paris band, “The Burnin’ Jacks.” This is a fabulous, very little publicized open mic that is used mostly by the Burnin’ Jacks and their friends. But that is by no means the point of the thing, so anyone can go and grab the stage, mic, guitar, and play away when it’s free.
Second at Galway open mic

So both I and my friend did play, after hearing much fun rock ‘n roll and Buddy Holly played by a couple of the Burnin’ Jacks, and others….
Japanese going wild at Rebel Bar open mic

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