Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

Another Lesson for Life at Paris Open Mics

April 3, 2013

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that I often learn lessons about how to tackle life through the adventures of my open mic attendance around the world. The last two days were yet another example.

Monday night, I showed up at the Coolin open mic to find that I was too late to get on the list for any reasonable playing slot – ie, maybe if I was lucky I’d get a slot close to 1 AM, if they went on that long – so I felt completely let down and a little like that was the end of my night. But I did not give up. First I went to the Tennessee. There, though, pretty much the same situation, and after buying a pint of beer and listening to a few musicians, I decided to leave half the beer and head off to the Galway Pub.

There, eureka! A wonderful crowd of spectators and a sizable number of musicians and an available slot midway through the night made this the ideal open mic of the evening – even better than Coolin, as there were plenty of people to talk to, much talent, and a great sound system – which is lacking at Coolin.

So I played my set, had fun, spoke with people, and left feeling like it didn’t really matter if the first option failed, there was a second option, if I persisted.

Well, last night I was so busy with a work-life crisis, that I did not get to post on this blog. But that in itself worked out fantastically, as I had the exact same thing happen as on Monday night as far as the open mics went. I arrived at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic and found that I was 17th on the list and it was not even certain I would get a spot to play.

Again, I had bought a pint of beer, and again I decided to drink part of it, and leave the rest on the bar and head off to another open mic that I knew existed. So I took the metro and went to the Pigalle Country Club where I had attended the new open mic a few weeks ago, and not felt like it was totally my thing.

This time, it WAS. And how! It started kind of quietly, but after I went up and played a few songs with my guitarist, Félix Beguin, and people began to sing along, suddenly, the night turned from fairly quiet and low speed, into a magic, rocking, rolling, hot musicathlon of wild craziness and amazing young Paris rock talents. I not only enjoyed my slot, but I enjoyed as much that of the others, and all the people going crazy in the crowd, dancing, moving, shaking – and I even had one crazy uncouth woman feel me up on the dance floor. Which was clearly because of my singing talent (and nothing to do with the amount of booze she had imbibed)….

Anyway….the moral of this story is clear: If you think all is lost, just keep going, there will be an alternative out there that could end up not being an alternative but the thing you were actually really looking for in the first place. Check out the videos.

Regrettable New Open Mic? Nah, Not at All

February 27, 2013

At first yesterday morning when I received a message from a friend telling me he and his band were starting a new open mic in Paris, at the Pigalle Country Club bar in Pigalle on the rue Jean Baptiste Pigalle, I sighed, and said to myself, “Damn. Now I have to make the regrettable decision of not going to my favorite open mic in Paris in order to attend this open mic of my friends, whom I MUST support.” But I then added to myself, “And it is also damn regrettable that these guys are choosing Tuesday night for another open mic in Paris, the night where there is the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic, AND the Baroc bar open mic, AND others as well!”

By the end of the night, though, I had decided that nothing was regrettable. I started the evening having dinner with a friend I had not seen in a long while, and that was great and well watered. I ate at an Asian place at Odeon, and then took a cab to the Pigalle Country Club where my friend left me to my open mic proclivities. I entered to find this small bar darkly lit and with nothing of any “Country Club” decor. An interesting sort of half seedy, half classy whorehouse like feel to the place, and warm service and a lot, a real lot of clients – most there for the open mic.

But not exactly there for the open mic. The talk level was very high, and many stood outside to talk and not listen. The open mic was run by my friends the Burnin’ Jacks, and many of their other friends came to play. The accent was on rock n roll, but there was some sort of “hard folk,” the whole put together with a single small amp and the house PA, as far as I could see. The vocal mic was not the high point, as this really was mostly about hard rockin.

That is the point that brings me to the no regrets. This new open mic is worlds apart from the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic, so I can’t see it attracting the same kind of musicians or crowd – even though the Ptit Bonheur does not exclude much in the way of music, just mostly percussion.

So I played with my great lead player, Felix Beguin, I did four or five songs, and I listened to several other people. Then I thought, “Hey, it’s still early. Take a cab back to the Latin Quarter and check out the Ptit Bonheur afterall.”

Of course, what I had not planned for was that between the meal, the open mic and then the third location of the evening, and not adequate sleep the night before, I was starting to lose hold of my centered-ness… if you get what I mean. So I actually got to go up and play a couple of songs at the Bonheur. But with all those glasses I had had beforehand, I found myself behind the mic and completely incapable of remembering the words to “Year of the Cat,” which I had just sung perfectly at the Pigalle Country Club.

So I stumbled through it, stopping several times and turning my slot into a comedy routine instead of a musical interpretation. People actually laughed and enjoyed the break, so that was just fine. Still, feeling complete failure, I decided to fly into my second song, with a message regarding the first: I sang, “I Won’t Back Down,” by Tom Petty. (Juba’s own instrumental piece before I played was superb, by the way.)

While I played my songs at the Bonheur, my new friend Juba played lead off to the side, and boy was it great. I was sorry to let him down by forgetting all the words to the Al Stewart song. It did make me want to play with him again, though, and afterwards, I had lots of wonderful conversation with friends in the bar once the open mic finished. So I realized that I had no regrets over the evening or the open mics at all….

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