Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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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…

A “Pop In” Feel to the Ptit Bonheur

February 29, 2012

It was very strange last night at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic as Yaco took a night off MCing the show and he was replaced by a familiar voice and style, in the form of Kim Giani, who is one of the presenters of the Pop In open mic. It was really in many ways like taking part in the open mic at the Pop In … which I have not done in a year and a half, after having an unfortunate encounter with a strange Pop In barman with the even stranger name of “Ta Geuele.”

Actually, I think the barman was even one of the owners. Anyway, that is past history. But it was great to have Kim doing the show last night and to have that nostalgic evening, as the Pop In had always been one of my favorite open mics. And last night, it was a great Ptit Bonheur open mic, which, in fact, it seems to be no matter who MCs it.

This time there were not only some new and rare performers – such as the Romanian music band and Baptiste W Hamon – but also the return of some old favorites, like Victoire – whose act I missed as I was coming down with a beer upstairs after doing a fairly poor singing slot of my own trying to sing a song I finished writing only on Sunday….

The evening wound down with a jam on the ground floor, and that was a classic cru, as the French would say of a good wine…. even if the only video I did was of a famous Beatles song where we all had a bit of a problem making it hang together….

Boycott the Paris Pop In Bar’s Open Mic – a Story of “Ta Gueule,” the Bad Bartender

September 6, 2010

Two of my biggest criticisms of my own blog are that I am way, way too wordy – or rather, my accounts of playing in open mics around the world go on interminably sometimes, most of the time – and I am also way, way too nice. Today I will break with at least the latter fault as I attack the Pop In bar’s open mic, or at least the bartender who goes by the name of “Ta Gueule,” and who mistreated me last night.

The short message here is, if you are a self-respecting musician, amateur or professional, don’t go to the Pop In’s open mic on Sunday anymore. At least one of the people who seems to be running the place, clearly has no sympathy for musicians. So that’s a bad atmosphere.

Pop In bar in Paris

Pop In bar in Paris

Now to try to keep it shorter, less wordy: The story goes like this. I have always had practically only good words for all the open mics that I visit around the world – last year alone I went to open mics 3 to 5 times per week, in 17 countries, nearly 30 cities and on all continents except Africa and Antarctica – and I have almost invariably found the people who run the open mics to be warm, music – and musician – loving people. Occasionally they can be a little high on their horses, but in general they are warm people.

Not at the Pop In. Or not with ALL the people who work there. I’ve had no problem with the Pop In for the nearly two years that I have been going on average once per month to the open mic. The only criticism I have had started last year when the Pop In changed its method of getting your name on the list. You used to be able to call on the phone and sign up. Last year they said you had to show up to sign the list. This meant, unfortunately, that the list was full most of the time by around 7:15 PM. As I live in the suburb and it takes me 45 minutes to get to the Pop In, that meant that I could not really have a dinner with my children AND do the Pop In.

But the list method at the Pop In was also hypocritical because they allow friends to sign friends’ names, so someone can show up and sign up 5 or 6 people, and those people stay at home or eat out at a restaurant and show up at 10 PM to play.

Having once a few months ago arrived at around 7:30 after rushing through a meal with my kids and finding that the list was entirely full, I expressed my great let down and upset when I saw the list. “Damn! Oh, I don’t believe it! I’ve come all this way for nothing, and rushed through dinner! Oh man, this sucks. This is horrible!” And I left. Anyone in their right mind will have understood that I was really not happy to have wasted all that time only to find I could not get on the list and had nothing to do for the rest of the night in the way of playing music in public. No one in their right mind would think that I was being abusive to the man behind the bar who gave me the list.

No one, that is, except a man who has the unusual name of “Ta Gueule.” In French these words mean, basically, “Shut your mouth,” or “Shut your face up.” An insult, really. But this, I learned last night was the name of the man behind the bar at the Pop In. I once again pushed myself and my kids to eat early, prepare the meal early, rush out, take the metro and arrive 45 minutes later at the Pop In, but this time I was absolutely certain there would be no room on the list. I had called friends, but they had not answered. So I was on my own.

So it was that after wreaking havoc at home and rushing out to get there and arriving at 7:45 I entered a nearly completely empty bar of the Pop In and found only 4 names on the list of a potential 15!!! I was so relieved and happy that I looked at the list when the man handed it to me to put my name, and I said with a smile, delight, and relief: “Incroyable!!!”

The man, roughly 30 years old, thin of bone and thinner of hair, looked at me in anger and said, “I don’t like that kind of comment. In fact, I don’t like what you said and how you behaved last time you were here either.”

“What?” I looked at him in complete confusion. He saw that.

“It was, I don’t know, maybe in May. You came in and got angry that the list was full and you stomped out and ran into someone while doing it. I don’t like that kind of behavior.”

“Ah,” I said, and I slid the list back over to him and turned to leave. I was not going to accept being rapped on the knuckles or spanked and put in my place for my natural behavior, my natural upset at having been let down by the Pop In and its policy of allowing musicians to let other musicians sign up their friends and limiting the list to 15 no matter what happens.

As I turned to leave, therefore, without expressing any anger – I was simply disgusted that the conviviality of an open mic should be so destroyed – the man said, “Yeah, and never return again.”

Well, of course, I have no desire to do so. And as I left and walked down the street, I realized that I would at least have a good fun blog item to write about. So I decided it would be best to get the man’s name, as well, to write it here. I call up on my cell phone, therefore, and asked, “C’est quoi ton petit nom de connard, en fait, pour que je le mets sur mon blog?” (Rough translation: What’s your little asshole of a name, so I can put it on my blog?)

“Ta Gueule!” he said, hanging up the phone.

Gee, once again I’ve written an endless story about a little incident! Anyway, make my day – boycott the Pop In, or at least don’t go when “Ta Gueule” is working the bar….he’s a nasty piece of work who has no understanding of musicians and the open mic zeitgeist. I suspect that Ta Gueule was grouchy because there were only four clients in the bar, only four names on the list, and business was looking really bad at the end of his summer holidays and the debut of the new season. But he forgets that we musicians not only bring in friends, consume alcohol, but we provide free entertainment. Yes, we use the venue to sharpen our skills and pass a good evening, but the bar is making money out of us. Be nicer, Ta Gueule!

Running After Moving Targets, Musical and Otherwise

May 24, 2010

It was with great delight that Vanessa and I discovered only on Friday that Monday – today – is a public religious holiday in France. So Vanessa suggested that we take advantage of the extra day to the weekend by doing something a little adventurous on Sunday: To take the train to Metz to be amongst the first visitors to the new Pompidou Center in Metz.

In the end, however, the day ended up being an extraordinary adventure of a different kind, a comedy of errors and plans foiled by strange twists of fate…. Here is a timeline of our day :

10:20 AM: After quiet evening at the movies the night before in order to arise early, arrive at Gare de l’Est to buy tickets on TGV for Metz. Arrange ticket for Metz, but machine says that sales of tickets for return to Paris from Metz that night or even the next day, are suspended. Cannot buy a return ticket. Seek out ticket sales desk, but find it closed on Sunday. Try machine again but no matter what we do, no way to buy return ticket to Metz. Give up on idea of going to Metz and Pompidou Center, figuring all weekend workers have decided to go to Metz and no space left on train.

11:00 PM: Eating breakfast in nearby cafe, Vanessa discovers period has begun. Rushes across street to Franprix to buy tampons. Finds that all women who went to Metz stocked up on tampons so none left in Franprix.

2:30 PM: Eat lunch of hot dogs – four times as big as what we can stomach – and decide to spend afternoon swimming in local pool near Vanessa’s to burn off the calories. Queue of 500 people waiting outside pool, families, teenagers, little children. Look through fence to see poolside grass and pool itself overflowing with people on holiday weekend soaking up sun. Give up on idea of going to Vanessa’s pool, figuring all weekend workers who did not go to Metz decided to go to Vanessa’s pool.

3:00 PM: Having walked over to the Canal de l’Ourq near the Stalingrad Metro we decide to take tourist sightseeing boat that goes from there to Bastille. Make our way through the crowds soaking up the sun and arrive at mooring for cruise boat as boat hands and cruise captain lift anchor and untie ropes to take boat on cruise. Ask ticket person when the next boat leaves. Learn that there is only one cruise in the morning and one in the afternoon, we missed the boat – and anyway, we are told the boat had far too many passengers anyway, with some sitting on stairs to observation deck. Give up on idea of going on cruise, figuring all weekend workers who did not go to Metz and who did not go to Vanessa’s pool took the Ourcq cruise.

3:35 PM: Having strolled around the viaduct arrive at rental place for tiny electric dinghy boats for sightseeing. Decide to rent one for half an hour. Bingo! Get boat and take a little electric float around the pond.

6:30 PM: Having decided to go to sing at the Pop In open mic, we find ourselves after a short rest – to heal aching bodies from all the sun and hours of walking – too be too late for the 7 PM sign up at the Pop In. Give up on Pop In as it would not be worth going late to sign up, as figure on holiday weekend all workers who did not go to Metz and who did not go to Vanessa’s pool and who did not take the Ourcq cruise decided to go to the Pop In. Decide to go to the Styx restaurant open mic instead. A very relaxed open mic where there are hardly any performers, it seemed the best way to go out, eat a meal, sing a couple of songs – relax.

8:00 PM: Walk the 30 minutes to the Styx to discover that it is closed for the day or the weekend, exceptionally, because of the holiday weekend. Give up on the Styx as all people and employees who did not go to Metz and who did not go to Vanessa’s pool and who did not take the Ourcq cruise and who did not go to the Pop In did not go to the Styx either.

8:30 PM: Decided to drop in on Earle at the Mecano to eat dinner and talk to Earle, but Earle was not at the Mecano.

9:15 PM: Found an amazing Thai and Laotian restaurant and ate dinner.

11:30 PM: Decide to go visit friends of Vanessa at the Feline bar in Menilmontant. Arrive to discover that only a bartender and two clients are at the Feline. None of Vanessa’s friends are present. Give up on idea of the Feline because all workers who usually go to the Feline were on the cruise, or in Metz or at Vanessa’s pool or wherever Earle was or wherever the Styx people were – gone.

Midnight: Decide to go and smoke chichas at a chicha bar on Oberkampf in order to forget our day of moving and missed targets.

Final note: This morning woke up to finally have time to finish reading yesterday’s Journal du Dimanche and discovered that there was a bug in the French train system computer over the weekend and that maybe we could have taken that train back from Metz after all, and for free as did so many others of the holiday weekend revelers in France….

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