Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

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

April 8, 2016

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….

December Wilderness in Open Mics in Paris

December 10, 2015

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

PARIS – December, along with August, are the cruellest months in Paris. When it comes to open mics, that is. It’s like, let’s close down and disappear during holiday period. So was the theme on both Tuesday and Wednesday as I sought out the open mics in Paris.

Tuesday was the best. That’s where I had five or six open mics in mind to attend, including trying out the Feline open mic for the first time, on the new and fabulous stage that his hip cool bar has created by tearing down some useless little corners in the back of the place. But when I arrived, I found that due to a zero number of musicians, the open mic had been cancelled for the night. Next edition? Tuesday, 5 January.

So then I thought, OK, there’s always Brislee Adams and his Café Oz open mic at the Blanche metro. But at the Feline they warned me that they believed there was no open mic at the Café Oz. So I left, thinking of the third place I had in mind, in the same neighbourhood. In fact, I also checked my Facebook and found that indeed, due to a sports game on television, the Oz open mic had been cancelled. Make up your minds, bar people, sports or music!!!

So I walked down Oberkampf and made my way over to the third choice, the new Zebre Rouge bar open mic, run by Paul Cash. He thought there were not a lot of people present, but given there was no one present at the other joints, the five, six maybe more were really lots when you think about it. And I had a great time playing at the Zebre Rouge, and particularly hearing Paul’s virtuoso piano playing. (Although his accompaniment on my songs was…more difficult!)
Classic piano and harmonica at Zebre Rouge open mic in Paris

So I made a pretty early night of it on Tuesday, returned home, and then on Wednesday, last night, I said, well, there’s always the Highlander. Without fail there is the Highlander. But I decided in fact that because I had done that mainstay last week, I’d check out the Soirée Buzz at the Très Honoré bar restaurant and cocktail lounge.

This Très Honoré always promises a great show, with its fabulous house musicians, and thanks to the usual host – Brian Scott Bagley – there are usually a number of Burlesque dancers taking part too. This is part open mic, part cabaret, part live karaoké, the whole in an atmosphere of luscious wealth and snobbery.

In fact, it was so cold out last night and I was so badly dressed for the cold that when I arrived I asked for a Cognac – instead of a beer or wine – and also asked at the same moment, “How much?” The response made me feel even colder: €50. Yes, you got it, the price of a bottle of Cognac. So I asked what was the cheapest drink, and they suggested a glass of wine for €9. That was doable, and anyway, after I sang, I was given another glass of wine for my troubles….
House band warming up at Tres Honore open mic

But back to the theme of the blog: In fact, while the show was great, while there were some saving graces of the Burlesque dancers, and while the house band was fabulous as usual, I think it was pretty obvious that the usual musician contingent for the open mic were taking their Christmas holidays already, because there were not many of us! (Not to mention that Brian Scott Bagley was also not able to be there, so his job was taken by someone else – and well done.)

On my way out the door, early, I ran into some colleagues from work, and in one fell swoop my entire evening was saved – and I even got to play some more music for them, and they were more appreciative than the crowd in the basement room. Well, until I left a few hours later and got a compliment from one of the spectators as I left, about my Cat Stevens song.
First performer at Très Honoré open mic in Paris

So that is the approaching-Christmas-report of open mics in Paris, and their dissipating crowds….

Powered by