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

September 6, 2010
bradspurgeon

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!

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