Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Another Little Open Mic Crawl in Pigalle

July 14, 2017

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – I suddenly realized on Tuesday night in Paris that without even putting my mind to work to think about it, I had a possible four open mics to attend as well as the gig of a friend, and that three of these were in Pigalle, within a short walking distance of each other. Unfortunately, the gig at the Chat Noir – of Simon Ferrante, who is now doing the Cavern open mic I wrote about last week – was already finished when I arrived. But not far away, on the Place Blanche, Brislee’s open mic at the Fabrique was in full swing. And I followed that one with another visit to the Pigalle Country Club open mic, near the Place Pigalle.

Brislee’s was as fun and as musical as usual, and he announced that next week’s edition is the last before the summer break. So don’t miss it, get there on Tuesday – preferably early….
second at Pigalle Country Club

Down the road, or up the road, whatever it is, was the Pigalle Country Club, where I walked in to find a familiar sound of voice and playing I had not heard for years. There was a fairly large cross-section of performers including the usual suspects, some members of the Burnin’ Jacks, and even some Italian tourist women (whom I did not get to make a video of for this blog, since they asked if I could make a video of them with their phone!).
First at Brislee’s

I was happy to find myself being able to play when most people went out for a cigarette break (!), so that gave me the kind of peace and freedom to try again a song that I have rarely performed in public, and so therefore need to practice in a live environment: “So Long Marianne,” by Leonard Cohen. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think one or two people who didn’t smoke also enjoyed it well enough!
First at Pigalle Country Club

In any case, it was a fun and relaxing time at the Pigalle Country Club, and I love this place’s quirkiness, and its decision to keep going through the summer (unlike so many Parisian establishments that close down their open mics)….
Second at Brislee’s

Stay tuned in for more summer open mic adventures in Paris!

“Crazy Lady” – Second Song and Video of the Melodium Sessions in Montreuil & Mysterious Elsewheres

April 10, 2014

Crazy Lady

Crazy Lady

PARIS – A couple of weeks ago, while in Kuala Lumpur, I posted my first video and recording of the songs I recorded in the studio in February, in the post for “When You’re Gone Away.” Since then I have been working on the second video while I was in KL, in Bahrain and now in Paris (where I’m back again for a few days before taking off for Shanghai). I’ve now finished that second video of the five-part series of the five songs I recorded at the Melodium Studio in Montreuil outside Paris in February, I’m talking about the video for my song “Crazy Lady.” As with “When You’re Gone Away,” I recorded “Crazy Lady” along with my favorite lead player, Félix Beguin and drummer, Jeremy Norris – both of whom are in two excellent Paris bands, The Burnin’ Jacks and the Velvet Veins – and also with Scott Bricklin – a Paris expat musician originally from Philadelphia – on bass. Together, as I mentioned, we recorded five songs.

In the coming weeks I plan to continue making videos of these songs and releasing them, and then I plan to put out a CD of the whole, as well as others of my songs (and a wicked cover song). The videos will all be quite different; the first one I did while walking around Paris and being filmed by Raphaëlle, and adding two bits of “mystery footage” from the past and from elsewhere in the world that I took – see if you can spot it! This time, with “Crazy Lady,” I decided to have a completely different kind of fun doing a completely different kind of video to illustrate my song, drawing on black and white films from the public domain to try to illustrate this song with a story to tell that is a little tricky to illustrate otherwise!

The beauty of doing these recording sessions was the incredible cohesion and talent I was surrounded with in Félix, Jeremy and Scott and their wonderful arrangements and Félix’s mixing. All three have worked together extensively, and often at the incredible Melodium Studios, and of course, I have gigged with Félix regularly in the last five years. So it was all just so together.

“When You’re Gone Away” – First Song and Video of the Melodium Sessions in Montreuil, Paris and a Mysterious Elsewhere

March 26, 2014

When You're Gone Away

When You’re Gone Away

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – This post has nothing to do with my location of sitting in a hotel room high above hot and humid Kuala Lumpur, where I will be working and playing music for the next week…except perhaps that high in the air (although not high in the head) is also where I was when I edited this music video of the first of my songs from the Melodium recording sessions last month in Montreuil.

In fact, yes, this post is all about a chain of events that started at the Melodium Studio in Montreuil outside Paris last month, that continued in the streets of Paris’s Latin Quarter over the weekend and that I finalized on my flight to Kuala Lumpur from Paris last night. I’m talking about the video that I put together for my song “When You’re Gone Away,” the music of which I recorded in Montreuil last month, and that I filmed in Paris over the weekend and that I edited on the flight and uploaded in my hotel room in Kuala Lumpur.

That actually seems a fitting chain of events for my song called, “When You’re Gone Away,” that I recorded along with my favorite lead player, Félix Beguin and drummer, Jeremy Norris – both of whom are in two excellent Paris bands, The Burnin’ Jacks and the Velvet Veins – and also with Scott Bricklin – a Paris expat musician originally from Philadelphia – on bass. Together, as I mentioned in a blog item about my session at Melodium Studios, we recorded five songs, of which “When You’re Gone Away,” is one.

In the coming weeks I plan to continue making videos of these songs and releasing them, and then I plan to put out a CD of the whole, as well as others of my songs (and a wicked cover song). The videos will all be quite different; this one was fun, as I did it walking around Paris and being filmed by Raphaëlle, and adding two bits of “mystery footage” from the past and from elsewhere in the world that I took – see if you can spot it!

The beauty of doing these recording sessions was the incredible cohesion and talent I was surrounded with in Félix, Jeremy and Scott and their wonderful arrangements and Félix’s mixing. All three have worked together extensively, and often at the incredible Melodium Studios, and of course, I have gigged with Félix regularly in the last five years. So it was all just so together.

In the Recording Studio at Melodium with Félix and Gang….

February 14, 2014

Melodium Studios

Melodium Studios

MONTREUIL – There has been a big blank hole on this blog for the past several days as I have just spent four of the best and most important days of my life, rehearsing for a day, and then spending three days in a studio recording five songs, four of mine and a cover. That may sound like hyperbole or exaggeration, but really, I mean it. It was certainly four of the most enriching days I’ve had, and I am hugely impatient to show the results, but I won’t do that until the five tracks are all properly mixed. So in the meantime, just a quick post to say what I was up to.

It was Part II of a project I started nearly four years ago when I went into the studio to record four songs as part of my worldwide open mic and musical adventure, another media aspect to my open mic film, open mic book and this blog – i.e., the music I have written and been singing during this period. My goal is to do a full CD, and I now have nine songs recorded in full band mode, and I will add one or two in solo acoustic and maybe one live from an open mic somewhere…. I will put up links below to the first four recordings, from 2010, which I recorded live in the Point Ephemere in Paris. As soon as I have the mixes to the stuff I did this week, I’ll make that available somehow too!
Melodium Studios
But for the moment, a bit more on this week: Aside from my own guitar playing, singing and songwriting, another one thing that ties together the recording sessions from 2010 and this week is the presence on the tracks of the lead guitar player, Félix Beguin. I have spoken about Félix frequently on this blog, as he is also the lead guitarist of the bands The Burnin’ Jacks and Velvet Veins. These are two fabulous up-and-coming young French bands, the former of which had one of its songs featured on the Rock&Folk compilation CD last month. Raphaëlle – whose video “Mississippi” I put up last week – also contributed chorus and a fabulous vocal part on one of the songs.
setting up the leslie
And anyway, this time, Félix did much, much more than just play lead guitar on my songs as he did three and a half years ago – by the way, we first played together at the Lizard Lounge open mic in November 2008! – as he played lead and keyboards and did some backup vocals, and he engineered, recorded and even basically produced the five songs we did this week, along with Scott Bricklin and Jeremy Norris. Norris is the drummer for both of the aforementioned groups, and Bricklin is an American musician from Philadelphia who has lived in France for a decade now, and who has an illustrious history of making music – he is a multi-instrumentalist, and a singer-songwriter (I have one of his albums on which he plays basically all instruments).
Melodium with 2 Rockers
Working with these three guys was superb in many ways, but not the least interesting aspect to it – which helps in the music – is that they are all used to working not only with each other, but also at the studio where we recorded: Melodium Studios in Montreuil, which is a funky neighborhood located just outside of Paris. Félix and Scott are both regular engineers at the studio, so everyone knew each other and the working environment, and it paid off in the music. In fact, it was three days of bliss in this amazing, spacious cellar studio that has several rooms, some really nice equipment and a warm and highly competent staff.

The Amazing Leslie Speaker at the Melodium Studios in Montreuil

One of the high moments in terms of the equipment was when they pulled out the absolutely wonderful antique Leslie speaker and ran the keyboards through that, and then later ran some vocal chorus stuff through it like the Beatles first did in the mid-60s. The Leslie, devised in the 1930s, uses a rotating fan-like device to distort the sound waves and give it a sound like an organ.

Together, we recorded my songs “Borderline,” “Crazy Lady,” “When You’re Gone Away,” and “If I Only Had You.” For the cover song, we recorded “Mad World,” which I have been playing for a few years, and notably, with Félix for about four years on occasion. But this time, this is a monster of a cover song, unlike any version I know of “Mad World,” and I can’t wait to show it here!
my J-200 and the singing space at the Melodium studios
In the meantime, here are the songs I recorded live at the Point Ephemere nearly four years ago. Believe me, the quality of the new ones is incomparable. (I feel like I’m boasting without showing the result – which is an empty boast – but I’m sooooo excited!)

Lighter, shrimpy, easy to download but less good quality file versions of my 2010 live recordings at the Point Ephemere in Paris. These are NOT the studio recordings of five different songs that I just did at the Melodium, and on these recordings Félix played lead on “Memories” and “Except Her Heart,” while Laurent Zarby played lead on “Let Me Know,” and “Since You Left Me”:


Except Her Heart

Let Me Know

Since You Left Me

Big, fat, heavy, high bandwidth better quality file versions:


Except Her Heart

Let Me Know

Since You Left Me

Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 7th Installment: Basement Productions French Fries Music and the Rock&Folk Compilation (with The Burnin’ Jacks)

January 21, 2014

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my seventh “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the sixth of which ran on 24 Dec. – I have a collection of five CDs from the same music company, and one compilation CD from the January 2014 issue of the Rock&Folk magazine, in France.

I did not really expect to do another morning exercise music rundown so early in the year and so soon after my last one, a month ago. I have not been travelling to the Formula One races and so I have not had my usual stash of CDs offered by the Lotus Formula One team, which had a contract with Columbia records and gave away CDs all last season. But then I made a visit to a friend’s recording studio and music publishing company in Paris, and then I found a CD worth talking about wrapped in with the January edition of Rock&Folk….

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

As a reminder to readers in this first of the year’s exercise music rundowns, the idea behind this regular post/column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to avoid it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged inspiration and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T do exercises. That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing them. So it is that when not doing my nightly exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from compilations of magazines like Rock & Folk, Mojo and Uncut, and that I also occasionally buy or receive from budding musicians at open mics. Then came the Formula One connection from the Lotus team, and I decided that I should occasionally share my morning exercise listening experiences with readers of this blog when I have no open mic news or videos to exploit.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to give my impressions of the music I listen to during my morning exercises. Keep in mind that my impressions and opinions, therefore, will have been formed while straining to reach a record number of push ups, sit ups, couch ups, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Basement Productions, French Fries Publishing Connection and Collection

Basement Productions Logo

Basement Productions Logo

I met Nick Buxton, an Englishman, in Normandy while vacationing with my family in the late 1990s, at least a decade before I returned to playing music in public and travelling the world attending open mics. I learned then that he had a business owning and running a recording studio in Paris, and as I was a music lover, we kept in touch and I eventually visited the studio. What I found was a massive underground wonderland of multiple studios, recording rooms, equipment, rehearsal and even performance spaces. There can hardly be a cooler recording studio set up in Paris, and as it’s all beneath the foundations of a building or two with arched brick ceilings and passageways from one room to another, I cannot imagine – although I’ve never asked – that there can be complaints about the noise from neighbors.

In any case, a few years after our initial meeting and after my first visits to his Basement Productions studio, I learned that Nick was starting up a music publishing company that he decided to call French Fries Publishing. That has been going on for a few years now, and as I often do during my break from my world travels, I dropped in a few weeks ago to say hello, discuss his business – and mine – and see what was going on in his life. The first thing Nick did as I entered, was to introduce me to a guy whom he called “Louis Alphonso,” as he said what he had been doing lately was to record a new album with this guy. It turned out, he said, that Alphonso used to play in the 1980s British band, Bad Manners, and it was his first solo album, in fact. Nick offered me the CD, and then I started speaking to him about what I was up to, and I mentioned this blog and my morning exercise music. One thing led to another, and I ended leaving the Basement Studios with five albums from the French Fries Publishing venture, including “A Noir,” by this Mr. Alphonso.

I’ve been doing fruitful morning exercises ever since! Basement and French Fries, it turns out, is a hive of activity, a bastion of British-cum-French pop rock music in the middle of Paris, near the Anvers Metro, not far from Pigalle, and there is very much of a family feel to all of the five CDs that Nick gave to me. That means that French Fries very definitely has a point of view, a “sound” if you will. That feel has something to do with the British ska music movement in the 1980s, which the band Bad Manners was part of; but along with some other influences including garage rock and basic singer songwriter stuff. Most of the CDs were produced and/or engineered and/or recorded and/or mixed and mastered by Nick, and his partner Olivier Furter, so that’s another reason there’s a family feel to it all.

Louis Alphonso

Louis Alphonso

The five CDs Nick gave me were the aforementioned Alphonso, plus a band called Simili Skaï, another called Jack’s de L’or, Neon Campfire and GlebBones. The ones that stood out the most for me as I did my morning exercises were the Simili Skaï, which is quite melodic, and the Louis Alphonso – which also, incidentally, DOES have a family connection as Nick’s young child bangs a piano and vocalises on it at one point, and it also contains voices of several other people including Jarvis Cocker (- of Pulp – who uses the studios sometimes), and it gives special thanks for musical influences to, among others, Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson. And yes, there are some weird things on this CD where I can see the influences come in! (Notably, the other liner note: “Produced by Nick Buxton despite Louis Alphonso.) Also, by the way, despite me saying this is a bastion of English music in the middle of Paris, a rough estimate would put French musicians at well over 50 percent of the personnel on these CDs. So this is a mixture of French and English wine, if you will….

Rock&Folk Monster CD 45 and the Burnin’ Jacks

Burnin' Jacks

Burnin’ Jacks

Just when I thought that I would turn this edition of my morning exercise music into the first one that focuses entirely on the production of CDs from one single recording studio and music publisher, I bought a copy of the January issue of the French music magazine, Rock&Folk, because it had Bob Dylan on the cover and because I had not bought any for a few months – behind way, way behind in my reading! (IE, magazines and books piling up in an not-yet-finished-reading mountain.) Then, of course, I realized that I had the latest “Monster CD” of a selection of the latest music by the editors of Rock&Folk, and I had another day of exercise music to contend with. And THEN! Suddenly I saw that amongst the tracks on the Monster CD was a track by a band called The Burnin’ Jacks, the young French band whom I have written about for many years on this blog, and the guitarist of which I have recorded with, whose name is Félix Beguin. I had been watching and playing with the band since my musical adventure began in the fall of 2008, and here they were now included on a compilation CD of the top French rock magazine. So I just had to listen to this and write about it here.

As it turned out, the song that the magazine chose to use on the compilation is one I know very well, and it is one of at least two of The Burnin’ Jack’s repertoire that I had always assumed was some kind of Rock ‘n’ Roll standard. It is called, “Bad Reputation,” and when I heard it again on this CD, I thought, if the Rolling Stones covered this song, everyone would think it was one of their hits from the 1960s. In fact, I’d love to hear them cover it – but I’m pretty sure they could not do as good a job as The Burnin’ Jacks at the moment – who, by the way, had their faces plastered up on a poster all over Paris in recent weeks announcing their concert at the Maroquinerie, which I understand was a massive success last weekend….

And they may be a bunch of guys with bad reputations, but they were in good company on the Rock&Folk Monster CD, with Motörhead, Anna Calvi, the Jacuzzi Boys and Dave Stewart, among others. The most interesting personal discovery for me on this CD was Samantha Crain, who looks like she has to be about 12 years old, but I found her referred to on the Internet as “still only in her 20s…” and I cared little about her looks or her age, because she clearly has a unique voice and interesting songs. The opening track of the CD, by Kendra Morris, was also great listening. But few matched the energy that the Burnin’ Jacks injected into my sit-ups….

Well, that rounds that up. A small morning exercise crop of CDs, my seventh edition since I started doing this in April….

From the Calm of the Tireuse to the Mania of the Pigalle Country Club

December 18, 2013

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – I started the night at the Tireuse open mic, beneath the shadow of the Panthéon in Paris’s 5th Arrondissement, and I finished it at the wild Pigalle Country Club open mic near the manic place Pigalle. Both open mics were cool and worth their price in beer….

The Tireuse had a really good crowd and enough interesting musicians to keep the heart beating fast, and the mind and musical appreciating spirit wondering what might happen next. There were a lot of first-time musicians, and there were a number of surprises, like the saxophone player who played along with Ollie, the MC.

As it turned out, Ollie and the sax player played just before I was supposed to take to the mic – oh, and incidentally, I cannot mention this night without saying that suddenly there was a new and improved sound system. One of the only downsides since its inception of the open mic at the Tireuse, previously the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, was that the sound was horrible. A small, crappy amp. But now, there are two good little amps which make for great sound on both guitar and vocals.

It was wonderful. But I was immediately disheartened to discover that the sax player would play with Ollie just before my two-song set. How could I compete with that?!?! I decided, in fact, in a sudden moment of perspiration, to invited the sax player to play the first song with me. He agreed. And so we did “Crazy Love,” by Van Morrison, with this guy on sax. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I then did “Just Like a Woman,” which I had not done for a long time.

And Then the Contrast of the Pigalle Country Club open mic

After that, and after hearing several performers, I decided to go off to the open mic of the Pigalle Country Club bar, near Place Pigalle. This open mic is run by the members of the band “The Burnin’ Jacks,” the lead guitarist of which has played and recorded with me. It turned out he was not there last night, but the rest of the crew was. And what a contrast to the Tireuse.

Here, in this cool small bar where anything seems to go, the feeling of the open mic is, anything goes. It’s lots of acoustic rock ‘n roll, and lots of fun. It’s chaos and and anarchy, and no list for the performers, but just, “Hey, take the mic when you want.” I played my staple “Mad World,” but I started off telling them that I had a new cover song that I do, but cannot really do. That is “D’yer Maker” from Led Zeppelin, and I immediately wished that I had done the whole thing from start to finish, because it did decide to do the first few verses just to show how I cannot do it… and lots of people sang along… and then I quite in the middle.

Anyway, for me, it wasn’t about going to sing as much as going to hear. And the lightness, the fun, the rock ‘n roll vibe did not fail. I love this little open mic, even if it is not totally designed for my kind of cover songs (or my own songs). As a study in contrasts and different styles, I don’t think I could have done better than the Tireuse and the Pigalle Country Club in the same night…. You might call it the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones….

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….

Burnin’ Jacks and Toxic Kiss at Bus Palladium – Half a Look

September 30, 2012

Because of another really important commitment, I ended up seeing only half of the Toxic Kiss concert AND half of the Burnin’ Jacks concert at the Bus Palladium. Actually, I had planned it so that I would see all but one or two songs of the Burnin’ Jacks, but the Bus Palladium security guard had to impose the rules: Anyone leaving the Bus Palladium would NOT return. So I left halfway through the concert.

Because of that, I will not pretend that I saw everything. But of what I saw, it was great. Toxic Kiss was really interesting, and they are a very vital and cool French band – I did not really notice how strong the French accent was when I was there, but you pick it up in the videos. No problem, it is interesting and inventive music and great stage presence. At one point the woman singer of the group left the stage and took up position in the back of the crowd and danced… no one seemed to notice – I caught a few seconds on my recorder. It was very cool.

The Burnin’ Jacks, so what if I don’t say much this time. I have written extensively about them on this blog, and in exactly the same was last night as in the past, they just get better and better. I keep trying to figure out how they keep getting better. Suddenly today I remembered that they spent a few weeks or so performing in Berlin over the summer, and I bet that experience must have had a big effect on the band. Check ’em out if you get a chance.

Pretty Immense: Four Disparate, Unrelated, Extraordinary Venues in One Night in Paris

September 27, 2012

I may only have actually played in one place last night, but I attended three open mics and a concert in Paris and took in all vibes and sensations available and went home still with enough energy to ride my unicycle five kilometers around the neighborhood. If that sounds weird, keep reading!

First stop was the Truskel Bar to see the Velvet Veins, the new band of my lead guitar player, Félix Beguin – who was supposed to play with me at that ill-fated gig of ours at the Lizard Lounge a couple of weeks ago – and his shockingly good young guitar alter-ego and singer. Félix is still part of the Burnin’ Jacks, but he created this band, the Velvet Veins, in order to play exactly 100 percent the kind of music HE is addicted to… kind of 70s blues rock, metal rock, rockin’ rock, guitar-based stuff with amazing lead exchanges between the two guitar players, some mad drumming and even a bit of harmonica playing from the bass player. Don’t ask me to be literate or even precise or accurate about what this sounds like – just give it a listen. Unbelievable stuff. (I apologize for the shaky camera work, but the excited crowd was jumping up and down so virulently in front of me – and on me – that I could not do any better.

From there I head over on a short walk to the much quieter and down to earth Vieux Leon bar near the Pompidou Center for the first of a new Wednesday night open mic, which was this night hosted by my friend Baptiste W. Hamon, formerly known as Texas in Paris. The bar could not have been a bigger contrast to the Velvet Veins-bopping Truskel, but that was just fine as a way to come down and do some of my own bopping music – actually, I opted for Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” and my own, “Borderline.”

Highlander Open Mic 6th Anniversary Cake

Highlander Open Mic 6th Anniversary Cake

From there I used my new iPhone maps app thing to get lost just trying to find the quickest way over to the Highlander. But fortunately as soon as I found the rue de Rivoli, I no longer needed the app. (Piece of shit, and I dread where it will lead me next week in Osaka and Nagoya and Suzuka….) So I just HAD to go to the Highlander, even if I knew there was no way I would even dream of performing. The thing was, it was the sixth anniversary of this most popular of Paris open mics, run by Thomas Brun. Thomas not only does a great job with running the open mic, but he sings and plays amazingly, and even more importantly he comes up with good birthday cake on these annual celebrations, and last night he added some champagne into the mix. I got my cake and champagne as soon as I arrived, and the timing was perfect since I had by then digested my main course of duck kebab and pasta….

From there I headed up the rue Dauphine to the Cavern, where the agreeable bass player master of ceremonies, Guillaume, again invited me up to the stage to play. But I learned my lesson long ago that everything I touch at the Cavern turns to rust and I have to either persuade them to let me take my guitar up with me and we do songs I know, or I’ll have to go to a massive number of karaoke bars and hone my skills in that area on the same songs they do. But I’m pretty blown away by so many of the singers there, that I know I have far to go…. But the band is really worth going for alone, say nothing of getting on stage and making a fool of one’s self.

So that was it, after that, all the beers, cake and champagne, I just had to do the unicycle thing around the neighborhood, despite it nearing 4 AM…. What a night.

Blanchisserie Open Mic, Like Going to Brooklyn for an Evening of Laid Back Whatever

May 4, 2012



I was sitting at the Blanchisserie art gallery, performance space, bar and myriad other venues contained in one, when I turned to my friend Adam Hay-Nicholls, a fellow Formula One journalist and friend, and said, “This is really kind of cool here, this open mic. But at the same time, we’re way the hell out in the middle of nowhere!” I was worried about how this new open mic on Thursday nights would fare, being located in Boulogne-Billancourt, so close to Paris yet so far at once from the center of town. Adam, with his usual perspicacity and world traveler’s knowledge, said: “Actually, it feels like we’re in a performance space in Brooklyn.” He got it! And then pointed out how a lot of NYC’s alternative cultural life is moving to Brooklyn – and people are going.

So bury my thought for the moment. In fact, the Blanchisserie is indeed a very cool location for an open mic. Just look at videos to see who showed up and what backdrop they played against. It was a great idea for the Blanchisserie to use the main room for the open mic, instead of the concert room where I have seen bands in the past. This way, like at any open mic, people can hang around the bar and listen to the music at the same time. Had they held it in the concert hall, no doubt it would clear out whenever there is an act people don’t want to focus on.

The loft feel to the place is very neat, the terrace a great place to go for a break, and the organization and people it attracted were cool. I thoroughly enjoyed it. In, fact, as it turned out, if it had not been for Adam, I was ready to drop the long trip to the Blanchisserie at the last moment and go to my usual haunt of the Mazet. I had been severely distracted around dinner time and so ended up being very late, not arriving until 10 PM. But I checked out the situation with Adam on SMS, and he encouraged me to show up and he got me signed up on the list.

Boy was I happy to discover that my favorite lead player, Félix Beguin decided to show up with some of the other members of his band, The Burnin’ Jacks. I immediately asked if he would accompany me on lead, and he immediately agreed. We had a great time doing, “Mad World,” “Wicked Game” – for only the second time together – and my song, “Except Her Heart.” I loved it, and Félix encouraged me to book some dates so we can continue the jam more often.

There was quite a great mixture of musicians, but it was hardly overflowing with them, either, with probably around 8 to 11 acts total. A comfortable, fun and laid back night – and great to hear the Burnin’ Jacks in acoustic mode again. Definitely a Brooklyn-like evening in Boulogne-Billancourt.

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