Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Three Bars, Three Sets, and a Bit of Business – and Coolin Celebrates 1 Year of its Existence

December 18, 2012

Damn! Gotta run! I have about five things to do before I find myself at one of my favorite open mics, so the words in this post will be reduced. Good news, no doubt, dear reader. But last night the Coolin pub celebrated the one-year anniversary of its open mic, and I cannot let that pass!

I went to the open mic, following the suggestion to dress up nice, wearing a suit jacket and nice red scarf to signify Christmas. I went with some work colleagues, however, and so spent most of the time talking, rather than listening and making videos. And when it came my time to play, I had no Christmas song to sing, and no anniversary song either, so I decided to sing two of the songs that I sang at Coolin the first time I went there a year ago – “What’s Up!” and “Father and Son.”

It has grown so much, this open mic, that it has become one of the most successful in Paris. May they have another year like it…..

Feeling a little disoriented, having sung my two songs but wanting more, having seen off my colleagues, I decided I would wander over to the Galway to check out the open mic there. I was stopped on the way by four people standing in front of the Mazet – where there used to be an open mic – and they asked about my guitar and asked me to play a song. So on the sidewalk, I took out the guitar and played a bit of stuff, and then half of “Mad World.”

Then I went on to the Galway and I was invited to play immediately, a 4-song set. Very, very, very cool. So all in all a great evening of open mic and business, and sorry there is not much more profound writing about the other musicians or videos of their sets….

Two Open Mics, a Concert and a Bit of Busking in the Metro – One Thursday Night in Paris

November 9, 2012

I had so many concerts, open mics, openings, things to do last night in Paris that I decided to play it all by ear – as I do my music – and see where it would lead and what I could do. It turned out a perfect evening, more or less, with a mixture of attending the opening and playing in a new open mic, taking part in a relatively new one, seeing a friend in concert and playing a song in the metro at the request of some adventurous people attracted by my guitar case….

I started it all off at the basement room open mic called Escargot Underground, which has the strange location of a travel agency on the ground floor and a concert room in the basement amongst the brick walls of the arched ceiling. I was invited by one of the organizers of the open mic at the Blanchisserie in Boulogne, to attend this new open mic, and I warned him that I might have to run out to attend the concert of a friend. “No problem,” was the basic response. But I was pleased to see that he also decided to let me go up and play before my turn in line. It was amazing playing in this little room with my Gibson J-200, as I elected not to use a mic or amplification for the guitar, and there was a small and attentive audience. Beautiful environment and feeling in this place, and I think it will be an interesting open mic to follow in future.

From there – by the way it is located at 7 rue de Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle, 75002 Paris – I went on to the International venue where my friend Ben Ellis was performing with his band after a long break from music. Ben I first met at the Lizard Lounge four years ago in what was for me the early days of Earle Holmes’s open mic. But for Ben and many of the other young Paris rockers, it was the end of an era, almost, as they had all started out at the Shebeen in 2004/2005. Ben had this band called Brooklyn, which had some amazing songs, an album, and appeared on national television more than once in France. Then Ben disappeared off to live for a short period in…Brooklyn, and Brooklyn fell apart. And Ben returned with some folk-inspired music that did not, basically, make the best use of his talents as a singer songwriter rock & roller.

Now, two years later, I think, Ben has returned with a band that DOES make use of his full abilities and talents, and has a fabulous mixture of both melody and cool rhythms. So many bands hook into either melody or rhythm. But check out the videos and you will see Ben and band excelling at both. Also, by the way, have some patience for my videos, as there were so many people at the International that it was hard to move around and get a good angle. I DID get some great angles, though, even moving around from place to place in the same video… so watch ’em from beginning to end….

From there I took the metro over to the Mazet bar which, readers of this blog will know, has an open mic on Thursdays. But now, as of a few weeks, it has been taken over by Yaco, the MC and organizer of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic, so it is a different vibe from what it was. I really wanted to check it out, and told Yaco that I might be late. He said come anyway. On the way to the Mazet from the International, these four or five people in the metro saw me with my guitar and asked me to play. So I played while we waited for a train, doing “What’s Up!” on the metro platform and really getting outside myself. I loved it -especially with my Gibson J-200!!! It turned out this group of people was heading over to the Caveau des Oubliettes for the jam session, and I persuaded them to go with me to the Mazet.

So we got to the Mazet just in time for me to play five or so songs, and then one of the group I came with, Damien, took my J-200 and played a couple of songs too – in Spanish.

Well, holy shit! What kind of night was that???? In fact it was so good that we all went off to the Caveau des Oubliettes afterwards and found it to be crap, so called it a night!

Last Mazet Open Mic for the Summer

June 15, 2012

I’m pissed off at the Mazet Pub open mic in Paris. It is one of the rare ones that closes down for the summer! Last night was the last one until September sometime, as David Oxxo, the MC goes off and fools around making music throughout the summer on the Cote d’Azur! The nerve of this man! The nerve of this bar! Still, I did not want to miss last night’s open mic, and I’m glad I didn’t.

It started pretty quietly, as it often does, and it became an absolutely mad, riotous jam by the end of the evening. A group of musicians came in with a retinue of groupies and tore the place apart – metaphorically speaking.

And before them, there was Scott Bywater’s first visit, and a visit by an interesting songwriter named Richard Hart, from England. The night before I had heard him do two original songs that sounded so familiar I wondered if he had really written them. When he came up with his latest at the Mazet, composed by him and sounding like it could have been composed by any superstar, I realized he was the real thing.

It was a great night, in the end. But I maintain my point of view that it is extremely irresponsible for these people to close down an open mic in the middle of Paris throughout the summer tourism months! Anyway, there are others on Thursdays….

Going With the Flow at the Mazet, Again

June 1, 2012

Second in a series of short Paris posts: Got to the Mazet quite late, but there was not a very big crowd. It was the first time I had been at this great open mic in weeks, as I had been absent from Paris on Thursdays, or trying out a new open mic. Even so, I managed to get up pretty soon after I arrived, got to hear David Oxxo, the MC, and then someone else, then did my slot with maybe six or so songs, and then spent the rest of the night talking with a friend and listening to the music in the background as the crowd grew from small to enormous. Personally, it was a great evening – even if I return with only two videos and one paragraph for the blog…!

Another Night at the Mazet Before the Final Dash off to Shanghai

April 6, 2012

Back to the Mazet open mic last night, that famous bar where Jim Morrison was last seen nursing his last glass of wine before dying in his bathtub down the street. Well, I played my guts out and sweated myself almost to the grave – but wasn’t so sure I reached anyone. I enjoyed some of the other acts, though, with several new people showing up; and few of the regulars.

Just whipping this off as fast as possible before heading out to a once-per-month Paris open mic that has an early start and an early finish. Then, next Tuesday I fly off to Shanghai, as I finally got my visa today after weeks of intensive work trying to get the bureaucratic stars to line up.

So again, this will remain a minimal post, with a few words and a few videos to back them up….

Live Karaoke at the LR Restaurant, Open Mic at The Mazet – a Study in Contrasts

March 30, 2012

The plan was, go see the concert of a friend – Baptiste W Hamon at the International – and then go to play at the open mic of The Mazet. But just as I was warming up my voice and trying out a new song I had just written in the preceding two days, I received a call from a guy I met the night before at the Cavern.

“I’m in your neighborhood,” he said. “I’m going to a new open mic tonight. Want to come?”


Breaking plans is cool. And so are new open mics – whenever I get the chance. Breaking habits is revitalizing.

“I’ll be over at your place in a few minutes,” said my new friend. “I’m on a scooter.”

Crap, hate being a passenger on a two-wheeled vehicle. Still, I was not going to refuse a tandem ride to a new open mic at the Etoile area in Paris. So within a few minutes he was there, and I was on the scooter and he had my guitar on his back and off we went.

It turned out to be a very posh sort of bar/restaurant called either Lounge Royal or LR Restaurant, depending on your humor. And it was actually a mixture of posh and grungy rock. The bar, the tables, the lighting, the colors, all was posh cocktail kind of thing – but there were patches of collages of photos of the Rolling Stones and other more grungy bands and musicians on parts of the walls.

And in the basement, a beautiful brick cave with vaulted ceiling and white painted bricks and tables along the walls. And a stage against the side wall. All cramped in close quarters. It was the first of a weekly open mic at the LR Restaurant and the music was high quality. But it was not exactly an open mic of the kind that I go to most. This was the Cavern kind of thing, the live band backing the singers in a kind of live karaoke.

And the accent was on soul. A drummer, bass player and keyboard player – but no guitar. The keyboard player had a nice jazz touch, too, by the way, and all in all the vibe was very cool, Las Vegas slick. But I sensed there was no real place for my guitar, and after the first set I left, without hazarding an effort to sing.

It was not that I was unhappy – I loved it. But I had been away from The Mazet for a few weeks and I itched to get back there and play several songs, and talk with friends. So I caught a cab in front of the LR and I was at the Mazet probably less than 20 minutes later. And on stage maybe 15 minutes after that.

Listened to some nice music, met cool people, found yet another person who discovered the joint because of this blog and my list of Paris open mics – the same had happened at the Highlander the night before – and then I went home, having had a full and satisfying night at two completely different open mics…. But what a difference in style!

Jamming Time at the Mazet and Don’t Miss My Concert Tonight!

March 9, 2012

This is a double post, two for the price of one…. I attended the Mazet Pub open mic last night and it was being run by a different man, as David Oxxo was off somewhere else. The result was a different vibe, of course. But it was a fun and interesting one, much more about jamming and a free-for-all on the stage with some fabulous musician friends of Raphael Moraine, the replacement MC.

I played a few of my songs, there was a man doing rap, an electro duo, and Raphael and his band and friends. I also got to play as part of a little trio with one and then two wonderful women singers, reminding me that it was my second night in a row of that after the Highlander. A real pleasure, and once again because it was such a pleasure and I was so active playing or putting new strings on my guitar, I got very little video footage. I will only put up one video, in fact. But you get the idea. Wait around long enough with that video to hear the singer’s fabulous voice….

Meanwhile, I am in a rush to get of here as I have a gig tonight in Paris and I will play with my lead guitarist, Félix Beguin, of the Burnin’ Jacks. It takes place at:

Evidence Bar
132 bd de Charonne
75020 Paris
Métro : Alexandre Dumas (ligne 2)

In principle I will play for an hour somewhere between 8:30 and 10 PM. So don’t hesitate in showing up and joining in, before you head off to some other more nocturnal affair in Paris on a Friday night….

Derailed by a Burlesque, Enchanted by….

March 3, 2012

I was just about to do my nearly daily post last night when a friend sent me an SMS asking if I wanted to join him to see a friend of his do her Burlesque show at the Alcazar in Paris, near the place de l’Odeon. I have my priorities, so I dropped everything to go and see Louise de Ville. I would write about my evening at the Mazet open mic later, like now.

I had heard about the Alcazar for years, but never went. I did not regret it. It was a vast, two-floor restaurant with a stage in the middle where both floors could see the performance. Louise’s performance was memorable, and just totally spell-binding – as she says, “people pay more attention to you when you are in your underwear.” We met afterwards, and spoke along with my friend, and I learned she is from, Kentucky, has lived in Paris for a few years, and works in Burlesque in several venues around the city. She loves the Crazy Horse, but is less hot about the other well-known venues for exotic dancing in this city that does not exactly specialize in the genre.

Anyway… not much to say that will not sound like my tongue was hanging out….

So, to back step a little, I must say that I was in enraptured on Thursday night as well. Again with a woman – no, actually two of them. It was the open mic at the Mazet and soon into the evening two women took to the stage, both on guitars, one on vocals. It was Vanessa and Emilie, and the latter played cool lead while the former sang. They looked not only like sisters, they looked like twins. They were not related. It turned out that one was the sister of David Oxxo, the MC of the evening.

I learned that after I had decided which one to propose marriage to, but it turned out to be the wrong one. I did that with Emilie – well, okay, I did not quite propose marriage, but close – after she played lead with me for several songs, “Crazy Love,” “I Shall Be Released” and “Just Like a Woman.” A Bob Dylan medley, almost. And she was wonderful: Check out her site. It was soooo cool to have a woman lead guitar player, and especially one who with the other woman – Vanessa – looked like Kate and Anna McGarrigle, or maybe the Patti Smith twins.

Speaking of medleys, it was also a treat to see and hear Mary Catherine and then her father, who did a medley of some pop rock standards.

Then, later, James Iansiti had a couple of members of one of his bands there, and they did a great rendition of Stairway to Heaven, and James pointed out it was the 40th year anniversary of that song.

And to top it all off, I got given a copy of David Oxxo’s recently released album. There is some good stuff on this beautifully produced and recorded album in French and English, but I especially loved the song “Corps en laisse,” which felt like Jacques Brel in some ways.

Can you ask for a better two days?!

Fun, and Why, at the Mazet

February 24, 2012

This is going to be an uncharacteristically short post. Part of the reason is because it is Friday night now and I will be rushing around to try to make something of it after a busy day. Another part of the reason is because I had too much fun at the Mazet last night to make much of a post out of it! Why the fun?

Because one of the advantages of an open mic that is very good and cool and fun but not yet really discovered by that many different musicians is that when a musician gets to play, they get to play a LOT. The Mazet has been going for a few months now, but it is still not as popular for musicians as some places around the corner, like The Highlander or the Tennessee bars.

On the other hand, the Mazet IS a very popular bar and it is always full of clients. This may bother some musicians, but personally, I see it as a challenge to try to see if one’s music can be noticed through the talk. More than that, though, I love that I usually get to play a lot of songs. I did EIGHT last night. That must be around 40 minutes or more total on stage….

But the fun advantage to that also is that when there are other musicians you enjoy, you also get to hear a LOT of their stuff. Such was the case last night when I discovered and met Nell and Johnny of Nell and the Band, who are visiting from England and doing a few open mics. Nell has a rich, strong voice and it expresses lots of fresh emotion and melody. Too bad for the sake of my recordings that I was standing in a bad spot as far as the mix of crowd sound and the music goes. But it’s still worth putting up a couple of the songs.

There is a wonderful edge to Nell’s voice that occasionally called to my mind that of Amy Winehouse – although the two are clearly massively different characters….

In the end, it is not as if there are not enough musicians, by the way. There were plenty of them last night. But lots of time to do numerous songs. All in all a fun time.

Oh, and this post did not end up so short as I thought, either, which is typical….

Ambience at Mazet and Cavern

February 17, 2012

It was a little like a Wednesday night, when it is possible to attend both the Highlander open mic and the Cavern open vocal jam session. Last night I had a great time at the Mazet open mic and then took a three minute walk up the street to the Cavern to listen to the acoustic night with some Cavern regulars and a bunch of acoustic guitars.

I decided to go out and play at the Mazet despite feeling like the never-ending cold was finally going to get the better of me. I played immediately, and with the whiskey and the emotion of the singing, I thought I managed to get rid of all the sweat I needed to wake up the following morning without the cold. Wishful thinking.

There was an original act at the Mazet, a kind of young electro duo called “Save the Radicals,” that played a cool and unusual set. Other highlights were the visit by James Iansiti, the MC of the Tennessee bar open mic on Mondays, who came and played – can’t keep a good musician down.

Speaking of which… I had noticed on Facebook that Gaelle Buswel was playing in an evening of acoustic music at the Cavern, just down the street from the Mazet, so I decided to stop in and give it a listen. Along with Gaelle – whose rendition of What’s Up! had inspired me to try the same song last year – there were Cavern regulars like Jon Du, and Allison Maarek.

With sometimes four acoustic guitars going at once, the evening was very interesting and fun and fresh. And Gaelle was sounding strong as ever – check out her Janice Joplin rendition – as were the others. Totally fun and interesting, and I was pleased that despite the deathly cold I could have a decent night out. Going for the same thing tonight….

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