Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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

Exhaustion at the Paris Open Mics

March 26, 2013

That is a purely subjective headline, nothing to do with the state of the Paris open mics on a Monday night. Pure indulgence on my part as I write about how I went from a 32-hour day right into my favorite Paris open mics without a break.

It started, that day, at 9 AM in Kuala Lumpur, continued in Sepang at the race track, went on to dinner and preparations for the flight at the airport outside KL, continued on the flight to Dubai with a 300 pound giant sitting beside me and nailing the entire left side of my body to my seat for 7 hours, continued in a break for air in Dubai, and then on a nice flight back to Paris with the weirdest couple of brother and sister team sitting next to me – exasperation even an Emirates air hostess – and then ended with the RER, Metro, home cleansing and finally the open mics.

So I went to the Tennessee bar open mic first and found it to be a very exceptional night of talent, everyone seeming really in high form. Could that have been thanks to my own particularly low form? In fact, when I arrived, I fooled myself into believing that I was in great shape! Little by little, despite the great music my eyelids began to drop.

I began giving in to the grip of the fatigue so badly that I decided to no wait around to play my own set, preferring to go off and play at the Coolin, where I was sure no one would listen. I was right. There were more good acts there, but the spectators were not of the most listening kind, which suited me really well in some ways – but depressed me in other ways.

I decided to sing two fairly quiet songs for once, and not feed into this particular audience’s need to sing along. I did “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and “Father and Son.” It worked, the talking continued. When someone else went up after me and roused the interest of the audience, I decided I was definitely too tire, and had to go – I’d been too lifeless to elicit any audience reaction anyway.

Returned home, forcing myself awake with my iPhone in the taxi ride, and then dropping into bed and sleeping straight through to this morning at 9 AM. I feel certain that the jet-lag has been beaten in one night….

All Round Good Time at the Open Mics, for Paris in July

July 24, 2012

By Paris standards it was another relatively quiet evening at the open mics last night. I somehow managed to drive back from Mannheim, eat a meal and get to the Tennessee Bar’s open mic session in time to play there and then to go on to Coolin’s open mic after that. By the standards of most other cities in the world – like Mannheim! – it was a bustling night at the open mics.

I had been singing out loud in my car for several hours a new song I wrote, in an effort to a) memorize the song, and b) not get bored during the drive. So because it was a smaller, intimate audience at the Tennessee bar, I decided I could try to sing the song for the first time in public without the lyrics in front of me. And I still managed to forget a few lines….

But for me the standout act of the night at both joints was that of Brislee and Virginia. I realized what a wonderful voice Virginia has through the great sound system at the Tennessee bar. I had seen them perform once at Coolin; but the sound system there tends to mask the finer details of a voice…. As it turned out, Virginia did a better job at Coolin of the song that Brislee wrote for her, so that is the version I put up here.

Brislee also blew people away with his songs at the Tennessee, and because there were fewer people, the MC of the night, James Iansiti, entertained us with several songs and accompaniments – including with Brislee.

A good evening, all things considered….

A Return to “Solo-ness” and a Selection of Vocals from the Tennessee to the Galway

March 1, 2011

The day after my gig at the Disquaires with Félix and Virgile it felt really odd to be back at an open mic all alone with just me and my guitar and a mic. I arrived late at the Tennessee Bar on a night where there were a massive number of musicians, so I opted to watch a few acts and then leave for the Galway.

So it was at the Galway that I found myself “naked” behind the mic with just me and my guitar. I practically could not recover from the sensation and did my four songs feeling there was a lot of sound – and even emotion – missing. Just goes to show what a good practice it is to play alone without a band so that when you do get up with other musicians you are that much more prepared.

ANYWAY… I thought I would just put up three videos, two from the Tennessee Bar and one from the Galway. The common thread to these is just different sounding voices – oh, and also that I thought the American guy singing at the Galway looked a lot like Don Henley of the Eagles does today!!!!

Haylen did a very cool gospel number with her friends at the Tennessee, and as I arrived I heard this young man with the beard and cap who I had not heard there before and who had some definitely interesting qualities and personal style in his voice.

“Blind Boy” Brad Plays His Usual Paris Haunts

January 4, 2011

I left out a detail in my previous post in which I tried to sum up the previous week’s activities. I wanted to keep the detail personal, private and just not make anything out of it. But as I decided to sit down and do my blog entry today about last night’s musical activities, I thought that it was not possible to write about the spirit of my evening – and what the people there saw – without unfortunately unveiling the news.

blind boy brad with glasses coolly covering the black eye

blind boy brad with glasses coolly covering the black eye

It’s pretty banal, actually, but a little embarrassing: I was attacked on New Year’s Eve and had my face re-arranged. Well, okay, it’s not as bad as all that. But the black eye is a doozer. I had to cancel my Sunday brunch two days ago because my face was still something of a mask of red and black spots. But I decided last night that I would not let the assailant get away with destroying my glasses, my Lacoste coat, my face AND my fun!

So it was that I went to the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub to play in the open mics as I usually do. But I wore dark glasses to cover the dalmatian look. Unfortunately, my forehead still has some bloody scrapes on it, and it was clear that I had been beaten (although the scrapes are much less visible even today). So this raises the question as to whether a performer really should go up and play music – which is supposed to be entertaining for the audience – when clearly in a state of disgusting ugliness through visible wounds. If I were a Sex Pistol, or maybe Nazi Dog of the Viletones, I would actually do all I could no doubt to inflict such wounds upon myself while actually on the stage performing. But as these open mics are generally considered nice family entertainment, and worse, as they are carried out by amateurs, it can look like a strange assault and self-indulgent act to perform in such circumstances.

These, at least, were the thoughts going through my mind when I got up on stage soon after arrival at the Tennessee Bar. It was odd to get up behind the mic and suddenly realize that I could not see a single person in the audience through my dark glasses. This really made me feel cut off. I tried to joke about my face and seek a thread of banter that would link the music to the face – after all, think of how odd it would be to sing of happy days with a face like a pulp! (I exaggerate.)

I sang Tom Petty’s song, “I Won’t Back Down,” which seemed appropriate. Then I sang my own song, “Borderline.” Then I ran out of ideas and thoughts on how to blend the face with the music, and for reasons beyond me I immediately segued into “Unchained Melody.” Judging by all the talk I heard in the audience building up as my three songs progressed, I did not grab the audience.

I left almost immediately afterwards, feeling as if I had been self-indulgent. But I also thought I would nevertheless test out the waters at the Galway. Stephen Prescott, the MC, immediately greeted me with a laugh and a talk about black eyes of his own in the past. I inquired as to whether he thought I could expect the permanent pink spot I am seeing to disappear, and he said in his experience he had seen nothing for days and it all came back.

I was immediately put at ease. Then when it finally came my turn to play my songs, good-natured Stephen presented me as “Blind” Brad, or “Blind” Brad Spurgeon, or something like that. This made me feel really comfortable, and even cool, with the glasses, and I realized there were precendents and even a tradition of performing like this – from Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and even the Frenchman Gilbert Montagne. So I instantly ceased to think about my physical appearance, and I asked the lead guitarist from a group that had played just before me if he could play with me – he said they were from England and that the band’s name was “Mana King,” but I cannot find a link for them – and we played the first two songs together. I played “Crazy Love” and “Father and Son,” and he played some great lead. Then, alone, I did “Andalucia” and “Since You Left Me.” Had a great time, felt exorcised and as if I’d had my revenge on my attacker and I was back to normal.

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