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High Gear Before Low Gear in Paris Open Mic Scene, at the Beginning of the Dead Month

August 6, 2016

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

PARIS – Regular readers of this blog over the past whatever many years it has been will know that I hate the month of August in Paris. This is the period when a vast majority of the open mics close down because they think that the national addiction to vacationing in August will mean fewer customers. But it entirely overlooks the huge influx of tourists who want not only to be climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, but want to attend an open mic at night. Anyway, over the last four days I attend four open mics, as they wound down, or continued valiantly forth….

It was, in fact, three days in a row, although I chose not to perform at an open mic on Thursday where I had otherwise been aiming to, but did go to two on Tuesday, one on Wednesday and another one on Thursday at which I did not perform…. (I re-wrote that sentence a couple of times, so if it’s a mess, that’s why!)
Ant Henson’s great new protest song

The Tuesday night was the usual trip to the Café Oz open mic of Brislee Adams, near the place Blanche. It was the last open mic of the summer while it closes down maybe for two weeks or so. A classic night with some great performers, including my friend Ant Henson, who runs his own open mic in London, and who was here for a summer trip. He tested out a fabulous new protest song of his, and I suggest you listen on the video below….
another at oz

From the Oz we went less than 10 minutes walk off to the real Oz, which is to say the one where Dorothy found herself. I’m referring to the Pigalle Country Club, which is one of the most open and crazy open mics of Paris, where anything goes, the mic is not just open, but has to be grabbed between performers, and where there are indeed some pretty cool performers, with the emphasis usually on the 1960s garage rock…. A crazy cool clientele also at this joint.
Ash Orphan at oz

Wednesday was one of the most intelligent, consistent, fun open mics of Paris, and one that does NOT close down for the summer – knowing its clientele perfectly – although the regular and founding host, Thomas Brun, does go off on a summer vacation. So Wednesday was Thomas’s last night at the Highlander before his vacation, from what I understood.
bit o pembroke at oz

Again, it was a classic Highlander night, with each musician singing three songs and the list going to some 20 or more performers, and the crowd ready to be entertained – mostly by crowd pleasers, but not exclusively – and all together I had a great time there. Except my guitar pick up was acting up again, as it has frequently since the horrible day when a woman used the guitar as a dance floor at the Pigalle Country Club earlier this year….
Jake at oz

And finally Thursday I dropped in to the Cabaret Culture Rapide for the weekly open mic of the Paris Lit-Up group, which is mostly an expat thing geared towards spoken word, but includes music, poetry, prose, comedy, just about anything you want to do up there behind the absent mic. Yes, it’s a tiny cool café in Belleville, with no mic, and a consequential pillar in the middle of the room that blocks the view of about 50 percent of spectators in the place. But those who present their schtick loud will be heard.
john cotton at oz

I was admirative of the Paris Lit-Up people that they are continuing into August, but the crowd of spectators and performers was a lot smaller than the last time I saw this open mic. On Thursday, thanks to arriving late, having had a good dinner and feeling open-mic-ed-out, I decided not to play any music. In fact, in a very atypical manner for me, I didn’t even make any videos.
yet another at oz

But I made so many videos at the other open mic evenings that there are far too many to look at on this page ANYWAY!!
another at Pigalle Country Club

Back next time with more open mic madness in Paris, no doubt. Or maybe not. Depending on how many close down for the annual August Parisian exodus….
craziness at pigalle country club

another great cover by Scottish guy at Highlander

another at highlander

Ant Henson’s great cover at highlander

final one at highlander

last moments of another great cover at highlander

on his mind at Highlander

Open Mic Hopping Through Paris in the Warm Winter

December 18, 2015

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – Last time I posted I was blaming Paris for being in Christmas-break mode and not having so many open mics as usual. Now I must lay blame on myself for being in Christmas break mode for not posting on this blog this week despite doing three or more open mics! In fact, I’m not in any kind of true “break” mode; I’m in overdrive on my own projects in the areas of my life where I am not yet earning my living, but where I still have ambitions: Editing my open mic film, putting together a CD, working on novels, memoir and other projects. To say nothing of household chores and a minimum of socializing. So here is a short report on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday open mic adventures in Paris….
Brit Style at Galway

Sunday it was off to the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar open mic near Chatelet, where Etienne Belin held court again for his weekly open mic in this fabulous and cool bar, which also hosts a billiards tournament during the open mic. Now THERE is a solution for all the bars that are not sure they want to do an open mic for fear of alienating other sectors of their patrons: Do everything at once!
First at Pigalle Country Club open mic

I heard some nice stuff, met some nice people, and generally had an excellent time.
Julia at Rebel Bar open mic

Monday, it was off to my first visit to the Galway open mic for a long long time. It was not the usual MC, but rather Thomas Brun, who is the MC of the Highlander open mic. And Thomas, as any reader of this blog will know, is a consummate MC of open mics…and a wonderful musician. I had a video of him opening the evening’s show, but unfortunately I was placed behind a very, very, very loud group of Americans who were standing at the bar just in front of Thomas, and in the video as at the pub, it’s not so easy to distinguish anything between their loud voices and his music. I can’t understand how anyone on earth can be in a bar directly in front of a small, intimate stage with a single musician opening a show, and how they can continue to yell at the top of their voices about nothing at all….
Group at Rebel Bar open mic

Fortunately, the group went outside eventually to talk – they had the upper floor and the back of the bar, if they wanted – and the evening went on in acceptable manner.
Duet at Galway open mic

Tuesday, I dropped by Brislee Adams’ excellent Café Oz open mic in Pigalle, but it was too early and he had not yet arrived; so I could not put my name on the list. I went down the street and had a meal of raclette with a newfound friend, and then after the fabulous meal, we went back to the Café Oz, to find the place just brimming with open mic musicians, and a list that was so long I knew that although it was only 10:30 p.m., I would not get behind the mic until 1 a.m., if at all.
Paul at Galway open mic

So we left and went to look for a place to have a drink, and that’s when it came into my mind – after visiting one or two other noisy bars – that there was the Pigalle Country Club open mic, run by my friends of the Paris band, “The Burnin’ Jacks.” This is a fabulous, very little publicized open mic that is used mostly by the Burnin’ Jacks and their friends. But that is by no means the point of the thing, so anyone can go and grab the stage, mic, guitar, and play away when it’s free.
Second at Galway open mic

So both I and my friend did play, after hearing much fun rock ‘n roll and Buddy Holly played by a couple of the Burnin’ Jacks, and others….
Japanese going wild at Rebel Bar open mic

The Highlander Open Mic in Paris Celebrates its 9th Anniversary This Wednesday

October 5, 2015



PARIS – If there is just one open mic you have to go to this week in Paris, then you must have a problem. There are so many worthwhile, fun and neat open mics in Paris. But now one of the most enduring is the Highlander, run since the beginning by Thomas Brun, which will celebrate its 9th anniversary of its existence this Wednesday.

If I was in town this Wednesday, I would be going. As it turned out, I thought the celebration was happening last Wednesday, so I went. Well, that just set up the right situation to get some videos up on this blog for the preparation for the ninth anniversary!
Highlander Open Mic 6th Anniversary Cake

Highlander Open Mic 6th Anniversary Cake

I’ve been attending this open mic more than half of that time, although all sorts of personal commitments have meant that I have not attend as much as I would like to in the last couple of years. But attending last Wednesday, I found the same open mic in the basement of this neat Scottish pub in Paris, run by Thomas Brun in a way that I would like to say is inimitable, but that would not do justice to the many open mic MCs in Paris who have, in fact, used Thomas’s presentation as a model – and imitated it to the last detail.

But as someone said last Wednesday, there are no other open mic MCs quite like Thomas – and that’s what makes an open mic work or not. (In addition to the location and the management…!)

Anyway, enough frothing at the mouth. Just check out the videos to get an idea of the atmosphere – and check out Thomas’s accompaniment of a rapper.

3 Paris Open Mics Over Two Nights, Paris Wakes Up – Or Maybe it Was Just Me

August 29, 2014

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – Anyone who has visited or lived in Paris during the month of August knows that the city comes as close as it ever will to closing down during this month in the summer when most of France goes on its annual vacation. On Tuesday and Wednesday I went open mic crawling and managed to attend three different open mics over the two nights, and felt a wonderful sense of the city returning to action, but still sitting in the twilight zone of the end of summer.

There was a fabulous community feel at the first of the open mics I attended, at the Café Oz near Metro Blanche, run by Brislee Adams. It seemed every time I turned around I encountered some open mic host, taking what the British call a “busman’s holiday.” Hosted by Brislee, who does a great job, and often takes up a role as lead player or simply hand-clapping audience rouser, when he’s not photographing or recording videos, I turned around at one point to find Réjean Mourlevat, the host of the other Tuesday night open mic, that of the Baroc, just up the way in Belleville.

He said he was just dropping around to have a drink as he lives nearby. But I wondered if he was checking out the competition! It was the last Tuesday of the summer shutdown for the Baroc, so maybe he wanted to see how things were done at Brislee’s place….

Next time I turned around, I ran into Thomas Brun, the longtime host of the Highlander open mic, that runs on Wednesdays. I’ve seen Thomas going to other open mics from time to time to check them out – the Galway, the Lizard Lounge, the now defunct Ptit Bonheur la Chance…. But seeing him and talking to him reminded me that I had a meeting lined up for the next night from a reader of my blog who said we ought to meet and play together at the Highlander the next night….

But before I leave the Café Oz, where I made a mess of trying to sing a song in French for the first time, by the way, I decided to go up the way to Pigalle, just a short walk from the Café Oz, and check out the Pigalle Country Club open mic, which I learned was holding its first open mic of the season, after having taken a break for part of the summer as well.

There I found not only the usual crowd of the young rockers – the Burnin’ Jacks, among others – but I also found a few friends I did not know took part in that one, including my violin and lead guitar playing friend who accompanied me in my concert in London last month, Joe Cady. I ended up playing a bit with my other lead guitar playing friend, Félix Beguin of the Burnin’ Jacks, however. But he did not play lead, he sang along with me, and then I did the same with him.

And Then Back to the Highlander and a Cool Meeting

Well, I’d pretty much wiped myself out on those two open mics and meeting old friends and acquaintances and imbibing in way too much beer, wine and shots, but after at first deciding I would not attend the Highlander, I decided I had to go and meet that reader of my blog after all. And boy do I not regret doing that. It was a man named Paul Penfield, who put out a couple of albums in the mid-70s and who was on a brief visit to Paris, primarily to play an open mic or two.

We asked for another guitar from the audience, and on my second and third songs we played along together – first on my song “Memories” and then on “Mad World.” It reminded me of how much I love playing with other musicians – as if the previous night had not already done that – and that I do it far too little.

There were some great discoveries both nights, or rather, a discovery and a reacquaintance with someone I’d already heard before. Check out the videos of Desmond Myers at the Café Oz and of Simon Ferrante at the Highlander. Oh, yes, and that of Paul Penfield doing his solo number….

High Times at the Highlander – Again

August 8, 2014



PARIS – This might be the first time I have ever used my own blog myself to check out the last time I sang at a particular open mic. I am having a very hard time believing what my blog is telling me! I just searched to find out that it is telling me that the last time I sang at the Highlander open mic, one of the best open mics in Paris, it was at the end of August last year! I went to the Highlander on Wednesday, had an amazing evening, sang, and it felt like I had last played there just the other day….

Well, no, not quite. I realized immediately upon entering at 8:20 p.m. that there were a lot of new faces amongst the waiting musicians. In fact, I recognized few of them. Oh, yes, there were a few of the regulars from the past few years. But there were lots of new faces. One face that was not new, the most important face, was that of Thomas Brun, the MC of this open mic that is also one of the longest lasting open mics in Paris. And thank goodness for that. The identity of an open mic is so tightly bound with that of both the location, and above all the MC.

Another thing that had not changed was that it was so popular that the list was probably too big for everyone who eventually showed up. So it was a full evening of song and music otherwise, until well after midnight.

Oh, I must add that my reasons for not singing at the Highlander in the last year – if my blog search is correct on that point! – has nothing to do with the open mic, and everything to do with my travels, personal situation, fewer open mics attended in Paris in general in order to make more time for my other music-and-writing-related projects, and just bad timing. The Highlander remains a must do open mic. You can see that in the videos….

PS, I also know for sure that I have shown up once or twice at the Highlander in the last year and NOT sung, since I’ve been too late to get on the list. So get there early….

Back to The Highlander at the Tail End of Summer

August 29, 2013

PARIS – There was something different about the open mic at the Highlander last night, and I was unable to put my finger on it. Maybe it was just because Thomas Brun, the usual MC and founder of the open mic, was away somewhere and the evening was put together by Brislee Adams. Maybe it was because it was the first time I have attended in months, and the first time I have played there in months. Maybe it was because the audience was coming down from summer vacations.

Whatever it was, the audience and musicians felt somehow like they were all at the tail end of the summer and all the festivities they had been through, and were gearing up for another year of open mic-ing it at the Highlander. The Highlander is, remember, one of the oldest and most well-attended open mics of Paris. It managed to survive its move from the ground floor of this Scottish pub in Paris to the basement cave with no problem – and it has survived the complaints of neighbors, and even Thomas Brun’s very human need to go on holiday occasionally.

In any case, whatever the difference was I could not put my finger on it, but it all came down to a lot of fun anyway, and an audience that seemed to listen a little more than usual – the Highlander is also notorious for having one of the most indulgent audiences I have ever found, having no problem talking all night long no matter how good or scared to death a musician might be.

Were there fewer people last night since many are still on holiday? I don’t know. It was still well attended, and before it even started there were more than 20 musicians on the list, and no room for everyone. Especially under the 3-song-per-performer that the Highlander never veers from.

But by the end, judging from what I saw, most audience members and musicians had a good night, and I am sure the place will be fully booked throughout another new open mic season in Paris. Gee, wait, the Highlander was one of the rare Paris venues to NOT close down its amazing open mic in the summer…. so there are no seasons at this mainstay of the Paris open mic scene…..

Picture Postcard Perfect Paris and O.K. Open Mic Night as Well

June 20, 2013

Another Paris 2013 © Brad Spurgeon

Another Paris 2013 © Brad Spurgeon

PARIS – I was able to shore up my spirits and play to my heart’s content at the Vieux Léon open mic last night even when there were only two spectators listening, because it had been one of those nights where at home I had a desperate urge to go out and play in public. In fact, the Vieux Léon had quite a big crowd of people, but most were out on the terrace drinking and chatting, and not there for the open mic. So I decided to go to the Highlander after that, but got my kicks playing at the Vieux Léon, just for myself and those two spectators.

I also decided under those circumstances that I would play only my own songs, and that’s what I did – “Crazy Lady,” “Borderline” and my newer “Shake Her.”

From there I walked on the walk from the Vieux Léon to the Highlander – it is only around 10 to 15 minutes saunter – and on the way there I was struck by a perfect postcard image of the scene: the Seine, the boats, the sky, the Eiffel Tower and a search light on the top of the Eiffel Tower, and I said, “What an amazing city I live in! I have to stop and take photos of this picture perfect postcard scene that is almost a cliché, but actually, so beautiful that it HAS to be taken, it cries out to be taken. So I took the shots and paste them on this page here….

At the Highlander, the list was again over 20 people and I was dead last. The ever-fair, ever helpful Thomas Brun said he would try to get me up. But in the end, after several performers did their three 15-minute songs, it became clear there would be no way for me to go up. So Thomas told me he couldn’t do it this time, and I didn’t blame him. I was the late one…. (It DOES make me wonder, though, why performers insist on 15-minute songs in an open mic, when spectators need to be entertained and say goodbye to the performer while still wanting more….)

Paris 2013 © Brad Spurgeon

Paris 2013 © Brad Spurgeon

Moving Into Overdrive at Two Open Mics

January 24, 2013

I managed to take part in two open mics again last night, which was good since I missed doing any at all on Tuesday night for reasons previously described. It was Wednesday night in Paris, and that meant the Vieux Léon open mic near Chatelet, and the Highlander, in the Latin Quarter. Talk about two completely different atmospheres!

The Vieux Leon was a lot louder than usual with clients, until I went on and a lot of them walked out. 😉 That was great because it gave me a chance to sing a couple of quieter, non-crowd-pleasing songs, my own “Let Me Know,” and Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.” For the second night in a row someone took videos of me without me knowing it, this time using my Zoom recorder that I had left on my table…. So I am putting up the videos of me doing the two latter songs I did.

The Vieux Léon has now become a regular visit, it seems, for Wayne Standley, too, and last night he played along with Tex from Italy, who you would never know was from Italy….

Michelle Blades of Panama was back too, but unfortunately the clients were sooo loud at that point that they missed one of the best acts of the night, as Michelle sang a couple quieter songs. My Zoom recording device too seemed to want to chat with my telephone – or vice versa – at that time, so my recording of Michelle is a bit flawed.

Then there was the very cool Marie Mantacheff on vocals with Emile Feltesse on guitar, adding a new “variety” sound to the evening.

I walked from the Vieux Leon over to the Highlander and managed to get a spot as the second last performer of the night, thanks to the cold and wet-ish weather making that list a bit shorter than usual. I played three songs – Mrs Robinson, Crazy Love and my Borderline – and made some new discoveries of other singers too. It was a great evening.

Lots of Music, Few Words – Much Fatigue…. :-)

January 22, 2013

Is the definition of a great night out that you have no energy – or even any day – left the following day? That is how I might define last night. I decided to eat out at the great pizzeria across the street from the Coolin in order to get my name on the list at the Coolin open mic. It turned out that the list was not very long, as a lot of Paris musicians seemed to have taken a break from the Paris cold. So I got early enough on the list to go out and eat a great pizza parma and then return to play my songs and then continue onwards to the Galway for the open mic there.

I heard some nice stuff there, got to play my songs, and listen to and watch Thomas Brun run the open mic for the second week in a row – replacing Romain of All the Roads, who is temporarily away – and then I met some friends at the Galway and went out for another drink with them before returning to their apartment and playing music until 7:30 AM.

Oh yes, that was it. Tried to take a taxi back home at that time only to find the driver a completely different bird in the morning than at night time, doing nothing but complaining about all the traffic, all the trucks, all the troubles I was causing him and all the extra time I would have spend in his taxi because of the traffic. Wait, yes, it WAS getting on for 8 AM and that meant trouble for me. So I got off at Chatelet and took the metro home….

This is a web log, remember….

One, Two… No Third Open Mic This Time, I was Already Out

January 17, 2013

I had this really ambitious idea last night in Paris in the wicked cold weather to go to three open mics, as I had on Monday. But I started off at Vieux Leon and found myself in a great open mic, even if half the crowd of the bar patrons did not seem as if they were there for the music. There were some wicked musicians and singers and I decided to be a little perverse amongst all the noise of the talk of the patrons and play a nice quiet version of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” by Bob Dylan. In the end, it was a good idea for the few who wanted to listen – and for me, since I really enjoyed singing it.

I enjoyed rediscovering Marco, the Italian bluesman, and I enjoyed discovering Solène, the Frenchwoman who sang a Lio song. And I enjoyed Junior Vic as usual. And I just in general enjoyed the amazing vibe at this recent addition to the Paris open mic scene. In fact, I was invited to do another round of songs after the initial three songs, like all the musicians, since there was enough time to do it. And I was enjoying the evening so much that I regretted that vow of mine to do three open mics in one night again. Because that meant leaving, and it meant no certainty that I would find fun at the Highlander – the next open mic on my list – and even less certainty that I could find a spot on the list at the Highlander to play, arriving so late as I would.

But I headed off un the sub-zero weather and went to the Highlander to find it buzzing, bustling, bursting with energy and enthusiasm as usual. And Thomas Brun, the genial MC said he thought that there could quite possibly be JUST enough time for the list to finish and then me do a song before the open mic closes at 1:30 AM. Thomas is THE most clear-cut of the MCs of open mics in Paris, I think. The list gets signed up upon early in the evening – 8:15-8:30, and it is followed religiously. And it doesn’t matter how many musicians are present, each musician always gets three songs to play. (Unless he has found he has five minutes at 1:25 AM and a late-arriving musician wants to play – in which case, Thomas will give him a single song, or two….

Anyway, as I sat there and listened to some interesting music – even some astounding vocals occasionally – I conversed with some old friends of Thomas, and I drank my beer, and bit by bit I felt tired as hell. So for one in my life, I decided I would not see through my vow, I removed my name from the list, left the bar and went directly home – and did my unicycle ride of 5 kilometers in the sub-zero weather, and went to bed. Too bad about the third joint that I had planned to visit, the vocal jam at the Cavern. I had had a fabulous evening again at the Paris open mics, and I was happy.

Is this the most self-indulgent post I’ve done in a long, long time???? Well, what’s a blog for, right? (This one is primarily for putting up text to separate the videos I do of the talent around the world….)

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