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Brad’s Morning Exercise Music Rundown, 11th Installment:

May 18, 2016
bradspurgeon

Sit Ups

Sit Ups

For my 11th “Morning Exercise Rundown,” – the 10th of which ran on 29th December 2015 – I have, fittingly, 11 CDs to talk about, all of which were received from musicians I have met in open mics over the last few months. (Although I have known some of them for a few years.) No, wait, I’m wrong. There is one of them that I received from a friend in England, who is a friend of one of the musicians, and we kind of did a trade of our CDs, mine for theirs. And you could not get two different sounds! Back to that in a second.

The Morning Exercise Music Philosophy

First, as a reminder, the idea behind this regular – but occasional – column is that for most of my life I avoided classic daily physical exercise because I felt I was able to do without it and it bored me to death. In recent years, I had a kind of flash of aged wisdom and realized that I might bore myself to death if I DON’T exercise. (No time in life for exercise? No! No time in life to NOT exercise!) That did not, however, alleviate the boredom of doing it. So when not doing my nighttime exercise of riding my unicycle around the neighborhood – which does NOT bore me – or jogging – which does bore me to a degree – or riding the apartment cycle in front of the TV, which staves off the boredom – I do my exercises in the morning (sit ups, push ups, etc.) while listening to new (and old) CDs that I acquire from musicians at open mics (and including EPs on SoundCloud or other sites) or from any other source.

I do not pretend to be a music critic, but simply to talk about and describe, and 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, deep knee bends, stretch downs and simply catching my breath. So maybe my opinion will be warped.

The Haunting Cello Suites from Kirk Brandon, with Sam Sansbury

Cello Suites of Kirk BrandonThis is the one CD that I did not receive directly from the hands of the musician at an open mic, as I have never met Kirk Brandon. Brandon was the leading member of the post punk, new wave band Theatre of Hate, and then the more mainstream, Spear of Destiny. We’re talking early 1980s Britain, with the former group’s Westworld album rising to 17th position in the British charts. He has had a long, varied and sometimes controversial (can it be any other way for a former punk?) career, including playing in the supergroup Dead Men Walking. I was given this CD, Cello Suites, by a friend in England who knows the cello player, Sam Sansbury, who accompanies Brandon’s guitar and vocals, in a very haunting, minimalistic style of music that holds together from the beginning of the album to the end in an original concept of darkness and light. What the hell do I mean by that? Well, with Brandon’s poetic, but also sometimes outrageous lyrics and declamatory style, you sometimes don’t know whether to laugh, cry or fly. In fact, you do a little bit of all of that. And the CD, although it will never be to everyone’s taste, really invited me to want to listen to it again and again to figure out what it all meant. Ultimately, it’s a unique Kirk Brandon voice and world – definitely cool.

Rusty Golden and His Sober Musical Tour de Force

Rusty Golden - Sober

Rusty Golden – Sober

I discovered Rusty Golden in Bahrain of all places. He was playing keyboards and singing as well as accompanying another singer, at a place fittingly called, Big Texas BBQ & Waffle House. And yet the last thing I expected to find was Rusty Golden, an American musician of the illustrious country and gospel family, his father being a member of The Oak Ridge Boys, a Country Music Hall of Fame band the name of which any music lover in the U.S. knows. Even less did I expect to see that Rusty, after a long and illustrious career with disparate bands, and solo efforts since the early 1970s handed me an album that I found spine-tingling bona fide music that I would first call Rusty Golden, then situate somewhere in the folk-rock, country, pop area. In fact, I kept thinking even of The Band. There’s something about Rusty’s deep down-home vocals, and strong emotional grounding. Did I say “grounding?” This CD is all about recovery, thus the name. And while that’s a theme that you might think you could get tired of over the 13 songs of this album, the answer to that is no way. Working with Scott Baggett as producer, and with some great Nashville musicians – including the legendary bass player, David Hood from Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, who has played with everyone from Cat Stevens to Paul Simon to Traffic, Boz Scaggs and Etta James, this CD is lyrically, emotionally and musically first rate. I wished I could have spent more time in Bahrain listening to more of his stuff live, and learning stuff….

Greg Sherrod’s Mighty Blues, Soul and Rocknroll

Greg Sherrod Album

Greg Sherrod Album

I met this blues, rock, soul singer on his first night in Paris on a bit of a European tour he was doing. He had found an open mic – Some Girls, on the rue de Lappe – through my blog, and we immediately hit it off, enjoying each other’s company, and sets behind the mic. We also exchanged CDs. When I went home and then played this CD, I found a whole new world, or rather, three worlds: As the album’s title says, it is Blues, it is Soul and it is Rock ‘n’ Roll. The album is set up, in fact, with those three categories covered section by section. And of course there is crossover amongst the sections. Some people might define some of the blues as rock, etc. One thing is sure: Greg Sherrod has his own voice, and his own world. But he works well within the traditions, and the whole production is first class. Too bad I could never see him with his band in his home area of Connecticut, amongst his fans…who, by the way, paid for this CD in a very successful crowdfunding operation. Thank goodness! Thank them!

Yann Destal’s Ethereal Vocals and Sounds

Yann Destal

Yann Destal

I met Yann Destal several years ago at the restaurant of the Bus Palladium venue in Paris, and I was immediately captivated by the purity of his vocals and emotional delivery. He’s also an exceptional multi instrumentalist, and one of the few French singers I have ever heard who seems not to have an accent in his English delivery. I quickly learned that he might be playing in an unassuming way in an interesting, but far from massive venue, but he had in fact as a very young man had a worldwide hit in the year 2000: Lady, from his band called Modjo. Since that time, he has gone on a solo career, releasing most recently the album, “Let me be mine,” which I received from him while we were both performing at an open mic in Paris called Mammalia. The album actually dates from 2013, but it is fabulous, haunting production, with his airy vocals, and lyrics and almost a concept feel to this. And if Yann plays mostly cover songs in places like that open mic, or the restaurant of the Bus Palladium, the album consists of 13 of his songs, plus the very original take on The Beatles song, “Oh! Darling,” which is so original that at first you don’t recognize it – then you go, brilliant!

Wrapping Up With Vincent Lafleur, Velasco, Florian Gasquet, Ant Henson, Claudio Zanetti, Tsipora and DTSQ

And so I come to the round up area at the end of this morning exercise report. I’m not rounding up these final CDs because they are in any way lesser in my heart, but because, holy crap, if I don’t get this page out there tonight, who knows how much longer I’ll be sitting on it before I finish it! It has already been so many months!

Vincent Lafleur

Vincent Lafleur

As I write these words, I’m pretty sure that Vincent Lafleur is directing the music orchestra on his piano at the crazy Soirée Buzz, in Paris. Vincent is an accomplished pianist, and I have known him for a few years now hosting one open mic or another, and doing the music behind the Soirée Buzz. But until he gave me a copy of his new CD – Mr. Lafleur, “Des racines, Et…” – I had no idea that he was writing his own songs too. And most importantly, where he may sing in English during most of the open mics, here he has written songs in his own language: French. What did not surprise me was that they were written – and sung by him – in the medium in which he seems to feel most at home: Soul. And if Van Morrison can do Irish soul, why not Mr. Lafleur doing French soul! Ok, Mr. Soul, thanks for the CD and 13 songs to savour….

DTSQ

DTSQ

When I showed up at the open mic of the Féline bar the other day I was told I had just missed an incredible electro pop band from South Korea called DTSQ. But I went out front of the place and found them talking to some musicians and I joined in, and together we shared stories of the various bars and venues where they play in South Korea, since I had gone and played there annually for about four years. We knew of some of the same places. I then offered them my CD, and they offered me theirs. Electro, yes indeed, and shocking. Rhythmic would be the word above all others. They gave me both their latest 2015 CD as well as their tour CD of live stuff. I loved how the former was full of fabulously produced electro static, hard stuff and then suddenly, the final track was this somewhat primitively recorded song with the accompaniment of what sounds like a crappy acoustic guitar from the back of some bar somewhere. It was done on purpose as a contrast, no doubt, and it worked wonders.

ant henson

ant henson

Ant Henson I met at the open mic at the Noctambules last year that I helped to found and host. He lives in England but came visiting for a while. His CD, “57,” has as its opening song the clever and catchy, “57 Stars,” and that sets the tone for a wonderful collection of 10 songs that Ant told me he had been putting together for years, including something to do with “teenage angst.” Well, the angst was there, but I couldn’t find the “teenage.” It was very catchy CD most of the way through, with the bopping, lively approach that he gets across in his live performances shining through no problem at all.

Now, I said at the beginning of this post that I had 11 CDs, but I think the list grew from when I began to write it, and today when I finished it and post it. I don’t care! I don’t want to count up the number of titles. Suffice it to say that I have four more to talk about, and keep finding myself going into so much detail! So here’s something I’ll try to shorten:

I met Tsipora at the open mic of the Café Jean in Pars, and found her to have a lively, cool voice full of energy and inventiveness. This was clearly confirmed by her CD, “Mes rêves, mes envies,” which again, like Lafleur’s had the lyrics all in French…and was nicely recorded.

Claudio Zaretti’s CD, “Deux Diamants,” let me know what Zanetti was all about after I’ve seen him many times in live performances around Paris, mostly at the old and now defunct “Le Baroc” open mic. Zaretti has crystal clear lyric writing skills, and melodies that place one right in a French tradition that reminds me of people like Michel Delpeche, although I may be totally wrong on that! Zaretti had a small career a few decades ago, and as I understood it, returned fairly recently to music – this is the result – fabulously recorded and produced.

And speaking of French traditions, this CD called “D” by Florian Gasquet, whom I met at the short-lived Zebre Rouge open mic, for me falls right into the tradition of the French chansonnier who focuses so much on the lyrics, story-telling and word painting…. He’s a good guitar player, too. Five songs on this EP, that will take you right into Gasquet’s world.

Velasco

Velasco

And now, it is always necessary to have a case of “last but not least,” right? In fact, I really really enjoyed this CD by Velasco, an Italian who lives in Paris, and whom I have met on several occasions mostly at the Some Girls open mic near the Bastille. But I did also happen to bump into him in the park in the Place Vendome recently as we were both picnicking! In any case, this CD, called, “Just Begun,” did not really surprise me for its excellent vocals, solid rock backing, and very lively, moving four songs. All in English, we have here a guy like Yann Destal, who has no problem singing or writing in the language of Shakespeare….

Well, that rounds that up. Another morning exercise crop of CDs and SoundClouds, my 11th edition since I started doing this in April of 2013….

Three Sort of New Open Mics in Paris….

August 7, 2015
bradspurgeon

Spitting Image of the Noctambules Crowd

Spitting Image of the Noctambules Crowd

PARIS – I’m in the middle of attending three nights in a row of open mics in Paris. And that’s pretty amazing for the month of August. It’s also pretty amazing that they are all recent additions to the city’s open mic scene – more or less….

On Wednesday, it was a trip back to the Oasis 244, where our friend Trelys had been holding a weekly open mic on Wednesdays for a while – until she wasn’t. Now, that slot has been taken over by Julien, whom I had met before at Belushi’s bar. The location and style of room of any bar will have an effect on its open mic. The rest will come from the bar owner or manager and from the open mic MC.

Looping at the Oasis 244.
Because the first two bits at the Oasis have not changed, I was keen to see what Julien could do with the bar in his version of the open mic. From my single visit on Wednesday, it looks like pretty much a winner. The sound was OK, the organization was perfect, the crowd was great, and Julien’s MCing was smooth. He has attracted a different crowd to the bar as well, and the whole looks very neat and cool. Definitely worth checking out on a Wednesday evening – a difficult day, what with the Highlander’s hold on the city’s Wednesday nights in most other senses….

Cool-voiced woman singing at the Oasis 244 open mic in Paris.
Last night, it was a new venue, tucked away in the cellar of the Baryton bar in an off-the-beaten path of the fifth arrondissement on the Rue des Bernardins, between place Maubert Mutalité and Notre Dame. I thought I was entering a high-class nightclub at first, with a bouncer expected to appear to frisk my guitar. But it turned out to be totally laid back, and the room in the basement is very comfortable.

Julien opens the open mic at Oasis 244.
Most of the evening is designed to be like a live karaoke, with Vincent Lafleur playing the keyboards, and participants singing into the mic. But it’s open, and Vincent let me play my guitar and sing. I classify this as a “sort of” new open mic, too, because readers of this blog will know that I ran into basically the same open mic as this in at least two prior bars, both hosted by Vincent. One was the Orphée, in Pigalle….

Third act at the Oasis 244 open mic in Paris.
Oh, Pigalle! And that brings me the next step of the three-step Paris open mic journey: Tonight’s Noctambules bar open mic on the Place Pigalle, hosted by Raphaëlle! This addition to the Paris scene enters its third month of action, and as regular readers on this blog will know, it has been a wild, fabulous three months so far. Hoping that the month of August does not subdue attendance at what has otherwise been a fabulously well attended open mic so far, both from spectators and musicians….

Unusual second act at the Oasis 244 open mic.


The earlier part of the looping at the Oasis 244 open mic.

First singer at the Baryton open mic.

Second singer at the Baryton open mic in Paris.

Très Honoré to Play at the Très Honoré Soirée Buzz, With Bagley and Gang

January 9, 2014
bradspurgeon

Brian Scott Bagley

Brian Scott Bagley

PARIS – The moment Brian Scott Bagley told me he was hosting a new open mic in Paris at the Très Honoré bar off the place du Marché St Honoré, I knew instantly what I was going to do on Wednesday night. It turns out that I have been missing a fabulous open mic now for some four months or so, as that is how long Bagley’s open mic, which he calls, Soirée Buzz, has been going on. And is it ever going on!

I knew I wanted to attend immediately, since I had met Bagley at another open mic a while back – and wrote about him on this blog – and I knew he is an exceptional performer and would no doubt make a great MC and run a fabulous open mic. Oh, I had my fears and doubts for my own performance, of course, since Bagley specializes in song and dance, even working with the great Jerome Savary in France, and as a burlesque dancer, a former contestant in American Idol, and as a graduate of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. But when I learned that the Soirée Buzz was open to music and cabaret acts of just about any kind, I realized that I could take to the mic without embarrassment.

As it turned out, I would find myself in a much warmer environment than I expected. The moment I walked into the Très Honoré – which is also très cher by comparison to most of the venues I write about, by the way – I found myself not only in a fabulous warm room in the basement of the restaurant, with couches and armchairs, dark lit, large, two upright pianos placed in different spots, but I also found myself listening to lots of cool music on the sound system – from Johnny Cash to Yiddish music – while eating canapés and drinking wine as I waited for the show to begin. But most importantly, I also immediately recognized a friend from the Coolin open mic, Henry, who sings and plays keyboards and it turns out he is part of Bagley’s house band. Soon, another familiar face arrived, and that was Vincent Lafleur, who plays the piano and sings and was also a member of the house band.

So there it was, three people in the house band – if you include Bagley – were faces and friends I already knew. Still, with such talent present, with a full band – including sax, drums and bass in addition to the two keyboard players playing at once – I was worried I might find myself out of my league. But I decided to sit back and take in the evening for my own entertainment. And boy did it turn out to be entertaining. What an open mic! There were dancers, burlesque, singers, an accordionist who also tap danced, there were complete beginners mixed with old hands and even stars.

And Then There Were the Secret Stars at the Soirée Buzz

This high class open mic, it turns out, in its short existence has attracted stars and other personalities – at least in the audience – such as Yannick Noah, Ségolène Royal and John Malkovich, and Le Figaro newspaper has written about it too. So part of me had wondered before going who might pop in….

One of the last group of performers was a couple sitting beside me, who I had barely noticed there. When they got up to take to the stage and do a couple of numbers with the guy on piano and singing and the woman singing, it was the end of the evening and there had been several amazing performances in the second part of the show backed by the full band, etc., and I sort of expected something uninteresting for some reason. But from the first notes on the piano and then the guy’s voice, and then the woman’s, suddenly I was saying, “Wow, this is really interesting sounding pop music.” It was inventive and catchy, and there was something really original to the voices. So after this couple played I approached them to ask if they had a web site, and it turned out they were friends, not really a group, and had nothing to show. I told them I had a blog and would put something up and asked if I could have their names. When the guy gave me his, I thought I had heard of it before, but I wasn’t sure and I said exactly that to him. He didn’t say anything to suggest I should have heard of it – except something about Stringfellow bars or restaurants being in Paris, as if perhaps it had rung a bell for that reason – and so I just left it at that. (And by then, anyway, the final stupendous singer had kicked in and I turned my camera on her….) So today, at home while preparing to write this post, I looked up that familiar sounding name and discovered that this guy Ken Stringfellow was a founding member of the band The Posies, and that he had also frequently collaborated and toured with the band R.E.M., among many other projects, including solo albums. So it all fell into place! The woman he was with was Mimi Schell, who is a singer from Hamburg, Germany, and who has worked as a back up singer and also released a solo album. She got the audience at the Très Honoré buzzing on their second song, so much so that Bagley asked for a short encore of the chorus….

I was also massively pleased to discover on stage this time another aspect of Raphaëlle’s talent. I have written about Raphaëlle in the past on this blog, particularly when I first heard her at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance last year and I felt like I was hearing someone singing in the Olympia, like some Greco or Barbara or someone. For the last year, Raphaëlle has been focusing exclusively on performing her own compositions – for which she writes the lyrics and sings while playing guitar – but last night in addition to playing two of her songs on the guitar she then blew everyone away with her interpretation of “I am a Stranger Here Myself,” by Kurt Weill from “One Touch of Venus.” Amazing.

My only criticism of the whole evening was that they must do something about that microphone; not only was there no reverb or other effect of any kind, but for half of the singers you could not hear their voices as much as you might like, since the system seemed to cut out whenever the voice reached a certain peak….

Although most people who took part decided to use the house band for their singing, this open mic is indeed open to solo artists as well. In the end, I was absolutely delighted to be able to play with the band with my guitar and try my song “Borderline” with another kind of sound – two keyboards, drums, and above all the amazing sax player, Olivier Ikeda. Raphaëlle kindly recorded my performance with her iPhone. It was not an easy song to pick up on, with three different chord shifts, but starting around the middle of the song it all began to fall together. I loved it. The first song we did was much easier, the simple three-chord “Wicked Game.”

And the whole evening was especially so incredibly well MC’d by Brian Scott Bagley. A simply unforgettable Wednesday night. I’ll be returning!





Wonderful Discoveries at the Orphee Open Mic in Pigalle – Including the Male Josephine Baker

September 14, 2012
bradspurgeon

Brian Scott Bagley

Brian Scott Bagley

I think I said that it had to be uphill from here yesterday. And yet, wow, was I surprised last night to find myself in an open mic I had never heard of, never played in, never knew of, and found it to be a unique experience with different people. I’m talking about the Orphée club in Pigalle, where I had to ask a neighboring boutique – a karaoké bar – where the Orphée was. “I’ll show you, come this way,” said the woman; and she led me to the door of what looked like an apartment building right next to the karaoke, to show me the buzzer into the Orphee.

There, I found myself as if in someone’s living room – and for all I know, I was – and on the piano was my friend Vincent Lafleur, who had sent the invitation by Facebook. No wait, not quite. Someone else was on the piano at that moment, because it was indeed an open mic. And Vincent was off somewhere else as the other man played. Then Vincent returned and named the next act.

It was an open mic like none other, because it really was like someone’s living room. A long venue room, with a bar near the front, the piano along a wall, a separate smoking room, and darkness so dark that I looked ten years younger. And felt even younger than that. LOVED IT. This was a real feeling of a private club, a jam and open mic night in an almost 1930s Berlin kind of environment.

The music was mostly soul, though, so my own brand of stuff had a little bit of a hard time fitting in – but I didn’t care; there was a mic and I had my guitar, and there was an audience.


Thank goodness, though, that I got to do my songs before the mic and “stage” area were taken over by two American men with similar sounding names. One was Brian and the other Bryant. First Bryant took to the mic with piano and then guitar, and I heard this velvety smooth soul thing. Then the two suddenly stormed the floor and exploded the joint with a kind of gospel American hallelujah stuff and strutting and dancing that just drove the crowd of cocktail sniffers wild.

Bryant was from LA, and Brian was from Baltimore. I learned this after being impressed with their stuff and saying basically, “Where the hell are you guys from?!?” And I was very keen to figure out exactly what they were doing in Paris. But I did not get quite all the information before Brian, the rest of his name being Scott Bagley – ie, Brian Scott Bagley – took to the mic to perform his solo song, with Vincent on the musical side of things. This too exploded into a massive bit of choreography, an abandoning of the mic all together, and a finale with the splits.

No, no, wait. No. There’s something going on here, I thought. This is not just your regular open mic kind of performer. So I went to talk to Mr. Bagley, and what did I learn? Well, simply, that I had PART III to my tales of meeting at open mics the former famous candidates of television reality music competition programs. In this case, American Idol. Mr. Bagley, it turned out, was a star graduate of American Idol – after my meeting with those French twins named Twem, and that amazing woman at the Cavern, Sarah Manesse, of X-Factor.

But just like happened in the case of Sarah, I actually never learned from Brian that he had done American Idol. That’s something I learned when coming home afterwards and checking him out on the Internet. What I learned at the Orphee open mic was that Brian had moved to Paris seven years ago, that he had come working in a revue about the 1920s performer Josephine Baker, and that he had actually played the role of Josephine Baker himself. I recalled that the New York Times and International Herald Tribune had written a story about the play, and I learned that he was involved with plenty of jobs as a choreographer, dancer and singer, and he loves the “old school” stuff for what it has to say to us today.

I could go on and on, but the best thing to do would be to check out the links I’ve put in here. And to go off to see his one-man musical spectacle every Sunday at the Theatre la Cible in Pigalle, called “Cabaret Me – I’m Famous.” The guy is an enormous talent. I was soooo happy that I had not heard and seen him and Bryant perform BEFORE I went up to do my number.

But my huge, huge regret was that I had walked out of my apartment without my Zoom Q3HD recorder and so I had to depend on my iPhone for the videos – and both the image and the sound is crap. How can I keep doing that!?!

A Boat on the Quay, Three Down-and-Outs and a Coolin Definitely Not Dry

July 31, 2012
bradspurgeon

I made my way back from Budapest yesterday to Paris and then crossed town to the Batofar open mic, which happens so rarely that I decided I had to attend despite it being on the evening of the great Coolin open mic. Oh, and I must not forget to mention the last night in Budapest: Again I saw how open mics and open jams are such ephemeral things that from one year to the next you never know if they will still exist. The great and wonderful and extraordinary open jam session that ran on Sunday nights at Szimpla Kert in Budapest is no longer running. I went to Szimpla and met some musicians from Greece – one with an oud on his back – and they told me the jam no longer exists thanks to noise. They have to stop the music at 10 PM. These musicians, one of them said, had taken the jam slot for their group and they play there on Sunday nights. Anyway, back to Paris.

I was very happy that I made the most of my time at Becketts on Saturday, but I was really looking forward to playing again, having not played on Sunday. So I went to the Batofar, that great boat venue on the Seine, only to discover it was closed…but that the terrace of the Batofar located on the quay opposite the boat hosted the open mic. Or rather, it was the genial Vincent Lafleur on keyboards and vocals who hosted the evening.

The sound was clear and strong as I approached, and I found a nice duo of women singers with Vincent on piano. I bought a beer, then went up a few minutes later and played several songs, had a guy doing tambourine along with me, and one of the women singers joining in occasionally. Then I listened to a few more bits, including Vincent, and then I left for Coolin.

Oh, not far down the quay three clochards who had heard me playing and liked it, asked if I could sing them a song. So I sang, “Miles From Nowhere,” by Cat Stevens, which seemed appropriate, and then “Jealous Guy,” which was not appropriate, but they wanted a Beatles – and that was the closest I could come.

Took a cab to Coolin, listened to a few acts and then did my own. Just when I was certain Coolin would run out of steam and customers – it being right in the middle of the summer – I found the place just buzzing and jumping with customers and musicians. In fact, it got more and more raucous as the night went on, with people dancing all around the pub by the end. And for some reason, after they said the open mic was finished, someone then pumped up the house music and everyone continued singing and dancing to the recordings…. Another cool’un at the Coolin.

Circumstances Beyond My Control Meant a Wonderful Evening at the Batofar on the Seine

April 5, 2012
bradspurgeon

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, but I find myself learning all sorts of fabulous life-affirming lessons that make me resolve to rise to higher levels of existence – and then I fall back into the old habits, entirely forgetting about how important it is to force myself to apply myself to exercising what I learned from the lessons! That long-winded statement may better be illustrated by the story of last night’s sortie in Paris.

I wrote in my post yesterday that I was rushing off to go to the Highlander open mic and that I was making excellent time and could not waste time writing too much on the blog. I also said that it would all come to nothing as it always does, this rushing about to go early to the Highlander, that I would find myself being delayed by the Paris metro and arriving late as usual. So, hey, guess what? I was right!

So I get to the Highlander at around 9:30 and find that the place is just bursting full of people and that I am No. 20 on the list of potential performers. That means certain death, as the playing only goes on until about 1 AM, and that seems to be capable of hosting maybe 18 performers maximum. That’s my experience, in any case.

Well, the point to this is that before I went to the Highlander, I knew that there was a new open mic taking place on a boat on the Seine called the Batofar. This is a very cool venue in the neighborhood where I used to live, just below the Tres Grande Bibliothuque – that massive national library building built by Mitterrand.

So anyway, I knew that my new friend Vincent Lafleur – the Frenchman with the Quebecois name – was hosting this new open mic, and I had already attended his new one at the El Tonel on Sunday. But instead of getting up off my butt and getting out of my old habits and becoming a fossil in the habit of going to the Highlander and the Cavern on Wednesday nights, I had decided I would not attend the Batofar open mic and would keep up my old habits.

This is entirely counter to my whole new philosophy of life since this open mic adventure began a little more than three years ago. Since it began I have always found great adventure, fun and love of life in making changes and trying out new things and patterns of existence. But there I was saying, “It’s Wednesday, I’ll do the Highlander.” And yet I knew that the Batofar was a great venue, a very cool boat on the quay of the Seine, with several floors, and a veritable hive of musical activity and innovation.

Yet the draw of habit kept me away. Until I found myself No. 20 on the list at the Highlander.

“Sorry, Thomas,” I said to Thomas Brun, the MC, “In fact, I think I will be adventurous. I know of another place doing something tonight, so I will go there.”

So I went, found the deck of the Batofar just buzzing with revelers, a DJ was playing dance music when I arrived, I ordered a beer, met Vincent, he introduced me to some musician friends, then within 15 minutes of my arrival, he started the open mic. The crowd was large, none of them had ever heard my music, and with the exception of Vincent, I had not heard any of the others.

Unfortunately I made few videos, and the video of the best performer of the evening … well, he asked me to please not put it up on the internet. He has a bit of a reputation and was not happy with what he thought his excellent performance would do for that reputation. Of course, I’m always disappointed, but he was so kind – oh, and massively complimentary about my performance – that I said to myself and to him, “No problem!!!”

Anyway, the videos I made do not properly show the great vibe and scene of doing an open mic on the deck of the Batofar. But if it happens again, I’ll be there. Until another one arises on a Wednesday and I have to change my habits again. (Nor will I abandon the Highlander.) In fact, the point of all of this is that I had an exceptional night at the Batofar, it was wonderful to play to an audience that had never heard my songs, and I loved the image of the Seine beneath, and I met several interesting people…. Conclusion, again, don’t get stuck in habit.

Dividing Myself Up for the Paris Open Mics

April 2, 2012
bradspurgeon

As I mentioned yesterday before I went out for the evening, there was a larger than usual choice of open mics and jams to attend in Paris last night. I was not sure where I would end up entirely, but I settled for the novelty of a new one and the necessity of a once-a-month one.

The new one was at the El Tonel tapas bar near the Louvre, on the rue des Pyramides. This was a tiny little place so small that I wondered if there was even a toilet… I found there was, and made my grand entrance by falling down the stairs to the cellar as there was a loose step – twisted my ankle but thanked incredible luck that nothing really bad happened, no pain remains – and then I sat at the bar and had a great half an evening.

This open mic runs only every other week, it is new as I said, and it is run by the genial Vincent Lafleur, whom I met at the Cavern last Wednesday. It was a classic open mic, but there were enough musicians of different kinds that they joined in with their various instruments to make it a kind of jam in addition to an open mic. I had a woman sax player, and there was the cool Lyllou the woman violin player. There is also a slight karaoke aspect to it since there is a songbook and anyone wanting to join in singing a song to the music of the other musicians, may do so.

I was having a great time and I debated whether I should stay the whole evening. But I knew that the Lizard Lounge was only three metro stops away on the same line, near the Hotel de Ville, and I knew it ran only once a month – first Sunday – and I also knew that I had a great time there last time I went, two or three months ago. So I could not resist the temptation.

And I was glad I did not. The atmosphere was as usual superb, but this time every slot was filled by full bands. And as I arrived late and was the last slot scheduled, it meant having to follow full bands with my voice and guitar alone. In the end, it worked out fine as I did songs that I knew the people could sing along to….

We then all joined up afterwards and did a jam of two or three songs, with several of the musicians from the evening joining in, including me. All in all, I was delighted I did not miss either of these. Wish I could have gone to ALLLLLL of the open mics last night, but I would have had to divide myself into several pieces… which come to think of it, is almost what happened falling down the stairs at the El Tonel.



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