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Two Days, Seven Open Mics – Sort Of…

February 24, 2016
bradspurgeon

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – Monday and Tuesday in Paris. Didn’t know if I would stay in or go out. Chose to go out each time, kind of late each time, too. Ended up going to the Bastille, playing at Some Girls open mic, walking past and poking my head in the window of Yellow Mad Monkey open mic (both of these are on the Rue de Lappe) and deciding I was too late to sign up at that monkey one, so went off to the Galway pub open mic, for the first time in months. It was the midway point, or not even, of some great nights at open mics in Paris.

The Galway was as busy as ever, and it was great to hear the host again, All the Roads, after many months. I was actually very happy to go from the very crowded, but very noisy, Some Girls open mic to the Galway, where the good sized crowd was more attentive, and the sound system much better. I needed a bit of intimacy. Turned out a friend with whom I’d done a major pub crawl on Saturday passed by with another of the participants of the pub crawl, just as I was going “on stage.”
All the Roads at the Galway

Tuesday night was another matter: Returned to the Café Oz open mic for the first time in a very long time (playing) as well, and found myself third on the list as I decided to eat dinner in first in the nearby raclette restaurant. But here again, like at the Some Girls, there was chatter that was louder than the sound system. So here again, I decided I needed more intimacy.
Host at Some Girls

So after my set at the Café Oz I headed on over to the Pigalle Country Club where I met… the friend from the Saturday pub crawl and the Galway the night before…. He was with someone new this time, though! Well, it turned out the Burnin’ Jacks who usually host the open mic at the Pigalle Country Club were not yet – or just not at all – there, so I asked if I could take to the “stage.” It was agreed upon immediately, and I did about a half hour set. More talking, of course, much, much talking. But I really enjoyed playing for myself, and a few people spotted about here and there who listened.
first at some girls

From there, it was off to the Féline… but by the time I arrived, the open mic had been so long since finished that the stage was entirely naked of any instruments. No problem. I decided to saunter over to the Zebre Rouge bar for the Tuesday night jam session. It was in full swing when I got there, and never ceased to be in full swing. I took out my guitar and played along, played some lead, but sitting at a table, having a beer, and not plugged in.
final at galway

I then went into the back room, played some chords, and decided that the evening was far too reggae for me, and I headed back home. But with three open mics played at in one night, and two the night before, that was about all the fun I needed in Paris for the moment….

Jam at Zebre Rouge

Baptiste at Café Oz

Another from jam at Zebre Rouge

jan at galway

rappin the galway

The Unexpected at the Imprévu and Other Nights in Paris

February 16, 2016
bradspurgeon

L'Imprévu bar

L’Imprévu bar

PARIS – Ever since the Baroc open mic ended with the closing of that fabulous dive bar in Belleville, there has been a huge hole poked in the Paris open mic/jam scene. If first impressions are everything, then the new open mic/jam session at the Imprévu bar on Saturday night could fill that void.

The bar has the advantage of being located just a few doors up the street on the same street – Rue Sambre et Meuse – where the former Baroc (now looking really dead) was located. It has the other advantage of having nearly the same kind of dive bar feel to it, and the final advantage of having a very high percentage of the same musicians and spectators from the Baroc in attendance. It was clear from my experience on Saturday evening that everyone in that place was looking for the “Baroc experience.”
Wild moment of jam at Imprevu

This open mic is run by Ivan, who occasionally – but far from regularly – took place in the Baroc open mic. The biggest difference that I can see – and it is one that could entirely put the lie to my thesis – is that although the Imprévu open mic and jam calls itself an open mic as well as a jam, the accent is clearly, wildly, on the jam side of things. So there could be a lot of musicians who like to play solo who will, in the end, not take part.
More imprevu

But on Saturday, the first night, it was wildness itself during the jam, and it was open mic to start with, and I don’t think anyone left the place really disappointed. I’ve rarely seen such a wild atmosphere. And the owner/manager/whatever behind the bar, made not a single comment about the craziness. And that will be the final factor as to whether or not it takes off.
Yet more imprevu

I had a great time playing with a keyboard player, a bass player (two different ones), drummer, cajon, and various other instruments, evening managing to get through my song Borderline with these people, most of whom had never played with me on it, or heard it. All a great, great sign of things to come. But it is true that frequently, the first night of an open mic can be the best, before they fall into whatever….
Karina at Imprevu

And even the suburbs can have swinging open mics….

Oh, yes, and earlier in the week – on Thursday night – I also tried another new open mic and to my absolute delight, but not total surprise, it was a huge success, a fabulous evening of fun. I wasn’t all together surprised since it was run by Stephen Saxo and Andy Bone, who have proven that they know how to officiate an open mic, with their Green Linnet open mic in Paris. But the big question on Thursday was whether it was worth going all the way out to the distant, posh, Paris suburb of St. Germain-en-Laye for this thing.
Post Jam at Imprevu

The answer, at least in terms of the fun to be had behind the mic – with fine sound system, and wonderful hosting, and a big crowd of locals and Parisians – was YES. That the open mic took place in one of the O’Sullivan’s pubs – there is a chain of them in France – ensured also that it would have a very good base of fun ensured. It will be run on Thursdays, but alternate occasionally with gigs by other musicians booked by Stephen. So I suggest you keep your eyes open on this one, and if you live out there somewhere on that other planet known as the banlieue, GO!
More post jam at Imprevu

And finally, or rather, firstly (as I’m going back in time here), I also made the rounds last Monday of the three open mics I mentioned a few weeks ago: The Some Girls on rue de Lappe followed by the Yellow Mad Monkey on the rue de Lappe and finishing off with the Chez Louis jam at Madame Louis on the Ile St. Louis. I was too late to play at the Yellow Mad Monkey, but I did get a few songs in at the Some Girls. The most fun this time turned out to be in the jam at Madame Louis, though, where despite arriving very late, I still got up to play, and found an old acquaintance on sax whom I met and played with frequently in the past at…the Baroc in Belleville…..
Jimi’s it at O’Sullivans

Bit o jam at O’Sullivan’s

Another bit o jam at O’Sullivan’s

Yet more jam at Madame Louis

More jam at Madame Louis

And more again at Madame Louis

More from Yellow Mad Monkey

More at Some Girls

Jamming at Madame Louis

Bit o Yellow Mad Monkey

Bit o someone else at Some Girls

Bit o Ollie at Some Girls

Four Nights of a Week, Culminating in a Gig (And thence onward to Wynton Marsalis, the Olympia, the Giant, the Orgasmic Master and the Smelly Woman)

February 7, 2016
bradspurgeon

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton Marsalis

PARIS – Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Those were the nights out this week. More than lately as I work on various personal projects and the blog gets left a little bit behind. Where I would have done four posts in the past, I’m doing one. Things will no doubt change as the projects I’m working on get caught up…. But in any case, it was a great four nights out and it varied from regular open mics to a cool new jam to an incredible concert at the Olympia by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra!
Someone at Bliss

On Monday I dropped off at an open mic that just began its second year: The open mic of the Bliss bar near Les Halles. This is a posh back room to a sizeable bar brasserie, and the sound system is great, there are lots of musicians, a jam feel to the thing, but ultimately also if you are into live karaoke – i.e., you sing but need a backup band – then this is also the place for you. They say they accept basically all styles, but from what I saw, the accent is on soul – maybe funk too. I’ll have to return to confirm, as I got there too late to get up on stage, and I only stayed for around three songs.
Group at Some Girls

Knowing I had failed to arrive early enough, I moved on fast to the Some Girls open mic on the Rue de Lappe, which is quickly becoming a personal favorite, and which is quickly become a personal favorite for many other musicians, I can see that! From there I went up the street to the Yellow Mad Monkey, but I was too late to play there as well, alas.
Someone at Some Girls

On Tuesday, I decided to drop over to the Zebre Rouge to see if the open mic was still happening there, as they now have a new open mic and jam on Thursdays. In fact, no. The old open mic was not happening, but there was a wild and cool jam in the basement. This was jazz, funk, far out stuff, sax players, drummer, guitar, bass, all sorts of mad stuff. Very free and easy and worth it if you want a classic cool instrumental jam.
Jam at Zebre Rouge

I went from there to La Féline to take part again in this, hopefully, growing open mic on the amazing stage of this popular bar near the Menilmontant metro. I know it would be a much wilder success already if it took place on one of the bar’s busier nights – but in fact the bar does not need the open mic on the busier nights, obviously, because the place is packed on those nights….
Another at the Feline

From there I wandered over to the Café Oz open mic where things were just booming. It felt at that time of around 10:30 PM as if the verdict is in and the old Coolin vibe – of one of Paris’s then best open mics now defunct – has now transferred to the Café Oz. Again, though, I was too late to get my name on the list. But I had a great time talking to friends….
One at the Cafe Oz

And thence onward to Wynton Marsalis, the Olympia, the Giant, the Orgasmic Master and the Smelly Woman

Thursday was the day of being a spectator, no playing music for me – although I still find it difficult to go somewhere as a spectator alone. And I must say, although attending a concert by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was a musical experience I will remember for the rest of my life, the seating arrangement as a spectator was something that made the trip nearly persuade me that I never wanted to be a spectator again!
Threesome at the Feline

I bought a very, very expensive ticket of 90 euros in order to get as close as my bank account would reasonably allow, and I found myself in a triple disaster situation: Sitting two rows ahead of me was the tallest man in the audience, which blocked my view of the stage (which was still half the hall away). Sitting behind me was a man of perhaps 60, 65 years old who seemed to enjoy the music so much that during periods when the entire audience was quiet due to being enthralled by the virtuosos onstage – particularly during a solo, piano, sax, trumpet or other – the man seemed to have mini-orgasms, letting out high-pitched, rather feminine cries of joy that while intended for no one but him, seemed to come directly into my ear on every important note of the solo. But the final horror outweighed both the orgasmic master seated behind, and the giant seated in front. This was the woman sitting one seat away from mine on my right, who smelled of some absolute horror killing odor that was impossible to identify. As soon as she came in and sat down, looks from all around – including the orgasmic master right behind – centered on the woman and whatever her smell was. It was so bad that you gagged. In fact, I had to breathe through my mouth for the entire concert. Had she failed to correctly dry her coat after a wash, and it spoiled? Had she spilt milk all over the whole thing a few hours before and let it dry out? Did the putrid chemical smell in fact come from her???!!! It was this latter possibility that led me to hold my breath on speaking to the usher and asking that I be moved to some better seat – but the place was pretty much full….
Communal Well at les Agapes

But still, the concert was so good, I mean the music, that I had no regrets about my fluke seating situation. These were amongst the tightest playing, most modern jazz musicians I’ve ever heard live. My references range from seeing as a child or teenager both the Duke Ellington Orchestra (with Ellington) and the Count Basie Orchestra (with Basie) and this Lincoln Center orchestra with Marsalis was just so crisp and hot. The sound quality reminded me that however good recorded sound is, live sound is better. These people played those saxes and trumpets like they were keyboards – just astounding. Hearing the clarinet of Rhapsody in Blue in a live situation for the first time, was an amazing experience like few I’ve had before, musically. (And I even enjoyed the Tuba rendition at the end of the Jackson’s song “Blame it on the boogie.”)

Friday was more relaxed. I was invited to perform a gig, as a warm up act for a local Paris band of Americana and blues, called, The Communal Well. I had met one of the members a couple of years ago, and had been meaning to go for some time to see a gig. Well, when I announced my CD being out a couple of weeks or so ago, the guy invited me to perform as an opening act in a 30 minute set for them at show they were putting on at a bar/brasserie in the 16th Arrondissement in Paris, a restaurant called, “Les Agapes.” I jumped at the chance, asked Félix Beguin if he could join me on lead (yes, he said), and so went and had a fabulously fun 45 minute or so set just before the main act.
Another Communal Well at les Agapes

Communal Well were very cool, a cross between The Band and … their band…! Very much how they describe themselves, in fact: between Americana and blues, a little of both, and more. I took some short videos to put up here.
Woman singer with Communal Well

From there, I went on to celebrate the birthday of a friend, and we ended up, of all places, spending quite some time drinking down the Pigalle Country Club, which is where the photo on my CD was taken….
Yet another Communal Well

A fabulous week, all in all…. Oh, and now it’s time to go watch the Super Bowl. So excuse me….

From Spoken Word to Sung Songs and Surprise Meetings with – and at – Some Girls

January 13, 2016
bradspurgeon

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

PARIS – Just a quick one today. Because in fact there’s not much new, but just a bit worth noting. I ended up doing just one open mic on Monday this week because I decided to check out the spoken word open mic at the Chat Noir on rue Jean Pierre Timbaud before heading off – or not – to the Bastille area to try out the same three open mics I did last week.

I had heard about, and been curious about, the Paris spoken word scene for a few years, and I knew about the Chat Noir bar’s basement meeting each week. So I finally, finally managed to get there. I thought I was early, but the room was full of a religiously silent and highly diverse audience listening to someone read her poetry when I arrived sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 PM. So I took an unobtrusive stance in a doorway against the back wall and listened.
First at Some Girls open mic

A couple of poems from this woman followed by a stand-up comic, followed by a musician with guitar, mic and song. A bit of a talk from the MC, and I don’t know what else. Suffice it to say that in 15 minutes there, I started itchy really strongly for a return to what feels to me like the more relaxed, and casual and cool feel of the music open mic world I’m used to. I felt at once that although I was delighted with the vast cross-section of spectators – from old and retired to young and not yet active (in the working world) – I just felt like anything I could contribute would still be better in the music open mic scene.

So I left the Chat Noir spoken word evening and headed on over to the Bastille – stopping briefly for a 7 euro-meal of two lamb chops and frites at a North African restaurant at Menilmontant – and I poked my head into the Yellow Mad Monkey open mic on the rue de Lappe to find it looking quite active and full. I said to myself that I would first more casually check out the Some Girls open mic up the street, where I felt I could speak to at least the MC, and have a casual beer, maybe play a song or two and then return to the Yellow Mad Monkey.
Second at Some Girls open mic

Turned out that I was in for a surprise at the Some Girls because not only was the open mic in full swing – and with a different MC than last week – but that I met a couple of women I used to talk to regularly at open mics more than three years ago and whom I had not seen since. Then, surprise, surprise, a musician I had not seen for more than four years turned up and we had a great talk about what had happened in the intervening years.

This was a guy who I had met in Paris at open mics, and then one day met again at the open mic of the Ruby Room in Tokyo!!! So we again spoke about the global village of open mics and their denizens, and we spoke about many other musical things.

A fabulous evening, but it meant not taking part in either the Yellow Mad Monkey open mic or the one at Madame Louis on the Ile St. Louis. To say nothing of the Galway or the Tennessee…. Did I miss any?

Pub Crawl to Three New Open Mic/Jam Sessions in Paris on a Monday Night

January 6, 2016
bradspurgeon

Some Girls

Some Girls

PARIS – Some people may hate Mondays, but in Paris and many other cities around the world, Monday is the day of choice for open mics. Less business from the regulars means the bar owners use the open mic ruse to get clients. I have frequently in years past written about three open mics in the Latin Quarter that I would make the rounds of on Mondays. Only one of those really remains in its usual form – the Galway – while the Coolin has closed down. But now, on Monday, I did a crawl from pub to pub all within walking distance of the Bastille to three different open mics and jam sessions.

So Monday is not just alive and well in open stages in Paris, but thriving. At least two of these open mics encourage either solo or jam styles on the stage, while the last one has the same musicians on stage joining the clients with bass and lead guitar added to your own instrument, or you just join them and do live karaoke….
First at Madame Louis in Paris.

The first of these places I attended was Madame Louis on the Ile St. Louis, on the Quai de Bourbon. I did not have any expectations for this place, but the moment I arrived I knew I had come to a unique location for an open mic/jam. The ground floor is on the quai near the Seine at the Pont Marie. You can drink or nibble up there, but the open mic is down…. Down down. Down two floors. Actually, you go down a ramp, then take the stairs to the first floor underground and on that floor there is a balcony looking down into the pit of the final floor under.

The balcony, in fact, overlooks the stage itself. So this is a fabulous way to watch an open mic: You can be right in the pit on the second basement floor or on the balcony floor. And the stage is a wonderful kitty-cornered thing with pretty OK sound system and a piano…. The approach is two songs for each musician, and if you want to play with other musicians, then they can join you. Those musicians also rotate, and so everyone gets a chance on the stage.
Singer at Yellow Mad Monkey open mic in Paris.

And the place was packed! I don’t know where they got all these spectators, but they did a great job, and I will be returning to Madame Louis.

From there I walked to the Place de la Bastille to try out the new open mic of the former presenter from the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic, Ollie Joe. This was on the famous Rue de Lappe in a cubbyhole bar of the kind that are perfect for open mics. The theme of the bar is the Rolling Stones, which you kind of understand very quickly, as it is called “Some Girls” and there are photos of the Rolling Stones everywhere.
Ollie and sax player at Some Girls open mic in Paris

This open mic has great promise if the atmosphere I found continues. Lots of clients, regulars and new people there just for the open mic. And Ollie Joe’s great hosting. Will this be the beginning finally of a new era of Ptit Bonheur la Chance-like intimacy in an open mic in Paris? Let’s see!
Turning his coat at the Some Girls open mic

Just up the same street, the Rue de Lappe, was the final open mic of the night, taking place in a sprawling bar called “Yellow Mad Monkey.” I expected something of a yellow mad open mic, and I was rewarded. This seems to be the same crew running this one who let me down so much at the Belushi’s bar open mic on the rue de Crimée last year. But here the deal was impeccable.
Second at Madame Louis open mic

I arrived late, but got my name accepted on the list, and I was the last performer of the night. We did our two tunes, “Mad World” and “Wicked Game,” in a really inspiring trio – at least for me it was inspiring, but I’d had so much to drink by then that perhaps anything would have been inspiring – and closed off the night with a nice jam feel to Wicked Game….
Third one at Madame Louis open mic in Paris

Again, I will no doubt return. In fact, I’m likely to return to all three, yes. No question….

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