I was standing at the bar drinking and talking with a new acquaintance after the open mic a the Ptit Bonheur la Chance had finished last night, and after I had begun the evening by having a date fall through (not quite stood-up, but almost), and telling her – my new acquaintance, not the date – that I just loved going to the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic because it seemed that every time I did go, something good happened. Something happens to make me not regret my choice of going there. Be it with the music, or with a meeting at the bar or a jam afterwards – there was always something. She, I said, was “it” last night, that nice thing. I could have added another thing.
The other thing was a return to the past and a look at the future as I saw a familiar face in the audience in the latter part of the evening when I returned with a refill of beer after performing my set. Could this really be Ben Ellis? I had not seen Ben at an open mic for years, and never at the Ptit Bonheur. But yes, it was Ben. This took me back almost exactly four years – still two months from the anniversary – when I dared to try an open mic in Paris for the first time, and only my second open mic in decades, at Earle Holme’s Lizard Lounge open mic, in November 2008.
Earle introduced me to Ben, and I was immediately mesmerized by his music and singing, and that of a whole host of other young rockers who had grown up around Earle and his open mic. In fact, Ben’s band, Brooklyn, was breaking out in a big way, and soon seen on French television, and traveling around the world. I had particularly liked Brooklyn’s song “Clandestine,” which was about … Earle’s open mics.
So last night I saw Ben again – whom I had, nevertheless, seen a few times in the last couple of years, although he had moved to New York City for a while. And more importantly, I heard one of Ben’s latest songs, as he is working on a new album, finally! Brooklyn no longer exists, but by the sound of this new song, I get a feeling something just as big, or bigger, will come of it.
He was about to stop after only one song and I begged him to play “Clandestine.” He had not done it for a long, long time, he said to me afterwards, but he did it and did it happily, introducing the Ptit Bonheur la Chance to this song that should be legendary in the Paris open mic world.
The evening had a few other interesting moments, like the strange apparition of the man with the harmonica, which seemed to float through the ether from all corners of the room without warning. I invited him up to join me when I heard him playing during my song, “Except Her Heart,” but unfortunately, somehow I lost the mic to the harmonica well before the song was finished, and never did get to the end. I then invited him to join me on “Crazy Love,” and we got through it okay.
Thanks to a suggestion by Wayne Standley, we finished the evening with Yaco the MC and I doing Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” as a duet. That was fun! It was also, maybe, an interesting response to Ben Ellis’s line in Clandestine, where he sings, “We don’t know where we are goin’…” But then again, no, I get the idea now that Ben knows….