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The Baroc is Dead; Long Live the Zebre Rouge….

November 27, 2015

Zebre Rouge

Zebre Rouge

I’m a few days behind on this, maybe even a few weeks – depending on how you view it – but a few weeks ago I announced the closing down of the Baroc, and so the end of an era of one of the best, quirkiest open mics in Paris. But that need for a quirky, Baroc-like open mic, took such hold of a group of the regular denizens of the Baroc, that they decided there should be another open mic in another seedy bar like the Baroc – impossible, right? – and that they should try to just carry on the tradition. Enter Paul Cash and the Zebre Rouge.

The Zebre Rouge bar/restaurant is located in a lost street off the Oberkampf, J.-P. Timbaud, bohemian quarter of Paris, and it has all the makings of a great location for a Baroc-like open mic. It has an owner manager who clearly likes music and the vibe of an open mic, it has a piano, it has a laid-back, small front bar open to the street; but it also has a cool multi-room cellar where music can be played as well. I attended the open mic for the first time on Tuesday, and it will not be the last time.
Paul Cash, the MC of the Zebre Rouge

The question remains as to whether the open mic itself lasts, as it will need – like any open mic – to build up its clientele and make itself known. Paul Cash, a brilliant pianist and composer, as well as a pioneer in the Paris slam scene, and above all, a longtime habitué of the Baroc, is running the open mic, and the night I went, it was made up mostly of former musicians, poets and barflies of the Baroc.
Another one at the Zebre Rouge

Will the spirit last? Will the Baroc find its tradition carried on at the Zebre Rouge? All the ingredients are there, only time will tell….
Bernie at the Zebre Rouge

Lua Nova, Last Night in Brazil

November 18, 2015

Lua Nova jam session

Lua Nova jam session

NO, I don’t mean “last night,” by that headline. I mean, “my last night,” in Brazil. I took me three days to get back from Brazil to Paris thanks to Air France having one of the engines on the flight across the Atlantic not really work, and we had to go back to Sao Paulo and spend half the night on the runway while they tried to repair it, and the other half of the night in a Holiday Inn…. But that’s another story. I put up my new Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo open mics BEFORE I put up this little report of attending the Lua Nova open mic and jam….

And usually I do things in the order in which they happened, but this time, I just wanted to get that guide up before anything. Now, the Lua Nova open mic, as I mention in my Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo open mics, is a fabulous evening in Sao Paulo on Sunday nights, and it usually goes on all night long. It is a combination jam session, open mic. But mostly a jam session, and mostly for Brazilian music.
Jamming at the Lua Nova jam in Sao Paulo.

It has moved from one location to another over the years, almost annually, because despite Brazil seeming like a music-loving country, it’s no different than anywhere else in the world, the neighbors always find the time to complain about music in bars. Now the Lua Nova crowd have found a very neat bar concert venue that appears entirely cut off from crappy neighbors, still in the Pinheiros, Vila Madelena area.
More jamming at the Lua Nova jam in Sao Paulo.

And the music is still as fabulous – but now the venue has a lot more space than before, so it gets very, very full of spectators, dancers, musicians and others….

An Update to My Sao Paulo Open Mic Guide

November 17, 2015

Sao Paulo skyline

Sao Paulo skyline

Just a note to say that I have updated my Sao Paulo open mic city guide, The Thumbnail Guide to Sao Paulo Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

I have added a new location for the Lua Nova open mic venue and I have added the new discovery of the Gênesis de Gênios open mic.

The Genuis of the Gênesis de Gênios Open Mic in Sao Paulo

November 13, 2015

Genios Logo

Genios Logo

SAO PAULO – Sometimes clichés are the best way to describe things. Today, I can only say like the old cliché that you should never give up. Yesterday, having finished my work by 5 p.m. at the autodromo in Interlagos, I decided to do my annual search for an open mic in Sao Paulo, feeling entirely as if I would find nothing. There is a massive amount of music in this city, but I never did find one of the real traditional kinds of open mics here since coming every year since 2009, with my guitar. And then, boom, I struck it rich: Gênesis de Gênios open mic. And it started with sign-up at 6 PM. And it was a block and a half from my hotel!!!!!

It was all written on Facebook, in Portuguese, this Gênesis de Gênios, and I did not quite believe my own gut-feeling translation. So I had a Brazilian translate it all for me: Show up, instruments available, sign up, wait your turn, two or three songs, little contest of the best performer each edition getting the feature spot at the next edition…. It was all there. It was indeed an open mic of the kind I know.

Not the Samba sessions sitting around tables and playing samba. Not the jam sessions of the the Lua Nova kind, that I had tasted up to now, and that I absolutely love, but which is more jam than open mic. This was a real, true, youth culture open mic of the kind where you get up behind the mic and sing your songs, your compositions, cover songs, whatever you want.

Crowd at Genius de Genios open mic in Sao Paulo

Crowd at Genius de Genios open mic in Sao Paulo

But it was also Brazilian!!! Most of it was singing Portuguese, although there were a number of songs in English too. And as it turned out, it took place in a very cool bar called Sensorial Discos, which is perfect for open mics, with a long corridor-like feel to it, tables and chairs either side, the stage in front of the bar, a great host and person controlling the sound system….

And huge enthusiasm from the organizers AND the bar. The organizers, a music production company called Gênios, has big plans for the open mic, maybe doing recordings, they do videos, they do photos, maybe finding artists. You name it. Just what I love in the best open mics around the world: A zeitgeist, a reason behind the moment to be wanting to organize the evening.
eighth at Genesis de Genios open mic

My only criticism? Well, it only takes place once per month!!! But what an incredible bit of luck I had to find this place on my first full day in Brazil, the very weekend I was visiting, and just a block and a half from my hotel in the Jardins district. And, oh, there was another incredible factor that came together to permit me to sign up in time and get my name on the list: When I saw I had but one hour to get from Interlagos to my hotel and the open mic, I was virtually certain that I would fail to make it. The traffic at that time in Sao Paulo is usually horrendous. I predicted a ride as bad as 2 and a half hours! But somehow, miraculously, I got to the hotel by just before 6 p.m. and arrived at the open mic by around 6:15 p.m., and I was one of the first there!!!
eleventh at Genesis de Genios open mic

Just an absolutely FABULOUS night and discovery of this Genesis de Genios open mic. You’ll see in the videos that I took the vast cross-section of music from this Brazilian open mic. I hope I can get back next year!!!
fifteenth at Genesis de Genios open mic

fifth at Genesis de Genios open mic

first at Genesis de Genios open mic

fourteenth at Genesis de Genios open mic

fourth at Genesis de Genios open mic

ninth at Genesis de Genios open mic

ninth at Genesis de Genios open mic

seventh at Genesis de Genios open mic

another at Genesis de Genios open mic

and another at Genesis de Genios open mic

and yet another at Genesis de Genios open mic

and finally a last at Genesis de Genios open mic

Worldwide Open Mic Thumbnail Guide: Mexico City Edition

November 10, 2015

Mexico City

Mexico City

For my 24th city installment of my worldwide open mic guide today I am loading my Mexico City page. As a reminder, it all started with my now very popular Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, and due to that guide’s success, I decided this year to do a similar guide for each of the cities I travel to during my worldwide open mic tour.

HUGE Mexico City, MUCH music, but not Exactly Full of Open Mics

Mexico City is like around 21 million people in population, and located in Latin America. So you would expect it to be full of musical jams and open mics. After all, what a guitar-making industry! They make the famous Mexican Stratocasters, they make a lot of the Taylor guitars today as well. And when I was there, I saw all sorts of neat guitars and other instruments in several music shops. But I found only ONE open mic. Having said that, it was just my first and only visit to Mexico City, and as a first time visitor, this is NOT an easy to visit. So I’m hoping that with readers’ feedback, and further adventures of my own in Mexico City, I will eventually be able to find more open mics and jam sessions.

Worldwide Open Mic Guide Philosophy

The only guide I am really in a good position to update regularly is that of Paris, since I live there. But I decided to do guides to all the other more than 20 cities on my worldwide open mic tour in order to give the knowledge I have personally of each city’s open mics. The guide has links to sites I know of local guides that may be more up-to-date, but I have chosen to list the open mics or jam sessions that I have played in myself. There may be others that I know of, but if I have not played there, I will not include it on the list. That way, the user learns a little of my own impressions. But I cannot be as certain that the guide is up-to-date – so check before you go.

So here, now, in any case is the Thumbnail Guide to Mexico City Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. Please do help me whenever you have information to give me on venues.

Post-Mexico, Pre-Brazil, Paris-Interlude Ketchup Time

November 9, 2015

Le Baroc open mic

Le Baroc open mic

PARIS – So very quickly now. Got back from Mexico City and have still not managed to create my Thumbnail Guide to Open Mics in Mexico City; but having said that, with just one place to go on the list, no one will be missing much! So where does that bring us? Back home to Paris and a week of downs and downs, OK, an up or two….

So the first thing I did was to visit the Baroc last Tuesday to attend the final open mic in the history of this joint, dive bar, cool, quirky musicians’ place deluxe. The last open mic of its history – since the bar is closing for good, and in fact I believe is closed as I write these words – was a reflection of all those that I had attended since my first at the Baroc in 2008 December. Quirky, quirky again, and quirky finally again. With the sound system bopping around into worlds I never knew existed, the clients ranging from everything to everything, and a final meal of perfectly acceptable confit de canard, frites, and I had the honor of drinking the last bottle of red wine in the house – a Bordeaux of some unspecifiable domain.

Then it was on to see Paul Hazan play his French repertoire at the Alimentation Generale

From there, it was down under for a while, under I re-emerged to take in a concert at the great and cool concert venue called, “L’Alimentation Generale.” The concert was by Paul Hazan, a guy I’ve known equally since the fall of 2008, and who, again, in December of 2008, I featured on our own little double-bill at at bar then called the Rhubarbe, and later to be called the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, which was to feature hugely in my life after that, as the open mic venue of the best open mic in Paris, for a while. But when Paul and I each did a set in the Rhubarbe, it was my own first official music gig anywhere on earth, and Paul, at something like 20 years old at the time, was already an old hand.
Wonderful Guitar thing at the Baroc

Paul was then in a band called Mr. Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes, and it was one of the coolest French bands I knew of, with Paul’s raspy voice, and some sort of psychedelic, English-language, 1960s’ style garage band sound. Today, I was surprised – but not really – to find that Paul, like many young French rock musicians, has converted to a different religion: French lyrics and melodies. So that’s what he did at the Alimentation Générale on Saturday night. (Actually, he still has another band, called, “Electric Discharge Machine.”)

And finally off to an open mic that is still here in Paris, at O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar

And that leads me to last night and the open mic of O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar, in the Rue des Lombards. This is the warm and cosy open mic in the very cool and historic bar – that used to be home to a famous comedy troop – and which is run – the open mic – by Etienne Bélin, who used to run the open mic of the now defunct Coolin’ bar. (Seems every bar and open mic in Paris closing down and turning into something else less catholic.) (Is that two religious references in two difference grafs? Not really.)
French Rap at Baroc

Etienne closes down his open mic for the summer – i.e., for half the year, we’re in France! – and last night’s edition was the fourth of those after the break. It was not hugely full of musicians, although there was a respectable number, and so that meant that I had a chance to sing two sets and a total of 7 songs, which I was really happy to do. Playing at the Rebel Bar is nice because you not only have the cubby hole of the open mic at the back of the joint, but the people around the rest of the bar, including in the pool room near the open mic, can hear your music, and come over if they are inspired to do so.
his own karaoke at baroc

I sang a new song of mine that I wrote while in Mexico City, called, “Running,” and it went down really well from what I could tell. I was just frustrated that I am still not ready to sing my new cover, “Come Pick Me Up,” by Ryan Adams. Although I’m close to it.
Insu at Baroc

So that, dear reader, is the update. Next stop is Brazil and no doubt less writing about an open mic, but I hope to do at least one! And before that, maybe somewhere I’ll fit in the time to put up the Mexico City open mic guide … for that one joint.
young one at baroc

jam at baroc

PS, I almost forgot that I put that corny word in the headline because this is a blog and you can put whatever you want, even if it makes no sense….
She Me at Baroc

whatever at Baroc

Paul Hazan at the Alimentation Generale in Paris

another Paul Hazan

another one at the Rebel Bar

another duet at the Rebel Bar

Duet at the Rebel Bar

Etienne at the Rebel Bar

Gold Ship at the Rebel Bar

Seb at the Rebel Bar

Slick at the Rebel Bar

Obituary for the Baroc: End of Paris’s Most Quirky Open Mic

October 31, 2015

Le Baroc open mic

Le Baroc open mic

And speaking of Paris open mics – i.e., yesterday’s guest post – the news for next week is depressing: One of the mainstay open mics in Paris, and certainly the most quirky open mic in Paris – and I love quirky – will cease to exist as of this coming Tuesday. The Baroc bar’s open mic, which I have written about extensively, and which I first attended in December 2008, on my return after decades to playing in open mics, will put on its final open mic on Tuesday, because the Baroc bar is closing down. I will not say anything else, but rather, post this compilation video that I made for the open mic in July, not having any idea at the time that it would cease to exist within a few months. So here is its epitaph – or should I call it its “obituary” (well, it’s not dead until Tuesday, but what the hell!):

My compilation video of the Baroc bar’s open mic.

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