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Les Chansonniers Open Mic in Menilmontant

September 16, 2010

Here’s some good news. I think I’ve never written about this open mic in the Menilmontant area of Paris, so I will not be repeating myself yet again with yet another description of a Wednesday night at The Highlander.

The Chansonniers open mic takes place only once per month, on the third Wednesday of the month. It takes place in a working class area of the city, that is turning into a very hip and artistic area as well. I like the area. And there is something quite different about the atmosphere at the Chansonniers. Although the name sounds like it is linked to the open mic, i.e., “The Singers,” in fact “The Chansonniers” is the name of a hotel, and the open mic takes place in the reception/bar area of the hotel on the ground floor facing the street. It is a small, narrow room with a bar on the left as you enter, and the stage on the right. The room extends back far and has tables and chairs for the spectators and musicians to sit at while the acts perform.

The sound system is good, and the lights in the room are left on bright during the whole evening, so the atmosphere is different from most of the darkened venues that usually host live music. There is a very large cross-section of performers at this open mic, and everyone is accepted very warmly. It has a good way of operating in that each performer is allowed only two songs, but if there is time after that, the list of performers gets another chance to go up and sing one more song. It ends quite early, usually, around midnight. It starts early too, though, around 8:30, and it is important to be there early to get on the list early too – unless you don’t mind going on last, obviously.

Last night there were some interesting acts, and one of my favorites was Pauline Paris, whom I first met around a year ago at the Swan Bar on Montparnasse, where she just happened to stop by one night after an open jam, but where she had a gig lined up for a month or so after that. She then did a wonderful tour of the Paris Arrondissements in which she played in one bar or venue of each of the Arrondissements, so 20 gigs. I saw her at Polly Maggoo’s in the 5th Arrondissement. Pauline Paris is a very short and small person, eternally smiling, and she has an enormous voice! She is only in her early 20s, she composes her own songs, and I think of her as a modern day day Piaf. I got a couple of videos of her, but the second one I took I was badly positioned at the bar, and I did not want to interrupt the performance or the view, so I stayed there and it was not good as I tried to catch sight of her around her harmonica player.

Another favorite of mine – and the audience – was Julian Robinson, who is a regular at the bar. He plays a mean semi-acoustic guitar, with spritely lead. And last night he used a looping box and produced something quite fun. Check out the video on that too.

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