Open mics take all sorts of forms, and one that I have barely explored is that of the local community center. Last night in the Centre d’animation Montgallet, near the Metro Montgallet, in the 12th Arrondissement in Paris, near the place de la Nation, there was such an open show. Actually, it was first a concert by Mat Hilde, an acquaintance of mine from a few Paris open mics, then some other performers from the community center, then an open jam.
Unfortunately, I arrived too late for Mat Hilde’s concert, as for the third or fourth time this week I found my line 13 metro was not going to operate. (This time, unfortunately, we were told it had to do with some accident involving a person, whatever that means exactly.) In any case, I arrived late and after taking a taxi. But there was a nice mixture of musical acts, and Mat Hilde went up to sing that Jeff Buckley/Leonard Cohen song we all know so well, with a few other musicians.
The music ranged from completely amateur to very accomplished. The atmosphere was very warm, the sound excellent, the lighting wonderful, and there was free wine and snacks! Now that is the difference between a community center open mic/jam session and a regular bar music session.
Having said that, I did not get to play at all myself, since I could only play in the jam session, and it was a typical blues jam free-for-all, and I am completely and utterly lost in that kind of thing, so I did not bother.
After that, I went on over to the barman’s open mic at the Cabaret Culture Rapide for the first time in weeks. I have been attending the blues session there on Thursdays lately, and I have been having a great time. But last night I decided I would never return for the Friday night session. When there is a good sized audience – what you want – you find the absence of a microphone or amplifier is far too big a handicap to overcome. You blow out your voice, and soon the voices of the “spectators” begin to mount as most people realize they are there for drinking and carousing and not for the open mic. It is a far better event for comedians, actors, poets and prose readers. With no mic, and a mixed bag of performers, the musician becomes the odd man out, and the one everyone loves to talk during.
In any case, the blues jam evening, with a mic and sound system, is well worth the visit for musician wishing to play – and be heard.