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Johnny Borrell of Razorlight Does Another Paris Open Mic – Bus Palladium

September 7, 2011

Johnny Borrell

Johnny Borrell

Last night turned into another of those exceptional moments that only the open mic can do. From time to time the people who attend and the musicians who play in open mics get treated to the surprise visit of a star musician wanting to get back to their roots or maybe try out new material or just have some fun. They show up unannounced and play like anyone else at an open mic. After Johnny Borrell did that at my brunch at the Mecano back in February, the Razorlight singer and songwriter decided to try out the Bus Palladium last night.

Of course, the Bus Palladium is a legendary venue in Paris that is well worth the visit of any musician. As I wrote the first time I visited the Bus Palladium in April last year: Started in September 1965, it began by sending out buses to the kids in the suburbs to bring them in to see the shows, since they didn’t have much money to make the trek into Paris. It quickly became a real center of the rock and pop scene, and even Salvador Dali showed up one night with a bunch of his friends. The reputation grew outside France too, and in addition to performers such as Johnny Hallyday, Eddy Mitchell et les Chaussettes Noires, Julien Clerc, Alain Bashung, CharlElie Couture, Indochine, Etienne Daho, Stephan Eicher, Noir Désir, La Mano Negra and the Rita Mitsouko, it is also famous for the fact that Mick Jagger decided to celebrate one of his birthdays there.

Borrell attended my brunch in February thanks to his friendship with my friend Earle Holmes, and it was again with Earle that Borrell showed up last night at the Bus Palladium. He has been spending a lot of time in Paris lately, and is hard at work on new songs. I was pleased to lend him my guitar again for the several songs, his own and covers, that he played last night. The Bus has been doing an open mic for the last six months or so, on Tuesdays, and normally the musicians must send in a request to play along with links to their music. Obviously, Borrell needed no such introduction or examination….

He seemed more relaxed than when I saw him in February, and he played more songs. But there is something about the restaurant room of the Bus Palladium, something about the small stage and the lighting, that makes you want to continue playing on. It’s got some kind of 1960s or 70s cocktail lounge feel to it. It may not be the quietest or most attentive audience, but there are always a sufficient number of listeners to make it worth wanting to continue. I enjoyed making some videos of Johnny playing while trying to keep the portrait of Serge Gainsbourg as visible behind him as I could. The only problem was the lighting was so dark I had to set the Zoom Q3HD to night light, which cust a lot of the clear definition of the image.

Earlier, I did my songs and a few friends showed up – like Calvin McEnron and Olivier Rodriguez – and did theirs. I heard a few new people too. All in all it was a spectacularly wonderful evening.

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