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The Burnin’ Jacks (and Niki Demiller) Burn Up the Bus Palladium in Paris

September 17, 2011

I am still trying to catch my breath from last night’s concert at the legendary Bus Palladium in Paris. The praise I am about to give has nothing to do with the fact that I have known and watched the Burnin’ Jacks grow for three years, since they played at Earle Holmes’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge in Paris, and since I first started playing with their lead guitarist, Félix, at the same time. Just looking at any of the videos I put up on the site will strike out all thoughts of bias. No, I was blown away as was the audience in the main concert hall of the Bus Palladium, where so many of France’s stars – and international ones – have played since the place was founded several decades ago.

I kept thinking to myself throughout the evening about how I had watched this band evolve from the time it was just a few guys doing their acoustic rockin’ rollin’ at Earle’s to this full-fledged band with its own sound and a real rock ‘n roll attitude. There was something very Stones about it. Every time I see the Burnin’ Jacks they are better, more together. And the solo that Félix and Antoine did together, oh man, that was an absolute classic. Félix came out with some screeching, crying Hendrixy sounds and then suddenly Antoine joined him and the two did a little chatting back and forth with their guitars and then they segued into Antoine’s country-like song – a favorite of mine – called “Baby Please Turn Round.”

And Syd Alexander’s singing and front-man performance whipped the audience into a frenzy. Scared the hell out of me as he lept endlessly into the crowd and I feared for his safety.

There was even a fabulous drum solo – at the end of the video I put up here – and much, much more (as they say in crappy fanzines).

The room was really full of spectators – including many older ones – and they loved the show, playing along at every move.

But the Burnin’s Jacks were not the only ones I enjoyed or knew or had watched progress. There were two acts before the Burnin’ Jacks. It was the second of the two that I liked the most, and that was actually on the same level as the Burnin’ Jacks but in a completely different way. This was Niki Demiller, whom I have also known through the open mics in Paris for somewhere near three years. Niki, however, unlike the Burnin’ Jacks, has not been on precisely the same road of development since that time. Niki was the leader of a punk-like band a few years ago called The Brats. It was one of the first of the new wave of young bands in Paris in the last decade, and it had some pretty good breaks. I mean, crap, they once opened for Iggy and the Stooges at the Zenith in Paris!

But Niki in the last year or so has buried himself away to write new songs and transform himself into something completely new. He has become a kind of next in line of the tradition of the French crooner or music hall pop rocker, like a cross between Charles Aznavour, Johnny Hallyday, Jacques Dutronc and Eddie Mitchell. Last night was the first time I have seen him perform anything like these new songs with the backing of a full group. And it was very cool indeed. A cool stage persona and an original sound, and about as far from the punk rocker as you can image…yet with some of the edge and anger still there just as it should be.

All together it was a very surprising evening.

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