Okay, so, after a couple of down nights, or average nights, or not so inspiring nights, or make me want to quit nights at the Paris open mics – no fault of the open mics – I finally had the dream moment last night. This was really, purely and simply down to a few factors, the two main ones being the person who runs one of the open mics and the audience at that open mic.
I started off by saying to myself that it was way too late to go to the Highlander open mic, since it is so popular that you have to show up at 8:15 if you really want to have a hope in hell of getting behind the mic before about 1:20 AM. So I went to the new and cool and laid-back Vieux Léon open mic in the Vieux Léon bar near the Pompidou Center. Part of the reason I went there, too, was because my inspiring friend Baptiste Hamon runs the open mic, and announced it on his facebook.
A letdown was that for the second time in a row, he wasn’t there! But the open mic was just as laid back and cool as usual. Furthermore, I found out that a guy who worked there was also head of the association of homeless people for whom the proceeds of my gig the week before on the Dame de Canton peniche were given. (Sorry for the twisted sentence.) So I was greeted warmly by him and by my friends the musician, and I got to play two sets and a total of six or seven songs. Great stuff. But I felt kind of low and out of it and not really cool or effective, with every song I sang.
Part of that feeling, I was sure, was that I had had such a great time the night before playing acoustically at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance at the end of the evening. On neither night, however, did my “Mrs Robinson” really seem to go down the way I had hoped – although less so at the Vieux Léon than at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance.
The Vieux Léon open mic ended at midnight and I decided to head over to the Highlander just to say hello to the friends I expected would be there. The Highlander is THE mainstay open mic of Paris, the best attended, best loved across the board, and always draws a loyal clientele of musicians and spectators. It is run by the genial Thomas Brun. For me, the problem remains always that it is so popular that I cannot get there in time for the 8:15 sign up that you basically have to do so not to be relegated to the graveyard set.
The other potential problem with it is that it is one of the most talkative audiences in the world. But at the same time, it is also one of the most captive audiences and if you manage to grab that audience and lift it out of the talk vein, then you have an amazing experience of singalong and love attention.
Well, the place was rocking when I got there near 12:30. And Thomas Brun was really warm in welcoming me back after a couple of months of absence with all the trips around the world I had made that prevented me from attending. I met up with old friends, talked, listened to some cool musicians – met a guy I had seen playing at around age 16 and who was now around 20 and playing better – and I just generally fell into the nice warm world of the Highlander.
Then Thomas came up to me and said one of the people who had signed up had just disappeared and if I wanted to, I could do a set. I was really delighted, as I never expected that. And it was so kind of Thomas to suggest it, rather than take advantage of just closing down early. So before I knew it, I was up to play. And I decided that this crowd was hot and ready for stuff that they could take part in – and so, after what I’d been through for the previous two nights, was I.
Totally unexpected, Thomas announced me at the mic, introducing the return of the guy who had been around the world since the last time he played there a couple of months before, and everyone cheered to a degree that left me speechless. I had to give. So I started with “I Won’t Back Down,” of Tom Petty, and it went really well. On that, I thought I could push it a bit more and go for the so-far not fantastically successful “Mrs. Robinson,” and whoosh…..! It was a huge success, everything I could ever have dreamed of. I knew suddenly what it felt like to be a rock star and have everyone sing along and feel the love together with you as you do it.
It confirmed my feeling that I could add Mrs Robinson to my list of “crowd pleasers,” and I was just blown off my feet. I then said I did not know what to do next, but I wanted another drug addiction song, crowd pleasing thing. So I said, “Mad World” or “What’s Up!” and two voices said, “Mad World.” I actually wanted to do it, and I dived right into it. As I began that song, this darling gorgeous young woman with a bandana – what, 20 years old? – came up and started dancing beside me next to the mic as I played. I thought she was there to join me in the chorus too, but she wasn’t. So we just went through the whole thing with her dancing, and the crowd clapping, dancing and singing along.
I KNOW what it means to feel like a rock star and have this communion with the audience. It was last night at the Highlander. Thank you. Of course, next goal is to have the same reaction to one of my own songs – although I have had similar things occasionally. But I can imagine what i must feel like for Simon & Garfunkel or Bob Dylan or the Beatles, when everyone knows the song and sings along and goes crazy with you as you go crazy…. Thanks Highlander!