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Tennessee Bar Gets Smarter: A New Open Mic (and a Documentary about its MC)

April 26, 2013

The Tennessee Bar’s open mic on Mondays in Paris is one of the most successful open mics in Paris. Part of this is due to the location and style of the bar: It is in the heart of the Latin Quarter, near the Odeon metro, and it has a cozy small cellar with a good sound system and stage, and walls and ceiling that always remind me of the home of Fred and Barney Flintstone. But it is also a success due to its MC, James Iansiti, an expat American artist and musician. While I was away on my most recent travels around the world, James decided to introduce a second, new open mic at the Tennessee, which takes place on Thursdays – when there are practically no open mics in the city because they all want to be on the same days earlier in the week – and he has changed the format slightly.

The Thursday open mic has a feature performer or band that plays an extended set (last night it featured Jovanny Parvedy). That’s the only, but significant, difference between the Monday open mic and the Thursday open mic. Oh, and the audience is slightly different, James said: Since Monday is the day that most bars have little regular customers, they set up open mics to attract customers. The result is that most of the customers are the musicians and their friends. But on Thursday, James noted that regular customers, and customers passing through who hear the music, also make up the spectator crowd. So that’s nice.

James knows what he is talking about. With more than half a decade’s experience running the open mic, and a lot of music and “happening” experience before that in the U.S., he brings not only organizational experience, but his own singing and musicianship to the evening. So much so that a film company decided James was worth a short documentary himself, showing off his art, his world, his open mic. Called “Point Zero,” it tells things about James and his world that even I, after five years of regular attendance at the open mic, had no idea about. Check it out:

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