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Two Open Mics, a Concert and a Bit of Busking in the Metro – One Thursday Night in Paris

November 9, 2012

I had so many concerts, open mics, openings, things to do last night in Paris that I decided to play it all by ear – as I do my music – and see where it would lead and what I could do. It turned out a perfect evening, more or less, with a mixture of attending the opening and playing in a new open mic, taking part in a relatively new one, seeing a friend in concert and playing a song in the metro at the request of some adventurous people attracted by my guitar case….

I started it all off at the basement room open mic called Escargot Underground, which has the strange location of a travel agency on the ground floor and a concert room in the basement amongst the brick walls of the arched ceiling. I was invited by one of the organizers of the open mic at the Blanchisserie in Boulogne, to attend this new open mic, and I warned him that I might have to run out to attend the concert of a friend. “No problem,” was the basic response. But I was pleased to see that he also decided to let me go up and play before my turn in line. It was amazing playing in this little room with my Gibson J-200, as I elected not to use a mic or amplification for the guitar, and there was a small and attentive audience. Beautiful environment and feeling in this place, and I think it will be an interesting open mic to follow in future.

From there – by the way it is located at 7 rue de Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle, 75002 Paris – I went on to the International venue where my friend Ben Ellis was performing with his band after a long break from music. Ben I first met at the Lizard Lounge four years ago in what was for me the early days of Earle Holmes’s open mic. But for Ben and many of the other young Paris rockers, it was the end of an era, almost, as they had all started out at the Shebeen in 2004/2005. Ben had this band called Brooklyn, which had some amazing songs, an album, and appeared on national television more than once in France. Then Ben disappeared off to live for a short period in…Brooklyn, and Brooklyn fell apart. And Ben returned with some folk-inspired music that did not, basically, make the best use of his talents as a singer songwriter rock & roller.

Now, two years later, I think, Ben has returned with a band that DOES make use of his full abilities and talents, and has a fabulous mixture of both melody and cool rhythms. So many bands hook into either melody or rhythm. But check out the videos and you will see Ben and band excelling at both. Also, by the way, have some patience for my videos, as there were so many people at the International that it was hard to move around and get a good angle. I DID get some great angles, though, even moving around from place to place in the same video… so watch ’em from beginning to end….

From there I took the metro over to the Mazet bar which, readers of this blog will know, has an open mic on Thursdays. But now, as of a few weeks, it has been taken over by Yaco, the MC and organizer of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic, so it is a different vibe from what it was. I really wanted to check it out, and told Yaco that I might be late. He said come anyway. On the way to the Mazet from the International, these four or five people in the metro saw me with my guitar and asked me to play. So I played while we waited for a train, doing “What’s Up!” on the metro platform and really getting outside myself. I loved it -especially with my Gibson J-200!!! It turned out this group of people was heading over to the Caveau des Oubliettes for the jam session, and I persuaded them to go with me to the Mazet.

So we got to the Mazet just in time for me to play five or so songs, and then one of the group I came with, Damien, took my J-200 and played a couple of songs too – in Spanish.

Well, holy shit! What kind of night was that???? In fact it was so good that we all went off to the Caveau des Oubliettes afterwards and found it to be crap, so called it a night!

A Cool Industry of Cool Evening at the Maroquinerie

January 15, 2011

At 19 euros a head, I was sceptical before I went to the Industry of Cool festival at the Maroquinerie last night. Industry of Cool is a management company that represents a number of very interesting and exciting young French bands and musicians. I have followed the careers of most of them over the last two years since I started playing music again, and particularly after meeting Earle Holmes, who discovered and nurtured virtually all the bands through his open mics from the Shebeen to the Mecano. Holmes is also a partner in the Industry of Cool company.

I love the music of these bands, but I was still sceptical at the idea that young bands should be charging 19 euros to an audience of young people who have no money. I mean, these bands have records, they have had some radio play, they have had some press. But they are not well known and massively successful bands. So we had performances by Sourya, The Agency, Scale, and upstairs an acoustic set by Ben Ellis, of the former band called Brooklyn. (Ben also played percussion with The Agency, and thanks to his new beard I didn’t recognize him.)

Well, I was not only wrong about the 19 euros, but I felt that the bands are starting to reach a level of quality where if they persist they may well take off – at least one of them should rise up out of the clubs and make it somewhere, somehow. I would hope. Because last night’s festival at the Marquinerie was indeed Cool. And the concert hall beneath the bar and restaurant was not full to bursting, but there was a very, very good number off people in attendance. It felt almost like a well attended concert at the more famous Bataclan, for example.

The music all night long was inventive, strong, with good sound, and vibrant performancs on the whole. Now, of course, I have no idea how many people were let in free to the show – what is clear is that a lot of the people from the other bands around Paris showed up, people like Bruno from the band Neimo, a couple of the members of the former French band called Rock&Roll, and others, including producers, bar owners, etc.

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