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Third Week in a Row at the Café Oz Open Mic in Paris, and Still Happy

September 11, 2014

Café Oz Paris

Café Oz Paris

PARIS – The Café Oz open mic in Paris at the Café Oz bar near the Blanche metro started off a little slow a few months ago. But the bar, the location and Brislee Adams’ MCing job and sound system and methods, have made this the latest open mic in Paris to be a “must attend.”

In fact, I’ve just gone for the third week in a row. Tuesday night I came close to deciding to go to one or another of the other Tuesday-night open mics in Paris, but my experiences at the two previous editions of the Café Oz made me feel like I would be most assured of getting the kind of night I wanted if I attended it. I was right.

In fact, I had even gone with the intention of possibly doing two or three open mics in the same night…but the Café Oz was just too much fun. IE, cool and interesting people and musicians, plus the cool ambience of the barmen and women, and one thing I think I habitually forget to point out: The Café Oz open mic is one of those where they really think of the well-being of each musician who plays a set: You get a free drink after you play!

I had a great time with my set, too, by the way, playing “Year of the Cat” and having a harmonica player and an accordion player play along. Then I did my new song, “Chanson d’Amour,” followed by a bit of risk taking by playing a song I have only sung I think once before in an open mic, that never-ending Bob Dylan song that starts: “When you’re lost in the rain in Jurez….” The fact that it’s the same lilting chords from beginning to end was not overly boring this time thanks again to the accordion and harmonic….

There were some of the same faces as the week before, but there were also some discoveries. I’ll be back!!

And For the Second Week in a Row – 3 in Open Mics in 2 Nights … Different Ones

September 3, 2014

Galway Pub Paris

Galway Pub Paris

PARIS – I have no idea how this happened, but somehow, another week has passed, and it turns out that I have once again just done three open mics in two nights, though not the same two nights as last week – this time it was Monday and Tuesday. So this time, I repeated only one of the three open mics as last week.

I returned to the Galway pub earlier this time than last time, and I managed to get my name on the list! That’s not to say there were not a lot of people – it was still a huge list. It was just the fact of getting there earlier that saved me.

But since I was still 9th only the list, and the open mic had not started yet, I decided to go around the corner to the Tennessee bar again, and there I found a new experience! Yes, six years attending the Tennessee Bar open mic, and it was the first time I had seen the open mic take place on the ground floor and not in the basement. So that was really cool.

It was the new MC, and he played a few songs, had someone play along with him at one point, and then it was my turn. Part of the reason I wanted to do three open mics in a row this week, though, had was because I wanted to try singing a song in French for the first time – I’d failed last week – and I also wanted to try out my new song.

This time, at the Tennessee, I made three false starts on the French song, and then finally got through it from beginning to end. This was thanks much to the bulk of the audience being in talk mode, and so I said to myself, “OK, no one is listening, so I can sing this as if I’m in my living room.” It worked.

The French song is “Et Dans 150 Ans,” by Raphael. My new song is called, “Chanson d’amour,” and it too contains some French….

I went on from the Tennessee to the Galway and again managed to repeat sing both songs, and got through both with no problem. My own song went down better at the Galway, since here a lot of people were listening, and they clapped along with the rhythm. I felt great! And it was a fabulous open mic, with the birthday celebration of the MC, Romain.

And from the Monday nights open mics it was back to the Tuesday at the Café Oz and some cool discoveries

Last night, it was off to Brislee Adam’s Café Oz open mic again, near Pigalle, by the Blanche Metro. This is the one I did last week as well. But last night was an even better night than last week. The evening was full of amazingly interesting performers, as you will see in the videos I made.

And I managed to get through the French song even better than on the night before, so objective achieved. But I did not feel like I wanted to sing my new song, and instead did an older one of mine.

But the emphasis here should be on the other amazing acts of the evening, particularly Tom Laroy, on his slide guitar and with his voice a little like Eric Clapton’s…and another guy, from England, who looks about 14 and sings like he’s about 65. (And I mean that in a good sense! Bluesman 65.)

3 Paris Open Mics Over Two Nights, Paris Wakes Up – Or Maybe it Was Just Me

August 29, 2014

pigalle country club

pigalle country club

PARIS – Anyone who has visited or lived in Paris during the month of August knows that the city comes as close as it ever will to closing down during this month in the summer when most of France goes on its annual vacation. On Tuesday and Wednesday I went open mic crawling and managed to attend three different open mics over the two nights, and felt a wonderful sense of the city returning to action, but still sitting in the twilight zone of the end of summer.

There was a fabulous community feel at the first of the open mics I attended, at the Café Oz near Metro Blanche, run by Brislee Adams. It seemed every time I turned around I encountered some open mic host, taking what the British call a “busman’s holiday.” Hosted by Brislee, who does a great job, and often takes up a role as lead player or simply hand-clapping audience rouser, when he’s not photographing or recording videos, I turned around at one point to find Réjean Mourlevat, the host of the other Tuesday night open mic, that of the Baroc, just up the way in Belleville.

He said he was just dropping around to have a drink as he lives nearby. But I wondered if he was checking out the competition! It was the last Tuesday of the summer shutdown for the Baroc, so maybe he wanted to see how things were done at Brislee’s place….

Next time I turned around, I ran into Thomas Brun, the longtime host of the Highlander open mic, that runs on Wednesdays. I’ve seen Thomas going to other open mics from time to time to check them out – the Galway, the Lizard Lounge, the now defunct Ptit Bonheur la Chance…. But seeing him and talking to him reminded me that I had a meeting lined up for the next night from a reader of my blog who said we ought to meet and play together at the Highlander the next night….

But before I leave the Café Oz, where I made a mess of trying to sing a song in French for the first time, by the way, I decided to go up the way to Pigalle, just a short walk from the Café Oz, and check out the Pigalle Country Club open mic, which I learned was holding its first open mic of the season, after having taken a break for part of the summer as well.

There I found not only the usual crowd of the young rockers – the Burnin’ Jacks, among others – but I also found a few friends I did not know took part in that one, including my violin and lead guitar playing friend who accompanied me in my concert in London last month, Joe Cady. I ended up playing a bit with my other lead guitar playing friend, Félix Beguin of the Burnin’ Jacks, however. But he did not play lead, he sang along with me, and then I did the same with him.

And Then Back to the Highlander and a Cool Meeting

Well, I’d pretty much wiped myself out on those two open mics and meeting old friends and acquaintances and imbibing in way too much beer, wine and shots, but after at first deciding I would not attend the Highlander, I decided I had to go and meet that reader of my blog after all. And boy do I not regret doing that. It was a man named Paul Penfield, who put out a couple of albums in the mid-70s and who was on a brief visit to Paris, primarily to play an open mic or two.

We asked for another guitar from the audience, and on my second and third songs we played along together – first on my song “Memories” and then on “Mad World.” It reminded me of how much I love playing with other musicians – as if the previous night had not already done that – and that I do it far too little.

There were some great discoveries both nights, or rather, a discovery and a reacquaintance with someone I’d already heard before. Check out the videos of Desmond Myers at the Café Oz and of Simon Ferrante at the Highlander. Oh, yes, and that of Paul Penfield doing his solo number….

Brislee Adams, the Wizard of the Café Oz Open Mic in Paris

April 23, 2014

Oz Open Mic Paris

Oz Open Mic Paris

PARIS – There came a moment when I was deeply ensconced in singing and playing “Year of the Cat,” in fact, winding it up, when suddenly I seemed to enter into some kind of acid sound hallucination with my voice and guitar starting to go multiple…. I kept singing a moment, looked over at Brislee and thought that he was doing some kind of wizardry. It turned out that I had simply put my foot on a machine button of some kind that had rocketed off my singing and guitar into a zone from which it would never return….

Until Brislee pressed a few buttons. Then we were back to normal – or rather, back to the open mic at the Café Oz bar in Pigalle, an Australian pub where Brislee has been hosting a new open mic for several weeks now. It was my first time there last night, and I will definitely return. This open mic has a different feel to it than the others we know so well in Paris, and part of that is what feels like a clear, warm acceptance by the bar to hold this thing.

The sound systems is better than at most, Brislee does a great hosting job, and there was a very impressive list of performers there last night. That included the interesting San Diego musician Aaron Bowen, who has a voice that on his web site someone likened to a cross between Paul Simon and Michael Jackson. It’s too bad they did that, because I had not thought that for a moment last night, just being subjugated by his virtuoso and cool guitar playing, and his velvety and flying voice. Now, yes, I can hear the Paul Simon part – but no Michael Jackson. Check it out yourself! (And I mean both the open mic and the velvety smooth voice of Aaron Michael Paul Bowen.

Back to The Highlander at the Tail End of Summer

August 29, 2013

PARIS – There was something different about the open mic at the Highlander last night, and I was unable to put my finger on it. Maybe it was just because Thomas Brun, the usual MC and founder of the open mic, was away somewhere and the evening was put together by Brislee Adams. Maybe it was because it was the first time I have attended in months, and the first time I have played there in months. Maybe it was because the audience was coming down from summer vacations.

Whatever it was, the audience and musicians felt somehow like they were all at the tail end of the summer and all the festivities they had been through, and were gearing up for another year of open mic-ing it at the Highlander. The Highlander is, remember, one of the oldest and most well-attended open mics of Paris. It managed to survive its move from the ground floor of this Scottish pub in Paris to the basement cave with no problem – and it has survived the complaints of neighbors, and even Thomas Brun’s very human need to go on holiday occasionally.

In any case, whatever the difference was I could not put my finger on it, but it all came down to a lot of fun anyway, and an audience that seemed to listen a little more than usual – the Highlander is also notorious for having one of the most indulgent audiences I have ever found, having no problem talking all night long no matter how good or scared to death a musician might be.

Were there fewer people last night since many are still on holiday? I don’t know. It was still well attended, and before it even started there were more than 20 musicians on the list, and no room for everyone. Especially under the 3-song-per-performer that the Highlander never veers from.

But by the end, judging from what I saw, most audience members and musicians had a good night, and I am sure the place will be fully booked throughout another new open mic season in Paris. Gee, wait, the Highlander was one of the rare Paris venues to NOT close down its amazing open mic in the summer…. so there are no seasons at this mainstay of the Paris open mic scene…..

The Illusion of Total Fatigue as Cured by Paris Open Mics – and Brislee’s New Song

May 2, 2013

All day yesterday I was convinced I was dead tire, I was convinced I was coming down with a cold, I was convinced that I could drop into bed ultra-early and sleep for a day and a half. The last thing I felt I wanted to do was to go to an open mic; I had been to two in a row already on Monday and Tuesday, and I was much sated by that, and even, well, tired. I thought I should take the precaution of preserving my inner and physical strength by not going out last night, and just dropping in bed. That is why I decided that it was exactly the right moment to go where I felt I would not have the strength to go: to two open mics, the Vieux Leon and the Highlander, where I ended up playing in both of them. The effect was suddenly, irreversible, perfect, strong: I was no longer tired, I no longer felt a cold coming on, I had a great time, and I had the energy to go and ride my unicycle the usual 4 or 5 kilometers around the neighborhood afterwards. And today when I woke up, I was completely cured!!!

Funny the games we play with ourselves when we get in a physical and/or mental funk, right? Well, of course, it also had to do with the external stimulus of the two open mics. At the Vieux Léon the new program is that every week there will be a different host, a different MC who plans the evening, calls on their friends, makes it happen. Last night it was Cléa Molette, a wonderful singer and up-and-coming artist, who for some reason although she knows me, made a strange mistake of putting my name on the list as “Serge.” Of course, not so strange, I thought. She obviously associates me with the late, great Serge Gainsbourg thanks to my greying hair, my haggard aged looks, and my songs – I hope!!!! – and although I find it a little insulting on the physical side, if Cléa will be my Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot or Vanessa Paradis, then I accept the insult….

From there I walked the 10 minute walk over the Highlander where normally I would be too late to play. But it seemed that the effect of the 1 May holiday was having its toll on the crowd and musician level of this, one of the most crowded places on earth, and there was room for me on the list. To my great good fortune, Juba – with whom I played on Monday at the Galway – was there, and he offered to play along with me. In the context of the evening – and my imaginary fatigue – it seemed like a good choice of song was, “I Won’t Back Down,” by Tom Petty. So I started with that, and then I did my new song, “Gotta Shake Her,” and then I did “Borderline,” on which song I felt we were tightest.

There were some other interesting acts, and the most fun was no doubt that of Brislee Adams doing his new song all about the Paris open mic scene, in which he sings of the venues where we play, the musicians we know and listen to, and…well there is a bit that goes something like: “and Brad films us, and that’s ok….” YEAH!

A Night Not Like the Others at the Lizard Lounge in Paris

February 4, 2013

The Lizard Lounge open mic happens once a month, on the first Sunday of every month, and it has survived for years because it is a great, and different open mic. A drum set, enough of a sound system for several guitars, bass, and last night violin with a couple of different performers. I had an excellent time – even if I made a fool out of myself.

I had seen a great documentary on Louis Armstrong the night before and I envied how he was able to sing all these songs with a smile in his voice and on his face. Most of my songs tend to be sad, down, and even if sometimes optimistic, the emotion is often low. So last night after I did my three songs – including a new one I have not finished and never should have tried – I did my Louis Armstrong, “Hello Dolly” imitation. Oh man, it sounded so much better at home!!!! I will blame the amplification.

But it was a fun night, and I think I learned something about my new song in the making – but I’m not sure what.

Also heard some good stuff, and listened to Brislee Adams do his great Neil Young song and dedicate it to THIS old man….

All Round Good Time at the Open Mics, for Paris in July

July 24, 2012

By Paris standards it was another relatively quiet evening at the open mics last night. I somehow managed to drive back from Mannheim, eat a meal and get to the Tennessee Bar’s open mic session in time to play there and then to go on to Coolin’s open mic after that. By the standards of most other cities in the world – like Mannheim! – it was a bustling night at the open mics.

I had been singing out loud in my car for several hours a new song I wrote, in an effort to a) memorize the song, and b) not get bored during the drive. So because it was a smaller, intimate audience at the Tennessee bar, I decided I could try to sing the song for the first time in public without the lyrics in front of me. And I still managed to forget a few lines….

But for me the standout act of the night at both joints was that of Brislee and Virginia. I realized what a wonderful voice Virginia has through the great sound system at the Tennessee bar. I had seen them perform once at Coolin; but the sound system there tends to mask the finer details of a voice…. As it turned out, Virginia did a better job at Coolin of the song that Brislee wrote for her, so that is the version I put up here.

Brislee also blew people away with his songs at the Tennessee, and because there were fewer people, the MC of the night, James Iansiti, entertained us with several songs and accompaniments – including with Brislee.

A good evening, all things considered….

MCing the Galway Open Mic in Paris

July 3, 2012

Last night I got a bit of a taste of what it is like to MC an open mic at one of the long-lasting, mainstay open mic venues in Paris, and all I can say to those who do it all the time is: Respect! I had some experience doing this myself at my Mecano Sunday brunches for around six months a year or so ago. But taking over a regular venue for one night gives a whole new look at things.

I have to thank all my musician friends who showed up to play and help me, as without them I’d have had to play all night myself. Okay, what I really meant to say, was, without them, it would have been a somewhat barren affair, given that it was the beginning of the July holidays in France, and the day after a major soccer match. So lots of people stayed home.

But I had lots of performers, and I would have been able to do even more videos had I not been working out the sound feedback, musician monitor and other technical glitches that I came slightly unprepared for. I had actually been prepared by a photo taken of the soundboard on my iPhone the previous week – but after the iPhone was stolen over the weekend, I lost my crutch.

Thanks to Thomas Arlo and Brislee Adams for helping me out of that. And especial thanks to Joe Cady for turning up with his violin, to play along with me and several other musicians – and for taking that little video of me on his iPhone as I sang my song, “Except Her Heart.” Oh, and boy, there was this really cool trio that arrived for the first time, and it was their first gig together – and that was really, really exciting from the point of view of running the open mic. Check out the videos I did manage to do of them….

Next week Romain returns to do the job he has been doing so well…

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