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A Quick Drop-in to the Still Thriving Kararocké at the Bus Palladium

February 7, 2018

Nicholas Ullmann as...

Nicholas Ullmann as…

PARIS – I have no idea how many years it has now been that Nicholas Ullmann has been hosting his Kararocké at the Bus Palladium, but I do believe I discovered it in 2010, and have been going occasionally ever since. I returned on Saturday evening – it runs every first Saturday of the month – to find his institution still alive and more than well. And this, despite the recent sad death due to cancer of the regular bass guitarist of the band, Erik Fostinelli, also known as Guy Pop.

In fact, I believe the Kararocké has been more than a decade that this formula has been working for Ullmann, the master of many disguises and above all, master MC. (Master master of ceremonies!!??) That the formula works is no surprise: It is a super karaoke, with a live band on a large stage in a large room with great sound, spotlights, and just absolutely everything to make the spectators that get on stage feel as if they are rock stars for a night.

Additionally, Ullmann has a habit of attracting some of France’s top musical talent to make cameo roles, such as Yarol Poupaud, Dave, Keziah Jones, Raphael, Dany Boon, Arthur H, Izia, Alain Chabat, Elie Semoun, Marion Cotillard, and even Michel Gondry, whom I once saw on drums at the kararocké.

On Saturday night, it was the turn of Yann Destal, known for his hit song, Lady (Hear Me Tonight), which was a worldwide success in 2000 when he was just 20 years old and in his band then called Modjo. Yann continues a strong musical career, but one that is out of the limelight compared to the days of early success. He plays around Paris all the time, and recently even starred in a musical about Woodstock.

Lady by Modjo (Yann Destal)

On Saturday, he played as one of the band throughout the whole show, and performed a solo singing “Say It Ain’t So Joe,” by the Murray Head, a song that perfectly fits his voice.

Say It Ain’t So Joe, sung by Yann Destal at the Bus Palladium

I myself did not even try to get on stage, for two or three reasons: 1) I am usually crap at doing Karaoke because when I play and sing cover songs, I usually do it with my guitar in my hands, and I do it my own way, (they call this “interpretation,” but I prefer to think of it as making felicitous mistakes when it works, as I inevitably try to imitate the real thing but fail); 2) I did sing once with success at this kararocké, when somehow the band played “What’s Up” in my key, but I made a horrible failure of singing an Arthur H. song just a few weeks later, as it was neither in my key, nor a style I can do!, and 3), in fact, I was wearing my contact lenses and cannot read with them, so I’d have to know all the lyrics by heart! Oh there was another reason too: Ullmann, in his fair way, was asking all night long only for singers who had never before sung at the kararocké. And I did not fit that category, obviously.

Hellish imitator at the Kararocké

This was a beautifully chosen song for the night, because it was written in protest and disbelief of the horrible American politics of the day…plus ça change….

But it was well worth the night. On the less good nights of this formula the music has tended to be too much hard rock. But on Saturday there was a broad, broad cross-section of sounds. I regretted enormously not having brought my Zoom recorder in order to get great sound, as we have to settle for the terrible sound of my Galaxy S8….

Dock of the whatever at the Kararocké
I will return to the Kararocké again, that’s for sure.

Quickie Touch Base in Paris Open Mic Thing

December 1, 2013

PARIS – This evening is a few days old, but I had to put something up. I’m at that ketchup moment of my life at the end of the year following an absolutely insane travel schedule – Paris Austin Austin Sao Paulo Sao Paul New York New York Paris – and DID DID DID get an open mic in under my belt last Thursday. But due to no time because of end of the year ketchup, no time to do anything proper on this blog.

If you have read this far, then please note, I did a great open mic at the Tennessee Bar on Thursday night and, then I went to the Reception #2 at the restaurant of the Bus Palladium to hear and see and feel the wild and crazy show of Charles-Baptiste Chanteur and his guests.

During this period of time, I was sort of filmed myself during my little moment in the open mic.

And now it is time to run off to do another, before I catch up (ketchup) on this blog and get back to the essentials (my page devoted to open mics in Austin, for example, or those in Sao Paulo, Toronto, NYC, Istanbul and elsewhere).

Velvet Veins and Tactics at the Bus Palladium Karaocké

May 6, 2013

In France we are in the middle of the first set of weeks in which public holidays divide the week in half. The 1 May and 8 May are public holidays – a kind of labor day on the 1st and the Victory of WWII on the 8th – and in France that means that a large percentage of the population will created what they call a “bridge,” or a “pony,” of days off between the weekend and the middle of the week. The and what THAT means is that for these two weeks there are hardly any people in Paris. And what THAT means is that the Kararocké organizers may well have been worried that there would not be many people there on Saturday for the once-a-month giant karaoke with the live band. So was that the reason that Nicolas Ullmann, the MC, decided to announce that Pete Doherty would sing a song or two before the kararocké?

Many of the regular clients of the Bus Palladium will by now know that the artistic director of the venue is acting as manager for Peter Doherty, the British rock star of the former Libertines and Babyshambles, who lives in Paris. So maybe, just maybe, Ullmann thought that would attract people during a potential down period. On the other hand, as many of the clients to his great Kararocké know, Ullmann is the master of disguise, and he dress up as a different character for each show. This time, guess what? The character, it seems, was Pete Doherty!

And it was Ullmann doing the impersonation…. Doherty has recently played at the Bus Palladium, and even in small cafés in the neighborhood, so it would not have been unreasonable to expect him to show. But the game was Ullmann’s this time, and I don’t have any idea at all if it actually worked, but what I can say is that the crowd was its usual size and enthusiasm on Saturday night, and Ullmann put on another great show.

I was surprised at how many people were there. But I also know that a lot of the people who showed up came to see the basically unknown band that opened for the Kararocké, the band called, Velvet Veins. I went specifically to see them – although my interest was piqued by the idea of a Doherty intervention – as the Velvet Veins is the new band of my sometime lead guitarist Félix Beguin, with whom I have played many times, and recorded a couple songs too. He met his new band in the studio where he works, just outside Paris. The Velvet Veins, for their part, did NOT let down.

Internet Breakdown, Quick Touch of Base in Paris

October 19, 2012

Arriving back in Paris after 40 hours of travel from the south of South Korea, I got home to find my Internet broken down. So this means I have no Internet at home until Monday morning, and I head off again to India and Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. So there will be a short interruption in this blog, unfortunately. I am writing this after a day at the office, at the office…. But lack of Internet does not mean a lack of music and a lack of musical adventures. Last night I attended three venues in Paris, a new one, a recent one and an old one….

The first was a new open mic that takes place on the first and third Thursday of the month. I wish I had more time to write about all of these places, but I don’t. This new open mic takes place at a very cool bar called the Kolok, near the Bourse, not far from the Truskel. I found a very neat, young, with-it audience and the wonderful musician MC named Romain. I found good beer, a warm environment, a couple of mics, great service – and quite a loud audience….

I will give more information about the Kolok as soon as I have tried it again or got a better Internet connection.

From there I went over to the Orphee, which I have written about a couple of times recently on this blog. But this time I was hugely disappointed as the owner or manager of the bar insisted that I pay 10 euros to enter this place in order to entertain the large of audience of people who had shown up for the open mic. There are very, very few circumstances in which I will pay money in order to play my music, when I know I am bringing in people to listen to the music, and when I am also buying drinks for myself. After some discussion it was clear the man was not nice and not smart and not worth it. So I left.

I remembered that across the street at the every and endlessly genial Bus Palladium, I had a friend who was taking part in the musical talent “trampoline” event last night. So I decided to go in and give him my support. It turned out that he was not the only member of the talented bunch of musicians whom I knew. There was the band JFK, whom I ran into almost four years ago at the Truskel and/or Mecano. And it also turned out that I knew some of the judges of the competition, the band Gush. Gush is extraordinary, and if they had done the competition themselves, they would have won. So they were well chosen judges.

As it turned out, Rimed – the tapping guitarist – came in an equal second in the competition. Unfortunately, by the time the eventual winners played their set, I had run out of batteries on my recording device. So nothing to show here.

Burnin’ Jacks and Toxic Kiss at Bus Palladium – Half a Look

September 30, 2012

Because of another really important commitment, I ended up seeing only half of the Toxic Kiss concert AND half of the Burnin’ Jacks concert at the Bus Palladium. Actually, I had planned it so that I would see all but one or two songs of the Burnin’ Jacks, but the Bus Palladium security guard had to impose the rules: Anyone leaving the Bus Palladium would NOT return. So I left halfway through the concert.

Because of that, I will not pretend that I saw everything. But of what I saw, it was great. Toxic Kiss was really interesting, and they are a very vital and cool French band – I did not really notice how strong the French accent was when I was there, but you pick it up in the videos. No problem, it is interesting and inventive music and great stage presence. At one point the woman singer of the group left the stage and took up position in the back of the crowd and danced… no one seemed to notice – I caught a few seconds on my recorder. It was very cool.

The Burnin’ Jacks, so what if I don’t say much this time. I have written extensively about them on this blog, and in exactly the same was last night as in the past, they just get better and better. I keep trying to figure out how they keep getting better. Suddenly today I remembered that they spent a few weeks or so performing in Berlin over the summer, and I bet that experience must have had a big effect on the band. Check ’em out if you get a chance.

Louise de Ville, Beauty-With-Brains One-Woman-Show and a Brainless Kararocké

May 6, 2012

Betty Speaks - Louise de Ville

Betty Speaks – Louise de Ville

It was a huge contrast last night as I visited two great venues in Pigalle to see two completely different kinds of shows. I ended up feeling that my expectations of each had been reversed: The burlesque woman’s monologue was the brainy thing, and the Kararocké was the brainless thing. Both had their place and made for a great evening, since brainlessness is a great counter reaction to braininess.

What had given me my advance notions about what I might find was that I had seen Louise de Ville’s burlesque act not long ago – and written about it here – and it was part of her stock show, of a kind of burlesque, fun, brainlessness, well, not really. But anyway, the last thing I expected to see at Les Trois Baudets last night after I was invited by a friend of Louise’s to see her one-woman show called “Betty Speaks” was a fabulous and inventive monologue written by Louise in French – she is American – and acted out and spoken in great French – with a strong American accent – with all sorts of playing on words, and fun, psychological insights into womanhood.

josephine baker

josephine baker

Having said that, the thing that also surprised me was that here I was watching a one-woman-show that has a burlesque element to it – she is sexy as hell and has some moments of strip tease – but most of the laughter I heard around me came from the women in the audience. This was a one-woman comedy, burlesque that has sex as one of the main themes, but which is speaking very directly to women. Oh, it is also very camp, and can clearly please men who like camp, too. Having said that, Louise can transfix men who don’t like camp as well, just by being there.

As an American in Paris entertaining the French in their language with witty playfulness and issues that women think about, but at the same time appearing like a sexy burlesque, I had to think where Louise could fit into any kind of tradition. Could we call her a white Josephine Baker? Probably best just to call her Louise de Ville.

Oh, as it turns out, that entire mixture of things I just spoke about with Louise are very clearly fixed in her knowledge of herself and her approach. Here are words I just found on Louise de Ville’s web site today about herself:

“I may look like it, but I’m not your average burlesque girl,” she writes. “I love glitter and feathers as much as the next girl, but I love feminism even more! I’ m a beauty with brains and I’m not afraid of showing off either.”

So after that show I saw I still had time to go to the monthly Kararocké at the Bus Palladium. It was more densely populated than at any time I have seen it in the last six months. A massive success, and a wild, wild time. I rinsed out my brain with the music and then took a nice brisk 5.5 kilometer walk back home through the rain and rinsed off my body.

Unexpected Sensory Overload at the Kararocké

April 8, 2012

I was just noting yesterday how open mics that occur only once per month are generally not so successful, often forgotten, and would do better to be every week. I also remarked how happy an evening it turned out to be at the Truskel open mic for me on Friday, that open mic that happens once per month but is now closing for a long, long summer break…. Last night I went to one of my favorite open mics, which, in fact, is a live karaoke, with a live band and a set-list you choose your songs from, the wonderful Kararocké at the Bus Palladium. And guess what? I concluded that some open mics are better off happening only once per month….

I just cannot imagine either the spectators or Nicolas Ullmann, the genial host of the show – and inventor of the concept – going through that every week. It is so high energy, such a blow out of a party of an open mic, and Ullmann puts to much into it – creating elaborate costumes for every show – that I think everyone would wind up having to take the work week to recuperate after each show. It would eventually drag you down and out and a visit to a sanitarium would be called for.

I have loved every visit to the show in recent months. Especially the night I sang “What’s Up!” in early October. For the last two times I have been there, I have somewhat timidly put my name into the bucket with the request to sing “Wicked Game,” and each time I was somehow over-looked and not called up to sing. Probably that had to do with Nicolas’s huge efforts to give new people a chance every week, and not just put up the same people all the time.

But part of me thinks it may have to do with the fact that if I did get a chance to do that song, it would be the most downbeat, slowest, heaviest and most quiet number of the whole evening. And I wondered if maybe Nicolas found that too depressing for the formula.

Having said that, last night I found myself so incredibly swamped by the upbeat madness of the songs sung – not all, but the accumulation of them had that effect – that oddly, for the first time since I started going to this mad show, I started feel withdrawn through sensory overload. Hey, let’s have a few quiet and low numbers to tone things down and bring people to earth a little.

No, this is not just sour-grapes for not being selected. In fact, each month I get scared shitless about going up on that stage to sing, and when the evening passes and I find my name has not been drawn from the bucket, I sigh great relief and say, “Phew!!! I won’t have to face the situation – but I had the courage to try!!!”

Anyway, the evening is so successful that whatever may be my opinion, I’m sure Ullmann knows what’s he is doing. I think at one point last night I felt it was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen at the Kararocké….

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