Brad Spurgeon's Blog

A world of music, auto racing, travel, literature, chess, wining, dining and other crazy thoughts….

End to the India Trip, Niki Demiller’s Video

October 30, 2011

I had a HUGE day at the racetrack today covering the first ever Indian Grand Prix, outside New Delhi. And it turned out to be a success, against all the odds. But that meant returning to my hotel very late and having no time to even consider looking for a place to play tonight, as I must arise early tomorrow morning to go to the airport to catch a flight. Fortunately, though, I have just a neat little nugget to put on this blog today before I leave the country. My friend Niki Demiller, who I met at open mics in Paris – and who even sang at my own brunch at the Mecano a while back – has just put out a video of his concert at the famous Paris landmark venue, the Bus Palladium. The video images are a compilation of stuff I filmed of him that night when I attended the concert. He has put it all together in a very neat little video, adding a soundtrack of the same concert but made by our mutual friend Alexis Raphaeloff, and the whole thing was also edited by Alexis. Check it out, it is very cool, as Niki has a very interesting style and look and a bunch of very cool, and very French songs:

Rockin’ the Kararocké at the Bus Palladium, and Taking Away a Gift of an Unforgettable Memory and an Amazing DVD!

October 2, 2011

nicolas ullmann of the kararocké

nicolas ullmann of the kararocké

I have attended Nicolas Ullmann’s Kararocké at the Bus Palladium two or three times before, and I have signed my name on the list to sing two or three times before. But last night was the first time Nicolas pulled my name out of the hat. I had come to wonder if it was fake, or what? I mean, there had been so many very cool singers, many from local bands, that I had thought perhaps only those who Nicolas liked got to sing. This is clearly not the case. The Ullmann Kararocké may have all the trimmings of a big rock ‘n roll, almost Hollywood, extravaganza, but down at the bottom of it all is the simple and same formula that you find the world over:

There is a backing band of high calibre, and a list of songs, and anyone who wants to can go up and sing along with the band. It’s one of those “live karaokés.” But Ullmann’s has a twist with all the showbusiness trimmings. Ullmann himself dresses up in a costume each time – like Alice Cooper, a werewolf, or some other bizarre thing -, and he sings a few songs, runs around the room, drinks Jack Daniels and just basically goes mad. It is not much different from the hugely successful “Anti-karaoke” in Barcelona at the Apolo Club, in that it has a good feel of debauchery and costumes are encouraged. But unlike traditional karaoké, with a live band both the singer and the spectators are treated to a much more concert-like situation. And it is a great way for budding singers to try their hand and being in the real music situation….

And although Ullmann’s Kararocké does not always take place only at the Bus Palladium, that is a huge advantage. I have written about the Bus before on this blog – several times – and I have played in the restaurant on the first floor several times. But playing in the main concert hall on the ground floor is just something else. It is a huge stage, high above the spectators, with great lighting, a great sound system, and a packed full house of spectators on the floor below. This is really addictive rock star territory here! And all the top bands in France and elsewhere have played in that room on that stage.

Ullmann’s Kararocké also has special guests of high calibre, which is a cool added attraction. Last night it was the French rock star Arthur H (son of that other rock star, Jacques Higelin, and brother to that other pop star, Izia). Another special guest was Michel Gondry, who was a drummer in the band Oui, Oui, and then went on to become a filmmaker, and has directed all sorts of films including music videos for people like Bjork, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Beck and… dammit, wish I could have done my “Mad World,” because he did the Gary Jules “Mad World” video, Donnie Darko version.

There were not many songs on the list that I figured I could do without learning them or rehearsing. But “What’s Up!” of the Four Non-Blondes was on the list, and I do that one a lot these days, even if I do it at a higher pitch than they do. And I usually screw up the timing at one spot. Anyway, out of the hat came my name, up to the stage I ran, didn’t have enough time to think about being nervous – and had drunk more than a half bottle of wine plus two beers, so hey… – and they started playing and I started singing. It was very strange as there were so many things to take in at the same time while also getting into the song entirely. There was the band, the stage, the lights, the crowd, the room, just the fact of suddenly being up there, not to mention what the fuck to do with my hands and body without my guitar! But I knew my salvation could only be to give everything to song and inhabit it and live it and wail through it all my particular frustrations of the moment. Aside from a momentary screw up in the place I usually screw up the rhythm – “Well I try, oh my God do I try!!!” – I got through it and had no crises, and although I did not feel quite as liberated throughout as I do when playing it myself, I got some good responses from people afterwards.

Not only that, but Nicolas decided to give me a gift – and aside from beers and swigs on beer for other performers, I think I was the only one to receive such a gift. It was a triple DVD of a fabulous French music television show from the late 70s, early 80s that I had read about recently in Rock & Folk magazine. It is archival material of live concerts done specifically for the television show, which was presented by Antoine de Caunes. The show was called Chorus, and the DVD has hours and hours worth of concerts by bands like The Jam, The Stranglers, The Clash, The Police, but also James Brown, Pat Benatar, Link Wray…. It is just a magnificent DVD and as I write these words I am already on Disc 3, having listened to discs 1 and 2 today. (Currently watching John Lee Hooker, whom I saw in concert in Ottawa in around 1973, opening for Gentle Giant!!!)

In addition to all of this excitement – on a night where I had decided I would probably just stay at home! – I also met some friends there, and watched them perform. It turned out the Burnin’ Jacks were there, and Syd performed a song and Félix, my guitarist of the same band, played several songs in the second half of the show as lead guitar player. The most touching was when Antoine went up and started playing Teenage Kicks, which I knew he had seen Earle Holmes sing so many times at the closing of his open mic in Paris where the Burnin’ Jacks got their start. (But I was late getting the video going so only have a fragment of Teenage Kicks.)

What a load of fun that all was for nothing but a karaoké! No, an Ullmann Kararocké!!!

PS, I forgot to mention that the evening was also being videoed by a French television channel – one of the big ones – but I’m not sure why….

PPS, It was also the 46th birthday celebration of the Bus Palladium!

The Burnin’ Jacks (and Niki Demiller) Burn Up the Bus Palladium in Paris

September 17, 2011

I am still trying to catch my breath from last night’s concert at the legendary Bus Palladium in Paris. The praise I am about to give has nothing to do with the fact that I have known and watched the Burnin’ Jacks grow for three years, since they played at Earle Holmes’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge in Paris, and since I first started playing with their lead guitarist, Félix, at the same time. Just looking at any of the videos I put up on the site will strike out all thoughts of bias. No, I was blown away as was the audience in the main concert hall of the Bus Palladium, where so many of France’s stars – and international ones – have played since the place was founded several decades ago.

I kept thinking to myself throughout the evening about how I had watched this band evolve from the time it was just a few guys doing their acoustic rockin’ rollin’ at Earle’s to this full-fledged band with its own sound and a real rock ‘n roll attitude. There was something very Stones about it. Every time I see the Burnin’ Jacks they are better, more together. And the solo that Félix and Antoine did together, oh man, that was an absolute classic. Félix came out with some screeching, crying Hendrixy sounds and then suddenly Antoine joined him and the two did a little chatting back and forth with their guitars and then they segued into Antoine’s country-like song – a favorite of mine – called “Baby Please Turn Round.”

And Syd Alexander’s singing and front-man performance whipped the audience into a frenzy. Scared the hell out of me as he lept endlessly into the crowd and I feared for his safety.

There was even a fabulous drum solo – at the end of the video I put up here – and much, much more (as they say in crappy fanzines).

The room was really full of spectators – including many older ones – and they loved the show, playing along at every move.

But the Burnin’s Jacks were not the only ones I enjoyed or knew or had watched progress. There were two acts before the Burnin’ Jacks. It was the second of the two that I liked the most, and that was actually on the same level as the Burnin’ Jacks but in a completely different way. This was Niki Demiller, whom I have also known through the open mics in Paris for somewhere near three years. Niki, however, unlike the Burnin’ Jacks, has not been on precisely the same road of development since that time. Niki was the leader of a punk-like band a few years ago called The Brats. It was one of the first of the new wave of young bands in Paris in the last decade, and it had some pretty good breaks. I mean, crap, they once opened for Iggy and the Stooges at the Zenith in Paris!

But Niki in the last year or so has buried himself away to write new songs and transform himself into something completely new. He has become a kind of next in line of the tradition of the French crooner or music hall pop rocker, like a cross between Charles Aznavour, Johnny Hallyday, Jacques Dutronc and Eddie Mitchell. Last night was the first time I have seen him perform anything like these new songs with the backing of a full group. And it was very cool indeed. A cool stage persona and an original sound, and about as far from the punk rocker as you can image…yet with some of the edge and anger still there just as it should be.

All together it was a very surprising evening.

Johnny Borrell of Razorlight Does Another Paris Open Mic – Bus Palladium

September 7, 2011

Johnny Borrell

Johnny Borrell

Last night turned into another of those exceptional moments that only the open mic can do. From time to time the people who attend and the musicians who play in open mics get treated to the surprise visit of a star musician wanting to get back to their roots or maybe try out new material or just have some fun. They show up unannounced and play like anyone else at an open mic. After Johnny Borrell did that at my brunch at the Mecano back in February, the Razorlight singer and songwriter decided to try out the Bus Palladium last night.

Of course, the Bus Palladium is a legendary venue in Paris that is well worth the visit of any musician. As I wrote the first time I visited the Bus Palladium in April last year: Started in September 1965, it began by sending out buses to the kids in the suburbs to bring them in to see the shows, since they didn’t have much money to make the trek into Paris. It quickly became a real center of the rock and pop scene, and even Salvador Dali showed up one night with a bunch of his friends. The reputation grew outside France too, and in addition to performers such as Johnny Hallyday, Eddy Mitchell et les Chaussettes Noires, Julien Clerc, Alain Bashung, CharlElie Couture, Indochine, Etienne Daho, Stephan Eicher, Noir Désir, La Mano Negra and the Rita Mitsouko, it is also famous for the fact that Mick Jagger decided to celebrate one of his birthdays there.

Borrell attended my brunch in February thanks to his friendship with my friend Earle Holmes, and it was again with Earle that Borrell showed up last night at the Bus Palladium. He has been spending a lot of time in Paris lately, and is hard at work on new songs. I was pleased to lend him my guitar again for the several songs, his own and covers, that he played last night. The Bus has been doing an open mic for the last six months or so, on Tuesdays, and normally the musicians must send in a request to play along with links to their music. Obviously, Borrell needed no such introduction or examination….

He seemed more relaxed than when I saw him in February, and he played more songs. But there is something about the restaurant room of the Bus Palladium, something about the small stage and the lighting, that makes you want to continue playing on. It’s got some kind of 1960s or 70s cocktail lounge feel to it. It may not be the quietest or most attentive audience, but there are always a sufficient number of listeners to make it worth wanting to continue. I enjoyed making some videos of Johnny playing while trying to keep the portrait of Serge Gainsbourg as visible behind him as I could. The only problem was the lighting was so dark I had to set the Zoom Q3HD to night light, which cust a lot of the clear definition of the image.

Earlier, I did my songs and a few friends showed up – like Calvin McEnron and Olivier Rodriguez – and did theirs. I heard a few new people too. All in all it was a spectacularly wonderful evening.

Too cool, too cool, too cool Open Mic Night in Paris – HUGE!

June 29, 2011

I had high hopes for the open mic night last night in Paris, and it came to pass – far beyond my wildest expectations. If the headline to this post, and my lede, sound like a massive dose of hyperbole, too bad!

First stop was the Bus Palladium, the famous Paris venue that I have written about on several occasions on this blog. Last night was the second of the Bus’s new open mic evenings, the first being around a month ago. I don’t know how long it will continue, and I didn’t ask. I get the feeling that the Bus is kind of feeling out the territory, and seeing how it works out. They took a very professional and highly organized approach to the thing by sending out a Facebook announcement and asking musicians to send an email and a myspace link to their music as a tryout. And they admit that this made it a “semi” open mic.

I got accepted along with 14 other acts. I missed the first evening a month ago, but they said that they had room for 14 acts, but received 35 responses. So I felt honored to have been accepted, but I’m not so sure they got 35 responses this time. In any case, the whole evening lineup was planned in advance and I was to play 7th. Musicians were greeted at the door and asked questions about our music and what material we needed.

So professional and cool, and that is normal for such a fantastic and historic venue. Having said that, as the evening progressed, I had some mixed feelings about it and how it might pan out in the future. Most of the tables in this cool restaurant that greets the “afterwork” crowd, were booked in advance, so most of the musicians sat like cattle on the sidelines on a step, awaiting their turn. The usual Tuesday night crowd was the same last night as on the afterwork evenings hosted by Yann Destal, and that meant that music for them was really a background thing, and not the main attraction, or, I soon felt, something they care for at all. One table of around 25 people was particularly noisy, with the effect that although I thought there were a number of very good acts, I could not hear their vocals or their guitars.

I made some videos at the quieter moments, but it got pretty loud and rowdy. It is very common to find open mics where people talk, talk and talk. But this one seemed a little heavier than usual to me. Having said that, I was really determined to see if there was a way that I could break through the clamor and grab the attention of the afterwork crowd and pull them out of their conversation and into the show. I had invited someone with me, too, and I felt a little helpless at the thought of her seeing me standing all alone up on the stage singing to myself.

So the first thing I thought I should do was cover songs that everyone knew, and forget about my own songs. The second thing I thought I had to do was to dive into it absolutely totally, but not so much as to be aggressive. Well, to cut the long story short, it worked from the first notes and lyrics of “What’s Up,” through “Father and Son,” and “Mad World.” The audience applauded, sang along, cheered, and briefly left their conversation to take part in songs they all knew and wanted to leap into. I finished with my own “Borderline,” after asking if I should do another cover or one of my own.

So I left the Bus Palladium walking on clouds and delighted at having worked like a bullfighter, or rather, a rodeo rider, trying to tame the bucking horse and succeeding.

From there I decided it was still early enough to go on to Ollie’s open mic at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, and I was right to do so. I got to play a song at the end of the evening. But there I felt hardly up to the task, as Ollie’s was such a HUGE contrast to the Bus Palladium: You could hear the proverbial pin drop so quiet was the audience. And like usual, the place was full of massively talented young people. (I’m not saying the Bus was not, but it was more difficult to hear and appreciate them.) Ollie’s is attracting new musicians every week, and there is thankfully more and more French language stuff too.

Then, like icing on the cake, at the end of the Ollie’s evening I struck up a conversation with the man who I had seen at the Galway the night before. This was the man with the guitar with the carvings on it. Remember the video? It turned out that I had found a fascinating like-spirit – Ollie had prompted me – who wears more than one hat: His name is Danny Fonfeder, and he owns 50 percent of one of the most successful school supplies companies in Canada, makers of the Buffalo pencils with the famous tartan box, that I used as a child in grade school. His dad founded the company, and Danny is apparently running it, but in any case, he is travelling the world in his job for the company, and like me with my Formula One race travel, he brings a guitar with him and plays in open mics wherever he can. He started two and a half years ago. But unlike me, the guitar he brings with him – that fabulous carved thing on the video – is one of his own, that he has made for a company he owns and started up six years ago.

It is called Blueberry Guitars, and Danny put the whole thing together when he met a woodcarver in Bali, and decided he wanted a guitar with woodcarvings on it. He started this Blueberry guitar company and it is quite a good business, with guitars I could never afford – check out the $7500 Blueberry guitar on eBay. The wood comes from Canada, it is carved in Bali, and a luthier from the U.S. is responsible for making these into real musical instruments. I invited Danny out after the open mic, along with my friend Tory Roucaud, in order to interview him – and her – for my open mic film.

Now, does it really sound like hyperbole, that headline and lede? No way! A monumental evening.

Burnin’ Jacks, BSMS and Yann Destal – a Musical Night in Paris

January 23, 2011

Not many open mics on Saturday in Paris, but even if there were, I’d have decided to sacrifice my own music to go and listen to that of some friends and acquaintances. Because at the International was a double-header of the Burnin’ Jacks and BSMS, two excellent rising groups of talented young musicians in Paris. And then at the Bus Palladium, conveniently happening after the other two concerts, was Yann Destal in the third kind of formation in which I have seen him play – I’ll explain in a minute.

At the International I HAD to go and see the Burnin’ Jacks, whom I have watched grow over the last two years from Earle’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge, the Truskel and then the Mecano bar, to what they’re doing today, playing bigger clubs and stages all over the city. Not to mention that Félix, the Burnin’ Jacks’ phenomenally talented lead guitar player, is also the guy who recorded with me in my Ephemere Recordings in July (on Except Her Heart and Memories), and who will play with me in concert at the Disquaires on 27 February.

So it was off to the International to hear them play, and neither I nor the couple of hundred people present were let down by the music or their charismatic performance, led by Félix on the lead guitar and Syd on the lead vocals, and Antoine, jumping around on rhythm guitar like there was no tomorrow. Also, one of my favorite songs of theirs is that composed and sung by Antoine.

After these guys came BSMS, whom I wrote about recently at their concert at the Bus Palladium. So I’m not going to add many words here, just to say it was more of the same rhythmic, slightly spaced out and slightly acid sound last night at the International. Very together, very tight, and very cool bluesy rock.

And speaking of the Bus Palladium, I ended up going over there to hear Yann Destal in band formation. Aside from hearing his voice on the radio for a decade with that 2000 hit song, “Lady (Hear Me Tonight),” I first started listening to Destal at the Tuesday evening after work club in the restaurant above the main concert room of the Bus. There he plays solo and with one or two other musicians doing cover songs acoustically. Then I saw him with one other musician doing some of his latest music at Le China, near the Bastille. So yesterday was the first time I saw him in a full-fledged group situation, with a keyboard player, a drummer, bass guitar, his acoustic guitar and a lead guitar player. There was another singer too, a woman – sorry, don’t know who it was.

In any case, last night’s show really made it clear how interesting a performer and composer Yann is. He’s the kind of performer who has his own musical world, and he inhabits it like others might get involved in reading or writing a fantasy novel. If that sounds like it is pushing things, just check out some of the videos below. His singing voice is as good as ever, but the tunes and lyrics and presentation are very personal, and remind me in some ways of progressive rock from the early 70s. Maybe that’s stretching it too – but that is what came to mind last night.

BSMS at the Bus Palladium

December 4, 2010

I decided not to attend the barman’s open mic at the Cabaret Culture Rapide since I had played in the blues jam at the same venue on Thursday night. Instead, I accepted with myself to go out naked into the night – that is to say, without my guitar on my back – and to visit the Bus Palladium to see the band, Blue Shade and the Magical Smile, better known now as BSMS.

I did not regret it. This is a very interesting French band that has been around since 2004 and mixes blues and rock and psychedelia. Sometimes it sounds as basic as Ten Years After, sometimes it sounds like Frank Zappa and sometimes, sure, why not, like Jimi Hendrix. Above all, live, it grooves and moves and the musicians have some charisma, stage presence and coolness – in bred. That was never more visible than after they appeared after a warm-up band that had none of those qualities – gee, what was the name of that band? Doesn’t matter.

Check out the bits ‘n pieces of BSMS:

Mini Post: Au P’tit Bonheur la Chance and Bus Palladium

December 1, 2010

I have to run out within the next five minutes to visit three or four venues tonight, Wednesday being a big night for open mics and other musical adventures. So just a quick word and two lousy videos about last night.

Lousy videos, but great nights in two venues. I first went to Au P’tit Bonheur la Chance for Ollie’s open mic, then I went to the Bus Palladium to sing a few songs as a guest during Yann Destal’s set. I’ve written about both of these places here more than once, and so I’m keeping this wordage down! I regretted deeply having to leave Ollie’s open mic, since it was shaping up to be really cool, and had several of my favorite performers and friends: David Broad, Ollie, Texas in Paris, and more. But I managed to play three songs and take a cab to the great Bus Palladium and to play three more songs in the restaurant on the first floor, at the After Work evening that happens every Tuesday. Yann Destal, who headlines the show most Tuesdays, played piano along with me when I did my songs, “Father and Son,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Borderline.” It felt good. I enjoyed it, and there was an excellent crowd. So I could not ask for more – except to ask for more another time….

Sorry no links, gotta run… may link later…. By the way, what I meant about bad videos was the bad lighting, and not great sound recording on one. But I did my best, and the musicians were great….

Two Nights, Three Venues in Paris – amen birdmen, Yann Destal and some other stuff at 24 cour des petites écuries

October 9, 2010

Just a bit of catching up to do here. I went two nights ago to the La Forge avg art space at 24 cour des petites écuries in Paris in order to see a few live performances of music and other things, and the end of some kind of video exhibit. But actually, I “some kind” because me real desire was to go and take part in what was advertised as an open mic at the end of the evening.

So, yes, that’s what I did – went and listened to the performers, several of whom play at the Swan Bar in Montparnasse regularly, and then I played three songs myself. Given that the evening was mostly about operatic singing by Vania, bluesy singing by Tiffany Assouline and camp performining of Liza Minelli songs and that kind of thing by someone else, my songs kind of stood out like a hair on the soup – as the French say. But I was happy to sing them, and later, a fabulous reggae musician who was there borrowed my guitar cable and sang some of his songs, both covers and an original. This was Simi Ol of the band Arrr Force. It was a very interesting venue, this La Forge avg, an art space with many rooms, a bar, televisions, videos, a courtyard or two, tables for drinking and chatting, all manner of exhibit.

The next day I did not do any open mic performances but set out to listen to friends and acquaintances play. Yann Destal played at Le China, and it seemed to be mostly his own stuff – as opposed to the cover songs he does at the restaurant on the Bus Palladium on Tuesdays, and the room was full. It’s an interesting place, a very large and classy Chinese food restaurant with a cellar with a stage area for the live music. Very hip, in fact. Destal’s music was very interesting, intense, and the sound was perfect.

But I did not stay to the end of that concert as I wanted to pick up a little of Amen Birdmen at the Bus Palladium, in the main concert area. That is the band of Cyril Bodin, who is also the artistic director of this venerable rock n roll establishment (yes, that is now no longer a contradiction in terms). Much to my delight, I heard Bodin announce that for the last song he was inviting up the members of the band Natas Loves You, to join in singing with him. Virgile, the bassist of Natas Loves You, played on the four songs I recorded at the Point Ephemere this summer. So it was a delight to hear them, and I went around afterwards to say hello to them and Bodin. I enjoyed the set immensely, and Amen Birdmen had the crowd rockning hard.

Three Paris Venues and two discoveries, in one night

September 15, 2010

An amazing evening last night at three different Paris venues, in two of which I managed to play some songs, and the first of which I listened to some wonderful music. And the whole thing was crowned by a sudden answer to a question I had in my mind for a few months about a musician I had seen play – and played with. I will get to that…

The evening began with the most exceptional strawberry millefeuille I have ever had – I’ve never had one before – in a brasserie down the street from the Rex Club. I went to the Rex Club to see and hear Lou Rebecca sing with her band. The band includes Etienne Shades, of the very cool Paris group, Les Shades, and I was looking forward to hearing Lou Rebecca, whom I had seen at Earle’s open mic at some point in the past.

The Rex has been around for more than 20 years, and it has been called the temple of electro music in France, and has had bands like Daft Punk play there. But last night it was not electro, but classic guitar-based rock – at least with Lou Rebecca and her band. It is a spacious room underneath the Grand Rex theater most of the world’s biggest bands have played at one time or another – I think the last band I saw there was Lenny Kravitz.

I had primed myself by listening to Lou Rebecca on her myspace before going, but what I heard in the concert was even more dynamic and rock. Great stuff, she has a style, a presence and a sound. And Etienne on guitar flashes in with some very cool bits of lead and his presence too. I heard another couple of bands before this one, and this was the best. Check out the videos below before I get on to talking about the next two venues and the second discovery of the evening (Lou Rebecca being the first).

The second venue I went to was the Ptit Bonheur la Chance on the Rue Laplace in the 5th Arrondissement, so it required taking a cab from the Rex Club to it. But I was very keen on playing this open mic again, despite having lined up a bit of play at a third venue. It was already 10 PM, but I knew that it was often possible to get to Ollie’s open mic later and still get to play. And that is the way it worked out. I figured it would be nice to see Ollie, and another friend who was going, and to warm up for my third event of the night. So I got there before 10:30, sang three songs – “Borderline,” “Just Like a Woman,” and I cannot remember the first!

So I listened to a few bits of the other musicians and then rushed out of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, took a cab back to the Place Pigalle and I went to the restaurant of the Bus Palladium, where I was to sing a little after the main act. I have written about the Bus Palladium before, both about the history of the place and also about my first time playing in the restaurant upstairs.

I have returned several times since then, and I was always intrigued by the main musician who plays guitar, piano and sings, doing mostly old rock standards. I had mentioned in the past how great his English accent was when he sang. But what intrigued me was that I always thought he had a fabulous voice and a real presence and a massive repertoire. He had played with me once or twice, a bit of piano, a bit of guitar, maybe some backing vocals. And then last night, he came up and started playing with me again. I arrived around 11:30 PM and started playing around 11:45. We played for 45 minutes or more, and this guy played lead guitar and did some harmonies with me on “Just Like a Woman” and “I Shall Be Released,” and he played along even on my song, “Since You Left Me,” and on “Father and Son” and a few others.

I enjoyed it immensely, and he finished out the evening singing “Purple Rain,” of Prince, while I hit a few bad notes on lead guitar. But I still this night thought to myself, who is this guy who looks like Ron Wood, and is French but sings fabulously well, gets across good emotion, and has a vast repertoire of songs? And I thought, does he only do covers? I suspect that one of the “covers” I heard him sing was that huge success from 2000 by a French band called Modjo, the song “Lady (Hear Me Tonight),” and I probably thought, “What good is it to sound EXACTLY like Modjo on that? Can’t he bring something new to it?”

Well, after we played and returned to the bar where I had a beer and tried to get my shirt to dry out of all the sweat it had developed all on its own over the previous 45 minutes, we got to talking. He asked me if I had some place with samples of my songs, and I handed him my CD of the four songs I had recorded in July at the Point Ephemere, as I had actually prepared it to give to the artistic director, but I decided I wanted this guy to have it. I told him a little of my story about quitting music for nearly 30 years before returning to it, etc. Then I suggested we exchange Facebook friendship. We both whipped out our iPhones and hooked up immediately.

Through all of this, although I asked him about the name of his band, he never said anything to me to make me think that he was anything other than some starving musician of no renown. Well, once I had his name and Facebook link, I returned home to learn that this was Yann Destagnol, now known as Yann Destal, who was one part of the duo of the aforementioned French band Modjo, which sold more than 2 million copies of its hit song “Lady (Hear Me Tonight),” in 2000. He went on to make a solo album in 2004, and is now working on another solo album. As has happened to me several times in the past, I have found that the people who really achieve something in the world are often the least flashy and full of themselves. Yann is a very simple, unassuming guy with an enormous talent – and that finally answered my question: “Who the hell is this great singer anyway?!?”

The video I took of him below singing last night at the Bus Palladium, is not very good, and it does not do justice to his voice. But it is the only one I took, and you can hear nevertheless that he can really wrap that voice around that Led Zeppelin song…. I suggest you drop by the Bus Palladium on a Tuesday night if you happen to be in Paris, to hear the real thing; there’s pretty good food too.

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