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The Incredible Not-Jam of Mammalia, in Paris, and Leaving Your Comfort Zone

March 1, 2016



PARIS – Push yourself, push yourself, push yourself. Get outside your comfort zone. Take a risk. Those are the thoughts that come back to me once again after my open mic experiences last night. Those are themes of this blog since it started – themes of my life. But last night, the proof came to me again. I was trying to decide if I should go out to my regular open mics in the Bastille area again, near dinner time, but I also wanted to stay home and keep working on my film and other projects. Then suddenly, a flash on Facebook pops up and I see my friend Stephen “Cat” Saxo is going to some kind of open mic jam – “not jam.” It’s a once-a-month event, and it takes place in a very cool bar called the Café de la Presse, and it calls itself Mammalia. So I went.

I went partly because it was in the Bastille area, so if I didn’t like it, I could do the Rue de Lappe open mics as a backup. So I arrive on the Boulevard de la Bastille quite early, and find the bar, and I speak to the organizer. (I also meet Stephen Saxo and another musician friend.) I learn that they liked to call it “not a jam” because although it’s a kind of free-for-all onstage, the idea behind it is to just get up there – drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, whatever – with people you do or don’t know, and to start off on some kind of theme and just go at it and see where it leads, maybe even create a new song.
Been a long time at Mammalia

Well, as much as I loved the concept, and as much as I loved what I saw of the people, and as much as I thought the neat little stage and sound system, all under spotlights, looked stupendous, I’m not so comfortable making stuff up in public onstage! The Café de la Presse was the kind of place I could hang out all night, I thought, though, as it was wide open dance floor and spectator area in front of the stage, a mezzanine, a front terrace and other areas – a swing set – and so the place seemed to have ALL the ingredients for a great night.
Saxo and lady at Mammalia

But I generally like to play songs, not jam stuff. It’s just my predilection. I love playing with other musicians, but songs I know, not just repetitions of chords for 25 minutes non-stop, as some jams go. Well, I watched a bit of the beginning, got Stephen and some other musicians on video, then decided to go to the Rue de Lappe to play my stuff.
Beatin em at Mammalia

Before I left, though, I also met with a musician I have written about on this blog many times a few years ago – Yann Destal – and I told him about my reservations, and he said it really depended on who was on stage, what the situation was like, etc., but that doing songs from beginning to end was also done at this place…. Despite the “not a jam” name.
Heartbreak at Mammalia

Still, I felt worried, inferior, not likely to be comfortable. Comfort zone in some other place. Not here. So I returned to my usual Monday haunt of the Rue de Lappe and found the Some Girls open mic in full swing. It was great. I even got to…jam, or rather, play with other musicians, i.e., the host on lead guitar and another guy on sax, while I played my guitar and sang. But the whole time I was doing it, I kept on seeing the visions of the stage of Mammalia in my head and said, “Brad, get out of your comfort zone. You can probably, maybe do something there. And the ambiance is super cool, and it happens only once per month. Go for it!!!”
More jamming at Mammalia

So I immediately returned to Mammalia, asked if I could go up, and soon after arrival, I got on the stage, found myself doing three cover songs I do a lot – Mad World, Wicked Game and You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere – along with fabulous musicians, a guy on bass, Yann on keyboards and another on drums. And a huge crowd of people in front of the stage giving me someone to cry my heart out to!
More oldies at Mammalia

It was a wicked game all right, in the good sense! I had the time of my life, and will definitely return to this exceptional “not jam,” and perhaps I will even learn something, and figure out a way to do the not-jam thing, and not just songs…. Above all, I realize once again that it happened because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, and the reward was high.
Old rockin stuff at Mammalia

The concept of Mammalia, the whole thing is really, very cool. Definitely, I highly recommend Mammalia to spectators or musicians.
Second at Mammalia

performer at Some Girls open mic

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