PARIS – Monday night has always been a great night for open mic hopping in Paris. But traditionally I have done the rounds of the Galway, the Tennessee Bar and the Coolin. Now, with the Coolin gone, and the Tennessee bar open mic in never-never-land, if it even exists anymore, the new roadmap enters around the Galway and the Bombardier, which has moved to Mondays from Thursdays. And also the Café Oz Denfert, which has moved to Monday from Sunday.
Last night I wanted to see if I could do all three of them, but the Denfert was too far out from the previous two, given my late arrival. But what I found, much to my delight and surprise, was that as far as the two I attended – within about 15 minutes walk of each other, the one being off the Place St. Michel and the other off the Place du Panthéon – there are two strong, and completely different open mics still available on Mondays in the Latin Quarter.
When I say strong, I mean that not only is the presentation top-notch, but the talent was great too. There was definitely enough of it to go around. I’m so sorry to have missed the Café Oz at Denfert to see how much talent was there last night too! (And knowing that the presentation by James Iansiti, formerly of the now-dead Tennessee Bar open mic, is great.)
I met old friends like Shelita, and new friends like Steve Kessler, and heard regulars like Ollie, who runs the open mic on Sundays of the Pop In and used to do the great Ptit Bonheur la Chance. There were people I’d never heard before, including a Scotsman singing Dylan, and some guy in his 40s or so daring to sing an Abba song, “Dancing Queen,” which I have never – fortunately – seen performed in an open mic before. I should have recorded it, but didn’t!
There are big differences between the two venues I did perform at, however. Despite moving to Monday nights, the Bombardier crowd was still one that goes more for the social visit, the sports, the drinking, than the music. But it is a great place for that, and to have music in the background via the open mic. So a musician can use it to practice playing live, but not really trying to worry about grabbing the audience’s participation. The talk will go on!
The Galway is by comparison more of a place where the musicians can listen to the musicians, and those who don’t want music, an retire to the back of the bar or the first floor and do as much talking as they want. The Galway has a strange sort of mix between the intimate and the public about it. And Romain’s presentation is as warm and smooth as ever. And the window out to the Quai des Grands Augustins remains one of the great things to perform in front of in Paris.
Both remain great places to try on a Monday night – as well as the Café Oz Denfert….
PARIS – For once I don’t feel any sense of guilt about writing about several days’ worth of open mics in Paris on a single day, having saved them up or been too lazy about writing after each one. In fact, as everyone in the world – or a lot of the peopleulation – knows, there have been unprecedented horrendous events happening in Paris since last Wednesday.
I put up a blog post on Thursday talking about how life goes on. But actually, I had no idea about how the terrorism would also go on, and how then the whole world – seemingly – would meet in the streets of Paris to march for peace. During that period, Thursday night, Friday night, Sunday night, I nevertheless went to gigs, open mics and other musical meetings, in what amounted to a roller coaster of a ride through the emotions, both musical and otherwise.
We were still shell-shocked when on Thursday night we went to eat in the Barbes area of Paris, the highly Muslim-populated part of town, in a great cheap local restaurant serving mostly maghreb-type food. And then I ended up being even more shell-shocked when at the open mic of the Barbara Center, Fleury Goutte d-Or cultural center right next to the restaurant I learned that a whole lot of musicians and other people had elected to not go out, for fear of the terrorism.
So it was that we passed a quiet, but wonderful time at this bi-monthly open mic called, FGOpen Stage, which exists not only to show off the talent of the musicians who are being aided and helped to grow through the Barbara center FGO itself, but also open to any musicians who wish to show up and play. The sound system is fabulous, the warm of the room in the lobby of this Paris-city financed cultural center, is a great professional-feeling place to get up on stage, which I did at the last minute after actually showing up to watch a friend’s featured act.
Behind the stage was a backdrop of “Je Suis Charlie” signs written in various languages. This was the night when the idiots who ran amok with machine guns were still running amok. The feeling was that it was probably all finished, and that either the idiots would escape the country, or they would be ambushed or they would get captured and put in prison for two or three years before being released for reasons no one could imagine.
The evening ended with a burlesque class putting on a quick burlesque show – which was fun and took the mind off the moment for the first time that day!
And Then off to the Concert at Jam at the Petit Balcon
Then on Friday, all hell broke loose. The idiots were spotted at a factory near the Roissy airport and then a third idiot, who had killed a cop the previous day, suddenly took a bunch of hostages at a Jewish food market and threatened to kill everyone if his friends at the factory were killed. This led to general chaos in Paris, and in truth, around the world the repercussions were being felt.
But the idiots decided on a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid kind of end to their charge, by running out firing into the bullets of the law, at the factory. And simultaneously, the idiot at the food store ran into the oncoming bullets of the special forces at the door of the food store. But not before he had taken four more victims. It is worth noting just how idiotic these people were and how uncoordinated, as the idiots at the factory had told the factory owner to leave that morning as “we do not kill civilians.” But then the idiot at the food store actually killed four civilians – because they he obviously considered that as Jews, they were NOT civilians. Whatever.
So that set the scene for Friday night: Do you stay inside and absorb the shock of this horrendous nightmare, or do you go to a friend’s gig? My feeling was that it was precisely the moment when it was time for everyone to go out into the streets of Paris and live as usual, and NOT let the so-called “terrorists” win their battle to terrorize the city.
So it was that I went to the Petit Balcon to watch Raphaëlle Pessoa’s show, during which she exchanged musical moments also with Insu, and she sang along to the humming sax of Stephen Saxo. The number of potential spectators had been greatly decimated by last-minute decisions not to attend thanks to the terrorism, but all in all it was a great antidote to the terror. And it all turned into a fabulous jam at the end of the evening, within which I decided to play some songs both solo and with Stephen Saxo and Insu. A memorable evening in a fabulous musical bar.
The March Through Paris, and the Café Oz at Denfert
So after a day on Saturday pulling thoughts, spirits and perspective together about the massacre that had just taken place over the previous days, and about how quickly civilization can break down into barbary, Sunday was the day of the great march through the streets of Paris by people who all came together from around the world – including 40 leaders from 40 countries – to demonstrate their solidarity with France in this time of tragedy.
I took that opportunity to stay at home and watch it all on television and achieve a few creative things in my life that I never seem to have time for – like doing my laundry – and basically had a great birds’ eye view of the whole thing throughout the day thanks to BFM television. At the end of the day, it was off to the Café Oz open mic at the Denfert RER station.
Here there were fewer musicians than usual as well, and fewer people in the audience, but there were just enough for everyone to do long sets and feel really relaxed, and feel like taking a step towards normal life – and I realized while singing one of my cover songs, just how appropriate it was for the events since Wednesday: “I Won’t Back Down,” by Tom Petty. It could have been an anthem for Paris as strong as “I am Charlie.”
Hoping that’s the end of that chapter of human history, I sign off….