PARIS – Just a very short post to celebrate that in this time Paris when night music joint after night music joint is closing down as the Parisian population becomes more and more bourgeois and gentrified and refuses to accept the sound of music at nighttime, I can celebrate with a few words to say that a longtime mainstay of the Paris live music scene has returned after months of being closed down. The Caveau des Oubliettes on the Rue Galande in the 5th Arrondissement, near Shakespeare and Company and Notre Dame, has re-opened after its change in ownership and renovation. And it looks the same as it ever did.
Well, of course, the little problem of paying 12 euros for a 50 cl of IPA beer will steer away many a poor musician. Or at least no doubt limit their spending to say, one beer, rather than probably three beers at 5 euros each (and therefore earning more money for the bar).
In any case, the jam I attended on Sunday night was one of the many it has during each week, and this one was the blues jam, now led by Youva Sid, who I met a few years ago at his own bar venue in Menilmontant.
The great news is that this place looks as if it has basically not changed at all. It has just cleaned everything up to make it look more stylish – but the jam principle is the same. Bring your instruments, make your presence known, get up on stage and play!
Unfortunately, one of the biggest open mics and jam sessions in Paris has now ceased: Caveau des Oubliettes. How such and institution could disappear is beyond imagining. I have also updated information in Brislee’s open mic at the Café Oz at place Blanche, as the bar has changed its name to La Fabrique – and I’ve updated the times Brislee runs the evening, since I realized it was slightly out of date – and I have also now shifted over, yet again, the Tennessee Bar open mic from the Thursday back to the Tuesday – and apparently we can forget its traditional date of Monday! I have also updated the shifting scene at the Oasis 244 bar, with its three open musical nights per week. There are other open mics in Paris, of course, that I have not even put on the list, as I only put those I attend, and there are several new ones I have not attended….
PARIS – As I start to prepare for my trip to Belgium later in the week, I thought I would just update my Thumbnail Guide to Paris Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music, with a couple of new listings – and the removal of the Lizard Lounge listing, as that one seems finally to have died a lizard’s death. I have added the Escargot Underground listing – under Thursdays – and the Caveau des Oubliettes, which I have long known about and played at a couple of times, but for reasons beyond my understanding, I have not until now got around to putting on the list!!! Despite it being one of the mainstay open jam sessions of the city….
I had so many concerts, open mics, openings, things to do last night in Paris that I decided to play it all by ear – as I do my music – and see where it would lead and what I could do. It turned out a perfect evening, more or less, with a mixture of attending the opening and playing in a new open mic, taking part in a relatively new one, seeing a friend in concert and playing a song in the metro at the request of some adventurous people attracted by my guitar case….
I started it all off at the basement room open mic called Escargot Underground, which has the strange location of a travel agency on the ground floor and a concert room in the basement amongst the brick walls of the arched ceiling. I was invited by one of the organizers of the open mic at the Blanchisserie in Boulogne, to attend this new open mic, and I warned him that I might have to run out to attend the concert of a friend. “No problem,” was the basic response. But I was pleased to see that he also decided to let me go up and play before my turn in line. It was amazing playing in this little room with my Gibson J-200, as I elected not to use a mic or amplification for the guitar, and there was a small and attentive audience. Beautiful environment and feeling in this place, and I think it will be an interesting open mic to follow in future.
From there – by the way it is located at 7 rue de Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle, 75002 Paris – I went on to the International venue where my friend Ben Ellis was performing with his band after a long break from music. Ben I first met at the Lizard Lounge four years ago in what was for me the early days of Earle Holmes’s open mic. But for Ben and many of the other young Paris rockers, it was the end of an era, almost, as they had all started out at the Shebeen in 2004/2005. Ben had this band called Brooklyn, which had some amazing songs, an album, and appeared on national television more than once in France. Then Ben disappeared off to live for a short period in…Brooklyn, and Brooklyn fell apart. And Ben returned with some folk-inspired music that did not, basically, make the best use of his talents as a singer songwriter rock & roller.
Now, two years later, I think, Ben has returned with a band that DOES make use of his full abilities and talents, and has a fabulous mixture of both melody and cool rhythms. So many bands hook into either melody or rhythm. But check out the videos and you will see Ben and band excelling at both. Also, by the way, have some patience for my videos, as there were so many people at the International that it was hard to move around and get a good angle. I DID get some great angles, though, even moving around from place to place in the same video… so watch ’em from beginning to end….
From there I took the metro over to the Mazet bar which, readers of this blog will know, has an open mic on Thursdays. But now, as of a few weeks, it has been taken over by Yaco, the MC and organizer of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic, so it is a different vibe from what it was. I really wanted to check it out, and told Yaco that I might be late. He said come anyway. On the way to the Mazet from the International, these four or five people in the metro saw me with my guitar and asked me to play. So I played while we waited for a train, doing “What’s Up!” on the metro platform and really getting outside myself. I loved it -especially with my Gibson J-200!!! It turned out this group of people was heading over to the Caveau des Oubliettes for the jam session, and I persuaded them to go with me to the Mazet.
So we got to the Mazet just in time for me to play five or so songs, and then one of the group I came with, Damien, took my J-200 and played a couple of songs too – in Spanish.
Well, holy shit! What kind of night was that???? In fact it was so good that we all went off to the Caveau des Oubliettes afterwards and found it to be crap, so called it a night!
Have spent the last two nights holed up in my apartment taking care of business and other bits and pieces and trying to finish off the writing of a new song. But I also knew that if I played nowhere on Friday and Saturday, I was spoiled for opportunities on Sunday. Somehow all the stars have aligned this weekend and there is an embarrassment of choices in open mics tonight. So I thought I’d put that slightly sneaky headline just as a foretaste to tonight’s full slate of open mics. It will be interesting to see where I end up….
Unfortunately, I don’t know if the bar “Be There” still holds its Sunday open mic, and all searching on the internet yields nothing. Too busy to make a phone call today … so wherever I may end up, it won’t … be there…
As I mentioned yesterday I was pressed for time. In fact, I wrote my stories for the upcoming German Grand Prix all day long, finished after 9 PM and debated if I should leave the house to go play music. My philosophy of life for the last three years has been, if you can do it and it hurts no one, do it. The problem was that the Highlander open mic was certain to be too full to accommodate me at that late notice.
I arrived after 10 PM at the Highlander, met a friend I had not seen for months, and felt the whole night was already worth it thanks to that. She then disappeared to chat with someone else and I listened to the music and said, “I will not get up until 1 AM and I have to drive to Germany tomorrow.” The list was maybe 17 people long.
So I left the Highlander and decided to head over to the Caveau des Oubliettes. This is a Paris fixture in the jamming scene, with a different kind of jam or concert every night of the week. It is on the rue Galande, near Notre Dame and the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Every time I have gone there in the past I have been either too intimidated to play or I have felt that the music was not my kind: the blues night is pure electric blues, the rock ‘n roll night is pure electric blues… last night I saw it was a “soul” night.
I do not sing soul, but I do have that song I do so often by Van Morrison, that has been sung by soul singers, and which I always call “Irish Soul.” So hey, why not try? I asked a couple of people how it all worked, and the second guy I spoke to was organizing the evening. He put me up immediately, with a bass player, keyboard player and drummer. The room was crammed with people, the room was bopping, jiving, just a great vibe.
And I couldn’t believe what I was doing finally. We got through the song with only a problem or two when I leapt into the bridge and that changes the chord structure, and momentarily on the chorus when it changes. Otherwise, it went pretty well. The key to this kind of jam, though, the difference between it and say the open mic or the live-band-karaoke, is that All the musicians are members of the public going up to play their moment of fame for the night. So I had a lot riding on my shoulders and had to play several bars of the song without singing to allow for long solos from the bass player and then the keyboard player. Hard to judge and play it right to be fair to the other musicians.
But I loved it. And the organizer apparently thought I did well enough to ask me to do another. I told him I only had the one song that could be considered soul – and I completely forgot my own song “Memories” could fit the bill – but he said that was all right. So I chose “What’s Up!” and did it and the audience sang along and the solos were longer and it all just fell into place and we had a fabulous time. Well, except I STILL have not got the count down on that one perfectly so I wandered off a bit at a couple of points leaving the other musicians at sea – but it went well and they thanked me.
I thanked the organizer and I felt like pushing myself out the door was the best thing I could have done. Got the Caveau des Oubliettes done finally after two years worrying about it! Afterwards, though, when I saw the level of the other singers and performers, I was grateful that I got on immediately. Had I seen the others play, I might once again have sucked out, they were so good.