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From Crap to Crazy to Super Cool – Two Paris Open Mics

June 4, 2012

I arrived at the El Tonel bar near the Louvre where I have had one or two wonderful evenings in the new open mic there, and I had no expectations. I knew it was the first Sunday of the month, though, so I’d have the Lizard Lounge to attend down the street afterwards near the Hotel de Ville, if needs be. Needs beed….

The Tonel ended up being completely uninspiring – except for Scott Bywater’s superb song, and friendliness – and I played three or four songs and found a nearly completely unresponsive audience. One of the problems was there were simply not enough people there to really find a way into things. And those that were there were with other musicians and so there was more talking than listening. Then again, I may be entirely unfair, and I may have had higher expectations than what were delivered, but that all was really just fine.

Whatever may be the truth of the situation, I got out of there as fast as I could and walked down to the Lizard Lounge. There I found myself in the exact opposite situation to the El Tonel. It was a blood madhouse! There was a crazy mad rhythmic group putting on some kind of trancelike performance, and the brick cellar room was so full of riotous people that it was difficult to move or breathe! Fortunately, I found some friends there too, and that forced me into staying what otherwise felt too crazy and too much of a contrast for me.

Then, slowly, or maybe quickly, the mood changed, the crowd thinned a tiny bit, the music varied – with some wonderful performers -, and the whole thing began being a classic and wonderful evening at this amazing once-per-month open mic that has managed to survive extremely well for a few years despite being only once a month. Then I went up to play at the end, and I felt by then really good, the crowd was even thinner, but a lot of people who had been up in the street smoking cigarettes returned, and in short, my first song – my “Except Her Heart” – went extremely well, with clapping and a clearly engaged audience, and then when my second song, “Year of the Cat” went less well, I though, “O.K., I’m going to have to pull out the heavy artillery now.”

So I told them that despite my desire not to always sing the same songs, I would do one that I did every month there. That actually drew applause and cheers, even though I don’t know if they knew which it was! So I dived into “What’s Up!” I was feeling so akin the lyrics and primal scream aspect of that song that I just belted it out, and they clapped along and sang along in unison, in a brilliantly wonderful communication between performer and audience – at least from my side. Wish I had written that song!

So I decided I had better quit while ahead, and I have a flight tomorrow to catch for Montreal. So I left after my slot, and did not hang around for the jam with several musicians that has become a mainstay event at this warm, crazy and fun open mic.

Setting the Tone at El Tonel

April 30, 2012

I dragged myself out of my fatigue and stupor of three weeks away from France to attend the open mic at El Tonel, a tapas bar à la Spain, in the middle of the classy neighborhood of Paris near the Louvre. And from the moment I stepped into the place, I was grabbed and loved every minute of the open mic.

There are places where I go in which the real atmosphere cannot be captured on video, and last night at the El Tonel open mic, it was a little like that. I just got a few recordings down on video, but the soirée went way beyond those.

I got to play three times, managing to play a few songs from my repertoire that I don’t do that much…. and had some neat people join in with me on singing and even harmonica, like the moment with Scott Bywater playing his great harmonica on my “Just Like a Woman.”

All in all, a great way to break myself into a week of open mics in Paris before I fly off to … Spain and the tapas bars and open mics and jams of Barcelona.

Dividing Myself Up for the Paris Open Mics

April 2, 2012

As I mentioned yesterday before I went out for the evening, there was a larger than usual choice of open mics and jams to attend in Paris last night. I was not sure where I would end up entirely, but I settled for the novelty of a new one and the necessity of a once-a-month one.

The new one was at the El Tonel tapas bar near the Louvre, on the rue des Pyramides. This was a tiny little place so small that I wondered if there was even a toilet… I found there was, and made my grand entrance by falling down the stairs to the cellar as there was a loose step – twisted my ankle but thanked incredible luck that nothing really bad happened, no pain remains – and then I sat at the bar and had a great half an evening.

This open mic runs only every other week, it is new as I said, and it is run by the genial Vincent Lafleur, whom I met at the Cavern last Wednesday. It was a classic open mic, but there were enough musicians of different kinds that they joined in with their various instruments to make it a kind of jam in addition to an open mic. I had a woman sax player, and there was the cool Lyllou the woman violin player. There is also a slight karaoke aspect to it since there is a songbook and anyone wanting to join in singing a song to the music of the other musicians, may do so.

I was having a great time and I debated whether I should stay the whole evening. But I knew that the Lizard Lounge was only three metro stops away on the same line, near the Hotel de Ville, and I knew it ran only once a month – first Sunday – and I also knew that I had a great time there last time I went, two or three months ago. So I could not resist the temptation.

And I was glad I did not. The atmosphere was as usual superb, but this time every slot was filled by full bands. And as I arrived late and was the last slot scheduled, it meant having to follow full bands with my voice and guitar alone. In the end, it worked out fine as I did songs that I knew the people could sing along to….

We then all joined up afterwards and did a jam of two or three songs, with several of the musicians from the evening joining in, including me. All in all, I was delighted I did not miss either of these. Wish I could have gone to ALLLLLL of the open mics last night, but I would have had to divide myself into several pieces… which come to think of it, is almost what happened falling down the stairs at the El Tonel.

Sunday Afternoon Foreplay for Open Mics in Paris

April 1, 2012

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….

Today is the once per month open mic at the Lizard Lounge, where they do the open mic only the first Sunday of the month.

There is also a new open mic at El Tonel, a tapas bar at 5 rue des Pyramides, metro tuileries.

The Pop In is every Sunday, of course.

For some time Belushi’s has advertised a Sunday open mic but every time I call they say it is not happening, as there is something more important like soccer….

And there is a big open mic, jam session in Bagnolet, at La Clinique des Arts Bis, 60 avenue Gambetta, 93170 Bagnolet

And never forget the blues jam session at the Caveau des Oubliettes tonight too….

I am not sure about this one, but it seems there is an open mic until 7 PM at the Bar des Familles on the rue de Lappe….

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…

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