PARIS – Everything you ever wanted to know about my life and music but were afraid to ask – or maybe didn’t really want to know! – is now in a 50-minute video just released on Escargot Underground Radio’s site via YouTube and Escargot’s Facebook page. This was a riot to do, and makes up part of a series of such video interviews that these people are doing – all in French, so watch out! – of musicians that are part of their Escargot Underground open mic world in Paris in the last half decade or so….
If you enjoyed the interview, they will be posting more of them in the coming weeks, so check them out. Or go to the Escargot Web Radio pageand give a listen to the people they will be interviewing….
PARIS – It was only my second time at the new Escargot Underground, which now takes place “overground,” in its new venue above a restaurant in Paris. The first time I went, a month or so ago, to the first evening at the new locale, I was worried that the complete change in feel of the venue might affect the success of what became one of the coolest open mics in the city. But by the end of the night my faith was restored… or still on hold?
It started pretty slowly at the Escargot on Thursday, but then as the evening moved on, it became more and more a feeling of a great open mic, with cool music – topped off by the Russian guys who run the place, Igor and his band – along even with the fun of having the evening become part of a 20-minute radio documentary being made by an audiovisual school in Paris.
That is a documentary about open mics, but focusing on Trélys Dupré, the wandering Canadian singer and ukulele player, who now holds her own open mic at the Oasis 244. I got to be interviewed for this too, and that was fun – since I’d had enough to drink….
Among the interesting performers, also, was a doctor from Northern Ireland, who lives in Northern England, and also the crazy ukulele player who specializes in heavy metal on his uke….
PARIS – The Escargot Underground was one of the coolest, most underground, open mics in Paris over the last couple of years. So I was pretty surprised and upset when I found out last week that it had suddenly decided to change location: After all, although the people who run the open mic are superb, the sound system is great, and the people who take part also tend to be really cool, the actual underground location of the open mic in the basement of a Russian travel agency was the final aspect that made it such a great place to go. So I wondered if any new location could be found to make sure all elements remain.
The new location is above a restaurant, and called Villa Montmartre, located at 4 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, near the metro Grands Boulevards. There is a huge difference between the ground floor restaurant and the first floor area – with bar – where the open mic now takes place. For the first night, all of the ingredients of the former Escargot Underground were there, and you can now add also a fabulous stage on which to perform. And it felt like the sound system was even better – but maybe that’s just an illusion to do with the stage.
The place was jammed full of musicians and some spectators, and I think even some got attracted from the restaurant to the open mic above. I liked the view out the rear coloured, multi-paned window into a back alley; and I also like the view through the front windows onto the boulevard. But this upper room is sooooo big compared to the previous Escargot Underground in its cubby hole vaulted cave cellar that I fear for the nights when there are only three or four or five people turning up.
So my feeling to start with is that if every Thursday this open mic hosts as many people as it did last night, it could be really cool, and have a different – less underground – feeling than at the previous venue. But if the number of participants and spectators are down, then I fear the place is going to be far to big to succeed. That, of course, is up to you!
Rediscovering La Ronge!
And another of my own personal highlights in the last week, which I forgot to mention on my previous blog item from last week about the Friday night at the Oasis 244 was a rediscovery of a young band that I wrote about on this blog in January 2011. The band is called La Ronge, and I had met them at the now-defunct Be There open mic on the Ile St. Louis. Having not seen or heard of them since then, suddenly, they showed up at the Oasis. They had played for a while and then broken up, and now La Ronge are back together in a new formation, and testing out their stuff at several open mics at the moment. They were at the Escargot last night, and it sounds promising…. Check out the videos.
PARIS – I just love the Russian feel to the Escargot Underground open mic that takes place in Paris on Thursday evenings in the basement of a Russian travel agency called the Escargot Touristic Center. But even more than the Russian feel – with some Russian musicians and Russian organizer – is the feeling of a real, true, bona fide “underground” kind of open mic.
There were fewer people last night than the last time I was there a few weeks ago, but the atmosphere was just as good, and in fact, the place is so small that you don’t really necessarily want THAT many people.
What makes it “underground”? The music, the kind of musicians, the open hearted, open-armed greeting of all musicians and all styles, and the cave underground room where it takes place. But just mostly the attitude that anything goes, that there are no real judgments at all of a musician good or bad, and that everyone is, in fact, welcome.
I’ll let the video’s do the talking for last night’s show. One of my favorites was the Russian band, which sounded a lot like some of the Russian pop music I heard while I was in Sochi in the fall….
PARIS – I discovered the Escargot Underground open mic in Paris around two years ago, just after it opened – or pretty much at the beginning. It started really slow, just like an escargot, but after two years now, it has swung into high-speed, high-motion, high-emotion territory. I attended last night for the first time in maybe a year, and it was nothing like my memory….
My memory was that this was a good, cool, intimate open mic with the strange location of a cave (basement) of a Russian travel agency! It is still in the basement of the travel agency, but they have now decided to reshape the playing area, but putting it in the smaller part of the room, while sitting chairs and cushions in the larger part of the room for the spectators. They also have a better sound system – quite good sound, in fact.
And they have a little temporary bar for beers – as long as they last – and wine. (At escargot prices – i.e., weak ruble prices, i.e., not expensive.) With the new setup there is an even more intimate feel to the place, but a fabulous, true underground atmosphere. And it was bursting full of musicians and spectators.
In short, the Escargot Underground open mic – judging by last night’s edition – is one of the best in Paris at the moment. But if I get a lot of readers of this post, then it could end up killing the thing, because it feels as if it is running at its ultimate crowd capacity at the moment, and could not bear too much more success!! I’ll be back, though…
PARIS – Paris in August is great in the day and crap at night. Everything closes down, the musical venues decide that the business the tourists and vacationers might give them is not worth losing their own vacations for, and generally, it’s a place to avoid. Last night, with these negative thoughts in my mind, I set out for the open mic at the Tennessee bar, deciding that in order to get there early for once I would sacrifice my normal dinner mode and grab a falafel near the Place St. Michel and eat it on the Rue St. André des Arts before arriving at the Tennessee. Once I got there, I found the bar open, but the open mic cancelled – as it has been for weeks, apparently. The bartender could not tell me when it would start a again – a week or two, or maybe three.
With this in mind, I thought my night was a catastrophe and I should return home and continue working on my books and film. I’ve been on a good run with them, and nightlife and adventure and music were obviously dead in Paris. But then I decided I had better burn off the falafel and I decided to walk to the Escargot Underground open mic that I attended last week, to see how things were going this week. It’s not like I did not have a great time last week. It was just I wanted variety, and I feared there’d be practically no one there.
At the Escargot, Suddenly, Wayne Standley Sings Jimmy
By I did not drop my arms and lose my hope and I continued on my march across Paris, stopping only for a Magnum ice cream from a supermarket near the Rex cinema. Once I got to the Escargot, I found some old friends, including Trelys, and Wayne Standley, who was one of the mainstay musician – along with me – at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance bar, now since ended…. It was great to see them both again, and great to sing my songs in this wonderful open mic, and great to listen to more Russian music and other things…. And then… BANG! Suddenly, without announcing the name of his next song, Wayne lays into “Jimmy,” by the band Moriarty. Readers of this blog may have seen in the past that I have referred to Wayne as the father of Rosemary Standley, the singer in that same band. But this was the first time I had ever seen Wayne sing the band’s biggest hit.
It turned out that it was, indeed, actually, the first time Wayne had ever sung the song in public. So I was fast on him with my Zoom Q3 HD, not wanting to miss my opportunity to slap that up here on the blog in a world first. It was a beautiful rendition, and I only regret that I did not start going for the closeups until much later in the song, so the first part is a little distant, but it gets better. Wayne’s singing of it is beautifully emotional, and when you know the backstory, wow!
So after the Escargot Wayne and I decided to walk over to the metro together and then Wayne suggested we go somewhere for a drink. We were within walking distance of a bar called the Zelda – after F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife – that is owned by a friend of mine, Matthias Cadéac d’Arbaud. The Zelda opened up a couple of years ago, and it has had quite a bit of good press and is considered something of an “in” place in Paris now. It is small and comfortable and hip, and I had seen David Broad play there in the past, and thought that it would be a cool place to show Wayne, and thought it would be cool to speak to Matthias again.
I have very fond memories of jamming with Matthias at the Truskel in the days of Earle’s open mic there in 2009. Matthias was the guitarist (and also played drums, keyboards, some vocals and bass) in a very cool band called Rock&Roll, that had the cover of one of its albums done with a photograph of the band taken by Karl Lagerfeld. For a couple of years they were looking set to be the next big thing from France musically, and they had top management in the U.S., as well. And very hot, rhythmic and colorful music. Their producer had worked with New Order, Pet Shop Boys and Blur. The French rock magazine, Les Inrockuptibles selected them from 7000 bands as the top new band of 2006.
Then Matthias of Rock&Roll and Zelda Owner, Comes Out of Retirement and Plays Jimmy With Wayne
But Matthias ended up packing up his musical instruments and opened the bar and he has not played guitar for a long while, he said, although he said he sometimes goes to a nearby bar after he closes his Zelda and he plays piano for fun, late into the night. Well, I mentioned to Matthias that my friend Wayne here was the father of Rosemary of Moriarty, and Matthias just lit up and said that Jimmy was one of his favorite songs. He put it on the sound system, as it was in his iPod. That’s when Wayne pointed out that he himself actually provides backing vocals on the original recording of the song (the recording we hear on the radio, etc.). We heard him doing them, and that was news to me.
After Matthias closed the bar I suggested that Wayne show him his 1962 Guild guitar, and that’s when Mattias proposed that Wayne sing Jimmy, and I proposed that Matthias play along. So started a jam that lasted around 45 minutes, with all of us playing together or separately. The high moment was the Jimmy moment – even though it was around 2:30 and we were all pretty tired at that point – and the first take of one of Wayne’s songs, with Matthias playing a bit of lead and rhythm along with Wayne. It was full of energy, and a great song and a great moment.
All in all, I was totally astounded by the richness of the evening. And for fans of Moriarty, if there is any single one of the covers of Jimmy that you have to choose from, then Wayne’s is it! Check this stuff out, and keep in mind that these are the first and second times only that Wayne has sung this song in public. Of course, now he joins the thousands of other – mostly young women – who sing this amazing song at open mics. A quiet night in August breaking out in all directions….
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!