On the other hand, maybe it had something to do with tourism – there was the wonderful Lorin Hart from the U.S. (she who attended the Woodstock festival in 1969!) and there were some other fresh new faces too – and maybe it had something to do with the crossing of the vacation period from July to August making it so that a number of other people previously on holiday were back in Paris.
Lorin Hart at the Baroc in Paris.
Whatever it was, it was a nice full night at the Baroc, and I was delighted to be back from Budapest and playing on a “home” stage again. And looking forward to a nice long vacation myself in Paris over the next three weeks!
Insu and Réjean Rockin the Baroc.
Another jam at the Baroc.
First one at the Baroc.
Final one at the Baroc.
PARIS – O.K., so where was I in my backwards step through time? Yes, yes, on Saturday, I attended a DJ night and open mic run momentarily by the inimitable Calvin Dionnet at a very cool microscopic bar of the kind I love, on the rue Pigalle.
This was the very new hole-in-the-wall bar called 46 Pigalle, located just down the street from the famous Place of the same name. Calvin, whom I have known for years – first meeting at Earle’s open mic at the Truskel in Paris – had a DJ night going at this very cool bar, and said that the first hour would be devoted to an open mic. Acoustic. No amp. Truth is, I don’t like playing without an amp most of the time. But at the 46 there was no problem at all, and I had no risk of being 86d.
In fact, it was a snug, fun, neat time playing for a crowd of expatriates passing through, and in a very intimate setting. The bar is really worth checking out, so keep an eye on the link I posted above, and especially if there happens to be another little impromptu open mic….
From there I went on to a crazy raucous evening at the Baroc – where I have frequently written about the Tuesday night open mic – where the musician who calls himself “SheMe” was celebrating one of his many birthdays…. It was crazy mad, with lots of music throughout the evening, and a kind of vibe that only the Baroc can drum up – something phantasmagoric in the barfly style.
As it turns out, right in the middle of trying to back pace myself in time and talk about my life over the last couple of “missing” weeks on this blog, I have decided to throw a spanner into the works and write about two events tomorrow that I am greatly looking forward to attending. One of them I will not attend, since I will attend the other – but since the first is just the first of many, I’ll attend in future….
So the first has to do with a meeting of a group of optimists on the Ile St. Louis in the center of Paris. I’ll be writing more about the location of this meeting in future, as it is a new cultural, event, optimist center on this great island in the middle of Paris, and I’m looking forward to returning. The point is, if you’re around tomorrow and want to check it out, I’m sure you will leave feeling more optimistic about life: It is a gathering of a group put together by Marie Deschamps, a leader among optimists. And it promises much more than just talk, if you can read French and see the invitation.But I myself will be attending – and helping to put on – the brilliant show written, produced and performed by Raphaëlle Pessoa, whom I have no problem saying at once is one of the most brilliant young talents I know of in France at the moment. Raphaëlle’s show, “Stella dans tous ses eclats,” is a brilliantly written one-woman-show comprising dialogue, song and fun. She sings in English, French and Spanish, songs of her own composing as well as classic cabaret pieces like “Mein Herr,” or French popular songs by Dalida and others. In general, I’m no big fan of cabaret, but this is brilliant. It’s taking place at the So Gymnase Comedy Club, but it is not comedy, more every emotion possible….
So Sunday night in Singapore after my day at the racetrack covering the Formula One race, I had to make a decision about what I’d do that night as I waited for my flight back to Paris early the next morning: I had at least two main choices, one being to attend an open mic that I had never attended before, at a pub called Molly Molone’s, and the other being to attend a post-race party where a friend was performing.
It would sound like a no-brainer for me – i.e., the open mic, since my work life is involved in attending all the F1 races anyway – but as it turned out, I was worried the open mic might not last that long after the night race, and more than that, I had actually been invited to the post-race party by a guy named Luke Buirski, who is a friend, a fabulous lead guitar player, and who I had met a few years ago at the Actors’ jamming bar open mic in Singapore. So because I had missed Luke last year, and because he was playing at this party, I thought there was no way I could miss it, and so my choice was easy: The Ritz Carlton ballroom, a short walking distance from the racetrack.
So I get there, and guess what? I find myself surrounded by people I know from the media, from F1, former Formula One drivers, current racers and, well, a large number of people from the F1 world I inhabit. It was, however, a very high-class nightclub thing that apparently costs a fortune to get into – unless you’re invited – and so here I was amongst the people I work with all the time, but…I had been invited to the party by one of the performers of the night!
So it was that I felt completely at home, but much more indebted to the man with the guitar than to the people I usually work with. For this was a really, really high-class nightclub thing with performances going on all the time, DJs, local stars, and Luke…. catch a bit of his performance on the videos I put up here….
So once back in Paris on Monday night, I got just enough sleep to manage to get the energy to go out on Tuesday night and take part in the Café Oz open mic, which I have attended something like four times in the last five weeks. And as has been my wont in these recent weeks on several occasions, I decided that in addition to the Oz, I would move on from there to another open mic.
This time, however, it was not that of the Pigalle Country Club, but that of Le Baroc, which is one of the mainstays of the the Paris open mic scene. While it started a little slowly, it turned into a pretty epic evening, with some final jamming and some really cool stuff between a guitarist – Guillaume – and a fabulous woman pianist at the end of the evening.
Amazing stuff! So have I landed yet? Back from Singapore? Well, tomorrow I have a gig in the streets of Paris at the Menilmontant metro station at 13:30. So I’ll tell you after that!
Tuesday I took advantage of a slightly slower night than usual at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic – which I have been raving about for a year or so as the best in Paris – to go to the open mic of Le Baroc, near the Belleville metro. Last night, I skipped the Highlander, where I go all the time, in order to check out the new open mic at a bar on Boulevard de Clichy. I regretted nothing, and had a great and slightly different time – at all of the places.
At the Ptit Bonheur la Chance I was particularly happy to be able to record Dr. Chouette. This is a young Frenchman who I first met at my last gig, at the Hideout, as he turned up to listen with his guitar and said he was a reader of this blog. We had a nice talk, and then next thing I knew, he was playing at the Tennessee Bar open mic on a night when I did not bring my camera and he was very cool, different, and at times hilarious. Check out his song about being “So French….”
The fun thing about Le Baroc was that the atmosphere there always leans toward jamming, but it is also completely a classic open mic. I went up and played my songs, and eventually three other musicians joined in, one on bongos, one on piano – he played a fabulous bit during “Borderline” – and Réjean, the MC of the evening, on his electric percussion table. We blew the place apart. But then after the amplified open mic ended, people continued playing and jamming acoustically, and that was some of the best stuff of the night. A very, very nice and laid back atmosphere. And it makes for a difficult choice between it and the Ptit Bonheur la Chance on the same night – even if they are completely different kinds of places and vibes.
Last night I went to an open mic that has only existed for the last couple of months. Taking place every second Wednesday at the “French Flair” pub on Boulevard de Clichy, it was a completely different experience again. Run by the very kind and lively half-French, half-American Alex, it started out with long lists of musicians, but like all other places in the last couple of festive weeks, it hit a slow spot. That was fine by me, as it meant I could play for nearly an hour. I also lent my guitar to a guy from Italy who happened to be there and decided to do a song, and I played rhythm guitar for Annhnna so that she could sing her reggae-rhythm song.
The bar had a nice, open feel to it, an English pub kind of place, with pool tables in a back room. Worth checking out the open mic.
I started playing music in public again two years ago this month after decades away because of two main reasons: One is simply the pleasure and catharsis I feel in performing, in singing and playing, and in communicating with an audience through that. The other is in the compliments and applause I receive from an audience, when I have done a good job. Both took me by surprise two years ago when I started playing again, and both failed me last night!
Nothing too serious here, but I really let myself down last night at Les Disquaires by not feeling deeply enough into my own music – for several reasons – and just simply not being prepared. But that is ultimately the beauty of live musical performance. When you are not a performer you don’t often realize how much the same performer’s quality of performing can go up or down depending on the day. In other words, there are some good days and some bad days. That IS the reality and beauty of live.
Yesterday I had been looking forward to playing in Thanksgiving concert night at the Disquaires that was organized by my friend Baptiste, of Texas in Paris. It was planned well in advance, and I had already played at two or three of his evenings in the past couple of years at the Disquaires and it had gone very well each time. But for many reasons last night I ended up feeling like absolute crap and did what I thought was a lousy job. One of the main reasons – and this is no real excuse – is that I suddenly found myself having to play immediately after David Broad, and just after I videoed his wonderful performance that got the whole house going quite mad. I had not realized I was going to play after him, and I was not ready. In fact, I had not even selected my songs.
I will say nothing more about that, just check out the David Broad videos below that I did of him last night, and you will see how I could feel like my back was against the wall. I played my song Borderline, and I played Mad Word. In fact, with Broad, it was a happy world, with me it was a sad world, and then I decided to get out of the Disquaires as quickly as possible to go to another venue where I had been invited to play, and it truly became a mad world….
The other venue was Le Baroc, in Belleville. My friend Les DeShane was playing there doing a full gig and he invited me to show up to play two or three songs. I was so pissed off with myself about the Disquaires that I thought the best remedy would be to play again immediately. But when I got to the Baroc, I learned from Les that he had been double booked. He had invited a bunch of friends, other musicians, brought his equipment and he found as he arrived that another band was setting up to play for the night.
He managed to get the management to realize that it had made an error, and so he managed to get up there and play his gig while the other band sat in the back waiting all night for its turn. The result, however, was that the special invited guests – like me – did not get a chance to play. And unfortunately, I arrived so late that I even missed Les’s set. My evening was saved, however, by an intriguing young blond woman who was there intently watching all the musicians play and who told me in French that I was “tres beau,” and that I reminded her of someone who should be in the FBI, that I looked like an FBI agent…. On the other hand, she made it clear that she would be on the other side of the fence, the one the agents would be hunting, the bad girl. Oops, did I not say it was a mad world?
A P.S. update: I just heard back after posting this that after my performance at the Disquaires there were a number of people who said, “Who is that guy?” And they had, it turned out, enjoyed my performance. So that is also another phenomenon about performance that is very curious: The performer’s own perception of what he does and how he comes across is NOT always the most accurate, and sometimes when you think you totally blew it, you didn’t. Suffice it to say that I felt I could have done a lot better!