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Facing the Face – Finally – and Chanting the Chansonniers (again)

December 21, 2014

Face Bar

Face Bar

PARIS – I have had a week of many open mics and little gigs, even if I have not much been present on this blog for another reason (the editing of a teaser that has sucked up all of my free time). But while I will not write about all the little gigs and shows and open mics that I attended, I do want to mention two that I did on Wednesday night.

I had heard of the very occasional open mic at the Face Bar on the Rue des Archives for what feels like at least a year, but I was never free and in Paris at the same time as the open mic. So I never attended. But on Wednesday evening, I had the time and was in the right place – Paris.

The Face is a tiny little bar that reminds me in some ways of what I think the Shebeen bar must have been like in its days as the wildest open mic in Paris in the middle and second half of last decade. And as it turns out, The Face open mic is run by a regular musician at the Shebeen and features others who go back to that period – or at least one other last Wednesday.

It is a free-for-all open mic with no list, and a pretty average sound system at the back of the room blocking entry to the toilets. So as you play, you get to move aside occasionally for the movement of clients going to the toilet…which is charming in its way!

The atmosphere is really cool and laid back, and it’s particularly “rock ‘n roll,” as was the Shebeen. It is run by Paul Hazan, who now has a band called Electric Discharge Machine, and was previously in Mister Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes. I’ve always been a fan of Paul’s raspy-voiced singing and the songs that sound like mid-1960s garage rock, and are strong on melody.

Unfortunately I missed Paul’s singing on Wednesday, and as it turned out, after I played several songs and listened to a couple of other performers, I decided to run off from the Marais to the once-per-month Chansonnier open mic in Menilmontant. There it was much more quiet and laid-back, and having lost its regular MC the open mic at this small hotel – in the lobby – has a completely different feel to it, and a completely different kind of “free-for-all.”

But the important thing was having fun singing, and that I did.

So that was my pretty short and insignificant blog post of the day – and unfortunately the week… but I’m hoping to show off that teaser at some point soon….

In the Warm Lobby of the Chansonniers in Menilmontant

January 23, 2014

hotel les chansonniers Paris

hotel les chansonniers Paris

PARIS – I seem to be on a roll of attending and writing about open mics in Paris that are off the beaten path of the Latin Quarter. Last night for the first time in at least a year, I attended the open mic of the Chansonniers, which takes place just once per month, on the third Wednesday of the month. And I am so happy I did so….

The Chansonniers open mic is quite original, as it takes place in the nice, cozy, warm lobby of a small hotel, which I would not classify as seedy, since it does have this nice lobby, and this superb open mic. On the other hand, I don’t know what lies behind the lobby door… maybe I should find out….

Having said that, I first attended this open mic five years ago – already!!!!! – and made some of my first steps into the French open mic world there, and have some very warm recollections. But for various reasons, I have not been going in recent years. Part of the problem is its “once per month” angle. You tend to forget when you hit the third Wednesday….

Menilmontant is a very cool quarter of Paris in the 20th Arrondissement that has a real workers’, bona fide “lived in” neighborhood feel too it, but that is growing into an artistic center of the city. I love the area. So why am I not going back more often? The open mic is now hosted by Franck, whose stage name is She/Me, and it seems to me that this is probably the open mic in Paris that takes the title of being the most French of the open mics. I think the only acts that sang in English last night were my own, and the couple of songs that Raphaëlle did – both of which were recent ones for which I wrote the lyrics (so that makes my English omnipresent there last night) – excepting her fabulous Spanish song.

I managed to get a good video of her Spanish song, and she got a video of my Borderline. So those are both going up here. There were many more worthy acts last night, but I again have had a very slow internet connection today, so I will be unable to put up a full selection.

Oh dear, I almost forgot! There was indeed the interpretation – quite different – of Moriarity’s “Jimmy,” with Franck on guitar, and a friend of his doing the vocals. I got that up….

It’s three songs per performer at the Chansonniers, and it starts early, so if you do want to play, get there early. The sound system is not bad, but the guitar amp is behind your feet and the vocals come out of speakers in the back of the lobby – I’d have got some better vocal recordings otherwise….

Three Nights, Three Constrasting Mics

December 15, 2011

William Wordsworth came up with a wonderful line and sonnet called, “The world is too much with us.” It may be entirely irrelevant to this post, but that’s sort of how I feel right now as I try to catch up on my blog posts after three days which were a little overflowing with life from nature and otherwise…. Don’t bother trying to piece that together. I just got so swamped in the last three days doing all the things I have been trying to do on my vacation – fixing all three household computers, fixing the kitchen blind, fixing the toilet, fixing the dinner, fixing bodies, fixing meetings, fixing bill payments, fixing bank accounts, fixing video backups, and a few other fixings I cannot even remember – that I only managed to GO to the open mics and not write about them. So now it is time to fix this blog – at least temporarily and in a pithy manner.

Monday night I went to both the Tennessee Bar open mic and the Galway. Once again I went first to the Tennessee and found too many people, so went to the Galway, then returned to the Tennessee. I played some songs at the Galway, but was a little too late and a little too involved in conversation at the Tennessee to get up and play there too. On the other hand, I did managed to take in all of the musicians with interest, and to record some of the more interesting ones as usual.

The Tennessee has a certain downstairs vibe to it that differs greatly from the downstairs vibe of the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic on Tuesdays. Both are places with tiny caves where the open mics take place, both having intimate brick walls – although part of the ones in the Ptit Bonheur are fake plastic bricks – but while the first tends to have people going in little groups that like to talk, and occaisionally listen to the music, while the second almost always has a crowd there to listen reverently to the music. And there is more of a feeling of everyone together at the second, rather than a splitting up into little groups of the first.

Anyway, the crowd was exceptionally not so big at the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, but that gave me personally the courage to try some songs I do not usually do. After Thomas Arlo started with a song Elvis did not write but sang, I decided to do the same, even though I had still not memorized the words. So I read very unsuccessfully from my iPhone my “new” song, “Only You.” The Platters.

I then did a song I wrote when I was 22, which has no title; and I did Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” Later I played again, and did Mad World and if memory now serves me correctly, “What’s Up,” going back to the surefire “hits.” But I can’t even remember for sure – after all, that was two days ago!!!

Last night, instead of going to the Highlander, where I go so often on Wednesday nights, I noticed that the once-a-month open mic at the Chansonniers Hotel in Menilmontant is still happening, so I went there. It is usually the third Wednesday of the month, but they advanced it to avoid hassle with the Christmas holidays that start next week.

The Chansonniers is completely different from the other three above mentioned open mics in being, first, primarily attended by French musicians – I was the only one who sang in English, except one French woman who did “Unchained Melody” – and it tends to be an older public as well, from mid-30s to mid-60s. Completely different vibe. But well worth attending to widen one’s experience and audience.

Wow, there we go! I feel liberated having finally got this off my chest…. I hate missing single days on the blog, let alone three of them.

Les Chansonniers Open Mic in Menilmontant

September 16, 2010

Here’s some good news. I think I’ve never written about this open mic in the Menilmontant area of Paris, so I will not be repeating myself yet again with yet another description of a Wednesday night at The Highlander.

The Chansonniers open mic takes place only once per month, on the third Wednesday of the month. It takes place in a working class area of the city, that is turning into a very hip and artistic area as well. I like the area. And there is something quite different about the atmosphere at the Chansonniers. Although the name sounds like it is linked to the open mic, i.e., “The Singers,” in fact “The Chansonniers” is the name of a hotel, and the open mic takes place in the reception/bar area of the hotel on the ground floor facing the street. It is a small, narrow room with a bar on the left as you enter, and the stage on the right. The room extends back far and has tables and chairs for the spectators and musicians to sit at while the acts perform.

The sound system is good, and the lights in the room are left on bright during the whole evening, so the atmosphere is different from most of the darkened venues that usually host live music. There is a very large cross-section of performers at this open mic, and everyone is accepted very warmly. It has a good way of operating in that each performer is allowed only two songs, but if there is time after that, the list of performers gets another chance to go up and sing one more song. It ends quite early, usually, around midnight. It starts early too, though, around 8:30, and it is important to be there early to get on the list early too – unless you don’t mind going on last, obviously.

Last night there were some interesting acts, and one of my favorites was Pauline Paris, whom I first met around a year ago at the Swan Bar on Montparnasse, where she just happened to stop by one night after an open jam, but where she had a gig lined up for a month or so after that. She then did a wonderful tour of the Paris Arrondissements in which she played in one bar or venue of each of the Arrondissements, so 20 gigs. I saw her at Polly Maggoo’s in the 5th Arrondissement. Pauline Paris is a very short and small person, eternally smiling, and she has an enormous voice! She is only in her early 20s, she composes her own songs, and I think of her as a modern day day Piaf. I got a couple of videos of her, but the second one I took I was badly positioned at the bar, and I did not want to interrupt the performance or the view, so I stayed there and it was not good as I tried to catch sight of her around her harmonica player.

Another favorite of mine – and the audience – was Julian Robinson, who is a regular at the bar. He plays a mean semi-acoustic guitar, with spritely lead. And last night he used a looping box and produced something quite fun. Check out the video on that too.

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