That probably sounds weird as a title to this post. But I have dropped behind in my posts, with only a brief interlude of the post of Johnny Borrell at my brunch. And in fact, I have been very busy listening to music all over Paris. So I will simply lay down a little log of videos below of the various places I have been since last Friday… ie, music on Friday, music on Saturday, two venues on Sunday, two venues on Monday…. And here, with no more than one video per act – except the Burnin’ Jacks at the Gibus – is a little record of the past few days:
And here is what is for me a HUGE P.S.: My friend Les DeShane recorded in Thailand a cover of my very own song “Since You Left Me.” I was stunned and flattered completely. First time anyone has covered a song of mine:
I wanted to keep the names of the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub out of the headline this time, since my weekly haunts while in Paris might cease to look very attractive as a read. But they continue to be attractive as places of musical discovery.
Last night I showed up at the Tennessee Bar at 9:10 PM and I was far too late. I never would get a slot on stage. But I stayed long enough to hear some fabulous music before heading on to the Galway where I basically always get a slot on stage, thanks Stephen Prescott.
But the discoveries at the Tennessee were well worth the visit. The biggest discovery of the night, no doubt, was Benjamin Scheuer, who sang some songs of his own composition before picking up the lead guitar to help Les DeShane with “November Rain.” When you hear Benjamin singing his songs you think of the 1960s, and more the 1970s, and you think of the great singer songwriters of that era. You think of Simon & Garfunkel, without the harmonies. I’m sure some people could come up with some much better parallels, but this much is certain: Benjamin has a very cool voice in terms of expressiveness, natural timbre and emotion. And he writes some beautiful touching lyrics AND he places a wicked guitar. In fact, after hearing him play his songs with the acoustic I had no idea that the same guy could do that “November Rain” lead – which was very cool. Check out the videos, and his web site. The word “up-and-coming” cannot be better fitted than to this guy Benjamin.
Then there was this wild old French guy who took to the stage and was immediately joined by Les on the lead and another guy on the piano, and we had to have the oldest guy in the place provide us with the most rock ‘n roll stuff of the night. I recorded his “Route 66,” and it’s pretty cool.
Les himself, in fact, also played a song I had no yet heard him play, and I enjoyed it immensely, and this was a Robert Johnson song. I also had fun with the camera work, managing to get Les in the shot and to also simultaneously get Les in the shot on his own camera that was videoing the whole thing.
When I realized that I did not want to wait around any longer at the Tennessee and that if I did get up the audience would be reduced to 1 person by then, I decided to head over to the Galway. There I heard a cool guy named… Brad as I entered. And then a cool guy named Matt, who was from Montreal. And then I heard cool Stephen, who showed off his new toy, which is a box that can turn your voice into harmonies as you sing. Now, although I had seen Les with the same thing at the Mecano, I had never tried it. Stephen told me I could try it, and that was another very cool discovery. I want one. I used it to harmonize my voice on my song that I wrote when I was 16, and which still has no title. I put the harmonies on the chorus: “My love she’s gone away, she’s left me here to stay, all by myself, all by myself.”
Ladie's Di lied, saying I looked 20 years younger in this photo. Shit, I look like a grandfather.
Oh, the other discovery was not on stage. I ran into Ladies Di, a friend and fellow open mic traveler from Chile, whom I have mentioned on this blog before. He presented me with the CD he had been working on for the last year or so, and it was finally finished, packed, ready for distribution around the world, and now entitled “Who else is gonna leave me?” (Could have put my song from when I was 16 on that.) Ladies Di had invited me to put something on the CD and I didn’t. Couldn’t get myself together enough to do anything, and hesitated to put my Ephemere Recordings on it. But the concept is this: The CD is a sampling of I think 12 musicians, each of whom contributed 2 songs (although one seems to have contributed 1 song). Each group or musician then gets a 100 or so copies of the CD and distributes and sells it at gigs around the world. Indeed, the artists come from all around the world: Chile, France, England, Sweden, Norway, Japan, etc. Very cool. And it ain’t half bad! I found a number of songs I liked. The CD project has its own myspace page, robotminimalista.
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!
I just had to write this down, as I prepare to fly off to Korea tomorrow for the Formula One race (if the Paris strikes do not prevent me from going). Yesterday was the third week in a row that I hosted my own brunch afternoon on Earle’s invitation at Le Mecano bar and restaurant in the Oberkampf area of Paris. And it was another wild and fun time. In fact, this time the music got really exotic and crazy, and the whole thing went on until after 7 PM, after starting at 3PM.
I told him to go get it, and I immediately asked David if he had some songs that would go well with a violin, and he said he thought he might. Indeed. We ended up being treated to another hour of fabulous music by David, Joe and a friend of David’s who came in and provided harmonies on a number of the songs as well.
It was pure bliss for an hour, and promises great things for the future. In the middle of my second second set we also had a nice moment with me doing “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Ring of Fire” with my friend Rym, and a solo number with our friend Elise, who played guitar and sang in what she said was her first ever appearance behind a mic. It will not be her last, I’m sure of that.
There are three ways to send an open mic audience into a fever of excitement. The best way to illustrate these methods are to be seen and heard in the three videos below, which were made last night at the Galway Pub in Paris, by the Seine River.
1) The first method is that exemplified by Les DeShane: Make sure the audience has drunk enough alcohol and then take an old standard pop song that the entire audience knows and sing it fabulously, milking the crowd at every moment. Check out his style in the first video below, and note the arrival of new listeners from the street, and jolly making dancers in the pub.
2) The second method is that exemplified by Stephen “Danger” Prescott: Make sure the audience has drunk enough alcohol and then take a song that no one knows but that the entire audience thinks they know and sing it with great fun and gusto without an instrument, milking the crowd at every moment as they try to sing lyrics they do not even know but think they are getting the hang of, or think they should know. Check out his style in the last video below.
3) The third method is that exemplified by Brad Spurgeon: Make sure the audience has drunk enough alcohol and then take an old standard pop song that the entire audience knows and screw it up entirely, inadvertently milking the crowd at every moment as they try to sing for you. Check out his style in the last video below.
(I have to add here that Stephen just surprises me EVERY time at the Galway. The song he sings here is written by Stan Rogers, a Canadian folk musician from the east coast who died in a burning aircraft in Cincinnati in 1983, and the song is obscure on the international scene, and even in Canada. But Stephen came out with it. I have it on one of only four or five of my remaining LPs, two of which are Stan Rogers. I actually saw Rogers perform in a bar in Ottawa a year or two before he died. A wonderful voice, this man.)
I think that since I started this blog last March or whenever it was, I have put up nearly 200 videos of other people at open mics around the world, but when I play, I can never get one of me. Thanks to my friend Les DeShane, a fabulous musician who is also a pro with a video camera, I finally have videos of me performing at an open mic. Unfortunately, Les also counted on me doing videos of him, and while his music is superb, there is no doubt I did flat and uninteresting videos of Les. But I’m putting up the best of each of us from the Galway Pub open mic in Paris last night. No more words on this page, I will leave the rest of the space for videos. Oh, no, must mention that I here screw up the lyrics on “Father and Son” for the first time in about a year!!!
I will write more about Les another time, as he is also on an interesting musical voyage like mine, that has taken him to most corners of the world as well….
Oh, almost forgot. At the end of the videos, I want to add a final video, that of Arturo from Colombia, who does a great version of an REM song….