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No Real Blues at Le Blues Bar Open Mic in Paris

January 10, 2014

Le Blues Bar

Le Blues Bar

PARIS – I heard about this open mic last month well in advance of its debut last night, and I was curious from the start: What would Thomas Arlo do in a completely unknown bar off the beaten path of the majority of Paris open mics, in or around the Latin Quarter? Arlo, who is from California, has been playing in open mics in the Latin Quarter for the last two or three years and recently came up with the idea to host his own in a place called Le Blues Bar, near Montmartre, Pigalle, etc., at the Jules Joffrin metro. If the first night is anything to judge it by, this could turn into a winner.

The bar, which hosts live music regularly, is split into two parts, with a front part devoted to the bar, sports games on TV, a terrace, and a cool choice of beers and spirits, while the back room where the open mic takes place is a warm, intimate room that could hold something like 60 people very tightly fit in. There is a long hallway separating the two halves, and this is ideal to split the clientele into those wanting the music, and those not wanting it.

When I arrived a little late – around 10 PM – I was greeted jovially and with open arms and excitement by one of the bartenders, who saw my guitar and instantly pointed me to the back room of the bar, not even thinking about how I have to order my drink at the front first! So that was a great sign. Here for the music?!! It’s back there! Go play!

So I ordered a drink first, then went to the back room. It turned out to be a fun evening with an eclectic choice of musicians, and it wound up with a bit of a jam. The stage is a neat thing in the corner giving a great sense of being the center of focus of the whole room. The sound system was very clear, but unfortunately there seemed to be some strange split between having to use the monitor speakers overhead for the vocal mic and the wall speakers at the back of the room for the guitar. But I was ultimately very pleased with the quality of the sound system, compared to some of the things you can run into in open mics.

A Wide Variety of Musicians and Styles at Le Blues Bar Open Mic in Paris

The cross-section of music was as immensely different as the musicians and where they came from. I saw Hannah from Melbourne for the second time this week, as she was previously at the Coolin on Monday; there was a reggae act; and a violin player who did a bit of everything, including some insanely crazy vocal acrobatics, most of which I missed on video. There was also the very interesting singer songwriter Matt Lee, who followed his whimsical first song called, “Oh Beautiful Thing,” with his song “Johnny Please Turn Around,” which immediately elicited a desire by the audience to sing along with the chorus. I spoke to Matt afterwards, and discovered that this Englishman – previously of Nottingham, Barcelona and Berlin and now living in Paris – also has a very interesting business as a musician booking agent with a company called Melody Nights.

Thomas did a great, low key job of hosting it. We all got to do two or three songs, and some of us even went up to play more at the end of the evening. Most importantly, I did not see a single complaint made by the bar staff about the volume of the music, which was pretty loud at some points. So they apparently DO want this open mic. The only slightly downside was that given the few number of tables in the front part of the bar, when all those were filled and a group of people came to take a meal, they were guided into the open mic room, and a staff member asked me and another musician to vacate the table so they could seat the diners – who then proceeded to talk throughout most of the acts! This, of course, was understandable for them, of course, although perhaps less so from the bar.

In any case, I really liked the vibe and the potential seems enormous. Don’t be fooled by the bar name, this ain’t no blues jam – even if any kind of music is accepted, including the blues.

So maybe Paris has a new Thursday night open mic to look forward to growing massively? Keep posted here!

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