Not many open mics on Saturday in Paris, but even if there were, I’d have decided to sacrifice my own music to go and listen to that of some friends and acquaintances. Because at the International was a double-header of the Burnin’ Jacks and BSMS, two excellent rising groups of talented young musicians in Paris. And then at the Bus Palladium, conveniently happening after the other two concerts, was Yann Destal in the third kind of formation in which I have seen him play – I’ll explain in a minute.
At the International I HAD to go and see the Burnin’ Jacks, whom I have watched grow over the last two years from Earle’s open mic at the Lizard Lounge, the Truskel and then the Mecano bar, to what they’re doing today, playing bigger clubs and stages all over the city. Not to mention that Félix, the Burnin’ Jacks’ phenomenally talented lead guitar player, is also the guy who recorded with me in my Ephemere Recordings in July (on Except Her Heart and Memories), and who will play with me in concert at the Disquaires on 27 February.
So it was off to the International to hear them play, and neither I nor the couple of hundred people present were let down by the music or their charismatic performance, led by Félix on the lead guitar and Syd on the lead vocals, and Antoine, jumping around on rhythm guitar like there was no tomorrow. Also, one of my favorite songs of theirs is that composed and sung by Antoine.
And speaking of the Bus Palladium, I ended up going over there to hear Yann Destal in band formation. Aside from hearing his voice on the radio for a decade with that 2000 hit song, “Lady (Hear Me Tonight),” I first started listening to Destal at the Tuesday evening after work club in the restaurant above the main concert room of the Bus. There he plays solo and with one or two other musicians doing cover songs acoustically. Then I saw him with one other musician doing some of his latest music at Le China, near the Bastille. So yesterday was the first time I saw him in a full-fledged group situation, with a keyboard player, a drummer, bass guitar, his acoustic guitar and a lead guitar player. There was another singer too, a woman – sorry, don’t know who it was.
In any case, last night’s show really made it clear how interesting a performer and composer Yann is. He’s the kind of performer who has his own musical world, and he inhabits it like others might get involved in reading or writing a fantasy novel. If that sounds like it is pushing things, just check out some of the videos below. His singing voice is as good as ever, but the tunes and lyrics and presentation are very personal, and remind me in some ways of progressive rock from the early 70s. Maybe that’s stretching it too – but that is what came to mind last night.
An amazing evening last night at three different Paris venues, in two of which I managed to play some songs, and the first of which I listened to some wonderful music. And the whole thing was crowned by a sudden answer to a question I had in my mind for a few months about a musician I had seen play – and played with. I will get to that…
The Rex has been around for more than 20 years, and it has been called the temple of electro music in France, and has had bands like Daft Punk play there. But last night it was not electro, but classic guitar-based rock – at least with Lou Rebecca and her band. It is a spacious room underneath the Grand Rex theater most of the world’s biggest bands have played at one time or another – I think the last band I saw there was Lenny Kravitz.
I had primed myself by listening to Lou Rebecca on her myspace before going, but what I heard in the concert was even more dynamic and rock. Great stuff, she has a style, a presence and a sound. And Etienne on guitar flashes in with some very cool bits of lead and his presence too. I heard another couple of bands before this one, and this was the best. Check out the videos below before I get on to talking about the next two venues and the second discovery of the evening (Lou Rebecca being the first).
The second venue I went to was the Ptit Bonheur la Chance on the Rue Laplace in the 5th Arrondissement, so it required taking a cab from the Rex Club to it. But I was very keen on playing this open mic again, despite having lined up a bit of play at a third venue. It was already 10 PM, but I knew that it was often possible to get to Ollie’s open mic later and still get to play. And that is the way it worked out. I figured it would be nice to see Ollie, and another friend who was going, and to warm up for my third event of the night. So I got there before 10:30, sang three songs – “Borderline,” “Just Like a Woman,” and I cannot remember the first!
I have returned several times since then, and I was always intrigued by the main musician who plays guitar, piano and sings, doing mostly old rock standards. I had mentioned in the past how great his English accent was when he sang. But what intrigued me was that I always thought he had a fabulous voice and a real presence and a massive repertoire. He had played with me once or twice, a bit of piano, a bit of guitar, maybe some backing vocals. And then last night, he came up and started playing with me again. I arrived around 11:30 PM and started playing around 11:45. We played for 45 minutes or more, and this guy played lead guitar and did some harmonies with me on “Just Like a Woman” and “I Shall Be Released,” and he played along even on my song, “Since You Left Me,” and on “Father and Son” and a few others.
I enjoyed it immensely, and he finished out the evening singing “Purple Rain,” of Prince, while I hit a few bad notes on lead guitar. But I still this night thought to myself, who is this guy who looks like Ron Wood, and is French but sings fabulously well, gets across good emotion, and has a vast repertoire of songs? And I thought, does he only do covers? I suspect that one of the “covers” I heard him sing was that huge success from 2000 by a French band called Modjo, the song “Lady (Hear Me Tonight),” and I probably thought, “What good is it to sound EXACTLY like Modjo on that? Can’t he bring something new to it?”
Well, after we played and returned to the bar where I had a beer and tried to get my shirt to dry out of all the sweat it had developed all on its own over the previous 45 minutes, we got to talking. He asked me if I had some place with samples of my songs, and I handed him my CD of the four songs I had recorded in July at the Point Ephemere, as I had actually prepared it to give to the artistic director, but I decided I wanted this guy to have it. I told him a little of my story about quitting music for nearly 30 years before returning to it, etc. Then I suggested we exchange Facebook friendship. We both whipped out our iPhones and hooked up immediately.
Through all of this, although I asked him about the name of his band, he never said anything to me to make me think that he was anything other than some starving musician of no renown. Well, once I had his name and Facebook link, I returned home to learn that this was Yann Destagnol, now known as Yann Destal, who was one part of the duo of the aforementioned French band Modjo, which sold more than 2 million copies of its hit song “Lady (Hear Me Tonight),” in 2000. He went on to make a solo album in 2004, and is now working on another solo album. As has happened to me several times in the past, I have found that the people who really achieve something in the world are often the least flashy and full of themselves. Yann is a very simple, unassuming guy with an enormous talent – and that finally answered my question: “Who the hell is this great singer anyway?!?”
The video I took of him below singing last night at the Bus Palladium, is not very good, and it does not do justice to his voice. But it is the only one I took, and you can hear nevertheless that he can really wrap that voice around that Led Zeppelin song…. I suggest you drop by the Bus Palladium on a Tuesday night if you happen to be in Paris, to hear the real thing; there’s pretty good food too.