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….
I see Wayne just about every week now, as we both continue to attend the Ptit Bonheur la Chance open mic. And when he learned I was going to be in Australia this week, he told me that his daughter was performing with Moriarty in a few dates in Australia, and as it turned out, the band was playing in Melbourne last night at The Famous Spiegeltent, at the Melbourne Arts Centre. Wayne also told Rosemary, and she put me on a list to get in to watch the show.
That was really cool, and it turned out that the Spiegeltent was a few stops on the tram from the racetrack where I do my day job, so how could I not go?! Of course, the only thing that might stop me was the open mic at the Acoustic Café scheduled for last night, in another nearby part of Melbourne. And this is, after all, my open mic adventure.
But I really enjoy the songs of Moriarty that I have heard on the radio in France – frequently – and the videos I have seen, and I thought this would be a fabulous opportunity to see – and potentially meet – the band, and continue the Moriarty moments on the open mic adventure. The adventure, after all, is all about adventure and not getting stuck in too much of a pattern in life. Moriarty, you might say, is a little about the same – given that the name of the band comes from the character, Dean Moriarty, in Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road”….
The band started out doing traditional blues and rock ‘n’ roll, but with the departure of some members, specifically a drummer, they went more acoustic and more vocal oriented. (Last night after the show when I mentioned to the bass player, Zim, about how fabulous it was that I did not need to use my earplugs during the concert, he said that was something they always insist on, that the decibels be lower than what most bands pump them up to in order that people may actually listen to the music, hear the music without destroying their future capacity to hear anything….)
Founded in 1995 amongst a bunch of friends from Paris who mostly came from a multicultural mix – three of them now have one or two American parents – their music naturally gravitated to American music. That’s who they are. But they were actually in Australia first of all to play in the Womad festival in Adelaide, and although the band cannot really be described as “World Music,” it is definitely eclectic, and the influences range from just about everything to just about everything else. With a strong dose of country, blues, pop, but even, as the radio personality – no name, sorry – who introduced them last night said, “Depeche Mode.”
So I showed up last night to find a GIANT line up of people waiting for the doors to the Spiegeltent to open, as the few chairs and the rest of the standing room only areas of the venue are served up on a first come first served basis. I was surprised there were so many people, as I was unaware of Moriarty being well known in Australia. In fact, they are not that well-known, but they have toured here before, and one spectator I spoke to said she had seen them three times – ie, each time they came.
There were also a number of people from France. But there was a very healthy number of Australians. Another couple of spectators, also from Austraila, who stood behind me in the line told me that they had never heard of Moriarty, but they gladly paid the $45 for the tickets because they knew that in general the shows at the Spiegeltent were very good.
Indeed! The Spiegeltent is this kind of theatre-in-the-round building that travels from city to city, and originally came from Belgium in the 1920s. It reminds me most of a kind of circus tent, or even carrousel, but it is filled with mirrors and brocaded columns, wood, canvass and glass. The stage was small, but all spectators had a pretty close up view, despite that the room was packed. How many? 500 people? 700? I can only guess.
I ended up finding a nook right beside the stage that allowed me the freedom to do some videos without obstructing anyone else’s view, but it was not the best vantage point to see the band straight on and get the full feel for the stage antics. Still, it felt like a privileged position as I could grab lots of images from the side and behind and get a backstage kind of feel to it.
I have now written almost a 1000 words building up to this and saying nothing. But what can I say, really? Watch the videos and listen. The band was simply fantastic. The show was complete with lively stage presence and patter and antics and a very talented multi-instrumental group of musicians.
They are also very international, as I said, and a funny moment came during the show when a an Australian woman standing next to me turned to me and said, “Why do they all have American accents?” She was no doubt surprised and feeling somewhat invaded when I responded in my “American” accent and told her because they had American parents….
Anyway, Rosemary’s voice, I would just like to add, which I had heard only on the radio or Internet in the past, is absolutely superb, rich, and strong, and she and the other band members all have great stage presence. I can see why they have gone so far, but they deserve further recognition and success – let’s hope the hits keep coming. They are in no way a “traditional” music band, with some very avant garde touches and a newness and nowness to the band.
I also saw just how professional every one of the band members is, when they all went out from the “tent” after the show to meet with their fans and stand around and talk and sign autographs and copies of their latest CD. I spoke to just about all the band members, and Rosemary and I talked for quite a while – much of it about her father, Wayne. Wayne it turns out, has also played and recorded with the band – and that’s the next thing on my list I’ll want to see. But when I see and hear Rosemary, I cannot help but hear and see the Wayne influence in the background, and I imagine the upbringing….
One of the beauties of attending open mics is that it is really live music and that means it is really unpredictable as to what will happen, who will be in great playing shape, how you will react and play and how the audience will be in listening. It’s a real-life, live music situation – totally unpredictable. But another thing that sometimes happens at open mics that is even more unpredictable is the various synchronicities that can happen in meeting people.
It was by happenstance during a conversation a few months ago at Ollie’s open mic at the Ptit Bonheur La Chance bar that Ollie himself would be playing in Singapore when I was there last September. I learned this through a family member of his, and not through him. So we decided to link up and play at a bar while in Singapore, and it was very cool.
Last night at Ollie’s among the musicians was a friend whom I first met and discovered singing at the Galway last June. One of the main songs on her repertoire is “Jimmy,” by the band Moriarty. “Jimmy” was the band’s first single, and it was a hit.
“Jimmy” also happens to be the song that my friend sang in the first video I put up on this blog of her (deleted many years later, at her request), where I mention sung by “a Dutch woman.” Last night my friend decided at the last minute to go to Ollie’s open mic, and one of the songs she sang was “Jimmy.”
Let’s rewind a little. One of the regular musicians at Ollie’s open mic in recent months is an American who has lived in Paris most of his adult life – like me – named Wayne Standley. He sings a pretty classic American repertoire that runs from country to Bob Dylan, as well as some other 60s rock classics. I’ve put up videos of Wayne since as early as June (Wayne Standley is in the first video on the page under this link, for instance.)
In recent weeks I learned the Wayne was, in fact, the father of Rosemary Standley who is the singer at Moriarty who sings the song “Jimmy.” So last night, without her knowing it, my friend sang one of the main songs in her repertoire in front of the father of the woman whose song it is. Rosemary, like the other members of the band, grew up in Paris, but has a very strong American country, rock and folk background, and when you meet and hear Wayne, you know why.
And I thought, yes, this is the open mic. This is the rear nerve center of one of the great reasons we do these things – we meet people, connect with people, and we see and feel and hear our music different because of the context as well.