PARIS – I have written before about Paddy Sherlock and his fabulous Paris Songwriter Club open mic. But the last time I visited it was located on Sunday nights at the Tennessee bar in the Latin Quarter. Last September it moved to the O’Sullivan Rebel bar on the rue des Lombards, near Chatelet. I have now finally had the chance to attend, and I am happy to report that the move has done it some good. It is even more intimate than it was before, so much so that at the end of the evening it suddenly turned completely acoustic, and that much warmer still.
This bar used to have an open mic on the ground floor, run by Etienne Belin, who used to run the Coolin open mic, which was the bar where Paddy had a gig that lasted around two decades until they closed the place after Apple bought it and transformed it into an Apple Store. That sentence was purposefully a mess, as I write this blog item now a few days after attending Paddy’s open mic at the Rebel bar, and I continued to think about how I can sing its praises!
The new open mic takes place in the basement, vaulted ceiling room, and not on the ground floor, and this is a stroke of genius. Or at least a natural environment for it. The ground floor, in my opinion, was never quite right. Here in the basement room, there is just enough room to make it a packed evening of music and audience participation no matter how many people show up.
The only drawback to having it in the basement is that bar patrons from above must pass through the room of the open mic in order to get to the toilets. Having said that, this is a way to rope in some extra spectators who might have decided to drop into this popular bar without considering attending the open mic, and then they can get drawn in by the music.
There was an eclectic mix of music on Sunday, with everything from the usual singer songwriters showing off their new songs to even an actress showing off her new monologue. Frankly, it has been a long time since I have played in front of such an intimate audience, and it was challenging at first, but I eventually felt at home. And I will return as soon as I can….
In fact, the only update is to bring back a listing for the fabulous Paris Songwriters Club open mic of Paddy Sherlock, which has already had five editions at its new location, O’Sullivans Rebel Bar. It had previously been at the Tennessee Bar before seeking a new home for many months, and finding this fabulous, intimate place. Check it out!
PARIS – If it were not for the fact that a few things dictate that I keep a record of my Sunday and Tuesday last week, I would let it slide. I was so busy in the intervening time with having received my CD, “Out of a Jam,” that I led the blog slide and did not write about those two nights. But both the fact of the CD, and the fact of taking part in one new open mic on the Tuesday, and then discovering that I had also taken part in the last open mic of one particular venue on the Sunday, mean I gotta write a little about it.
I have to just at least acknowledge those two nights, 8 bars, and the end of the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar on Sunday night last week. This was a fairly cool open mic run by Etienne Belin, the host of the absolutely phenomenally cool Coolin’ bar open mic that closed down a while back after the bar was bought up by a big conglomerate. The Rebel open mic was a great place to go on Sunday night’s in Paris, but unfortunately it did not consistently reach the highs of the Coolin, and Etienne has said he has many other projects he needs to focus on – like a CD – so that’s the end of that. Duet at the Green Linnet
It was fabulous night, that last one – which we did not know was the last – and followed on the 4-bar crawl I was doing: I started out at the lnce-monthly Green Linnet bar open mic right near the Coolin’, where it was calmer than the previous month, but still fun – with Stephen Saxo and Andy Bone’s warm MCing – and then I wandered off for a look at the Ondulatoire Mechanique’s big birthday party for a friend. That was also to feature a new band by some friends, but alas, I was too late for the show, and arrived just as they were packing up. Duet at the Galway
After the Rebel Bar, I then moved on with some friends to the Galway, where there was a duet playing most of the night. Some nice talk, a Kilkenny, and it was back to home for a day of recuperation. French trio at the Rebel Bar
The CD arrived on Tuesday, and I HAD to get out to the bars again and start handing out some copies. (More on this blog soon about the CD!!!) I started by checking out the Zebre Rouge open mic, which had turned into a real jam session, and because I needed to do several bars, I opted not to stay. I handed out a few CDs at the Zebre Rouge, then went over to finally try out the nearby Féline bar open mic, which has been running for two or three months now. Her hopes and expectations at the Green Linnet
This could be one of the best open mics in Paris if it gets the crowds it merits – although with so many other open mics on Tuesday nights in Paris, it is not sure that will happen. The stage is absolutely fabulous, and the management loves music. In fact, the management created this fabulous little stage – complete with a kind of proscenium arch style, spotlights and half decent sound system – because he wants more music, clearly. Jules at the Rebel Bar
I handed out some CDs there and played a long set of maybe five or six songs. Then I went on to the Pigalle Country Club bar’s open mic, not far from the place Pigalle (!!). That is the place where the photo that adorns the cover and back of my CD was taken. So I had to go there and leave a few copies. It was a very lively night, and I was offered the mic, but I wanted to get going to my final destination, the Café Oz bar open mic next to the place Blanche. Young one at the Green Linnet
I was too late to make the list, but the Oz was buzzing with musicians and music as usual. Some great acts, and a nice environment, and the usual great presentation of the evening by Brislee Adams…. In their heads at the Pigalle Country Club
PARIS – Sunday night was a coin toss with a loaded coin on whether I should go to the new Green Mic at the Green Linnet Irish pub near Chatelet, or if I should attend the Rebel Bar open mic in Chatelet. I had been waiting for a month to be able to attend the Green Mic. And as it turned out, early attendance and a hungry stomach meant I went, played, popped out for a meal and then realized that the Rebel Bar was only five minute’s walk away, in the direction of the restaurants. So I attended that one too, played five or six songs, then returned to give a full and proper look at the Green Mic. Good thing I did!
In fact, it was a lively open mic all evening, from it’s early start at 8 PM to its early finish at 11:30 PM, and the MCing was part of the great feel and spirit. That was done by Stephen Saxo, the sax player (in case you didn’t catch on), and Andy Bone, the … guitar player. The two kept hard at work all evening making sure that performers were happy, and if they needed backing up with sax or guitar, they were there for that too. Left-handed mojo on right-handed guitar at Green Mic open mic in Paris
The end of the evening the place turned into a giant jam session – or should I say, as my keyboard did, “ham session”? Because there was a lot of fun and hamming it up. In fact, it became incredibly loud, raucous and crazy. And I noticed that during this liveliness the owner manager of the bar was busy looking at his cash register without noticing the mayhem around him on a Sunday night going on for midnight. That, to me, was one of the clearest reasons why this was a successful open mic, and should continue to be so. With great MCs, a manager who is resistant to noise for the neighbors, and a location that rivals any – I mean the actual snug bar with the pool table in the back, and warm “living room”-like feel with bookshelves, etc., and the bar right in front of the stage…. well, the Green Linnet is a winner for the Green Mic. Nul Bar Ailleurs Jam in Paris
The Rebel Bar will have the other three Sundays cornered. And so it should. It’s been going for a year now, and Etienne continues his MCing job as he did at the hugely popular Coolin Bar (closed down), and the bar is amazing. Blonde Amy at Green Mic
Since I delayed doing this post for such a long time – two days – I actually had a chance to drop in to the open mic of the Nul Bar Ailleurs, near Bastille, last night. It was the first time I’d stopped into this one, and unfortunately, I was a little late, and had not yet eaten my dinner. So I did not take part, but I did take a look, and this place and set up is very cool: A cave cellar full of musicians and spectators, and wave by wave people take part in the open mic. I’ll get back to this one for sure, but had a hunger on last night that could not be denied. Will soon be adding this to my list of Paris open mics…. Yet another final jam at Green Mic
PARIS – Last time I posted I was blaming Paris for being in Christmas-break mode and not having so many open mics as usual. Now I must lay blame on myself for being in Christmas break mode for not posting on this blog this week despite doing three or more open mics! In fact, I’m not in any kind of true “break” mode; I’m in overdrive on my own projects in the areas of my life where I am not yet earning my living, but where I still have ambitions: Editing my open mic film, putting together a CD, working on novels, memoir and other projects. To say nothing of household chores and a minimum of socializing. So here is a short report on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday open mic adventures in Paris…. Brit Style at Galway
Sunday it was off to the O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar open mic near Chatelet, where Etienne Belin held court again for his weekly open mic in this fabulous and cool bar, which also hosts a billiards tournament during the open mic. Now THERE is a solution for all the bars that are not sure they want to do an open mic for fear of alienating other sectors of their patrons: Do everything at once! First at Pigalle Country Club open mic
Monday, it was off to my first visit to the Galway open mic for a long long time. It was not the usual MC, but rather Thomas Brun, who is the MC of the Highlander open mic. And Thomas, as any reader of this blog will know, is a consummate MC of open mics…and a wonderful musician. I had a video of him opening the evening’s show, but unfortunately I was placed behind a very, very, very loud group of Americans who were standing at the bar just in front of Thomas, and in the video as at the pub, it’s not so easy to distinguish anything between their loud voices and his music. I can’t understand how anyone on earth can be in a bar directly in front of a small, intimate stage with a single musician opening a show, and how they can continue to yell at the top of their voices about nothing at all…. Group at Rebel Bar open mic
Fortunately, the group went outside eventually to talk – they had the upper floor and the back of the bar, if they wanted – and the evening went on in acceptable manner. Duet at Galway open mic
Tuesday, I dropped by Brislee Adams’ excellent Café Oz open mic in Pigalle, but it was too early and he had not yet arrived; so I could not put my name on the list. I went down the street and had a meal of raclette with a newfound friend, and then after the fabulous meal, we went back to the Café Oz, to find the place just brimming with open mic musicians, and a list that was so long I knew that although it was only 10:30 p.m., I would not get behind the mic until 1 a.m., if at all. Paul at Galway open mic
So we left and went to look for a place to have a drink, and that’s when it came into my mind – after visiting one or two other noisy bars – that there was the Pigalle Country Club open mic, run by my friends of the Paris band, “The Burnin’ Jacks.” This is a fabulous, very little publicized open mic that is used mostly by the Burnin’ Jacks and their friends. But that is by no means the point of the thing, so anyone can go and grab the stage, mic, guitar, and play away when it’s free. Second at Galway open mic
PARIS – So very quickly now. Got back from Mexico City and have still not managed to create my Thumbnail Guide to Open Mics in Mexico City; but having said that, with just one place to go on the list, no one will be missing much! So where does that bring us? Back home to Paris and a week of downs and downs, OK, an up or two….
So the first thing I did was to visit the Baroc last Tuesday to attend the final open mic in the history of this joint, dive bar, cool, quirky musicians’ place deluxe. The last open mic of its history – since the bar is closing for good, and in fact I believe is closed as I write these words – was a reflection of all those that I had attended since my first at the Baroc in 2008 December. Quirky, quirky again, and quirky finally again. With the sound system bopping around into worlds I never knew existed, the clients ranging from everything to everything, and a final meal of perfectly acceptable confit de canard, frites, and I had the honor of drinking the last bottle of red wine in the house – a Bordeaux of some unspecifiable domain.
Then it was on to see Paul Hazan play his French repertoire at the Alimentation Generale
From there, it was down under for a while, under I re-emerged to take in a concert at the great and cool concert venue called, “L’Alimentation Generale.” The concert was by Paul Hazan, a guy I’ve known equally since the fall of 2008, and who, again, in December of 2008, I featured on our own little double-bill at at bar then called the Rhubarbe, and later to be called the Ptit Bonheur la Chance, which was to feature hugely in my life after that, as the open mic venue of the best open mic in Paris, for a while. But when Paul and I each did a set in the Rhubarbe, it was my own first official music gig anywhere on earth, and Paul, at something like 20 years old at the time, was already an old hand. Wonderful Guitar thing at the Baroc
Paul was then in a band called Mr. Soap and the Smiling Tomatoes, and it was one of the coolest French bands I knew of, with Paul’s raspy voice, and some sort of psychedelic, English-language, 1960s’ style garage band sound. Today, I was surprised – but not really – to find that Paul, like many young French rock musicians, has converted to a different religion: French lyrics and melodies. So that’s what he did at the Alimentation Générale on Saturday night. (Actually, he still has another band, called, “Electric Discharge Machine.”)
And finally off to an open mic that is still here in Paris, at O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar
And that leads me to last night and the open mic of O’Sullivan’s Rebel Bar, in the Rue des Lombards. This is the warm and cosy open mic in the very cool and historic bar – that used to be home to a famous comedy troop – and which is run – the open mic – by Etienne Bélin, who used to run the open mic of the now defunct Coolin’ bar. (Seems every bar and open mic in Paris closing down and turning into something else less catholic.) (Is that two religious references in two difference grafs? Not really.) French Rap at Baroc
Etienne closes down his open mic for the summer – i.e., for half the year, we’re in France! – and last night’s edition was the fourth of those after the break. It was not hugely full of musicians, although there was a respectable number, and so that meant that I had a chance to sing two sets and a total of 7 songs, which I was really happy to do. Playing at the Rebel Bar is nice because you not only have the cubby hole of the open mic at the back of the joint, but the people around the rest of the bar, including in the pool room near the open mic, can hear your music, and come over if they are inspired to do so. his own karaoke at baroc
I sang a new song of mine that I wrote while in Mexico City, called, “Running,” and it went down really well from what I could tell. I was just frustrated that I am still not ready to sing my new cover, “Come Pick Me Up,” by Ryan Adams. Although I’m close to it. Insu at Baroc
So that, dear reader, is the update. Next stop is Brazil and no doubt less writing about an open mic, but I hope to do at least one! And before that, maybe somewhere I’ll fit in the time to put up the Mexico City open mic guide … for that one joint. young one at baroc
PARIS – Great news last night at only my second visit to the Rebel bar open mic, that is hosted by Etienne Belin, who is trying to transfer the same magic from his previous venue at the Coolin, to this exceptional bar in the heart of the Chatelet-Centre Pompidou area, on the Rue des Lombards. It was an even better night that the first visit a couple of weeks ago, and to add to the mix, I recognized a number of people from the Coolin, some of whom worked behind the bar and now took to the stage, and even one was apparently there whom I did NOT recognize!
Yes, I went to the Rebel bar wondering if it would hold up to my first impressions, and the first thing that happened as I entered was I was greeted by so many friendly faces, like Paul or Sinead, the former bartenders. And later, I was quite interested in one of the acts, that it turned out I believe – but I’m still not sure – was the leading light of concert nights at the Coolin, Paddy Sherlock, but whom I had never actually seen there, since I attended only on Monday night open mic nights.
Even more satisfying, though, was meeting with Steve Kessler, a musician from Chicago, with a local band there called “The Saturday June Band.” Steve, immediately upon seeing me, came to tell me that it was thanks to this blog that he had found the open mic. Another bit of personal satisfaction the blog has given. Steve, it turned out, was not just a great musician, and a nice guy, but very generous, as he offered a free drink to everyone in the open mic right after his set!
My own set by then, I felt, was far too emotional, but there are nights like that!
I shall return to the Rebel bar open mic with no questions asked next time….
PARIS – I finally got the chance to check out the Rebel Bar open mic on the rue des Lombards, in Paris, not far from the Pompidou Center and Chatelet. It has been going for a few weeks now, as something of what its host, Etienne Belin, hopes will become a replacement for the open mic of the Coolin Irish pub, which Etienne had hosted for the last two or three years until the Coolin very uncooly got closed down by a big computer company buying out the premises. To put it succinctly, the new open mic at the Rebel Bar is “Splendid.”
What, might you ask, do I mean by that? Well, this Sunday night open mic takes place in an absolutely fabulous refurbished and sprawling, many-roomed location that actually used to be the famous first locale of the theatre troop, and theatre, called, “Le Splendid.” It was founded in the 1970s and was home to many budding actors and actresses who went on to write French cinéma history, among them, Gerard Dépardieu, Gerard Jugnot, Michel Blanc, Josiane Balasco and Thierry Lhermitte, to mention a few.
I call it a sprawling bar because it is full of little rooms here and there, on different levels, in vaulted caves, and upper areas – including the pool table room – and finally in the small, sectioned off area of the back of the main room, where the open mic takes place. There is even, surprise, surprise, a kind of very high stage platform overlooking that bit, which is where you perform.
And if you want to know what the hosting is like, just go and read any of the blog posts I wrote about the Coolin, and take a look at some of the videos with Etienne doing his job as warmly and effectively as always. That’s how it goes at the new Rebel Bar too.
Will it end up being as successful as the Coolin? Impossible to predict. Obviously the location and the history have all it takes. Will the actual shape of the small back area work for an open mic? Only time will tell. But I’ll definitely return.