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December Wilderness in Open Mics in Paris

December 10, 2015

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

PARIS – December, along with August, are the cruellest months in Paris. When it comes to open mics, that is. It’s like, let’s close down and disappear during holiday period. So was the theme on both Tuesday and Wednesday as I sought out the open mics in Paris.

Tuesday was the best. That’s where I had five or six open mics in mind to attend, including trying out the Feline open mic for the first time, on the new and fabulous stage that his hip cool bar has created by tearing down some useless little corners in the back of the place. But when I arrived, I found that due to a zero number of musicians, the open mic had been cancelled for the night. Next edition? Tuesday, 5 January.

So then I thought, OK, there’s always Brislee Adams and his Café Oz open mic at the Blanche metro. But at the Feline they warned me that they believed there was no open mic at the Café Oz. So I left, thinking of the third place I had in mind, in the same neighbourhood. In fact, I also checked my Facebook and found that indeed, due to a sports game on television, the Oz open mic had been cancelled. Make up your minds, bar people, sports or music!!!

So I walked down Oberkampf and made my way over to the third choice, the new Zebre Rouge bar open mic, run by Paul Cash. He thought there were not a lot of people present, but given there was no one present at the other joints, the five, six maybe more were really lots when you think about it. And I had a great time playing at the Zebre Rouge, and particularly hearing Paul’s virtuoso piano playing. (Although his accompaniment on my songs was…more difficult!)
Classic piano and harmonica at Zebre Rouge open mic in Paris

So I made a pretty early night of it on Tuesday, returned home, and then on Wednesday, last night, I said, well, there’s always the Highlander. Without fail there is the Highlander. But I decided in fact that because I had done that mainstay last week, I’d check out the Soirée Buzz at the Très Honoré bar restaurant and cocktail lounge.

This Très Honoré always promises a great show, with its fabulous house musicians, and thanks to the usual host – Brian Scott Bagley – there are usually a number of Burlesque dancers taking part too. This is part open mic, part cabaret, part live karaoké, the whole in an atmosphere of luscious wealth and snobbery.

In fact, it was so cold out last night and I was so badly dressed for the cold that when I arrived I asked for a Cognac – instead of a beer or wine – and also asked at the same moment, “How much?” The response made me feel even colder: €50. Yes, you got it, the price of a bottle of Cognac. So I asked what was the cheapest drink, and they suggested a glass of wine for €9. That was doable, and anyway, after I sang, I was given another glass of wine for my troubles….
House band warming up at Tres Honore open mic

But back to the theme of the blog: In fact, while the show was great, while there were some saving graces of the Burlesque dancers, and while the house band was fabulous as usual, I think it was pretty obvious that the usual musician contingent for the open mic were taking their Christmas holidays already, because there were not many of us! (Not to mention that Brian Scott Bagley was also not able to be there, so his job was taken by someone else – and well done.)

On my way out the door, early, I ran into some colleagues from work, and in one fell swoop my entire evening was saved – and I even got to play some more music for them, and they were more appreciative than the crowd in the basement room. Well, until I left a few hours later and got a compliment from one of the spectators as I left, about my Cat Stevens song.
First performer at Très Honoré open mic in Paris

So that is the approaching-Christmas-report of open mics in Paris, and their dissipating crowds….

The Baroc is Dead; Long Live the Zebre Rouge….

November 27, 2015

Zebre Rouge

Zebre Rouge

I’m a few days behind on this, maybe even a few weeks – depending on how you view it – but a few weeks ago I announced the closing down of the Baroc, and so the end of an era of one of the best, quirkiest open mics in Paris. But that need for a quirky, Baroc-like open mic, took such hold of a group of the regular denizens of the Baroc, that they decided there should be another open mic in another seedy bar like the Baroc – impossible, right? – and that they should try to just carry on the tradition. Enter Paul Cash and the Zebre Rouge.

The Zebre Rouge bar/restaurant is located in a lost street off the Oberkampf, J.-P. Timbaud, bohemian quarter of Paris, and it has all the makings of a great location for a Baroc-like open mic. It has an owner manager who clearly likes music and the vibe of an open mic, it has a piano, it has a laid-back, small front bar open to the street; but it also has a cool multi-room cellar where music can be played as well. I attended the open mic for the first time on Tuesday, and it will not be the last time.
Paul Cash, the MC of the Zebre Rouge

The question remains as to whether the open mic itself lasts, as it will need – like any open mic – to build up its clientele and make itself known. Paul Cash, a brilliant pianist and composer, as well as a pioneer in the Paris slam scene, and above all, a longtime habitué of the Baroc, is running the open mic, and the night I went, it was made up mostly of former musicians, poets and barflies of the Baroc.
Another one at the Zebre Rouge

Will the spirit last? Will the Baroc find its tradition carried on at the Zebre Rouge? All the ingredients are there, only time will tell….
Bernie at the Zebre Rouge

Paris Roundup – From the Flea Market to the 2 Moulins and the Baroc, and Onwards to the Noctambules

July 16, 2015

St. Ouen Market after Closure © Brad Spurgeon

St. Ouen Market after Closure © Brad Spurgeon

PARIS – Aside from a great long cool and fun evening at the Baroc on Tuesday evening, I’ve just had spots of music here and there, and mostly there, over the last few days since Raphaëlle’s open mic at the Noctambules on the Place Pigalle last Friday. (Speaking of which, do NOT miss Raphaëlle’s Noctambules open mic tomorrow at this absolutely fabulous location, as this is becoming a not-to-be-missed Paris open mic, playing music overlooking the historic place….)

On Sunday night it was a quiet walk over the St. Ouen flee market and a small temporary art gallery where Joris Delacour was showing off his artworks, and holding an informal jam on the sidewalk in front. I managed to get this one nice little bit of music on video, having spent most of the jam wondering what or if I should play next. This one gives an idea of the feel of the area, which seems not to be anywhere near Paris, if even France.

The jam outside the gallery where Joris Delacour was showing his art.

From there it was on to a quiet Monday night stopover at the gig of Brislee Adams, who organizes and MCs the excellent Café Oz (Blanche) open mic on Tuesday nights. He had one of his once per month gigs at the Aux 2 Moulins bar restaurant on the Rue Lepic. This café is known lately for its appearance in the Amelie Poulain film. But Brislee brought it to life with his one-man band of popular music, and at least one invited guest….

Brislee Adams playing a Van Morrison song at his gig at the 2 Moulins.

And so onwards to Tuesday night at the Baroc, one of Paris’s longest running and best open mics. It felt in many ways like a classic night at the Baroc since you never know quite what to expect, and we got that, but also because the regular MC, Réjean, was on vacation, so the task was taken up with enthusiasm by Paul Cash. Cash is a character who has long been a part of Paris’s open mic scene, but interestingly, his contribution has been more in the area of the Slam spoken word open mic than in the music open mics. I say “interestingly” because Cash, in addition to being a poet, is also a highly talented pianist and composer.

The hippie jam at the Baroc open mic.

With his draw there were some unusual acts, like the band of jammers that took us all back a few decades into something very hippie-like. At the end of the evening Paul handed out prizes for a draw, mostly consisting of small art books he put together, as he is also an artist….

A ripper rapper at the Baroc open mic.
A very cool last few days in Paris…. So don’t forget the Noctambules open mic tomorrow!!!!

Isabelle on her ukulele at the Baroc open mic.

Another singer doing some soul at the Baroc open mic.

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