PARIS – The last thing I expected was to find a completely full night of music at the Baroc open mic in Paris last night, with Réjean the regular MC coming back from holidays and a number of new faces and sounds. It seemed to me that if any night of the summer in Paris would be deserted, it would be the last one of July.
On the other hand, maybe it had something to do with tourism – there was the wonderful Lorin Hart from the U.S. (she who attended the Woodstock festival in 1969!) and there were some other fresh new faces too – and maybe it had something to do with the crossing of the vacation period from July to August making it so that a number of other people previously on holiday were back in Paris.
Lorin Hart at the Baroc in Paris.
Whatever it was, it was a nice full night at the Baroc, and I was delighted to be back from Budapest and playing on a “home” stage again. And looking forward to a nice long vacation myself in Paris over the next three weeks!
PARIS – Sometimes I wonder during my winters in Paris when I’m not travelling and I’m attending the same open mics week after week, I wonder how I can write anything new about them on my blog. Such was the case again last night when I went again to the wonderful Baroc open mic in Belleville. I’ve been going for years now, and for years the MC, Réjean Mourlevat, has been doing a great job. But from one week to the next, how do you find something new to write about, let alone to “live”? Last night, Réjean himself gave me the answer.
Towards the end of the evening, which had many of the regular musicians I see there from one week to the next, Rejean got up behind the mic while a pianist from Strasbourg (not a regular musician here, and boy was he good), began to jam away with a sax player. Suddenly, Réjean began to sing. No please note that Réjean is a wonderful MC, and a multitalented musician, who often plays either piano or drums while others play their stuff at the open mic. But he is something of a quiet, shy guy, and I have never heard him sing before.
This may not sound like much, but really, listening to Réjean sing was one of the high moments of the night! It was so cool! In fact, it was so cool that I didn’t think about taking out my camera until it was almost too late. I did manage to get a bit of it on film, though. So check it out.
Other than that, it was a pretty typical night at this warm open mic where you rarely know quite what to expect from one week to the next in the way of small differences, but at the same time you know you can always expect something to happen.
PARIS – Anyone who has visited or lived in Paris during the month of August knows that the city comes as close as it ever will to closing down during this month in the summer when most of France goes on its annual vacation. On Tuesday and Wednesday I went open mic crawling and managed to attend three different open mics over the two nights, and felt a wonderful sense of the city returning to action, but still sitting in the twilight zone of the end of summer.
There was a fabulous community feel at the first of the open mics I attended, at the Café Oz near Metro Blanche, run by Brislee Adams. It seemed every time I turned around I encountered some open mic host, taking what the British call a “busman’s holiday.” Hosted by Brislee, who does a great job, and often takes up a role as lead player or simply hand-clapping audience rouser, when he’s not photographing or recording videos, I turned around at one point to find Réjean Mourlevat, the host of the other Tuesday night open mic, that of the Baroc, just up the way in Belleville.
He said he was just dropping around to have a drink as he lives nearby. But I wondered if he was checking out the competition! It was the last Tuesday of the summer shutdown for the Baroc, so maybe he wanted to see how things were done at Brislee’s place….
Next time I turned around, I ran into Thomas Brun, the longtime host of the Highlander open mic, that runs on Wednesdays. I’ve seen Thomas going to other open mics from time to time to check them out – the Galway, the Lizard Lounge, the now defunct Ptit Bonheur la Chance…. But seeing him and talking to him reminded me that I had a meeting lined up for the next night from a reader of my blog who said we ought to meet and play together at the Highlander the next night….
But before I leave the Café Oz, where I made a mess of trying to sing a song in French for the first time, by the way, I decided to go up the way to Pigalle, just a short walk from the Café Oz, and check out the Pigalle Country Club open mic, which I learned was holding its first open mic of the season, after having taken a break for part of the summer as well.
There I found not only the usual crowd of the young rockers – the Burnin’ Jacks, among others – but I also found a few friends I did not know took part in that one, including my violin and lead guitar playing friend who accompanied me in my concert in London last month, Joe Cady. I ended up playing a bit with my other lead guitar playing friend, Félix Beguin of the Burnin’ Jacks, however. But he did not play lead, he sang along with me, and then I did the same with him.
And Then Back to the Highlander and a Cool Meeting
Well, I’d pretty much wiped myself out on those two open mics and meeting old friends and acquaintances and imbibing in way too much beer, wine and shots, but after at first deciding I would not attend the Highlander, I decided I had to go and meet that reader of my blog after all. And boy do I not regret doing that. It was a man named Paul Penfield, who put out a couple of albums in the mid-70s and who was on a brief visit to Paris, primarily to play an open mic or two.
We asked for another guitar from the audience, and on my second and third songs we played along together – first on my song “Memories” and then on “Mad World.” It reminded me of how much I love playing with other musicians – as if the previous night had not already done that – and that I do it far too little.
There were some great discoveries both nights, or rather, a discovery and a reacquaintance with someone I’d already heard before. Check out the videos of Desmond Myers at the Café Oz and of Simon Ferrante at the Highlander. Oh, yes, and that of Paul Penfield doing his solo number….
PARIS – I wrote last week about the new open mic off the beaten path at the Blues Bar – which will undertake its second edition tonight – but there has long been another open mic in an area far from the Latin Quarter and not particularly in the thick of live music bar action. But this open mic is definitely a mainstay in the Paris scene, and a place at which attendees should never make a quick judgment.
I’m talking, of course, about the Baroc open mic near the Belleville and Colonel Fabien metro stations. This open mic can vary a lot more in attendance and musical styles to that of the regular places I write about in the Latin Quarter. It can range on through to every different style of music and every different style of barfly audience member, from the most celebrated to the least celebrated!
Tuesday night’s edition was a great one, with musicians varying from a kind of classical/flamenco-like guitarist, to Margot and her pop songs – she of the Highlander and Coolin and other Latin Quarter bars – to a man named Bernie with an illustrious songwriting career. I played, another interesting French folk singer sang, Raphaëlle sang, a kind of reggae-like musician played and sang…. it was different from beginning to end.
You just never know what you will find at the Baroc – except for the warm and fair MCing job done by Réjean Mourlevat, who will also occasionally join you on stage to bang out some rhythms on his portable drum machine thing, or join you on the piano – and there seems always to be a harmonica player somewhere in the wings. (I was delighted to have him play along with a couple of my songs, including the song I wrote when I was 16 or 17 about not being much in the mood, and of which I put up a video of here….)
Whatever you may find, you will almost always be certain to find a real French open mic with real French people – and a complete, open-armed welcome to the foreigners as well….
PARIS – Again for a change, I decided to head off to the Baroc open mic in Paris last night instead of a couple of other places where I maybe have spent more time in the past, but where I can be more sure of finding the same kind of evening all the time. At Le Baroc, I never know what I’ll find!
But last night it was a very cool, if low-key open mic at this mainstay of the Paris open mic scene. Le Baroc has held an open mic for years, but changed from organizer to organizer. For the last few years it has been organized by the genial Réjean Mourlevat, a nice, low-key musician who joins in on the piano or drum machine from time do time during the evening, and always makes sure musicians feel comfortable behind the mic.
The Baroc is a bar with an interesting character, with carpets hanging from the ceiling over the stage, the big mirror behind the stage, and a side room where you can sit and chat a little while still seeing the stage. It has a real 1980s feel to it.
The musicians vary from week to week, and last night the accent was definitely on French musicians singing in French – which is really refreshing for an otherwise pretty anglo kind of scene at many of the other Paris open mics.
It is also a place that emphasizes a real open stage, and if you’re into it, expect to be joined by other musicians while you play. Last night my last two songs I had a guitarist or two and a guy who played keyboards, and it was lots of fun. Especially on my Year of the Cat, which I had a friend film for me….
Well worth the detour out of the Latin Quarter and up to Belleville….