PARIS – Just a quick note to note the notes noted at The Harp on Saturday night in honor of the return after a year to Paris of Romain Bretoneiche, also known as “All the Roads,” also known as the longtime MC of the open mic at the Galway Pub open mic in Paris. Romain and his girlfriend took a year out of the daily slog to live a little by travelling all the roads of the world in an around-the-world voyage. Romain and his sister at the harp
On Saturday, at The Harp pub which is located halfway between the Place Clichy and the Place Blanche, Romain and his friends and family organized a party celebrating his return. This is kind of a personal sort of blog item, but I feel that since I must have reported at least 50 times on my visits over the years to the Galway Pub open mic (which is happening tonight, by the way), it was appropriate to report Romain’s return…. Ludow at the Harp
Brad Spurgeon at The Harp (Photo by: Ludow Forget)
Why it was not celebrated at the Galway, I have no idea. But the evening of music and imbibing at The Harp was perfect. I had never been in this pub, and it lives up to its name. jamming at the harp
A great night, and lots of fun playing on the small stage at the back of the room, despite the general atmosphere of talk, welcoming Romain back in town. Let us see what this fine musician does next…. jake at the harp
PARIS – But on Monday, knowing it was Romain’s last open mic, I drove as fast as I could from Graz to Vienna, then flew as fast as I could from Vienna to Paris, and then took the RER public transport as fast as I could from the airport directly to the Place St. Michel and the Galway pub, as I was not going to miss that last night for anything in the world…. A Romain from the Galway a while back
For the last I don’t know how many years, Romain Bretoneiche has been hosting the open mic on Monday nights at the Galway Pub in Paris, beside the place St. Michel. He has been doing a great, a fabulous job, having taken over from the previous man, who was already a very tough and seemingly impossible act to beat. As of this week, last Monday, in fact, Romain has left the job as the MC in order to pursue a life on the road. Given that his band’s name is, “All the Roads,” that seems fitting. But Romain will be missed in the Paris open mic scene – for the next year or so, or however long it is he will be on all the roads travelling the world. The open mic will go on, though. A Romain from last year at Galway
And I did not regret a minute of it. In fact, I was so deeply involved in enjoying the open mic that I was completely loath to do my usual thing of making videos, and to record this momentous last event. Can you imagine? Romain three years ago at the Galway
Of course, I had to get a little bit of Romain doing his act, so I got a few bits of a song he did with a violinist, and then I got someone else, and I must say, though, that I have mountains of videos of Romain on this blog, so any search for Galway will lead to them. Romain’s last night at Galway
Romain pointed out to me that I attended his first open mic at the Galway, and there I was at the last, remembering some of the first times I met Romain. At the time, he wore Elvis Costello-like horn-rimmed glasses. And when I first heard his velvety voice, I thought, hey man, this IS Elvis Costello – a French Elvis Costello, 40 years later! He dropped the glasses – to my great regret – but his sound only got better. Another at last night for Romain at Galway
Check out the Galway videos on the blog, and return to the Galway for the new master of ceremonies – who, I understand, will be the amazing Tess…. more on that later….
It was an unexpected situation last night at the Coolin and the Galway as two of my favorite three open mics on Mondays in Paris kind of swept me away with music and mirth. I mean, I had to show up early at the Coolin to sign up on the list, and I ended up there late and found myself 13 on the list of performers, and it was already 9:50 PM. So that gave me time to head off to the Galway to perform first. Just as I was trying to figure out should I stay or should I go now, my friend Joe Cady arrived at the Coolin with his violin, and so we decided to head off together to the Galway to perform together there, before returning to the Coolin to perform in my No. 13 slot.
But arriving at the Galway, I found that the evening although not jam packed with performers had a healthy number of performers, and an even healthier sudden offering of a Polish woman classical guitarist to go up on stage after my set and play the guitar while I sing and Joe plays fiddle – fiddling around, as it were. The MC, Romain, after a two-week absence, was completely open to the idea of the sudden, impromptu performance by the Pole, and we set about massacring the Eric Clapton song I least like to hear, because it is just so sad. I had to sing it… that thing about if you see me in heaven….
Then the Pole played the Girl from Ipanema and Joe tried to play along and I tried to sing along, and made an even worse massacre of that. But I did get some of it on video on the stage while “performing.”
All of this unexpected happening on stage meant that by the time we left and returned to the Coolin, I had missed my unlucky No. 13 slot by about 30 seconds. No matter, the nice MC there, Timothée Gobé, who was replacing Etienne Belin, allowed me to go up on stage right after the performer behind the mic as we entered. So it was that Joe and I went through a couple of the songs we had already warmed up on at the Galway, “Mad World,” and my pretty new song “If I Only Had You.” Joe then played a song and so did some other unexpected performers who suddenly decided they wanted to play, and the evening went on later, and its high point was the stupendous singing a cappella of Frederic, who sings lyric in a conservatory. You have to check out THAT video!
All in all, then, the evening was full of unexpected singers and events and I barely held onto it all as it zipped along….
I had no idea what I was getting into last night after three days away from performing in open mics in Paris. I thought I’d take in a bit of the Tennessee Bar and the Galway, as usual, with the focus being entirely on the latter, in its first evening with the new MC, Romain of All the Roads. But I ended up having someone slip me a calling card and telling me there was a new open mic in Paris on Mondays as well, and I could not resist the visit. Thank goodness I did not resist!
First, the Tennessee Bar was as crowded as ever, and thanks to my usual effort to get there on time with a metro system that always works against me – just one change, but a 7-minute wait for both trains – I arrived far to late to have an early playing time. So I took a beer and watched a few acts and then went to the Galway. There were some cool acts at the Tennessee, by the way, with the Swiss named Mathieu, who had been at the Mazet on Thursday, and some other new guy who had a very interesting, high pitched, melodious voice and some nice lyrics and good guitar playing.
There was absolutely no way that I was going to miss the first open mic at the Galway without Stephen Danger Prescott running it, as he moved off to some other country and Romain took over the show. Romain did a fine job last night, and there were some musicians new and old – I don’t mean old like me, I mean ones who had been there before.
I played my set, but I was getting a little tired and decided to go home. But I had this calling card I was given for a place called Coolin Irish Pub, just off the Boulevard St. Germain, not far at all from either of these venues. And so I thought I’d just take a glance inside before catching a cab back home.
Coolin is this large, wide open pub in the building where there used to be the St. Germain market. It has apparently been there for 15 years, and I have never set foot in it. That will now change. The atmosphere was immense: Free, free-wheeling, young, vibrant, fun, loud – no nasty neighbors to complain – and the sound system was even not bad at all, although they plan to improve it.
Run by Henry, one of the bar tenders, the open mic was on about its fifth night. And it, like Henry, was full of insouciance and good nature. In fact, the moment I entered the bar and someone spotted my guitar, I was invited up to the mic to play. Didn’t even get a chance to order a Kilkenny. Nor did i care. This was too cool to be able to enter and get up behind the mic instantly.
And I loved the fact that I found myself in front of this new audience after I’d already warmed up at the Galway, and none of these people had heard any of my songs before. So I just belted into a few of them with abandon, doing some covers and my own “Borderline.” Had ’em singing along, and it was just generally a visit to the high reaches of the joy that an open mic, and singing in public can provide.
I then got out from behind the mic and took my beer and sat and listened to the others. There wer a number of cool musicians, including Henry, and the Irishwoman, Eithne O Connor – and don’t bother asking me how to pronounce her first name, but think something close to Anne – as well as another Irishman and some of the people in the audience.
In fact, I learned that this open mic begins around a table at 10 PM – sounds like the Bar Varal jam in Sao Paulo, right? – and then it goes on to become the traditional thing behind the mic. And then sometime after midnight, it transfers back to a jam session at the table. You can see in my videos just how amazing and free the atmosphere is.
This place has big, big, big potential. In fact, it’s already 100 percent there. It has a little bit of everything, including lyrics and song books with chords, just in case! It just needs more people, and a little history – and then it will be a Paris classic.
It was a wonderful return to two Paris open mics last night for several reasons, not the least of which personally was the absence from behind the mic for four nights for me…. But I have a little news and a little observation to make. Oh, and I was clearly not the only one to be happy to get to the open mics again: There were lots of people at both the Tennessee Bar and the Galway Pub.
The bit of news I learned last night at the Galway was that Romain Bretoneiche, who performs under the name of his band All the Roads, will be taking over the MC job at the Galway Pub open mic every Monday. Stephen “Danger” Prescott, who has been doing it for three years is leaving the country. It is a sad moment in that regard, but great that Romain is taking over, too, as he is a great singer, a nice guy and very enthusiastic. So it will be very interesting to follow…. I got a couple of videos from last night of each of them, one with Stephen doing a Dylan duet with Julia Lins-Gordon, who works behind the bar – and is also a writer – and another of All the Roads doing a Damien Rice song, really well, as usual….
I found myself having fun when an Irish spectator sitting at the bar in front of the stage made a request to me during my set: “Do you know any Christy Moore songs?” Wow! I couldn’t believe that for once I could actually fulfill a request, and this time on a performer who is not obscure, but not mainstream pop, rock, folk either. Or rather, pretty much a mainstream kind of guy in Ireland in the folk area, but a million miles from being a household name elsewhere in the world. He was the singer with the band Planxty, and part of the traditional folk revival of the 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, I was so stunned by the request that it took me a while to find a song I should do, and I missed the most obvious one. I started by trying to do his own beautiful “January Man,” but I forgot the lyrics, which I have barely ever memorized. I then realized that although he did not write the “Raggle Taggle Gypsies,” he certainly sang it with Planxty, and so I did that one, which I have done for years. It was only after I left the pub that I recalled that I should have done “Only Our Rivers Run Free,” which Moore did, although it was written by Mickey McConnell, and I also do it occasionally.
At the Galway we were also treated to a performance by Tory Roucaud, who was on a Christmas visit to Paris from her new home of Switzerland, where there are not enough open mics for her in Zurich….
At the Tennessee I was immediately treated to two songs by James Iansiti, the MC, who when I arrived was playing one of his own songs – This Next Song – with his bass player. Then he joined another guitar player singing a song by the Police.
There were a lot of interesting bits going on at the Tennessee but the one that probably took my attention more than any was the combination of two people I met separately but who have written some songs together and travelled together and developed into an interesting and cool duo…. This was Zoe Kelly from Australia and Jamie Turner from England. They travelled in Ireland and wrote a song about being stopped on the highway by the police – and they wrote another song together as well. It was nice stuff, and very cool to see how open mic relationships can develop into something. Unfortunately, Zoe is about to return to Australia after many months in Europe….