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The Oasis 244 Comes Alive, in Paris

February 7, 2015

Oasis 244

Oasis 244

PARIS – A few months ago, John Redford and Stephen Saxo, two expatriate musicians in Paris started playing a regular Friday night gig at a small bar in Paris, which is located in equal distance between the Stalingrad and Jaures metro stations. As far as I remember, they had immediately from the start opened the stage, advertising the evening as John Redford & Stephen Saxo and Special Guests, or “Friends” maybe sometimes. The evening started fairly slowly, but now it has turned into a fabulous, wild, wonderful atmosphere of an evening, much more of an open mic than a gig alone, if last night was anything to go by.

Actually, I had played as a special guest at this bar – called the Oasis 244 – with Stephen and John a few weeks ago, and it was already a lot of fun. Then I got involved in other things reported on this blog and did not return to the Oasis 244 for weeks, maybe even more than a month.

I returned last night to find the Oasis 244 full of guests, both regular clients, people there for the music, and musicians. Many of the musicians were people I see around town at the other open mics, at gigs, etc., all of whom have gravitated towards this great Friday night musical moment.

Like all great venues, one of the main things that makes the Oasis 244 work – aside from John and Stephen’s great music, openness and kindness – is that the guy who owns the place loves music, and has more than enough tolerance for letting the musicians play as much as possible before he calls it quits for the benefit of the neighbors.

Last night I got to play six or seven songs, had Stephen on the sax and then David on the cajon. Amazing night.

Check it out!

Roller Coaster of a Time Over the Days and Nights in Paris at the Open Mics and Gigs

January 12, 2015

Paris Skyline

Paris Skyline

PARIS – For once I don’t feel any sense of guilt about writing about several days’ worth of open mics in Paris on a single day, having saved them up or been too lazy about writing after each one. In fact, as everyone in the world – or a lot of the peopleulation – knows, there have been unprecedented horrendous events happening in Paris since last Wednesday.

I put up a blog post on Thursday talking about how life goes on. But actually, I had no idea about how the terrorism would also go on, and how then the whole world – seemingly – would meet in the streets of Paris to march for peace. During that period, Thursday night, Friday night, Sunday night, I nevertheless went to gigs, open mics and other musical meetings, in what amounted to a roller coaster of a ride through the emotions, both musical and otherwise.

We were still shell-shocked when on Thursday night we went to eat in the Barbes area of Paris, the highly Muslim-populated part of town, in a great cheap local restaurant serving mostly maghreb-type food. And then I ended up being even more shell-shocked when at the open mic of the Barbara Center, Fleury Goutte d-Or cultural center right next to the restaurant I learned that a whole lot of musicians and other people had elected to not go out, for fear of the terrorism.

So it was that we passed a quiet, but wonderful time at this bi-monthly open mic called, FGOpen Stage, which exists not only to show off the talent of the musicians who are being aided and helped to grow through the Barbara center FGO itself, but also open to any musicians who wish to show up and play. The sound system is fabulous, the warm of the room in the lobby of this Paris-city financed cultural center, is a great professional-feeling place to get up on stage, which I did at the last minute after actually showing up to watch a friend’s featured act.

Behind the stage was a backdrop of “Je Suis Charlie” signs written in various languages. This was the night when the idiots who ran amok with machine guns were still running amok. The feeling was that it was probably all finished, and that either the idiots would escape the country, or they would be ambushed or they would get captured and put in prison for two or three years before being released for reasons no one could imagine.

The evening ended with a burlesque class putting on a quick burlesque show – which was fun and took the mind off the moment for the first time that day!

And Then off to the Concert at Jam at the Petit Balcon

Then on Friday, all hell broke loose. The idiots were spotted at a factory near the Roissy airport and then a third idiot, who had killed a cop the previous day, suddenly took a bunch of hostages at a Jewish food market and threatened to kill everyone if his friends at the factory were killed. This led to general chaos in Paris, and in truth, around the world the repercussions were being felt.

But the idiots decided on a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid kind of end to their charge, by running out firing into the bullets of the law, at the factory. And simultaneously, the idiot at the food store ran into the oncoming bullets of the special forces at the door of the food store. But not before he had taken four more victims. It is worth noting just how idiotic these people were and how uncoordinated, as the idiots at the factory had told the factory owner to leave that morning as “we do not kill civilians.” But then the idiot at the food store actually killed four civilians – because they he obviously considered that as Jews, they were NOT civilians. Whatever.

So that set the scene for Friday night: Do you stay inside and absorb the shock of this horrendous nightmare, or do you go to a friend’s gig? My feeling was that it was precisely the moment when it was time for everyone to go out into the streets of Paris and live as usual, and NOT let the so-called “terrorists” win their battle to terrorize the city.

So it was that I went to the Petit Balcon to watch Raphaëlle Pessoa’s show, during which she exchanged musical moments also with Insu, and she sang along to the humming sax of Stephen Saxo. The number of potential spectators had been greatly decimated by last-minute decisions not to attend thanks to the terrorism, but all in all it was a great antidote to the terror. And it all turned into a fabulous jam at the end of the evening, within which I decided to play some songs both solo and with Stephen Saxo and Insu. A memorable evening in a fabulous musical bar.

The March Through Paris, and the Café Oz at Denfert

So after a day on Saturday pulling thoughts, spirits and perspective together about the massacre that had just taken place over the previous days, and about how quickly civilization can break down into barbary, Sunday was the day of the great march through the streets of Paris by people who all came together from around the world – including 40 leaders from 40 countries – to demonstrate their solidarity with France in this time of tragedy.

I took that opportunity to stay at home and watch it all on television and achieve a few creative things in my life that I never seem to have time for – like doing my laundry – and basically had a great birds’ eye view of the whole thing throughout the day thanks to BFM television. At the end of the day, it was off to the Café Oz open mic at the Denfert RER station.

Here there were fewer musicians than usual as well, and fewer people in the audience, but there were just enough for everyone to do long sets and feel really relaxed, and feel like taking a step towards normal life – and I realized while singing one of my cover songs, just how appropriate it was for the events since Wednesday: “I Won’t Back Down,” by Tom Petty. It could have been an anthem for Paris as strong as “I am Charlie.”

Hoping that’s the end of that chapter of human history, I sign off….

Bombarding the Bombardier and Midnight at the Oasis

December 13, 2014

Open Mic at Bombardier Paris

Open Mic at Bombardier Paris

PARIS – I finally got a real chance to attend and play at the new Bombardier open mic in Paris on the Place du Pantheon on Thursday. I mentioned it in a previous post, but that night was not the right one to go into a loud, raucous pub environment where there is often little interest by the clients in listening, and lots of interest in talking. In the end, on Thursday night, I didn’t care who listened, I just wanted to sing.

So it was that I went to the Bombardier, a cozy student pub in the middle of the Latin Quarter, and I sang a few songs, and several other people sang a few songs, and the crowd died out sufficiently at one point that there were even a majority of people listening. In fact, I am certain I will return to this open mic – run on Thursday by Brislee Adams, who also MCs the Tennessee on Mondays and the Café Oz Blanche on Tuesdays. It’s a good fun, relaxed environment, and the sound system was really fine to play on, even if the sound may not make it to the other side of the pub during the height of chatter. But that’s hardly unique to the Bombardier as far as the world’s open mics go.

And then to the Oasis 244 in Stalingrad for a Concert and a Bit More Playing

Last night, Friday, I had the idea to go and hear my music friend John Redford perform in a new weekly gig he has at a small bar in the Stalingrad neighborhood, called the Oasis 244, just around the corner from the Point Ephemere and near the Quais de Seine, Metros Stalingrad and Jaures. John was playing his electric guitar and singing, and accompanying him on sax was Stephen Saxo, from Pittsburgh.

It was a really small bar, this small Oasis, and apparently it has an open jam session every second Thursday. The stage is small and cute, and John’s small sound system actually was not that bad. After John played his crooning melodies of cover songs and personal compositions, he opened the stage to anyone who wanted to play. He was careful to point out that it was not an open mic, but he wants to open the stage from time to time when it feels right.

I was thankful for that last night, since that meant I could do some songs with Stephen Saxo, and also try John’s Stratocaster. I later played on a classical guitar. But when midnight arrived, the bar owner said that was the end of the music, for fear of bothering the neighbors. So get there early if you plan to go. (John has no further gigs there until 2015.)

All in all, two fun and rewarding musical evenings in Paris now that I finally feel that I’m coming down to the ground and landing two or three weeks after the sixth worldwide open mic adventure….

Bonus video!!::

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