PARIS – I cannot believe that it has already been a week since I last posted about my escapades in open mics and jam sessions in Paris, and that I’ve done another pretty full slate of open mics in Paris again since that post! That was not the way this blog has gone for the now six years of its existence. I’m usually very timely in my writings about the open mics – a day or two maximum afterwards. But like I mentioned recently, I’m really hard at work, and very excited (that’s corporate-speak, but true!) about the progress of my open mic documentary, which, like my CD that I just got finished and made, will also be called, “Out of a Jam.” But now, on to a few notes about the last week….
Monday, I decided to return to some old territory I had not been to for a very long time: The Tennessee Bar has started its Monday open mic again. This, remember, was one of the best in Paris when it was run for well over half a decade by James Iansiti. After some kind of difference of opinion between James and the bar owners – if I have my facts straight – James left the open mic. And so began what would be eventually a descent into the dark ages, and the open mic fell so low that it stopped. Now there is a new MC, and it is trying to build its way back into its once glory days. There is no reason that it should not succeed, if the environment of the fabulous cellar room were the only thing that counted. Let’s wait and see! (Oh, it also continues on Thursday nights, by the way.)
First bit o jam at Paradis
I then headed over to the new open jam session on the Ile St. Louis, at the Chez Madame Louis bar. It turned out to be as lively and kicking hot as usual. I managed a couple of songs on stage with a bassist, drummer, lead player and me on my guitar. But what ended up being the highlight of the night for me was that on my way out of the joint, I found some people outside the front door to the bar, struck up conversations, and pretty soon one of the guys took out his guitar and started playing out there. In all, a couple of people ended up playing and singing. But in the end, the bar owner decided it was time to take pity on the neighbors, so the music had to stop. But it was a fun moment of the kind I love at open mics and jams – spontaneity.
Second bit o jam at Paradis
On Tuesday, I finally decided to see if I could show up on time for sign-up at the Café Oz open mic near Place Blanche. I ended up maybe 12 to 14 or so on the list! But it was just two songs each. Still, I calculated that would give me at least two hours before I got up. I then thought of going to the many other open mics along the line 2 of the metro on Tuesday nights, but ultimately I calculated that, Hey, I bet I could take the metro all the way across Paris down to the Bastille, and then walk over the open jam session at the Nul Bar Ailleurs and take part in that, and then return to the Café Oz and do my bit there.
Third at Zebre Rouge
I was actually really kind of proud of myself when it turned out that I COULD do that. In fact, I was quite simply happy as anything because I thoroughly enjoyed my moment at the mic in the Nul Bar Ailleurs jam. It’s called, “Jam around the table,” because it has that kind of feel to it, and there are tables around it…. But it is very intimate, and extremely well organized. My only criticism would be that in between the main bits where you get to the mic, the jamming of the rapping and reggae kind can go on a long, long time, as it did Tuesday – but that’s only a criticism because I was so excited to get behind the mic again myself!
Second at Zebre Rouge
In the end, I figured I better get off to Oz again…. And I did, and I played, and I had time for a beer before, and after. So it was the perfect night!
First at Zebre Rouge
Thursday, it was back to the Zebre Rouge open mic and another fabulous time in the cellar of this bar. In fact, I had to go and pick up my entirely re-fretted Seagull S6 in Pigalle before the Guitar Garage closed, so I was very early for the open mic. But I decided that I would try out the food at the Zebre Rouge, and man did I have a great African meal! And I managed to find a table in the back of the room very secluded, where there were about four or five places in the wall where I could charge my telephone and plug in my computer. So I spent an hour sitting there, drinking my dinner wine, eating, AND editing my documentary film. Can things get any better than this?
Third at Nul bar ailleurs
Evidently, they can! For on Saturday night, I finally had the time and inclination to go and check out the jam at the bar called, Le Paradis, which is near the Barbès métro. I had seen this one for months, since there is little else on a Saturday night in Paris. And because it is usually run by the same guy who runs the Nul Bar Ailleurs jam. So I went to le Paradis, and found myself in Paradis! The bar is just the right size for a jam, i.e., small, with a back room where you can go to breathe, nevertheless. But best of all, the bar manager lets the music go on until nearly 2 AM or so, and it is loud, and it is drums, it is saxophones, it is guitars, basses and keyboards and vocals.
Second at Nul Bar Ailleurs
But it IS a jam, and the audience is so big and crowded around the “stage” area that you are best off playing crowd pleasers of one kind or another and having the audience sing along. To my total surprise, I also met Stephen Saxo there, and so we managed to jam together. There is no doubt for me whatsoever that I will be returning to this fabulous jam, which I finally got to. In addition to everything else, I arrived and found the mic ready for me the instant I arrived, and in ripping off my coat, buying a beer and taking out my guitar in about one movement, I did not see it but I had dropped my expensive new cell phone on the floor by the bar. An hour later – after they had announced the discovery of the phone, and I had not heard them – they still had the phone behind the bar and when I was running around in a panic thinking I’d lost it, that it was stolen, there it was being kept in a safe place for me.
First at Nul Bar Ailleurs
“We’re serious in this establishment,” the manager said. I agreed, and thanked him profusely.
First at Café Oz
I will definitely be back to the Paradis – it’s a paradise (for jammers, anyway).
More jam at Madame Louis
Jamming outside Madame Louis
First at Tennessee
Bit o jam at Madame Louis