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The Ugly Side of Celebrity – or Pete Doherty’s Night at a Small Paris Club (Or why everyone should have seen Natas Loves You at the Maroquinerie instead)o

March 20, 2011

The invitation from Facebook came yesterday afternoon, if I recall correctly. It said that it was a “Live Pete Doherty,” and it was taking place that night in a small bar, or nightclub, in Paris near the Opera. I knew the bar well for having attended an after show party there a few months ago. So my first thought was, “They will never fit all the people in that little place that will want to go in to see Pete Doherty in such an intimate environment.”

But there it was: The invitation to me and 4000 other people. Furthermore, two of the other acts that night were friends or acquaintances of mine. And I knew one of these people was a friend of Pete’s. Pete spends lots of time in Paris, and when he is here he apparently hangs around with these people I know, whom I have felt over the past couple of years as if I could call friends, but I’m probably exaggerating and should call them acquaintances. (We talk a little, I go to their shows whenever I can, etc. But I don’t hang out with them the way I would close friends.)

But what that made me think was that if I was being invited, and because I had friends who were taking part in the show, then I should go around and take the opportunity of seeing Pete Doherty perform live in close quarters, and maybe meet him – after all I’d heard about him. In any case, this was written as a “Public Event” on the Facebook invitation. And the invitation had been created by the event coordinator of the small club in question. So that meant this guy also wanted me there. And all the other 4,000 people.

Of course, I know how Facebook works. You invite 400 and you get 4. But we all know that a celebrity of Pete’s stature is not going to attract the corresponding 40 people, but rather several hundred. In fact, as I look at the expired Facebook invitation today, I see 469 people checked off that they will attend and 203 said they might attend. This club is the size of my living room. Okay it’s a little bigger than that, so we are talking about fitting 200 people in it shoulder to shoulder, at a rough guess.

When you consider that each musical guest and DJ and the organizer himself, could easily have attracted several friends and friends of friends, then we can easily imagine that a very intimate Pete Doherty party at this intimate bar could have been put together at the drop of a hat. And everyone – including Pete, I hope – would have been happy.

But the irresponsible, small-minded, loose cannon, hanger-on of an artistic director who organized this public event to which anyone can go and 4000 were invited on FB alone, decided that he would cause pain and damage to the Saturday evening of many people who were misled by his advertising.

Personally, I don’t care at all that I was never let in the door of the club and was rejected repeatedly by this organizer and that I received no help from someone whom I thought was a friend, either. My regular job as a journalist covering Formula One races means that I am constantly working with, meeting and talking to celebrities. One more or less doesn’t make any difference to me. I can easily live without meeting or seeing Pete Doherty play music in an intimate, personal environment.

My son went with his friends and arrived at this small club at 8:40 PM and waited in front of the doors until they opened at 10:00 PM…. only to see this organizer prevent them from going in while accepting a stream of his handpicked people who arrived over the next couple of hours after 10 PM.

This happened not only to my son, it happened to hundreds of other people who showed up to the public event to see and pay 10 euros to see – although I did not see any of the guests pay anything – a concert by a musician whose music they love and admire. Indeed, what motivated my son – and I know this because I have given him opportunities to see other celebrities that he has rejected because he doesn’t care about them – was that Pete Doherty is one of the few rock musicians of today that he really respects. The music, I mean. He loves the music and thinks Doherty is a great songwriter. He has never seen him before live. He learned of the concert independently of me.

So basically the point of this post is the following: An artistic director of a small club in Paris decides to invite the whole world to his big evening with a celebrity in order to reject everyone except a small group of handpicked people. He most certainly thinks this creates a great buzz surrounding his night club, and after all, there he was, the king of it all, striding back and forth letting in the right people and keeping the wrong people at bay behind a barrier in front of the club. For hours the front of the club was surrounded by the streams of rejected people – dozens of them at any one time.

“There’s something important happening here,” was the message.

My first reaction was that I wanted nothing to do with writing about it. Any attention paid to the cruel organizer would be considered by him as publicity for his club and himself.

But when I woke up this morning, I thought again, and I realized that what was happening was worth mentioning: Pete Doherty is an artist. He creates great music. He has become a public figure because of this. He has become a celebrity. But the artistic organizer of this little club in Paris used this celebrity to his own ends. The difference is, in doing so, he hurt and manipulated many other people. He disappointed them, and destroyed their Saturday night.

I narrowly escaped having my Saturday night destroyed too. I had a horrible decision to make, because as much as I wanted to see Pete Doherty perform, I had been waiting for MONTHS to see my friends in the band Natas Loves You and the Bellers, perform a concert at the Maroquinerie last night too.

As it turned out, I was able to go to the Maroquinerie and catch most of that concert before heading off quickly in a cab to the Doherty fiasco. But imagine if I had made the decision to miss my friends’ concert entirely for that punk’s incompetence as an artistic director inviting everyone but only letting in closely handpicked friends????

Anyway, the Natas Loves You concert was sublime; they just released an EP, and this marked the occasion. I have put up several posts of this band playing at Ollie’s open mic, and one recent post had them singing a King Crimson song, which they did last night in full electronic splendour.

I took several videos of the Pete Doherty fiasco, the people waiting in front of the small club in disappointment. But unfortunately you get to see the name of the club, and even in fleeting manner, the artistic coordinator who had been so cruel to them and done his job so badly. But because you can see the name of the club, I have decided not to put it up on this post and give any more publicity to them than they deserve. The guy wanted to use Pete Doherty’s celebrity to create buzz, and all he did was create bad vibes and hurt people’s dreams.

So instead, I’m putting up the videos from the concert that all those people SHOULD have been at: the one at the Maroquinerie with The Bellers, Natas Loves You, and Amen Birdmen. Dream on:

From the Bellers to the Puppini Sisters, by Way of Shakespeare and Co.

June 20, 2010

Just wanted to lay down a post about the last couple of days in Paris where the accent, for me, was more on listening to live music than in playing it myself. (No, I played as much as usual, but at home, not in public.)

Thursday night, spent quite while looking for an open mic but found nothing. Used to be one called Open House Thursday at a club called Belushi’s. That was a good one because the room was in a hostel, in the basement, so it meant a good crowd. The sound system was good, and it started late, so there was no rush to get there. But it ended last summer. For a while there was a jam session at the Caméleon bar on rue St. André des Arts, just a few meters away from the Tennessee and also run by James of the Tennessee. But it looks as if that stopped too. So I resigned myself to not playing anywhere and stayed at home and organized my life – for once.

Friday night I took my guitar with me and went to the Point Ephemere to see two bands I know, Holstenwall and The Bellers. I was mostly interested in The Bellers, as two of its members are very good and supportive guys I know from my days at Earle’s open mic. These are Romain on vocals and guitar and Marc Zeller on bass. Marc briefly ran an open mic in the Marais, at a bar called the Baroc. There he invited me regularly and there I met the TalkiWalki DJ Emeric Degui who suggested I try his radio show’s music contest.

The Bellers were very cool, and I love the room they play in at the Point Ephemere. But unfortuately I found the sound too loud and lacking focus. Normally, however, my Zoom Q3 filters out all the noise and gives an idea what the music really sounds like – so I did some videos of them not only for the blog, but also to hear better what the music sounded like! And it works, you will see if you listen to the video the sound sounds fine.

After that I went to the only open mic I know of on Fridays, which is located near the Belleville metro and is called the Culture Rapide barman’s open stage night, or something similar if you translate it from French. This is an open mic where there is no mic. But the bar is small and the crowd is usually friendly. Unfortunately, on Friday there was no crowd. In fact, the weather was so nice that people sat outside and around the corner to drink and in the bar there was only the bartender and two clients and the guy who runs the open mic. In other words, no performers and no audience. So I bought a beer and then left.

Last night, it was a visit to the former venue called the Locomotive, but which is now called La Machine du Moulin Rouge, and which is located beside the world famous burlesque house of the Moulin Rouge. Now this was a night to remember and one that solved all the problems encountered at the Point Ephemere: Every sound of every instrument and every voice in the band was crystal clear and no need for ear plugs. The evening was a theme evening of “pinup” girls fashion and the music was provided by the British band called the Puppini Sisters. These three women singers dressed in a kind of 1940s style and sang similar music, like the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B, etc., with a touch of rockabilly. It was a fabulous show and the sound was great, and this girl band reminded me a little of the 70s band Sha Na Na, but here with a throwback to an even earlier era.

Unfortunately, I did not have my Zoom Q3 and had to use my iPhone for a video, and the sound quality is very bad compared to the Q3.

Yesterday afternoon I also visited the Shakespeare and Company literary festival and heard Philip Pullman speak, and spoke to him myself, giving him a copy of my Colin Wilson book. He said, “Oh, he wrote me what amounted to a fan letter,” said Pullman of Wilson. I said, “I know, he mentions that in the book….”

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