I’ve just returned from Paris where I was playing a couple of gigs one of which was a very cool wine bar and the other was like a journey through time……
Sophie, a French singer whom I’d met last year organised two concerts for me in Paris; the first a bar in Montparnasse and the second….. well she was a little reticent in giving me information about it, but ‘it will be fun’ she assured. The first gig went well and so the following day we went off to meet Sophie. Without exeption, everyone complains about prices in Paris, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the size of the accommodation. To say Sophie’s apartment was small is a bit like saying that Bill Gates is quite well off! It was miniscule- moving around it Lesley and I, Sophie and her partner (and his collection of instruments) bore a marked resemblance to one of those children’s puzzles where you move little squares around to reconstruct the Eiffel Tower!
After this experience, I shouldn’t have been surprised at the size of the bookshop. It, too, was tiny: the rest room in Borders Bookstore would be bigger than this place BUT it was delightful; three walls of books and a few vinyl records. I was introduced to Agnes, the pipe smoking owner, who was presented as ‘the new George Sand of Paris’. By the time the gig started it was packed with people, all standing around with a glass of wine to hand. It was, in effect, a private party for about thirty friends. When they tried to get enough seats in it wouldn’t take everybody so the audience listened on a shift basis, with the smokers grouped near the door outside where they could still hear.
To open the gig, there was Sophie and her partner, Little Victor, a lovely hyperactive man with a father from Arkansas and a Sicilian mother, who switched with alarming ease and speed from fluent French to fluent Italian and then to English; his broad U.S. accent emphasising the accuracy of his French and Italian accents. Then I did my set. I had been worried that as I don’t speak any French I would find it hard to develop a rapport with the audience. As soon as I began to play and sing, it felt just right. Most of the audience spoke some English and Sophie translated some things for me, but most importantly, they were interested and wanted to enjoy the evening. They laughed at my simplistic joke, “I’ve never shared a stage with Victor Hugo and Tolstoy before”. They liked my reference to Descartes in one song, (‘I swing therefore, I am’). All in all, it was a magical experience. Then suddenly half way through a song, I realised where I was in the early 60’s; when Dylan was playing in smokey bookstores in Greenwich Village, a heady mix of intelligentsia and alcohol. It was magical. Agnes hugged me with tears in her eyes at the end of the night. I felt truly privileged. And then to end a perfect night we returned Sophie’s apartment where she miraculously cooked and served a delicious Thai noodle soup to seven people. It was hardly surprising that during the following day, wandering the streets of Paris, we were planning to see how we could make a return trip!
A magical experience playing music in Paris.