Posts Tagged 'music'

Summerflings, We Were Evergreen

Yesterday was the summer solstice and Fete de la Musique, the popular music festival that takes over the streets of Paris. The sky rained, then shined, then opened up and unleashed a humongous helping of hail.

By evening, the freak storm had passed and people paraded through the streets taking in the tunes.

I’m not sure why it is, but I always have something big I’m preparing for that precludes me from fully engaging in the festivities. They are always good things, though, so I’ve come to associate the day with opportunity. Last year I was about to jet back to the States and pick up my MFA degree. This year I am preparing for an entire month in Spain.

You read that right – Espana!

Continue reading ‘Summerflings, We Were Evergreen’

Monday Morning Music: Zaz in Montmartre

I love running into (good) performers on the street. It’s a sweet bit of serendipity that lifts my mood.

Here’s a ditty by the French singer Zaz. The song, “Les passants,” means passerby.

I thought this might help you imagine strolling through Montmartre and add a little pizzazz to the start of the week. (Thanks PerfectlyParis for the link!)

What are your favorite surprises?

Catharsis Catalogue

Hi friends,

Usually I try to respond to every comment left on this blog.

I have been so humbled by all of your warm and supportive comments on my last post, however, that I was rendered speechless.

Thank you. Gracias. In every language, merci.

Know that I have read, re-read, and will continue to cherish, all of your encouraging words. They have touched me so; I’m sure they will be gems I return to many times. (You made me smile and cry at the same time. I am becoming the master of smiling and crying simultaneously. I’m coming to kind of dig this ability, actually).

As I mentioned, I have my heart set on gratitude, beauty, and compassion as much as anything during these shaky times. You all have confirmed by about ten million (10,000,000!) why I am so thankful. Wow, I also feel joyful and amazed!

I never wanted this space to become a record of a breakdown (and hopefully it won’t now, either!), but I thought I’d share a bit of my journey over the past several months in song-form (ahem, other people’s songs. I have not suddenly gained the ability to sing, though that would be awesome!)

Continue reading ‘Catharsis Catalogue’

Serendipitous City Stuff

Happy little car on Rue Vieille du Temple

Every spring near the end of the semester, my college would throw a huge party for several days running. (Moderately) big bands played, fun games were set up on the lawn, and (let’s get real), huge beer kegs were tapped.

I especially loved the “inflatable Olympics” apparatus that took over the fields. You have by now probably placed me in my early 30s (you are correct), but have surmised that I am really just a big kid. Why running through plastic obstacle courses or donning sumo wrestling costumes was my year’s highlight, I’m not sure, but let’s just say people who are easily amused usually have a better time in life.

Besides enjoying the all-out let-loose feeling of the festivities, I found my favorite word: Serendipity. Yes, this was the name of the annual party. It means unlooked for good fortune, or “making desirable discoveries by accident.”

Sure, lots of these events were planned, but put a whole bunch of 18-22 year olds in a beautiful campus setting surrounded by a big forest and give them free-flowing alcohol, some unforeseen things are going to happen. (Actually, I wonder now if the college wasn’t looking for trouble more than luck. Wow.)

P1020037 (I have almost the exact same photo of me somewhere around here…)

Some people can’t stand city life. This September I especially sympathize as this is the most stressful rentree I have ever experienced. The crowds, the frenzy, the traffic, two strikes in two weeks. It is sometimes enough to make one go batty.

But then there is serendipity. Lucky accidents can happen anywhere, of course, but the higher density of people in cities just puts the odds at these lucky accidents just a tad higher, in my opinion.

Without even trying, I run into delightful little treats. (Or, do I just take the time to appreciate them? Hmm, discuss).

Like this, for instance: you might not be surprised when I say that I heard some lovely classical music at Bastille the other day. The Bastille Opera is there, of course. Only, the concert wasn’t located in the opera house, at all. Nope, I stayed underground and listened to this mini-orchestra for awhile. (Notice the older woman dancing near the end – I will be this older woman someday, I’m sure).

Or last night, I went to Shakespeare & Co to hear Nick Flynn and Adam Haslett read, followed by some jazz piano afterward. This was an event as part of the big Festival America that will be taking place at Vincennes this weekend. As I was walking back, I ran into some sort of spectacle at the Hotel de Ville. (I love how much goes on at the Hotel de Ville. True public programming. This week’s events are in support of “Coeur des Vies.” Stations are set up at the Hotel de Ville so you can give blood until September 25).

When there was a pause in the acrobatics, I went home, but I appreciated the small random pause in the day. There is SO MUCH I want to be doing in Paris right now, but I have too much on my plate right now to take advantage of everything. So it’s quite convenient to just run into fun things without trying. This bit of serendipity really brings a smile to my face.

I have to give a shout-out to fellow blogger Adam of Invisible Paris and Paris Weekends who really knows this city and all her off-beat corners. He puts together a stellar list of (often quirky) things going on for the weekend. This week I want to do absolutely everything he writes about.

I probably won’t get to any of it, but maybe I can hope for a little serendipity on my side and run into something else completely unexpected.

What have been some of your favorite serendipitous moments?

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(A)typical Paris Weekend

Who couldn’t use a little more honky-tonk in their lives?

It’s not every weekend in Paris that you discover delicious vegan Chinese food then see hipsters swaying to Hank Williams. Throw in a wedding and a friend visiting from out-of-town and you’ve got yourself a party.

Bringing country music to the Parisian masses

Let me stick with the honky-tonk for a moment, though. You’ll find plenty of jazz in Paris. Rock, chanson, electro, too. But rare is the honky-tonk venue (actually, are there any? please let me know!)

I can’t say I really grew up on country music. But I can tell you that hearing it in Paris gave me a nostalgic pang. It’s a uniquely American sound, somehow even more familiar when you’re far from home.

My new friend Ericka brought a group called The Brocanteers to the Cafe Courant, a buzzing bar on Rue du Faubourg Sainte-Antoine (at Rue de Cotte). A bit surprised to see the house packed for honky-tonk, I quickly entered into the fray.

Ericka writes plenty of her own songs, but did many crowd-pleasing covers, too. (Who doesn’t have a Johnny Cash favorite?) With special guest Sal Bernardi, a frequent guitarist for Ricki Lee Jones, the music had a magic spark. My friend Dani remarked that hearing the slide guitar reminded her of home.

So much is in the lyrics – that aching heart sentiment is probably what stirred my wistful longing. I wondered how much the audience could really appreciate it without understanding the words, but it made me happy to see them getting into the groove.

Comfort for a homesick heart on a rainy Friday night: If the Parisians can get down with honky-tonk, there is definitely plenty of promise left in this town.

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TIP: Point Éphémère (+ Lilt!)

TIPs (This is Paris) appears regularly on Tuesdays (discipline prevailing)

Bar at Point Ephemere

Located on a less scenic section of the Canal St. Martin, Point Éphémère is nonetheless a gem of a destination for those seeking a dynamic and alternative arts center. A former construction shop, Point Éphémère owes its radical transformation to L’Usine Éphémère, a nonprofit association whose mission is to rehabilitate industrial sites for creative purposes.

It had been awhile since I stopped by Point Éphémère. After a good concert this past Saturday – part of the Ici and Demain festival – I wondered why I had stayed away so long.

The sprawling venue wears no less than 6 hats: rehearsal space, artist studios, gallery, bar, restaurant, and concert hall. Grab a drink with friends, browse the artwork on the walls, eat a little something, then hear some music. What more could you want? (Answer: spring to come, so we can have an apero by the canal!)

No longer the queen of nightlife (ok, reality check – I was never the queen of nightlife), the 6:30 concert time struck me as strange – and completely welcome given my growing granny tendencies.

The concert hall is an intimate, dark – well, hole in the wall – capable of housing up to 300 people. The surroundings matter little once the music starts, however, and can actually add to the enjoyment. The small room ensures you’ll get a good look at the performers (unless someone really tall steps in front of you). I like seeing how performers hold up under the bright lights, watching the minutia of their craft.

Four musicians took the stage, calling themselves Lilt. I was already sold when I saw that a cello was one of the instruments. I love when classical instruments (especially the violin and cello) are used in rock/pop music. Opens up so many possibilities.

Lilt at Point Ephemere

As soon as the girls fronting the band opened their mouths, the sale was complete. I’m a sucker for harmony. Two pretty voices are better than one, right? It was clear these talented songstresses spent many a long night up there in Nord Pas de Calais where they’re from making sure their voices match up just right.

Lovely as the songs were, at times the lyrics left something to be desired. For one thing, they were singing in English, obviously not their native language. Props to them for that, except in some lines the meaning got a little confused and I was pretty aware of the accent. ‘The’ often came out as ‘zee’, but unlike the French I don’t ridicule accents. I think they’re charming.

I had to stifle a laugh, though, when one of the songs opined “there’s a doppelganger sitting on the floor.” Really? A doppelganger sitting on the floor? Let me try to picture that.

They were such sweetcakes, though, and harmony in a world of conflict means I’ll overlook a lot. During a pause for re-tuning they asked if anyone (including the band members) could dance to fill up the increasingly awkward silence.

It was then that I remembered why I hadn’t been to Point Éphémère in awhile. I had come for a dance class – some method called ‘Axis Syllabus’ – and I quickly learned that this particular technique seemed to consist almost entirely of spinning around in circles. I was flat on my face in less than 15 minutes.

I don’t hold it against Point Éphémère, though, and I think my nausea has passed. I just bob my head up and down now like everyone else and enjoy the sweet tunes.

Check it out:

Point Éphémère
200 Quai de Valmy
75010 Paris

(Metro Jaures, Louis Blanc)

Website (with some parts even in a funny English!): http://www.pointephemere.org/

To listen to some of Lilt’s lilting tunes, click here.

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Music, Massage, and Men with Guitars

Le 'Baroc

How often does this magical triumvirate come to pass: music, massage, and men with guitars? Apparently at a bar called Le ‘Baroc near Belleville, every Sunday night.

At 7 PM, nothing seemed amiss. A few people milling around with drinks.

Then come some boys with their musical toys. Rearranging the room, swapping tables and chairs.

Soon, the place is packed, the boys take the stage to “jam.” They start with uninspired American fare, then take it from there.

(“Ladies, you have come all the way to France to hear American songs”)

All of this is normal – you are not wrong.

Except at the next table over, a man starts giving a woman a full body massage.

Let’s assume he’s out to impress his date. Ignoring egregious PDA’s in Paris is not an uncommon fate (though I had never before seen a man rubbing a woman’s feet, then thighs, then every other part while simply sitting in a bar).

Now that’s done with – phew, no need to avert the eyes. Except no, he gives another woman a massage, then another! The count is up to three.

And now there’s a different woman, introduced by the band. A professional masseuse, apparently there all the time. She wears a nametag, posts a poster and waits for the line (and the customers go for it, blissed out of their minds).

The band has moved onto Prince, and a middle-aged man starts “shaking that a**, shaking that a**” for all of us to see. He’s popping, then locking – all not very well. The robot, then hip-grinding – he’s practically screaming “look at me.”

“You sexy mothaf*cka” the guitarist wails. I notice for the first time he’s sporting one black glove.

That’s the end of the Prince material, it’s onto Miles Davis. The musicians are hitting their stride now, the room is getting warm.

All I can say is, quite an interesting Sunday. Certainly not the norm.


paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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