So the other night I went to the offices and studios of Radio France to see a show in a series celebrating 40 years of FIP on the air. I frequently write about my affinity for FIP and recently gushed about my new appreciation for Moriarty, so a free show in the intimate setting of the FIP studio space with the Eiffel in the background didn’t seem like a terrible way to spend a Wednesday evening.
Based on Pierre’s experience, when a popular group is performing, the line gets really long, really quickly. Having nothing I needed to do, I took the book I am reading and my netbook down to the 16th arrondissement about 2 hours early, and grabbed space on the floor. I was one of the first 10 or so there, and spent the time knocking out a piece for the premier issue of George‘s new print magazine about all things music in Philly called JUMP. By the time I stood to leave, the line was down the corridor, out the door and had boomeranged back past where I had been sitting.
So after the two hour waiting and wrapping up the piece, we got in and great seats. The set-up is the room is narrom and long, with the bands performing in the middle. There are chairs on the wings but you don’t get a good view and you are slightly removed. The bonus is that you are in a chair and not on the ground for four hours, but if I wanted to be comfortable I would of stayed home in my thermals, basketball shorts and T-shirt in bed. I came for the intimate experience of seeing live music and if I had to suffer I was willing, so I grabbed floorspace against the wall, front and center.
First up was Richard Galliano. Dude plays the accordion. Well. Very well. He’s been doing it 50 years. It shows. At one point another gentleman with an accordion joined him on stage and they had a face off. It was a man-to-man, accordion-to-accordion duel. I have seen many things in my time here on planet earth. That was a first.
Second to play was Yom. Yom was by far, the surprise of the night. Fucking outstanding.
And let me say that I was not expecting this at all. When the four of them walked out I thought, “Fuck. White dude in his mid to late 30’s, rocking a dashiki, and holding a clarinet? New Age music. Yawn.” I couldn’t of been more wrong. It was Yom the Klezmer King on clarinet, the funky drummer, the five-string bass player and my man on keys. And they murdered it. Crazy good music. It was so funky, so fast, so fresh. A ton of energy. What I liked was that each instrument was weighted equally, so it wasn’t just that the three others were there to set up the clarinet to make it seem as if it was only there in a support role. It sounded cohesive. From what I can tell by looking Yom up online, it may not be the style he usually plays (it seems he usually does more classical stuff and is backed by horns), but what he did this night was outstanding.
So the band I came to see was next. As they set up, Pierre scurried over to the percussionist to see if they planned on playing Private Lily. They weren’t. (This wouldn’t stop Pierre from shouting it out during a lull, much to my and the band’s surprise. Later he told me he was mad they wouldn’t play it for him. Ahhhhh… the French.) Instead they played for about 30 minutes of material off of their new album, New Stories, which is in stores soon. The lead singer, Rosemary Moriarty, has such a unique voice. It melds so well with the folky, bluegrassy instruments that accompany her. It certainly isn’t an upbeat kind of set, but they were unbelievably good. Not just her, but every member is extremely multi-talented, playing and switching off instruments and/or singing.
Rosemary went on to do a great solo, backed by a piano, reading the words and melody off linesheets that she dropped to the floor when she came to the end of each one. All I can remember is her voice and the words, “black freighter.” Then after the next woman performed, she performed a song with her. It was nice to hear.
Sonia Wieder Atherton was next. She started with two other cellists, played with Rosemary, then did a crazy piece where she looked and sounded like she had smoked crack. It went from good, to great, to what the fuck.
Moussa T is a band from Marseilles. If you have ever been to a bar in a college town, imagine that experience where the language is French, and you have Moussa T. It definitely picked up the energy level, but…
I think for a lot of people, CharlElie Couture was the man they came to see. CharlElie is something of a legend in France from years gone by. Not to say that he is washed up or done, but the days of prominence here are past. Apparently he is more of an all-around artist and music is one outlet he chooses to express himself. The music was somewhere between hard rock and punk, with some spoken word thrown over the top. He lives in NYC these days and the NYC influence was clear. What was great was that people were clearly excited to see him, he fed off that energy and gave it back, an that process was repeated over and over. By the end people were standing, clapping and yelling. The whole show was broadcast live over the radio and CharlElie went over on time, but not only did they keep the program going and continued to air it, but he ended up performing a long, genuinely impromptu encore that everyone ate up.
It was over four hours of free, quality, talented, good, live music in Paris.
Can’t really beat that
(Photo creds: Christophe Abramowitz©Radio France for the good ones, myself for the shitty ones.)