Greetings from Marseille. It’s Wednesday the second of Rocktober and now day 7 of the 23 day vacay.
I took the high-speed train from Paris leaving Gare de Lyon at midday yesterday. The train whistles through 500 miles in just 3.5 hours. It’s an impressive transport feat going from near the top of the country to the bottom in such quick order. The fare was 24 euros.
The hotel situation in Marseille got ironed out last minute but induced anxiety for a week. I’ll describe that situation in more detail once I complete my stay at the hotel but it was through no fault of the local innkeeper that the reservation got messed up. Rather, it was the outsourced third party reservations bureaucracy that botched all aspects of the simple transaction.
Five nights in Paris were just enough to gain footing, see key people/sights and depart on terms that leave me feeling a strong pull to return before too long.
I got lucky with that previously mentioned En Attendant Ana gig last Friday.
I wouldn’t have learned of it without Facebook. Yeah, the world’s biggest social media platform is a bad actor on several levels but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned about arts, food and drink-related events and spots through their site. In France especially, Facebook seems like a primary conduit of information about music. If you let the technology know your tendencies, it’s amazing the list of options it creates on any given day for all of France’s big cities.
So, after seeing a quality card of turf races at St. Cloud Friday afternoon, I made the long trek up to the gig at a converted industrial space on the northern periphery of the city. As I mentioned in the previous post, En Attendant Ana is my favorite French band and I’ve always wanted to see them. They toured the states last fall but I was in France. They were the first to play Friday night with all profit from the event going to organizations providing direct aid to the few thousand refugees, exiles and people fleeing desperate conditions now living in tents near the venue around Porte d’Aubervilliers. To reach the venue, you pass the temporary outdoor structures crammed together on sidewalks above a motorway. The stench is stiff. This is Paris, although not the part frequented by tour groups.
Admission to the gig was 10 euros. I drank Picon Biere (basic lager with a couple ounces of mildly flavored syrup that spikes the A-B-V). The venue: La Station – Gare des Mines was well run on all fronts. According to their nicely-crafted web site, the venue (outdoors) has a capacity of 960.
En Attendant Ana unveiled several new songs which sounded great. They also played “Night” which I’ve listened to over and over and over again since getting the record “Lost and Found.” Camille Fréchou’s trumpet lines were expectedly awesome. The closing guitar jam on Night lacked the snap it has both on the record – and from the footage I’ve seen so I chalked it up to the sound mix. It was later that I learned that Ana’s guitar player Romain Meaulard has been replaced by Maxence Tomasso which explains the textural differences on Night and other numbers.
The set lasted 50 minutes. The outdoor aspect made it great and frontwoman Margaux Bouchaudon (pictured above right – holding guitar) was fantastic.
On Saturday, I had lunch with Seb near his book shop in the Marais. We ate at a great place called Le Bougnat which has for decades been serving food influenced by the owner’s ties to the Auvergne. We both had a sausage/potato/salad dish with a glass of red wine and a plum tart for dessert.
That night, I drank Picon Biere at Chair de Poule, a great bar that sits on a three-way corner near the Belleville neighborhood. While waiting for Seb, Marie and her friend Audrey to arrive, I sat outside and got a thrilling Saturday-night-in-Paris view of the world walking by.
On Sunday, I want to Invalides to see people line up for the chance to say goodbye to the former French President Jacques Chirac. It was raining but I covered a lot of territory.
And then on Monday, I got to know the 13th which is where my hotel was. I walked all over it. It’s a mix of old, working-class Paris and efforts in parts to build ugly new stuff. I’d recommend the 13th for travelers on a budget because it’s real Paris – and the 7 line on the Metro gets you to a lot of the key places in quick order.
That night was my final night in Paris. I went with Seb, Marie and Audrey to the final night in the short existence of Black Star, a rock club near the Bastille. It was a short run for Black Star (less than a year says Seb) but they closed it with a rough performance from a guy who’s probably seen a hundred Black Stars come and go. Patrick Eudeline has been writing and performing rock and punk music for more than 40 years. He struggled through a short set which featured at least 75-percent of the small audience talking loudly as if he weren’t there.
As I walked back to the Metro to return to my hotel, I randomly bumped into Julien a friend from Toulouse who now lives in Paris and works at the Opera as a stagehand. We had a drink, caught up and laughed at the chance of meeting up without planning it.