The next afternoon we headed over to the Palais Littoral for our soundcheck. There were some problems with the electrical in the building which caused some bizarre buzzing and forced James Simonson to use the Mark Bass amplifier through the SVT instead of the preferred Ampeg amp. The Hammond they had for me upon closer inspection was a handyman special in a home made case. The key action was very stiff and uneven and the organ made a loud buzzing noise when I changed the volume from normal to soft. The Leslie fast/slow switch was attached to a moveable volume pedal (which we had to tape down) instead of mounted on the left where it normally is. I’m not a fan of this configuration. I’ve played organs a few times that were set up this way and it’s useable if I’m playing bass lines with my left hand or foot but I really prefer to ave the option to change speeds with my left hand. It’s too easy to “foul tip” and change speeds accidentally plus. Later on during a solo one of the notes on the top manual got stuck somehow even though the keys looked normal and I had to play the rest of the show on the bottom manual. Getting a decent back-line Hammond is really a crap shoot. The Nord Stage EX they had for me was the compact model with 76 unweighted keys. This was also a drag because I use this for my piano/Wurlitzer parts and it’s difficult to play blues/boogie piano licks on non-weighted keys because there’s no resistance to work against plus it lacked the full 88 note range. I made it work because that’s what you do as a professional but it looks like I need to make a few updates to the rider. That being said, I’ve definitely been in situations where the back-line has been worse.
Once we finally got all of the technical details out of the way we were able to get a good mix on stage. We had dinner upstairs again and I admit I was disappointed by this meal. It consisted of rice and chicken with a cream sauce and it was marginal at best. I was craving vegetables or a salad because I was quickly approaching “starch overload”.
We hit the stage at 8:30 pm and were greeted with polite applause. We had a large attentive crowd but it’s certainly a different vibe than playing to an American audience. They were much quieter and reserved than we are used to. I jokingly wondered if they had put glue on the chairs because despite Thornetta’s attempts to get them up and to “dance away their blues” they remained firmly in their seats. We did receive a large round of applause afterward and we were called back for an encore so all in all I think we had a good performance. After we finished there was a band who put on a musical tribute to the late blues rocker Gary Moore.
Most of us (except Bassett and Mark) decided to go to the jam session after the concert. This was held in a small club a few minutes from the venue. There was a band setting up inside when we arrived. It took a long time for the music to get started. Skeeto and I hung outside for awhile because the club was getting packed, hot, and loud. Keith got up and sat in with the band first. Later Thornetta and Simo got up and killed it. I eventually sat in on the keys and it was here I realized that the guitar player had a serious “it’s all about me” attitude, was not gracious, and had no intention of being shown up by any Americans. (He told Keith that one tune they were going to play was in ‘B’ but it was actually in ‘F’…nice.) It might not be visible to an audience member but there are many subtle (and not so subtle) vibes and cues given off by musicians to each other on stage and this guy was clearly giving off an “ass clown” vibe. We played a shuffle in G and he kept telling us to turn down while he took chorus after chorus of marginal guitar gymnastics. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some major league guitar talent (Hiram Bullock and Perry Hughes to name two) so it takes more than playing guitar behind your head to impress me. After we finished Rutherford suggested to the guitarist that I sing a tune (We really wanted to play something that wasn’t a ‘I IV V lumpy de lump’) but my microphone was off and he ignored our request and brought up two other guitar players who did (surprise!) a slow blues in A. Once again the spirit of selfishness reared it’s ugly head as they made sure they were the only soloists on the tune. I had enough at this point and walked off the stage after the tune ended. The experience was disappointing from my point of view and I was glad when we all finally got in the van and headed back to the hotel. I’m not sure whether it was the jet lag, the distasteful behavior of the musicians or the couple of cokes I had late at night but unfortunately I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned in the small bed (which my feet hung off of) until the sun rose.
We had an 8:15am Lobby call to catch a 9:45 am train to Paris. Mark, Keith, Simo, Bassett and I were in one train car while the rest of the group was with Didier in another. We tried to get some sleep on the way to Paris but it’s hard to rest in an upright seat with little leg room. We finally arrived, exited the train and made our way towards the street. We crowded into two vans set off for the hotel hotel. On the way we passed the Moulin Rouge and a street full of small music stores (one was called “bass maniac”.) We came around the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ and were soon at Le Meridien (our hotel.) The rooms were not ready for us and we had to wait a few hours in the lobby. I had been up for way over 24 hours at and many of the group had only gotten a few hours sleep. We tried to make the best of it but it was not an ideal situation. I finally got into my room about 3:30 pm and laid down. I was much happier with this room because it had a king sized bed and I was able to fully stretch out without hanging off the end. I was exhausted and slept until 10:30 pm. Eventually I got up and met up with Keith, Rutherford and Skeeto and we took a small stroll around the surprisingly quiet streets of Paris. I returned to the room after grabbing a small salad (yes!) in the employee cafeteria, and fell asleep again. I awoke around 7:30 am and headed down to the hotel’s amazing breakfast spread. I had fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee, and a delicious ‘made while you wait’ omelet. I’m going to be enjoying a week of great breakfasts for certain.
We played a shuffle in G and he kept telling us to turn down while he took chorus after chorus of marginal guitar gymnastics.
Maybe this guy was originally from Ferndale remember that gig!?
No dancers in France??? Schuurly you jest!! So purrhaps you need to bring some Detroit dancers with you next time 😉