Paris, France.. “City of Love”, the Eiffel Tower, great food and bla, bla, bla so many other things there is no use in listing them. Needless to say it’s one of the world’s most famous cities and for many good reasons.
Fresh from my time in Cannes where (no I was not lounging by the beach or out in my yacht in the French Riviera), I spent what little sleeping time I had in an overpriced but adequate studio apartment that was clean, had wi-fi and most importantly was within walking distance of my primary reason to be there in the first place, the MIPCOM TV convention where I was chasing down networks to meet with.
Meetings went well by the way. One way or another, no matter where you live, I think you can expect Raw Travel on a TV near you by 2013 or 2014 tops. When it does you can say “wow, that only took 3.5 years”. Tough being independent in a sea of media giants folks.
Cannes was cool. I liked it much better than I expected, given it’s reputation as a luxurious retreat catering to the world’s elite wealthy and famous. Cannes also had a real side, a nice and friendly side that was charming as well and that is the part I fell in love with. In hopes we’ll be back with the show, I shot some video for Raw Travel and photos that you can check out HERE
But the closest thing to punk I witnessed was a lone tourist, by the looks of things a bloke from Britain, strolling the Croisette in a Descendants T-shirt. Normally I’d have hopscotched over to the guy and asked him a few questions to see if I could get the 411 but in this case, I was busy chomping down on a cheap but delicious Quiche Lorraine and to be honest, knew it was a moot point. Too many faux hawks in Cannes for there to be anything but Hip Hop and Electronica.
For the punk scene in France, may as well just skip to the chase and get straight to Paris, where there is not only a rich punk history, but also a healthy scene currently as well.
I mean France makes complete sense for a thriving punk scene. Protests, revolutions, an independent way of doing things…. it all just kind of fits and it’s a city I liked within 10 minutes of landing.
When I finally arrived in Paris, being the budget traveler and having my budget pummeled ever so slightly in Cannes, I took the train ($10 Euros about $12.50 U.S.) to another adequately clean and furnished studio apartment that I heard is in the “red light district”, however have seen no evidence to back that up (nor have I been looking for any by the way).
What I have seen in this neighborhood are a ton of Gyro shops (I’ve had 2 already!) in what appears to be a very immigrant and diverse community, in other words, the type of place I dig. Last night as I dozed I heard some guy singing what sounded to be a tune from Africa. Lots of color here, like NYC, which is maybe why I like it so much.
Unlike Cannes which was unusually warm, it’s chilly and damp here and I’m under dressed, so first thing I did after arriving to the apartment was went out and bought a 5 Euro (about $7 U.S.) flannel shirt that will be worn the entire time here (only 2.5 days).
The second thing I did was call the guys from Carnage Punk a local punk label and one of their artists Street Poison a local punk band. They had invited me out to a punk show nearby my apartment that featured their buddies “The Decline” as well as “Burning Heads” and “Rebel Assholes”.
Figuring out the Paris subway system was fairly easy. The ticket machines have an option in English and a ride is like $1.70 Euro (a little over $2 U.S.) Getting in the insanely overcrowded thing (on a Saturday night no less) was another. I thought NYC was bad? This felt like Moscow all over again.
Forget a taxi. Super expensive, I’m allergic to rip offs and as soon as I say “Parlez-Vous Anglais” (do you speak English, I have a feeling it would be all over). Besides, traffic was at a complete standstill (training back to the airport during Rush Hour Monday morning with luggage in tow should be interesting).
Finding the venue, Centro Muscial Barbara was easier than I thought. I just asked a kind and local bartender near the metro stop. (It’s bizarre that opposite of what I’d always been told, most people are very, very accommodating and go out of their way to be kind to non French speakers. Perhaps it’s my puppy dog eyes that I flash that gets them?)
Happily I made it there in time to see the 2nd half of “The Decline” who were opening the show. I saw all three bands and was thoroughly impressed by each. The Decline reminded me of a bit of Irish influenced punk rock with an acoustic song or two punctuating their sets and their poetic lyrics. Maybe even a little Social Distortion?
“The Rebel Assholes” reminded me just a bit of the U.S. band The Queers or Pennywise, NOFX or even Anti-Flag with their melodic, fast paced songs and heavy, rockin’ bass solos.
Then the Burning Heads opened with a slow tempo reggae rhythm and I knew I wasn’t far from Clash territory (or at least 5,000 miles or so closer than I am in California). Burning Heads (and all the bands actually) sang in English while addressing the crowd in French. I think I even heard a “gracias” or two from Burning Heads.
When I asked Street Poison they said they too sing in English. So much for the “French Only” stereotype we North Americans have been told over and over since our youth. Either France has changed (multi-lingual announcements in the airport and subway), or we were told a big, fat lie. Probably a bit of both.
In between the sets, I was able to talk to a few of the Paris punk fans, which was a healthy mix of guys and gals of all ages and like Paris itself, ethnic groups. Jules from Street Poison was celebrating his birthday and in addition to band mate Samy, his mum and his younger brother were out, helping make the whole thing a nice family affair.
I met Terez, a young female lighting designer sporting an Adolescents patch (she did the lighting for tonight’s show as well as for the Adolescents when they were in town) and a sleeve full of tattoos. Her husband Benjo, a local tattoo artist at his store Benjo San Tattoo, chatted a bit about music and how tattoos are becoming more accepted in French society.
Benjo introduced me to one of his friends/clients who was heavily tatted up and shared my love for Social Distortion which Benjo and company had seen play when they visited Paris in 2010. If you visit Paris and you want to get a tat from a real, authentic punk then Benjo is your guy. Visit his shop’s websites HERE and HERE.
In the crowd I saw a pretty much average punk crowd that you’d see most anywhere. There were Black Flag, Bad Religion & Madball shirts, plenty of “Scally caps” but no real street punk mohawks or anything.
I did notice a chap (have you noticed my British style speak? Wait til you hear my new accent! Madonna’s gonna be pissed) sporting a scarf around his neck Hollywood Director style. That occasional sighting and the French most people were speaking was my only real reminder that I was in Paris and not NYC. The pit was not overly rowdy and I was able to sidle my way up front and take photos and videos pretty much without any worry of being creamed.
You ought to see all the photos form the Paris Punk Show so check them out HERE and be sure and tune back in later for video from all the bands from Saturday’s Paris Punk Show, our exclusive interview with Street Poison and our online interview with the Lipstick Vibrators who unfortunately were touring the north country and we were unable to hook up with in person.
In short, even though our stay in France is coming to an end, our coverage is just beginning (that’s the way it works), so be sure and check back often. Now, I’m off to get a Croissant, a Baguette or something French sounding to eat.
Try not to be jealous. It’s really not a good look on you.