Looking for an insider’s view of the Paris indie music scene? The Paris-based British journalist Mark Thompson of Gigs in Paris talks about his latest project to bring the music to the people, Paris Undercovers.
The concept behind Paris Undercovers is quite a simple one, it’s to try to promote not only quality, new, and interesting music, but parts of Paris which often get over-looked by more obvious honey-trap spots. Our aim is to help the independent shops, real French cafes, parks, intimate live music venues, and other parts of the city you only really get to know and love after spending an extended period of time here.
Having been a fan of the Take Away Shows, Watch Listen Tell, Bandstand Busking, Daytrotter, etc… we felt it was important to do something different. All of these above shows, although we have great respect for them and love their work, are very private affairs. The Parisian music scene is insular enough, so we thought if we’re putting on this show anyway we may as well invite others to watch.
So, as an end product, we have a free live gig with an open invitation, free promotion for a part of the city which really deserves it, and a recording of the show.
We try to pick bands that have a very simple but distinctive sound. We have to be mobile when recording the sessions, and it’s easier and more effective to use acts that work well stripped down. We’re also focusing on up-and-coming, innovative and local artists, mixed in with a few seasoned professionals.
Our first session was with Oh Othello who busk regularly around the city and have a monthly spot at Chez Justine, and we have just recorded a session with Okkervil River who are just about to release their sixth album. There’s a mix of different genres and styles so each video is different from the last.
Music runs through Paris. It seems to be at its heart. Just wander around the city on Fete de la Musique and you can see how much it means to people here. Having lived in a few different countries and been to gigs around the world it’s clear there’s something special about the Parisian scene. There’s genuine respect between the audience and the artist whether it’s at an open mic night or a sell out at Zenith, not to mention some of the incredible venues – Theatre des Bouffes du Nord comes to mind as a highlight, whilst it was a tragedy to lose the Elysee Montmartre earlier this year.
I also highly recommend checking out the nightly free shows at L’International, Le China, Le Motel, Pop In, Chez Justine and countless other bars around the city as you can often find yourself a bargain.
The next Paris Undercovers (Episode 3) will be with Scout Niblett on May 9 at about 5pm on the Canal St Martin (meet in front of Chez Prune). Check in for last-minute details on Twitter @gigsinparis or via Facebook. The event is free and no reservation needed, just show up and look for the guy with the camera (that will be Mark). You can also keep in touch for future Paris Undercovers gigs through the website www.gigsinparis.com