Paula Kelley: vocals, piano, guitar
Aaron Tap: guitar, vocals, melodica
Jeff Norcross: drums
Chris Barrett: trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, vocals, percussion
Angie Shyr: violin, piano, vocals
Nate Logus: bass
Mardi et Mercredi, 2 et 3 Mars: Nous arrivons a Paris
After a night flight over the Atlantic, and very little sleep for all, the Orchestra arrived in Paris, met at Charles de Gaulle airport by Polaris's Olivier and Thierry, and their invaluable assistant Carmine. As Tuesday and Wednesday were the only days off on the trip, the band tried, despite jet-lag and exhaustion, to see the city. In the course of the two days, they visited, together and in smaller groups, Chatelet/Les Halles, the Picasso Museum, the Eiffel Tower, The Tuilleries Garden, Place de la Concorde, and more. It was all so fast that, thinking back on it, it's very hard to discern between the two days. On Wednesday, Polaris's videographer, Sylvain, met the band and was to accompany them for the rest of the journey. We're all looking forward to seeing the finished document of the tour. On Tuesday, we also met Cyril, who works for RFM, a French radio station. He also plays some music, and we stayed up late that night playing ridiculous songs (I had to ask him to stop when he began 'Dust in the Wind') and drinking fantastic wine. Bootlegs of that performance should be showing up soon.
Jeudi, 4 Mars: Radio France et House of Live
With an 8 a.m. arrival time dictated by Radio France, the band had tried to get a decent night's sleep, but it was not easy, as we were still somewhat on Boston time. Still, the radio station was enough to wake us all up. It was a huge building, and the studio in which we were to perform was gigantic and decked out with all the best equipment one could imagine. A drum kit and bass rig were provided, and we brought the rest. The sound crew of 3 was ready to serve our every whim, and within an hour they had us all set up and we were able to have an hour-long soundcheck. The sound in the room was phenomenal and we were all excited to play, but a little sad that we would only be able to do two songs. The show, called Fou du Roi, is sort of the equivalent of a daytime TV talk show, but without the cameras, of course. There were about 6 guests and they sat in a round table below the stage. When the show finally started, attendance was at the maximum, which was about 150-200 people. We got our cue to make for the stage and with an announcement of "Paula Keeely," we launched into A New Time. Went off without a hitch and the response was great. It seemed to us like it had only lasted about five seconds, and before we knew it we were back in the green room awaiting our next cue. About 20 minutes later, we remounted the stage and played Anyone Who Had a Heart, with the show's pianist, Richard Lornac, joining us. He was great, and again, it was all over in an instant. As we packed up, we got word from our people that everyone at the station was abuzz about the performance. People were excited to hear something so 'different' and 'fresh,' and it was particularly rewarding to us, as we sometimes feel very aware that we are a bit unfashionable. After loading the gear up in a cold drizzle, we went to a cafe for a celebratory lunch. With only a little difficulty, language-wise, Angie, Paula and I each ordered the only vegetarian thing on the menu, a salade, of course, while Chris ended up with a plate full of raw ground beef, which he bravely consumed.
That night's show at House of Live was another very positive experience. Despite the club being set up more like a restaurant, the stage was big enough for us, and featured a "sneeze guard" for the drums, like you see on The Tonight Show, which is sorta perfect for a quiet band like us, though maybe not so much fun for Jeff. The soundman was a total pro - he had even set up all our inputs, marked, on stage before we arrived. I was impressed. We got set up and soundchecked, and then realized, to our happiness, that the club was less than a block from the Champs Elysees, so we set out in small groups to check out the 'hood. The street is incredibly wide, and ablaze with lights at night, but as there is a minimum of neon, the effect is quite pleasant and with so much room to move, it doesn't feel claustrophobic like Times Square, or Soho, or whathaveyou. Paula and I headed to Virgin Megastore for the cheap thrill of seeing her album on a new releases rack, and also picked up a few Jacques Brel CDs. Then we had coffee and tea at a small cafe. As showtime neared, the place began to fill up, and we were informed that a number of bigwigs from Sony (who is distributing the album in France and Switzerland) had arrived. Foolishly, that made us a little nervous, but we got on with it. It would be good to get out of the backstage room, which smelled like a grease trap (if you know what that is, you know what I mean - if you don't know, you don't want to know). The set went almost perfectly, and it being Nate's first full show with the full band, I have to single him out as having done a great job. Again, response from the industry was glowing. In the coming days, it would be our task to win over the general public.
Vendredi, 5 Mars: The Louvre dans une heure et La Fleche D'Or
We did not return from the show until about 3 a.m., so getting up on Friday was not an easy task, but as it was to be our last day in Paris, we were determined to see a little more of the city. One group headed out early, Jeff went with Olivier to get the gear to the club, and Paula and I were the last to leave, with a plan of meeting up with everyone at the Louvre for a couple hours of culture. As all great plans are eventually laid to waste, this one fell victim to slow trains and confusion. Eventually, with 5 of the 6 of us at the Louvre, we decided that, even though we only had a half-hour before we were to head to that night's venue, we were there, so we'd better have a look around. Again we split up, and Paula and I practically ran to the Venus de Milo and then made our way through the labyrinthine galleries to find the Mona Lisa. It was as imposing as people say. It was difficult not to stop and gaze at the many masterworks en route, from the Greek and Roman sculptures from the 1st and 2nd century to the massive French paintings of the Napoleanic era. Needless to say, both groups were late for our rendez-vous, and we finally hopped on the Metro to head to the other side of town where, after a very long walk, we found La Fleche d'Or.
We were happy to find the rest of our party there, anxiously awaiting us. Next time we tour Europe, we're buying cell phones that work over there. The club was very cool looking, having been converted from an old train station. The main room was huge and there were a couple smaller rooms off to the side. Soundcheck was a bit trying, but eventually it seemed like things were all set, and we broke down and ordered some drinks. Dinner at the club was a debacle, wherein we were provided with meal vouchers that we later found out, were basically meaningless, as we couldn't order off the menu and the chef was thrown in to some sort of confusion when he found out that half of us were vegetarian. Turned out that fact ruined his plan of giving us each a plate with french fries, a few pieces of lettuce and a fried chicken leg. After ten minutes, he seemed to figure out that he could omit the chicken leg for the vegetarians, but by then we weren't really interested in eating their food. On the plus side, the club had a very cute calico cat that hung out near us while we "ate." First on the bill was a sort of alterna-rock-by-numbers band whose name escapes me. They sounded like any American band, with some samples and repetitive verses, the only difference being that they sang in French. When we got up to play, the club was filling up. The sound on stage was less than ideal, and it took us a little while to get into the show. By the latter half, though, things really came together, and when we finished, an encore was demanded of us. With Nate filling in on bass, we had already played everything we knew, so we made a true "encore" of it by playing 'A New Time' again. We were reluctant to do that, but it proved to be a great idea, as a) we played it much better than we had the first time, and b) the audience loved it! We even had people dancing in the front, which is not usual for us. Speaking of not usual, there were two 4-yr old kids in the front of the audience at this show. And, there would be children at our subsequent shows. It was interesting. And also, it was very difficult for us to get used to playing in clubs that allow smoking. We've been so spoiled here in Boston since the ban went into effect.
Samedi et Dimanche, 6 et 7 Mars: St. Etienne
No, we didn't meet the band. Early Saturday morning, with more than a little difficulty, we loaded all our gear on to a Train Grand Vitesse and were on our way south to the city of St. Etienne, by way of Lyon. I should explain that we rented a wonderful digital piano for the tour. The only problem is it was immense and came in a gigantic road case. Getting that onto a train was no mean feat, and when we had to change trains in only 15 minutes, well, that was fun. I think I got a taste of what a stroke might feel like. St. Etienne is a beautiful, more provincial, city about 400 km south of Paris. It was/is known for producing guns, bicycles, and ribbons. The locals call themselves Stephanoises. That's about all I had time to learn. We arrived in the early afternoon and only had an hour to freshen up before we were scuttled off to the local FNAC (a big chain record store) for an in-store. When we arrived, we were all shocked to see Nate's wife Kay standing at the performance space! She had flown over that morning and made her way to the city alone, without telling any of us! It was an incredible surprise. For the show, again, the sound was perfect. We played acoustic and the engineer had everything we needed already set up. It was a short set, but a bunch of people dropped by and bought CDs. A very kind fan even gave Paula a book of photographs of the city that he had taken and published along with classic French poetry. It was touching. After the show, Nate, Kay, and Jeff took to the city, while Paula, Angie, Chris, and I were taken to the local indie radio station for an interview and a couple more acoustic numbers. As much of the interview centered around Paula's love for the Bee Gees, we decided to perform 'In the Morning.' That night, we had dinner at an Alsatian restaurant with our Stephanoise hosts, Gerard and his family. Dinner began at 11:45 pm, so it was another late night in France.
Next day, we explored the city in small groups. It was Sunday, so not much was going on, but people were about and museums were open. We needed to be at the venue early, as it was an early show, and we were borrowing a lot of gear from the opening band, Scrambled Eggs. The Theatre du Poche was a very cool small place, very much the European cabaret type of joint. There was a small bar with tables and an old piano on one side, and the theatre was next to that. It seated maybe 30-40 people, and the stage area was very cool, basic black (the picture on the main page of this mini-site is from there). The house filled up and Scrambled Eggs took the stage at about 7:45 and played an excellent set of Brit-inspired pop. Most of their songs were in English, and they were all top-notch musicians. Which, thankfully, meant they had really good gear for us to use. We played at about 9:00 and had a really fun set. Nathan thought it his personal best. Again, we were cajoled into playing an encore, so we did Friday Came (which we had skipped) and then Paula played a stunning solo version of For Someone. After the show, we hung around talking to the audience members who lingered and signing autographs. As the crowd dissipated, and we were all feeling exhausted, our thoughts turned to returning to the hotel. And then we realized that Roland, the proprietor of the theatre, had begun cooking us dinner in the back room. A table for 15 was set up and wine was brought out. now, this was the real European experience, so we were all invigorated and greedily sat down to table. The food was modest, but tasty, with broiled endive, potato, and celery for us veggies and beef with mashed potatoes for the others. And, of course, baguettes and salade. After dinner, Roland brought varied bottles of liqueurs and liquors up from the basement and we all tasted various drinks (my first time having cognac - not my thing, I think) and had lively conversations in French and English simultaneously. It was a very warm and fun time, and before we knew it, it was 2 a.m.
Lundi, 8 Mars: Le retour
With much difficulty, we all got up at 7 a.m. and again carted our gear down to the train station. At this point, we had to part ways with Olivier, and it was hectic and a little sad, as he had been our constant companion for the week and had worked so hard to pull this whole thing together. With many vows of "let's do this again soon," we bade him farewell and the train pulled out of the station. Thankfully, this was a direct train to Paris, so there was no more hurried gear-moving in our future. Carmine, Thierry, and Cyril met us at the station in Paris and loaded us up and took us to the airport. After checking in, we sat with them and reflected a little on the trip, and before we knew it, it was time to board. I managed, unlike me, to sleep most of the way back, and suddenly, we were in Boston again. I've only covered the highlights of our trip here, so as you can likely tell, it was quite a week. But we all agreed we'd do it again in a second. And hopefully, we will, in slightly more than that.