Monday, February 15, 2016

Nous saluons le retour, Victoire. Ya Coots!


Singing with Victoire

It’s been a long day so I’m looking forward to Open Mic Friday, now under the direction of the 3 D’s, Dion and the two Davids.

Rachel has come to hear David L open the show.
David Lyons opens
  But the dog is not too excited about this. (One of David’s best songs: Why don’t you love me like my dog does…)

The first part of the show feels like the Upper West Side Senior Citizen All Star Review as a bloc of old friends has signed up. Gene Cross plays some originals backed up by Helen Cohen who also performs. 
Gene and Helen
Nancy Morera does an old Irish folk song.
nancy Morera
And Shirley Eiten performs some old standards.
Shirley Eiten
This, as we like to say, is why we are here.

In the  middle of this bloc,  I’m overjoyed when I see French singer Victoire and her new husband Henri walk in, fresh from their time in Brazil. It’s been at least a year since they’ve been here.
Victoire and Henri

After strewing the floor with papers and other detritus, setting the stage, so to speak, Patricia Lewis closes this part of the show with an extended monologue called French Fries, which takes place in a McDonald’s.
Patricia Lewis and French Fries

Sound man David S does another of his classic acoustic rock sets which he does so well. And then it’s my turn. Since I saw Victoire walk in, I completely redo my set. I open with my closer,  Carolina, since it’s new and she hasn’t heard it.  Then my raucous Love Again Tomorrow. I tell everyone to please stick around because they are in for a surprise.  Then I invite Vic up to join me on my Queen of the Factory Town song.
We’ve done this before and I love how she weaves her voice through the song. It feel so good to do this again.

Dion does one of his tightest stand up sets yet.
And then it’s time for Victoire.

Her voice has a breathy smoky quality rooted in the folk tradition but with echoes of Brel and Piaf and Paris cafes and something else that is completely her own. She sings  two songs in French and then a new one she wrote in English that is a paen to the old chapel and the old cowboy. That is here, this open mic, and RL. After that, Daivd L decides not to try and follow that performance but to just quietly end the night.

Underscoring  my happiness is a profound sadness. Victoire and Henri came in tonight wearing the Dusty Withers badges they’d received from RL . Dusty being the title character of RL’s 1950’s radio cowboy show recreation with his own unique sense of humor. The Dusty badges were cherished gifts given to the guests he invited to his studio in upstairs Room 3A.
They wore them in anticipation of a homecoming with RL and the very first music community that welcomed her to New York City from France. Before she left she had also become a part of the Sunday morning community as well. She should have found him there. And Mandola Joe.  And Pat O. 

It was a good night. But all of us here owe something to RL. David L played his first public performances at one of RL’s shows.  Dion gained confidence to do stand up from RL. And became a key member of the West-Park church community. David S, now our handy man, also came via RL. As for me, he gave me a place to begin playing again after 30 years and the confidence that allowed me to go out in public again, touring with Pat O to some 30 venues last year.(That groundbreaking tour had its genesis here.) He critiqued my songs, with no mercy but lots of care. Got my old Epiphone rehabbed and got me my first gig bag so I felt like a bonafide touring musician.

His open mics, were accepting and supportive and at their peak, created a community of people who respected and cared for one another, as musicians and as people. Few other open mics give you 3 songs, which gives you enough time to feel out the audience, screw up  and still have time to recover.  The 3 D’s remain faithful to that tradition.  What is not seen by some is so often so much more valuable than what is seen. There is no price on what happened to us inside..

He did this because he wanted to support the reconstruction of the church and to support this musical tradition. No fan of can you top this jams, he was often brought to tears by impromptu unlikely collaborations that could come out of nowhere on any given night just because. Well, yes, and to have a place to play and collaborate himself. We still haven’t been able to figure out how to finish the night without his signature Stay Awhile

That's why Vic and Henri wear the Dusty Withers badge. In the last year, she’s toured Portugal and Brazil. She has a new recording out and is under consideration for a major festival this summer. Two nights from now, she’s got a serious gig at a funky French-Mexican venue in hip Williamsburg with another French singer, Marine Futin, who recently played the storied Apollo. Her American adventure began right here, with RL. And that’s why she wrote the song.

Nous saluons le retour, Victoire. And yes, Ya Coots!

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