Paris, allons y!
Having picked up a nice little online bargain I find myself on the Metro station at Charles De Gaulle airport on sunny February afternoon. A twenty minute ride deposits me at the Gare du Nord where I need to find the metro line to take me the Place de la Republique. Whilst I’ve been here before this station is huge, with a warren of metro tunnels as it’s a major hub, and it’s packed full of people which makes moving around a tad difficult. Just to make matters worse, why do they insist on turning these places in to shopping malls? Food and drink outlets I can understand, similarly somewhere for a book or magazine to read en route, but what circumstances arose to create demand for ladies’ lingerie and an “adult shop” in a train station? Clearly I’ve had a sheltered life and had some exceedingly dull train journeys.
Once free of the metro the city is a joy. I’ve been to Paris several times in the past but never alone and free to explore at leisure. Just like London it’s a fabulous place to wander around with its landmarks, architecture and the always appealing cafes and bistros. After whiling away an hour or so before check in, I fired up Google maps on the phone to navigate to the hotel. Now this wonder of the modern age is a boon and it soon had me at my accommodation for the night, but there are times when it can be so frustrating. Last summer I travelled to Athens in Greece to follow my local football club in the Europa League, and once again I put my faith in good old Google to find my digs. “Turn right on to Karaoli ke Dimitriou” instructed the charming lady on the navigation tool. Well I would if I could read the bloody street signs as they all looked like some equation Stephen Hawking may have created! On the subject of language studies, I was quite adept at French during my long distant school days but I always feel a little self-conscious when trying to use French to a native speaker. Anyone remember the old BBC sitcom “’Allo, ‘Allo” and the character Officer Crabtree? He was an Englishman who thought he could speak French, but did so extremely badly. “Good Moaning” was his catchphrase and they got away with some right lines on prime time family tv during the show’s run, such as “I was pissing outside and thought I would drip in…” Well, that’s how I always feel I must sound when trying to communicate to a French person in their own tongue.
I ventured out to find Supersonic, the venue for this evening’s free Screaming Females show, and unexpectedly found myself outside another venue. This was just around the corner and was one known to us all for far different reasons: The Bataclan. It was good to see that it was clearly back in use and staging a gig that night after the horror that unfolded there not too long ago. Another leisurely stroll takes me to the Place de la Bastille, site of the former prison which was stormed during the French Revolution with Supersonic, closed at this hour, located a short distance away. After settling in to a nearby café for a bite to eat a familiar face appears as Dominiek, a fellow fan from Belgium, waves through the window. We’d met up last September in London for SF’s final show of their UK tour and had enjoyed a few beers together. He’s accompanied by his friend, Jurgen, a first time Screamalino. Dominiek had done some admirable homework and promptly marched us off to the nearby Rue de Lappe with its numerous bars whilst we waited for the venue to open. That’s one to note should you be planning a trip to Paris.
Supersonic is a large, airy bar on two levels with a stage at one end, a small upper floor above the bar area and a large glass frontage looking out on to the street. The band were here already as the merch stall was set up and there were already quite a few people dotted around the bar. Charlie had supplied me with a stock of fan club pins and stickers which I began handing around, notably to one couple sat at a table who confirmed that they were there for the SF show. I spent the evening loitering around the merch stall, taking opportunity to grab a couple of tour shirts (one for Charlie!) and stock up on some of the State Champion releases that were available from Mike. As the opening act began the other SF members appeared and signed a few fliers I had left over from the UK tour in 2018 for me to send to Charlie, including one for Rachel in England, who at first didn’t believe that it was genuine! Such a small thought as asking Marissa to personalise the flier meant so much to her.
By now the bar was rapidly filling. The second act of the night, a French band called Off Models, were amazingly good but imagine my embarrassment when I saw that the couple I had handed Screamales stickers to were the singer and guitarist. Off Models were so impressive that I immediately bought their album as they arrived at the merch after their set, the singer forgiving my faux pas with the stickers with a laugh and a hug. I’ve met so many nice people at SF shows. You can check out Off Models at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPWdgflSkPI and their album is available to download via Bandcamp.
Worshipers – Miz’ampli 2019 OFF MODELS Concert de sélection #2 du dispositif d’accompagnement Miz’ampli Espace Couthiol, Livron, le 22/03/2019 Réalisation : LCR vidéo
SF took the stage with Dominiek and Jurgen front and centre. I had found a decent vantage point nearer the merch, a handy ledge by the windows providing a great view. Mike had expressed a concern that tonight’s show may not be up to scratch as they might be a little rusty with this being the first night of the tour. Don’t believe a word of it as SF were their usual excellent selves and turned in an imperious performance, leaving Jurgen a confirmed Screamalino and me with a few concerns for my safety as that glass frontage was visibly vibrating in time to Mike’s bass. I remember the windows shuddering behind me to Wishing Well and Pretty OK as I stood on my ledge. There’s footage from the show available online at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGao43Axj78
if you’d like a taste of the action, which, as always, was over way too soon. I always tend to hang around as I’m reluctant to leave an SF show and one thing I’ve learned is to always carry a sharpie or two. Plenty of people were eager to have merch signed by the band and lending them a pen is such an easy way to break the ice and get to know your fellow fans. It also enabled me to leave the band with a promise that I’d see them again later in the tour in Krakow, before I began the walk back to the hotel happy after another roaring Screamales show and having bidden farewell to Jurgen and Dominiek who were off to embark on extended Metallica tour during the summer.
The following morning I enjoyed another brief stroll around this magnificent city before heading back to the airport. Now getting here was a breeze, the proverbial piece of cake. Getting home didn’t go as smoothly. Using an automated check in point I was informed to speak to an Air France staff member. After a little Gallic frowning he asked how I had arrived in Paris. “By train, perhaps?” he inquired. Nope, I flew here, courtesy of your employers. Luckily I still had my outbound boarding pass, so after more digging he announced that my check in at Manchester wasn’t on their system and my ticket on the flight back was blocked. As a result my seat had been reallocated and they may have to bump me to a later flight if no seats were free. “What if you can’t get me home today?” I asked. “Then we book you into a hotel overnight at our expense” was the reply. Really? Any chance they could assume the worst and do that now? More Gallic frowning, “Mais non, Monsieur…..” It turned out that there was room on my original flight and I was home as planned, but no one could shed any light on how I ended up in this position. All must have been well in Manchester as I had scanned my eticket to pass through security and board the flight and the attendants were happy with the headcount. They even served me coffee in flight.
C’est la vie I suppose…….