Music has always been an important part of my life, both playing, listening, and appreciating. I was in band for eight years, and continued playing in my free time throughout college. As I’ve grown older and busier, actively playing music has become a less important part of my life. When I met my best friend almost four years ago, she helped me to rediscover my love of music. We went to many live performances together. In fact, so many, that without really stopping to think and diagram everyone we have seen live, I don’t know that I could begin to name all of the awesome performance we have seen.
Each year, a local magazine puts on an awesome music festival, featuring local and up-and-coming artists. Last year, at MetroTimes Blowout we discovered some pretty awesome bands from Detroit. One of those bands was Captain Ivory. We didn’t know much about them at the time, and we stumbled upon them quite by accident, but we both quickly discovered how much we liked their music. Of course, this was at the time that we were both preparing for my move to France, so we were a little bit sad about discovering this great new band, only months before I left the continent. We then discovered that Captain Ivory was going to be relocating from the Detroit area to Nashville, which didn’t really help with the sadness.
Since arriving in France, I’ve had a very difficult time finding live music, especially with local musicians. It has become much easier, as my favorite bar in Tours, le Bartok, has live performances almost every week. My next challenge was overcoming my fear of going to performances alone. Luckily, the events at le Bartok were painless and easy for me, as I have become a regular there, and the owners and their dog have befriended me in a way. Little by little, I’ve been pushing myself outside of my comfort zone and been searching for live music throughout Tours, as well as the other cities/countries I visit in my travels.
I still follow all of my favorite bands from back home, even though I no longer live there. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. I like feeling as though I’m informed about what is happening back home, but at the same time it makes me feel a little sad realizing how much great, live music I am missing. Captain Ivory is one of the bands I follow on Facebook, and I noticed that they were working on a European tour. While I wasn’t getting my hopes up about them coming to any of the cities in my immediate area, I was really hoping they would have a few dates in France. Turns out, they were going to have two dates in France. The first show was on a Thursday night, near Paris. As I work both Thursdays and Fridays, this was not an option. The second date was a Saturday night, still near Paris, but do-able, as it was the weekend.
The seed had been planted, and now I had to decide how brave I truly was. I had been to this town before, but only to catch a flight. It’s a small town, with not much to do. Turns out, the only thing this town is known for is a music festival, le Blues Autour du Zinc. And apparently, this festival is a pretty big deal and this year was the 20th anniversary. This was the festival where Captain Ivory would be playing, alongside another American musician, Otis Taylor. After pondering my options, I decided that I would ultimately regret it if I didn’t take the opportunity to see a Detroit band play in France, because let’s face it, this doesn’t happen often. Tickets for the performance were very reasonably priced, just under $20. I bought my tickets and then began working on the logistics of how to get to the festival, where to stay, and how to get to the concert.
Figuring out the train was easy enough. Of course, I had to change trains in Paris (because that’s how it works in France for almost every destination). I am incredibly comfortable with navigating Paris, so this did not stress me out in the least. I had also picked a hotel very close to the train station in Beauvais, so I was comfortable with that part of the trip. The only part of my adventure that was stressing me out was figuring out how to get to the actual concert. The venue was not in the centre of town, and as it started in the evening, all public transit would have stopped by the time I needed to depart for the concert. My only realistic option was to take a cab, something that I very strong oppose. I hate taking taxis, as I think they are the least affordable way of getting from Point A to Point B. However, I literally had no other choice (aside from renting a car). To get from my hotel to the concert venue was a 2 kilometer drive (less than 1.5 miles). The round-trip cost of my taxi ride for the concert was 30€! For less than a four mile journey. This was nearly double the cost of my ticket for the concert. At the time, I was pretty irate about the cost, but in the end, ended up being okay with it because I had a great time at the concert.
The concert was in the coolest venue I have ever seen live music performed, la Maladrerie Saint Lazare. It was a medieval hospital for lepers that has since been converted into a venue for live performances. The history of the building itself was extremely interesting, but actually standing there, thinking about it, while watching a band from my hometown perform was a surreal experience. I’m still trying to figure out the role of live music in the French culture, as every live performance I have ever attended has been drastically different from what I’m used to. For all performances in France, most people sit. This is a very strange concept for me, but one I’ve since gotten used to. When I arrived at la Maladrerie, the first thing I noticed were the chairs and the number of people sitting. There was a very small space (what we would call ‘the floor’ in America). There was hardly anyone standing there when the performance began, but then it started filling up. I was able to find myself in the second/third row for the entire concert. While I don’t typically sit for performances, I also typically avoid the floor, as it tends to get a bit hectic and rowdy. People were definitely having a good time, but were very much in control of their bodies the entire time.
Anyone who has hung out with me in a social situation or attended a live music performance with me knows how socially awkward I can be. This is one of the countless reasons that my best friend and I are best friends. We are equally awkward, but make it work when we are together. Attending this concert alone was a very uncomfortable situation for me, but I quickly tried to stop thinking about it. Thank goodness for technology, as I could text Jeannette throughout the night, especially when I needed a bit of encouragement.
Captain Ivory’s performance was amazing. Exactly like I remembered them from Blowout. I had been listening to their music for several weeks leading up to this festival and was very excited to have a bit of home in France. Throughout the entire performance I felt as though I had been teleported back to Michigan and was listening to them perform at the WAB or Old Miami or the Majestic. I felt at home and completely happy (even if I was there alone and feeling socially awkward throughout the performance). I had forgotten how awesome a live performance by an American band could be. Needless to say, I stayed out way past my bedtime, but it was totally worth it.