It was a long and tiring drive back to the French Capital and we had to stop along the way to give poor Olaf a rest and for Thomas to take over the driving duties. We got into Paris at around 6:30-7AM. Thomas dropped me off right by my hotel. I staggered in half asleep, got my room key and went upstairs and fell into a deep deep sleep.
I woke around 12 and I couldn’t be bothered to move out of bed so I went back to sleep for an hour. I finally decided to get out of bed and have a shower and make some phone calls. Thankfully my phone was working after I had some trouble registering it the previous day. I was nearly out of credit but managed to get some more and make phone calls home to my girlfriend Elizabeth, my Sister and my mate James.

I gave Thomas a ring, he said he would be heading to the venue at around 5:30 to set up and sound check. There was time to kill so I went and grabbed a coffee in the cafe around the corner. I then wandered through Pigalle to an Irish pub I rather liked on my previous visits to Paris called Corcorrans. (What is it with Brits abroad and Irish Pubs?).
I grabbed a Guinness and watched a rather boring Premiership football game on TV. I didn’t really care much for the result as my team (Swansea City) had done the biz the day before with a 2-1 over Brighton and Hove Albion. I people watched for a while and sank another Guinness before heading off to the metro to meet Thomas up in Montmartre and the Le Funambule theatre.

The metro was busy even for a sunday and was very warm down underground. It was round one of the French Presidential elections and there were plenty of people on the streets, but unfortunately for Thomas and his band Fairguson, many would be glued in front of their TV screens watching the results come through.

I was expecting to get lost in the winding streets, but I found Rue De Saule moments after leaving the metro. I walked into the small intimate theater where Anabel was there with Olaf, Thomas and Kubii. They were busy with leads and amps and keyboards trying to perfect the sound levels. I sat next to Anabel and the young singer from support band Top Montagne (she recognised me from MySpace). We talked for a while as Thomas went upstairs to the mixing desk. The strains of ‘Onward’ by Yes and Robert Gomez’ ‘Brand New towns’ sauntered over the PA, in homage to the previous days amazing events.

The bar was not going to be open for tonights show so I went up the road to a corner shop and bought some water to share with everyone. People were now starting to arrive and Top Montagne were getting ready to play for us after finishing their sound check.
I sat near the front and waited for the music to begin…..

Top Montagne are what I would call a proper ‘Lo-Fi’ band. I mean that in a good way as it was good to see something different. Comprising of an Acoustic Guitar, a Saw and various other weird and wonderful instruments such as xylophone, squeezebox, childrens toys and keyboards, the trio played some cheerful folky pop that everyone enjoyed. Despite the instruments the band used, this is was in no way an avant garde pop group performance. Think of Gruff Rhys from The Super Furry Animals let loose in the studio with a load of fisher price toys and you will get my drift. Very nice sounds though!

It was time for Thomas, Olaf and Kubii to get up on stage and with the sounds of Yes still playing over the PA, they took their positions. Thomas had this amazing acoustic guitar with fairy lights stuck all over it and Kubii’s synths had even more lights attached and a flashing plastic duck!
Thomas and anabel

Opening with ‘Fairguson Bird’ from their album Tractor melodies, Fairguson took us on a journey through their debut album. The gentle lilting ‘Collectionneur de Mcormick’ with its melancholic synth and haunting vocals was definately a highlight and this was only the second song of the set! Thomas sitting on a wicker chair talked to the audience in French and made a few jokes before introducing a new song called ‘Lost Again’. I had previously heard a rough demo of this song and it really worked well live and sounded amazing. Possibly this is the sound of the next Fairguson album? we will have to wait and see. We were then treated to a duet with Anabel (Thomas’ girlfriend) and Fairguson singing their cover of ‘Happy Talk’. (When not playing with Fairguson, Thomas plays drums with Anabels’ band ‘Anabels Poppy Day‘). It was nice to see as I have not been to see Anabel play and it was a bonus.

A personal favourite of mine followed next – ‘Goodbye my Lariboisiere’, this was the first song I had ever heard by Fairguson and was thrilled to hear such a sparkling live version. The only songs they didn’t play (which I would have loved to hear) were ‘Massey Ferguson’ and ‘Nos Jouets un Plastique. But being an acoustic show it was probably a hard task to re-create acoustically.

‘Map Monde’ was played at high tempo with Olaf on electric guitar adding a different twist to the studio version, very good though nonetheless.
Soon it was all over and the audience gave great applause to a wonderful performance by both bands and everyone slipped away into the humid Parisienne night air. We stood around outside and chatted for a while before grabbing all the bands equipment and taking it to Thomas’ flat which was conveniently just up the street. Thomas told me after the show that he was ready to do rock ‘n roll again which was great news meaning that new material was on it’s way!
Olaf had to go early and we said our farewells promising to e-mail and keep in touch (which we have). It was sad to see Olaf go as we became really good friends the last few days, and it won’t be too long I’m sure before we meet up again.

The weekend was sadly coming to an end and to make the most of it we sojourned to a small bar and had a drink and a Pizza with Anabel, Thomas and two of their friends. I don’t think any of us wanted to go home that night as it meant a return to reality – Me going home, Anabel and Thomas returning to their day jobs and normality. We were all tired and at around midnight we said goodbye and farewell. I walked along Rue Moncouer turning back one last time to see Thomas and Anabel go their ways before disappearing. With a tired body and a heavy heart to leave friends, I walked back to Rue de Clignancourt to my hotel. I had an early flight to Amsterdam to catch in the morning which would take me home to Cardiff and back to the grind of everyday life.
To say it was a memorable weekend would be an understatement, or as Thomas would say “These are awesome days my friend”. Very true indeed!
So thank you my Parisienne friends (Thomas,Olaf and Anabel and a cast of thousands!) Thank you Eric N, Mckenzie, Tim, Eric P, Paul,Rachel, Robert Gomez, Stephanie and her band, Britt, Peter, Ludo and everyone else I met on my European adventure!
We’ll see you soon for more “Awesome Days!”

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We parked up the cars and walked though the town square, down a little street and into ‘Delirium‘.
The first thing that strikes you as you walk into Delirium, is that all the glasses are of different shapes and sizes. Eric and Rachel ordered a local beer called ‘Kwak‘. Now Kwak is a very strong beer (About 8%) and is dark brown in appearance. It comes in a very odd shaped glass, very similar to a small yard of ale, and has to be hung on a kind of rack as the glass has a bulbous bottom to it. According to Wikipedia:

The glass apparently originated in the days of the stage coach. Travellers would often stop at an inn for refreshment, but the coachmen were required to stay with the coach and horses. Standard handled mugs were impractical for gloved coachmen sitting high up, so one enterprising innkeeper, Pauwel Kwak, had a special glass created for his beer. Its shape enabled it to be hung on the coach and be easily held in a thick glove.

Here is Eric with his ‘Kwak’
Eric and Beer
We had a blast drinking our beer there, but poor Olaf and Thomas could not really drink as they were driving later. I felt so guilty as my driving license was at home in Wales, and even if I had brought it along, I was not insured to drive abroad as I had not stipulated it in my holiday insurance (I was not to know we were off to Brussels).
We chatted to some of Ludos Belgian friends who were also at the show and were more than pleased to see Eric and Mckenzie with us. I sat down next to Peter the sound guy(pic below), amazingly enough he is the first Dutchman I have ever met who disliked football!
Peter
Soon it was time to go as it was getting late and Mckenzie and Eric had to be back at the tour bus before it left for Sweden. We said our long goodbyes and promises to meet again and went in search of food with our Beligian friends. They took us to a little restaraunt/takeaway where we ordered some delicious Giros (Kebabs). We had not eaten for a while and those kebabs were fantastic, topped off with some famous Belgian ‘Frites’ they were awesome!
It was then time to head back to the car and make our long journey back south to Paris and at long last our beds.
To be continued in Part 4…….

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And so on to Brussels the bureaucratic heart of the EU, Chocolate, Waffles, Frites, and er….really bad roads! We met up at Anvers promptly at 11 and set off out of Paris and onto the autoroute through the fields of the Somme and past Waterloo en route to our destination – Le Botanique (pic below)
La Botanique
We got a little lost after leaving the dreaded ‘Ring’ – a motorway that circles around the Belgian capital, and had to ask a few locals directions to the place we were headed. I think we got there at around 3:30 and we parked the car around the corner from the venue.

Le Botanique is a great place and has two concert halls, a restaraunt and bar plus a museum. The dome you can see in the picture above, is where Midlake were playing tonights show. Inside the dome there is a little amphitheatre complete with an amazing array of lights, a huge glitterball and a quite spacious stage area. We went inside and were once again greeted by Eric and Rachel and sat down to watch the soundcheck. Mckenzie was a little concerned about his drum sound as his skins (according to Peter the sound guy) sounded old. Mckenzie contemplated changing them but because of the time it takes to change and tune them, it would have disrupted todays soundcheck. “Hey! I will do them on the bus tomorrow” he retorted, which brought groans from the rest of the band.
We grabbed a coffee and watched the end of the soundcheck where the guys ran through a new song ‘Children of the Ground’. It sounded good and the venue had good acoustics considering the little distance there was from stage to the back of the hall. (see pic below)
view
Back in the dressing room, we sat down and drank more coffee and chatted with Tim and various other band members. In the background we could hear Robert Gomez starting his soundcheck and running through the brilliant ‘The Same Sad Song’ off his new album ‘Brand new Towns’. Tim and Thomas were deep in conversation about recording techniques. (see pic below)
Thomas and Tim
Mckenzie, Paul and Eric Pulido came back into the dressing room shortly after. They had just finished soundchecking with Robert Gomez, Mckenzie decided to take a shower as again it was a very hot and humid day. He came back into the dressing room afterwards sporting a ‘new’ hairdo which brought a few chuckles. Paul decided he would follow suit and before we knew it, Midlake had transformed into a ‘Flock Of Seagulls’.(pic below) Robert Gomez popped his head into the dressing room and upon seeing what was going on, unleashed his infectious cackle which has to be heard to be believed!
Paul and Mckenzie
Soon it was time to go up to the upstairs restaraunt to eat. We left with the band and found Stephanie Dosen, Robert and Jesse already there with Britt the tour manager. We sat with Mckenzie and next to Stephanie Dosens’ band. The food was quite nice except Fiona (Stephanie Dosen band member), had trouble eating her soup as it contained the very ingredient that she requested not to be on her plate – Chilies.
A quick beer after dinner and it was time to go back into the backstage area where Eric Nichelson was lying on the dressing room floor with his head propped up on a pillow. Apparently he did not feel too good after dinner and felt tired and a little nauseous. Maybe pre-show nerves as well did not help.
We chatted some more and Stephanie came into the dressing room just before her slot, we wished her luck and went out to watch her from the wings of the stage. It was a great set but Stephanie said she didn’t really enjoy the show that much as she was feeling tired and a little hungover from Paris, although she said her onstage sound was awesome.
Robert Gomez emerged from his dressing room soon after with his guitar and was beginning to warm up for his show. He really is a deft guitarist with a a great fingerstyle technique, thats what you get when you study and play with one of THE greats of cuban guitar, Nelson Gonzales. Believe it or not, Robert also spent 6 months with The Ringling Bros and then the famous Barnum and Bailey Circus before becoming what he is now, a very talented musician and songwriter.
Showtime and Robert was off up the steps closely followed by Paul,Mckenzie and Eric Pulido – Midlake members who were doubling as Roberts backing band. We watched again from the wings and like Stephanie in the show before, he was simply awesome captivating the Brussels crowd.
Towards the end of his set we headed out into the auditorium ready to watch Midlake and to leave the guys alone to prepare for their show. It was a smaller crowd than Paris and not quite as enthusiastic, but nevertheless a deeply passionate following who hung on to Tim Smiths’ every word. ‘Children of The Ground’ got another airing and is proving to be quite popular on tour with Tim Smith and Eric Nichelson sharing the keys together (see pic below).
tim and eric
Eric Pulido made me laugh during the show as a young girl with a huge camera lens, was taking lots of photos. When Eric spotted her he kept pulling funny faces which made us all laugh. It was nice to see everyone enjoying themselves.
eric pulido
Again ‘The Trials of Vanoccupanther’ album got a full airing along with some oldies. But yet again ‘Kingfish Pies’ was omitted despite calls from the audience from both the Paris and Brussels shows to play it. Maybe on the next tour eh guys?
I have never seen a bad Midlake show and tonight they were again mind blowing. It was the sound of a band that was completely aware of where they are going and what they are going to do to achieve it. The vocal harmonies, the bittersweet melodies, the songwriting and craftsmanship are top class, and these guys can walk the walk live onstage – no gimmicks just pure music and complete honesty. In a world of manufactured pop artists from the ‘Pop Idol’ and the X Factor production lines to the hype machine that is The Arctic Monkeys, its a beacon of hope to see artists like Midlake, Robert and Stephanie just going out and expressing their awesome talent night after night, week after week in what must be one hell of a gruelling tour schedule. (The European tour is 21 dates with 3 days off and visits 10 countries).

With the show over we headed to the bar for some drinks whilst the departing crowd gathered around the merch stall. Rachel had her hands full with the now growing crowd wanting a T-shirt or a poster. Eric Nichelson came over to help his wife at the stall and the rest of the band came out with Robert Gomez and Stephanie to chat with the fans and grab some cool night time air and a cold beer. Thomas, Olaf and I sat down behind the stall once the crowds had thinned and had a chat with Eric and Rachel to decide what everyones plans were for the rest of the night. Some of the guys wanted something to eat whilst the rest (Mckenzie, Eric, Rachel, Robert and Jesse) wanted to head into the centre of Brussels and go to a pub with an enormous selection of beers (about 2000) called ‘Delirium‘.
First the gear needed to be loaded up so we duly helped out carrying flight cases, pieces of drum kit, and keyboards etc… Thomas went back to the car to put in the old guitar case that Eric Pulido had given him. (I next saw that case at Thomas’ show the next night – coming in part 4).
Tim, Paul and Eric Pulido decided they wanted food and an early night so we made our farewells. Mckenzie,Eric,Rachel,Peter the sound guy and a member of Stephanies band (I forgot her name – sorry if your reading this!) jumped into a Belgian friend of the band’s car (Ludo) with Thomas, Olaf and me following close in the car behind. Despite Robert insisting he was going to walk there (it was about a 20 minute brisk walk) he never made it in the end which was a shame as the pub was fantastic.
Read Part 3………

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Last weekend I took a trip over the English Channel to visit some good friends of mine in Paris. Thomas and Olaf had arranged for us to see one of our favourite bands – Midlake.

“Who are Midlake?” I hear you ask! Well, Midlake are an alternative rock band who have two albums and an ep out and are signed to British record label Bella Union. Hailing from Denton in the lone star state of Texas, Midlake have built up quite a following of late. A European tour with the Flaming Lips and countless more headlining shows across the continent, have seen the band grow from strength to strength. Recently a sold out show at London Shepherds Bush Empire really hit home how far the band have come, and the British music press gave it the big thumbs up with some glowing reviews of the show.

I can only describe their sound as a mixture of Radiohead meets Fleetwood Mac meets Bread meets The Flaming Lips meets Neil Young (If that makes any sense). Current Album “The Trials Of Van Occupanther” encompasses all that is right with music and is a lush, dreamy experience which evokes the sounds of 70’s rock but with a modern uplifting twist. And it’s quite a departure from first album “Bamnan and Slivercork” and EP “The Milkmaid Grand Army” musically and lyrically.

Anyway, back to the road trip! The plan – to see Midlake tonight, hang out in Paris tomorrow, then watch Thomas’ band Fairguson play an intimate show on the Sunday, return home on Monday. It got a lot more exciting than that! Read on……

I arrived in Paris via my connect flight from Amsterdam at around mid-day and made my way to the Hotel where upon arrival was told my room was not yet ready. I left my suitcase at the Hotel and made my way by metro to meet Thomas who was watching Midlake soundcheck at a quaint venue called Le Trabendo which is situated in Parc De La Vilette just east of Montmartre. I got a little lost finding the venue which is tucked away just opposite one of Paris’ bigger venues ‘Le Zenith‘. I eventually bumped into Thomas who was looking for me and we made our way over.
Inside the venue I was greeted by Rachel Nichelson, (Midlake keyboard player Eric Nichelsons’ wife). Rachel was manning the merchandise stall and carefully laying out the various T-Shirts, Badges, Posters etc… Its the fourth time I have seen Midlake and have met up with the guys several times, so during a break in the soundcheck, Mckenzie Smith (drummer) and Eric Nichelson (see above) came over to say hello.
With the soundcheck over, Eric, Rachel, Thomas and myself went out for a stroll. We took the metro back to Montmartre and walked up the hill to the base of the Sacre Coeur. It was a blazing hot day and it was good to take a break from walking to take some pictures (see pics below) and admire the magnificent view over Paris.
Pic below: Rachel, Eric and Thomas
Rachel Eric and Thomas at the Sacre Coeur
Pic below: Rachel, Eric and Me
eric rachel and myself
Eric and Rachel wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower as it was Rachels first time in Paris, but we did not have much time to make our way to that area of the city so we went off for a coffee (or in Erics case a delicious Frappe).
After coffee, I made my way to the Hotel to see if my room was ready (which it was at long last!) and my three amigos went back to the venue where I would meet them an hour or so later.
Showered, refreshed and glowing, I braved the steaming hot Paris Metro to my stop at Jaurres and past the the hordes of people enjoying the sunshine in Parc De La Vilette. I gave my name to the lady at the ticket booth as I was on the guest list, and made my way into the venue to meet up with Thomas, Olaf and a few new Parisian friends. Thomas’ girlfriend Anabel would join us shortly.
We got some drinks and the lights dimmed for opening act Stephanie Dosen. I really enjoyed Stephanies set and she has an amazingly captivating voice which the Paris crowd fell in love with. Stephanie is another fantastic artist on the Bella Union label, and Simon Raymonde (ex Cocteau Twin and label founder) has a real knack of signing great talent. Not only is she a great musician but a lovely gentle person to get to know as well.
A short break, more drinks and the lights dimmed a second time for the arrival of Robert Gomez (see pic below)). Opening with ‘Closer Still’ off current album ‘Brand New Towns’, Gomez had the audience transfixed with his melodic, trippy, and dreamy aural gymnastics. Imagine a mixture of the melodies of John Lennon, the trippyness of The Flaming Lips and the melancholic lyrical style of Elliott Smith all wrapped up lovingly in an exquisite parcel – thats Robert Gomez. It was an incredible set which really made an impact with myself and everyone who witnessed it. Joining Robert Gomez were Eric Pulido, Paul Alexander and Mckenzie Smith from Midlake who were his backing band for this tour. Also the amazingly talented Jesse Chandler on keyboards.

Pic below: – Robert Gomez – Paris
Robert Gomez in Paris
Soon it was time for the main event – Midlake. Opening with ‘We Gathered in Spring’ from current album ‘The Trials of Vanoccupanther’ with it’s retro keyboards and sparkling vocals, The Texans played a storming set and treated us to a new song (Children of the ground) which should feature on their next record. Frontman Tim Smith (pic below) was in buoyant mood as the Paris crowd lapped up every second of every song and the feedback between audience and artist was immense.

Pic Below: Tim Smith – Paris
Tim Smith onstage in Paris
This was by far the best Midlake experience I have ever witnessed. Its such a departure from the first time I saw them when they supported The Earlies in Cardiff to a handfull of people at The Barfly, to a sold out venue here in the heart of the French capital.
The Vanoccupanther album was played in it’s entirety plus two songs off the first record ‘Bamnan and Slivercork’ which was met with great approval. It was over all too fast (like all the best things in life) and despite the encores (they could have played all night) the 11 O’clock curfew was dangerously close and the guys left the stage to the strains of “Onward” by Yes playing over the PA system.
It was time to get a beer before the bar closed and talk excitedly about what we had just witnessed. Thomas, Olaf Anabel and I soon met up with Eric once more and Mckenzie, who invited us back to the dressing room for a drink (pics below).

Pic below: Thomas (Left) with Tim Smith (Right)
Thomas Sadoun backstage in Paris
Pic below: Midlake with myself (centre) and my friends
Midlake and my Parisienne friends
Pic below: My friend Eric (left) with Tim Smith
tim and friends
We were joined by members of Stephanie Dosens’ band and Robert Gomez and we all talked and talked for ages before we all had to leave (including artistes) to escape into the (now cool) Paris night. It later appeared that Mckenzie had lost his camera somewhere which was a real bummer as he had taken a lot of photos that night and most of the tour. It’s bad enough to lose a piece of equipment (that I could take) but when you lose those little snapshots and memories, then it’s pretty tough and I felt sorry for the poor guy as he was probably looking forward to re-living his time out on tour in Europe and sharing those memories with friends.
Everyone was hungry so the search for food began. Tim and Eric opted for kebabs (much against my warnings about how dodgy they can be) and we went for drinks at a little bar near the venue. Olaf was delighted to meet Robert Gomez.

Pic below: Olaf (left) Robert Gomez (right)
Olaf and Robert Gomez
An excited Thomas approached me with the news “Do you want to come to Brussels tomorrow? we have been invited, it’s a 3 hour trip and I have the car.” Well I couldn’t say no could I? After all I had just been to one of the best shows ever and it would be silly to say ‘Non’. We agreed to meet at 11 O’clock the next day outside Anvers Metro station on Boulevard De Clichy.
It was time to say goodbye to our Texan friends for now and we made our farewells before heading off in search of a taxi and some sleep,
Read part 2

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