Midlake in Paris and Brussels (Part 1)

26Apr07

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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