On Saturday night I saw a free concert. Don’t be mistaken, though. This was not a free show for all. Many paid good money for it—as I was also intent on doing—however, that didn’t end up being necessary. I practically waltzed right in without so much of a “Bonjour, Je n’ai pas un billet.” (Or a wimper and a cry, which is how my sister and I blagged our way into a Dave Matthews Band show at the Garden many years ago.)
Contrary to how the evening began, though, I didn’t think I’d even make it to the show, let alone get in for free.
As is usual, I was running late. But only because I thought the show—Hozier, an Irish musician whose track “Take me to Church” is a huge hit—began at 8:30, not 7:30. Yet another example of my inability to properly tell time on a 24-hour clock. When I went to look up the address and how to get there, it was already 19:30. (You do the math, dammit!) It’d take me at least 30 minutes to get there, not to mention I didn’t really know where I was going. Plus, there was also the sold-out, I-don’t-even-have-a-ticket factor.
Should I bother? I wondered.
I factored in rock ‘n’ roll time (24-hr clock or not), the possibility of there being an opening act, and my not having anything else to do that evening. Off I went.
The concert was at Le Trabendo, which according to my map seemed to be located in the middle of a park in the 19th arrondissement. I wasn’t familiar with either—the park or the arrondissement—which made me a tad hesitant to trek, by myself, down a potentially dark pathway with the intention of only hoping to secure a ticket from some random person with an extra. I don’t scalp in New York! Why I thought I could do so here in Paris, in another language no less, was beyond me. The fear of being abducted, arrested or robbed did not escape me.
Still, I went. Second-guessing myself the whole way, yes, but that’s besides the point.
It didn’t help that as soon as I left my apartment, the network on my phone kept saying “cannot be found.” This didn’t do anything to help quell my visions of being lost in a dark park somewhere. Finally, it came to and I found the first of the two metro lines I had to take.
On the second of the two trains—at 8:15 (aka 20:15)—we came to an abrupt halt. So abrupt, a whole slew of people standing in the center of the car fell on top of one another. Most people laughed it off and got their grip. Still, the train stood still. Five minutes passed. Another three. And two more. We were stopped for nearly 10 minutes. Even if I had the words to ask what was going on, nobody else knew the answer anyway. We were all trapped in there together. My stomach started to do flips and my mind began to do that whole morbid, “I should’ve just stayed home” and “What happens if there’s a bomb?” thing. I gripped onto the same pole as an old man with a big belly and a odd-looking bump on his bald head and wondered if both would be the last things I ever saw. Then, he caught me staring and said something in French. I mumbled and nodded as if I understood. Finally, the train jerked forward and we were on our way.
Oh thank god.
I considered getting off at the next stop and turning around.
I did not do this.
Finally, I exited the metro and looked to my left to see a fairly lit walkway that coincided with Google Maps’ instructions. I headed for it, thankful that this “park” was more like a center (a la Lincoln) with several music and arts venues spread out from a big fountain in the middle. In fact, it’s also where the Zenith—a venue I’ve heard of before—is located. Based on its upcoming scheduled programming (Disney on Ice, Alt-J, the Black Keys) I figure it’s Paris’s answer to New York’s Madison Square Garden.
There I was, so glad to find that both venues are not far from where I live and don’t require navigating oneself through a dark, desolate forest that I practically skip the rest of the way to Le Trabendo.
While en route, I looked up phrases on my handy translation app in the event I need help during my next debacle: actually getting a ticket. (And let’s be honest: I’d need help.)
Face value was 25-euros, so I told myself I wouldn’t pay more than 30. But none of that would matter as there wasn’t a scalper or reseller in sight. Whether it was because the doors opened so long ago and they all cleared out, or they just don’t do that here, I don’t know. I had no other choice but to walk up to the entrance and try some other tactic, like playing Dumb American Who Doesn’t Know It Was a Sold Out Show. But before I could even open my mouth, a guy started looking through a handful of tickets and asked me my name.
So I gave it to him.
“Oh, yes. I think I just saw that name,” he said. (In English, for some reason.)
I had emailed the publicist on Wednesday in a last ditch attempt to buy a ticket through the band’s management, which as a journalist I often do, but I never heard back. Could he have put my name down anyway?
“I can’t find it,” he said.
But before I could despair, he then goes—in English, again: “You can just go in. I’ll find it later.”
Dumbfounded by my luck, I hustled inside without looking back. I bypassed the bar like I knew where I was going and immediately wormed my way up front. (Being one small person in a small venue has its perks.) Of course, I somehow landed myself next to a group of very loud, obnoxious, and clearly drunk twenty-something English speakers. But who was I to complain? I had gotten in for free, after all. Plus, I had a clear sightline of Andrew Hozier-Byrne, who, by the way, was born in 1990, making me feel even older than I did after holding myself back from hushing the annoying drunk girls next to me. If only they had the composure he did.
Instead, I tuned out my surroundings and let his soulful voice and slick guitar riffs take me to a Happy Place. I reveled in being able to understand the witty tales he told in between songs, during which he’d occasionally add “merci beaucoup” while very adorably pronounced the “p” in beaucoup.
To my surprise, with the exception of some loud screams and hollers, it was a fairly civilized show. In fact, there were very few people holding up their phones to take videos and photos. At least, not until he sang his single “Take Me to the Church.” Amen for courtesy without a camera.
Still, I snuck in a shot or two to document the night’s luck. The luck that could’ve come my way thanks to a lovely and talented Irishman.
Ben Howard’s got a sold out show tonight at Le Bataclan. He’s not Irish, but it’s raining in Paris today. Chance of lightening striking twice, perhaps?