It all started with a troubadour who didn’t know where to play.
Red Hunter, who makes music under the name Peter & the Wolf, does everything for himself. He has his own label, sells his own handmade CDs, organises his own concerts, to which he normally goes alone with a little suitcase containing his merch.
For the first time, Red has come to play in Europe. He bought his plane ticket to cross the Atlantic and wrote to various contacts. It just so happened that we were one of said contacts. It must be noted that he is a favorite of ours, and that we spent a memorable day with him in Austin last autumn.
We accepted responsibility for the organisation of his concert in Paris. This involved lodging him, feeding him, finding a venue, inviting people, accepting that the date would change about four times, finding that everything would ultimately happen right at the last minute, having to do all of that with the means available to us, and without really knowing how…
For some reason, we decided to do it twice: first in a venue proper, and then in a friend’s apartment. The first night, the audience were dismissive, the background noise disruptive, and the sound quality poor. All this despite the kindness of Michael Wookey, who had agreed to share the stage for the evening. And despite the presence of Mina Tindle (of The Limes and other beautiful projects).
The next evening was when the Soirée de Poche was really born. Mina Tindle stuck around to play for us, and we dug deep to find Alban Dereyer and secured him as our opener. From the very first few notes we heard, we knew that he was something special.
Alban is a curious little chap with an EP full of beautiful promises. He sat at the piano in a corner of the apartment, coughed, and then blushed. Facing him, about forty people looked him straight in the eyes. He later told us how incredibly intimidating this is, how different it is to being on stage. He soon started to sing, immediately winning over our guests. Mina Tindle then performed whilst sitting amongst the audience. It was wonderful. So much better than on stage the day before.
When Red took over, without the frail little frontier that the piano had created for Alban, it seemed that he was more there, more with us. The set-up was a simple one – a few candles, beers and old sofas. The atmosphere was relaxed. The audience were captivated, attentive to every little detail. Unusually playing at the back of the room, he was thoroughly involved, funny, moving, nothing like the previous day. He tapped his feet, laughing, surprised that we knew the names of the songs. “The magic of the internet” he decided, laughing. When he felt the intensity was weakening a little, he swiftly reclaimed energy from his bottle of whisky. By the looks of things he could have easily continued like that all night.
Later on, we reflected upon the evening. Sometimes, it seemed, the artists we work with are slightly hesitant. Sometimes it takes a little bit of encouragement. I suppose what we’re asking them to do is a bit like asking them to jump off a cliff. The thing is that they love it, and when we jump with them, it’s almost like flying.