jeudi, octobre 12, 2006

Time flies when you overbook yourself

Well, there's a few good reasons why I didn't get my Aji de Gallina recipe up online until friday night. Most of them had to do with the mad rush that was Thursday. I got to work in the morning and realized that I had agreed to tutor a stagiaire (intern) on a database platform that I wasn't familiar with. My task was to bring her from 0 to competent with this program quickly so that she could start a database project.

The meeting was productive but LONG, so I didn't get to lunch until late in the afternoon. As I ate lunch, I was reminded by other doctoral students at the Centre that the Doctoral Seminar was meeting this week at 16h00. Damn. Greg had bought me tickets for a concert by The Knife (crazy Swedish electro duo) for tonight. Well, since clubs in Paris don't get going until midnight, I reasoned, a rock show won't start until 10.

The doctoral seminar wrapped up around 18h00 and as I headed out the door, I noticed a text message from Greg. Turns out the doors open at 19h00. He was planning on meeting in front of the concert location (La Cigale) at 19h30. Since there was at least one opening act, we could be pretty certain that The Knife wouldn't start until at least 20h30 or 21h00, but it made sense to get there a bit earlier to stake out a choice spot in the theatre. Any plans of catching up on blogging tonight went out the window as I dashed home, changed bags and ran back out the door. As I was leaving my place, I got these shots of this amazing sunset reflected against the cloud cover:

click to enlarge
1/40 shutter, exposure ISO 100.
click to enlarge
1/25 shutter, exposure ISO 100, +1 exposure bias

Anyway, a fair bit of rushing did manage to get me there around 15 minutes late, which was pretty amazing considering that I crossed Paris twice during the late rush hour. A friend of Greg's was holding some seats for us, so we pushed our way into the theatre, did some furtive text-messaging, and eventually located our seats. Most of the seats in the theatre had been cleared for a dancefloor, but there were still about 4 or 5 rows of seats left at the back, under the balcony overhang. After a day of running, without dinner, and with two glasses of wine in me from the doctoral seminar, I was pretty glad to sit my ass down for a while.

The opening act was totally wrong for the occasion, which made for some interesting tensions. There was a guy at a concert piano and a guy at a laptop. Sometimes the guy at the piano would pound out spasms of Ligeti-style tone clusters, sometimes the guy at the laptop would produce muted, low-key house beats. Occasionaly they would coincide to create something between Philip Glass and stereolab (but without any of the great synth sounds, mind you). The main problem was that they (the pianist especially) were fond of making use of long silences (think John Cage's "One" for piano), as well as "prepared piano" devices that require complete silence to be audible (i.e. reaching into the piano and plucking or scraping the strings). Obviously, this did not jive well with the crowd that was showing up for the electro/rock act of The Knife. The sound guy and a few people who I presume were fans of the opening act would occasionally let loose with a piercing "sssh!" Rarely did it achieve more than a minor reduction in volume, at the expense of further disturbing the performance.

Eventually, the act came to an end, followed by polite applause. After a few minutes, a DJ set himself up on the right side of the balcony to spin some tunes. From his look of displeasure, I think we were supposed to have hushed down again to marvel at his creative genius, but again ambient music as an opening act to electro was a bad idea. Naturally, it was mistaken as precisely that: ambience. So everybody happily continued chatting and waiting for The Show that would be The Knife.

The Knife finally did come on and they were great. Since most of their music is electronically produced and hard to "perform" live, their options for onstage performance were limited to the female half singing and dancing, and the male half dancing and playing air-drummer with a set of drum pads. So, they compensated with a inspired art direction. They had white screen behind them, on which they projected a neverending series of fantastic videos (see their website link above for some of their videos), while they also had a translucent screen in front of them, on which they projected another layer of visuals. Throughout the show, they played with complex lighting, had a life-sized puppet crank an old movie projector, and projected various grotesque faces onto objects that would sing along with the lead singer. The performers themselves were in black full-body suits with neon orange facepaint around their eyes and cheekbones. It all sounds bizarre (and it was), but it was really imaginative and—most importantly—very entertaining. I like entertainment that entertains me. The photos below were taken without flash (thus, long exposure; thus, blurry), which does little justice to the look of the evening, but gives you some idea of the setup.

click to enlarge

After a good night out, I headed home, contemplated about going out again (apparently there's a club called Pulp that is good on certain Thursdays), but thought better of it and called it an early night. Besides, there's a Canadian techno night at Batofar Friday night, and Luciano is spinning at the Rex on Saturday night. I need all the sleep I can get!

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