vendredi, janvier 19, 2007


Boy, am I ever glad I pushed myself to go out tonight. I ran into N. and his crew, made a bunch of contacts, finally got some contact information, and had a bunch of random encounters with people at the bar.

So, I spent the first part of the day sleeping in like crazy. I got up sometime after noon and eventually got myself together (after fixing myself a breakfast of day-old baguette and ham) and headed off to run a couple of errands. After that, I got home and realized that I had a bunch of stuff that I really needed to take care of if I was going to go out that night. I needed to do the insane pile of dishes that had been accumulating in my sink, I needed to put away all the stuff I inherited from Greg, I needed to send out a bunch of administrative emails, and I definitely needed to blog about the night before, lest it slip out of my memory.

All of this took longer than I had expected, and I wasn't heading out my door until 0h45, which meant that I missed the last train out of the station (I forgot that it wasn't Saturday night). I walked up to the stop for the night bus, and saw that one was scheduled to arrive shortly. As I waited, a young Arab (read: North-African) guy came up to the stop and asked me if I knew when the bus was coming. As we checked our watches, we realized that the bus should be here right now. At that moment, an Asian woman approached us and asked if the bus had already passed. I said "I've been here for a few minutes and it hasn't passed, but it should be here by now. I hope it hasn't already passed us, because the next one is in 30 minutes." To which she smiled and said "Insha'Allah" ("If Allah wills it" in Arabic).

Lessizmore @ Nouveau Casino

click to enlarge

0h00-2h00: Pierre

The night bus took me to République, and I had to walk the rest of the way to the club (which was a substantial hike), so I didn't get to the club until well past 1h30. After months of arriving too early to clubs, I was realizing that there may be an upside to arriving early. The line outside had been reduced to a disorganized clot of clubgoers, pushing each other aside and trying to cut ahead while accusing everyone else of the same sins. I stood right behind a rather tall guy who seemed to be capable of defending himself (i.e., shooing off line-cutters) and then pressed close to him whenever he moved forward. Thankfully, the line was packed enough that this contact wasn't taken as some form of inopportune courtship. Two guys were trying to cut ahead of us, speaking to each other in very broken English. Hearing this, the guy in front of me said (in French) "Hey, in France we don't cut in line, it's not civilized." Of course, wasn't the case at all (QED this !@#$ing lineup), but the shaming seemed to work. One of the two guys shifted into perfect French, saying "We're all Frenchmen here." His buddy, however, only spoke Iberian Spanish and a bit of English (very, very badly).

Just as I was approaching the door, a tall, well-dressed black man was turned away at the door (by a black security guard, no less). The man had the half-lidded eyes that suggested he was pretty stoned, but that would hardly be a good reason to refuse admission, considering the condition of the majority of people inside the building. He wasn't given a reason for why he was turned away, the security guy just said "No, you can't come in. It's not possible." Some of the other people at the front of the line started to protest this, although nobody said the word "racism." This moment reminded me of my first visit to this same place, as well as a line in Sarah Thornton's book, Club Cultures (1996), where she notes that racist and classist door policies are often enforced by underclassed racial minorities, often using "quality" of dress as an "alibi" for refusal (p. 113)--which makes the turning-away of this well-dressed man even more odd. On the same page, Thornton also suggests that self-selection is the first technology of crowd-design in clubs, followed by controlled routes of communication (e.g., posting your flyers in specific places and not in others), and finally by door security. In other words, security guards put the "finishing touches" on a club's crowd, taking care of those undesirables who passed the first two filters. It makes sense that there are various layers of filtering and selection before door security, since a refusal at the door puts everyone there in the awkward position of participating in/witnessing the kind of racial/class/sexual violence that normally happens in the "nowhere" of self-selection and channeled communication. And that would be a buzz-kill.

After he left, another rather self-important man pushed through the line, trailing a few other people with him, cellphone to his ear. He told the bouncer that he had a "reserved place," which I suppose means that he had bought bottle service at one of the tables on the upper level of the club. Apparently, this gave him rights to jump ahead of the line, since nobody else seemed to complain about this. However, the bouncer did start to chastise him for talking on his cellphone while addressing him, threatening to refuse him entry if he didn't show more respect; although the man may have been entitled to the table he paid for, he was apparently trying to smuggle in an inappropriately large group of "friends," who risked not getting in if this guy didn't step down. As the guy tried to apologize to the bouncer, I slipped behind his group of "friends" and walked into the bar.

As soon as I got in, I literally ran into a wall of people waiting for the coat check. Indeed, one of the good things about arriving a bit late is that the party is already started and the music is already bumpin', but that also means that you're pretty much there for rush hour. I waited for ages trying to check my coat (I should've worn a !#@$ing sweater), and so I only heard the last 15 minutes of Pierre's set, while clutching my jacket and glaring holes into the back of a pair of girls that were trying to cut in line.

2h00-3h30: Exercise One (live)

Exercise One's set probably falls within the broader European category of "minimal," although I'd qualify that as maximalist-minimal techno. The sort of forward-driving intensity and lack of house-y swing puts the accent on "techno," and the use of sparse textures with high volume and intensity makes the set maximal in certain senses (see my review of Chloé and Magda for a similar discussion). Certainly, this wasn't the same minimal you might hear in Plastikman's early releases or the stuff by Pole. Either way, it was a great set and one I would've loved to dance to, if I didn't spend most of it crushed between people and a wall.

As I made my way towards the front of the room, I came across N., who I had just seen the night before (previously here, here and here). He is again thrilled to bits to see me and I get another pair of "hey buddy" kisses, as if we hadn't seen each other for years. He had L. with him, whom I hadn't seen since September (see last link). After exchanging another set of kisses, L. re-created our conversation from last September, asking me "Remind me of your country of origin?" "Canada." "Ah, great! I love the music coming out of there!" L. introduced me to two other people, C. and A., who apparently work with L. and N. on a record label. After a few moments of jostling around in the crowd, I turned to C. and chatted with him a bit more about the label, eventually getting an invite to their next event and the website for the label. It's called Labelle, which is both a phonetic spelling of how French folks prounounce "label" (they don't use the French marque for record labels) and a reference to a feminine idea of techno (la belle = the beautiful [female] one). Ironically, most of the DJs on the label are male. And speaking of irony, N. kept on spontaneously hugging and kissing me (on the cheek, mind you) throughout the evening, but he was also without doubt the biggest flirt that night, successfully currying the favor and attentions of several girls throughout the evening. At one point in the evening, while N. had his arms wrapped around one girl, L. came by and grabbed his shoulder they kissed on each cheek and then on the lips (point of clarification: N, L, C and A are all guys). It was just a peck, but interesting nonetheless. Within the French norms of social kissing most of this behavior wasn't actually all that ironic; men can kiss their male friends in certain ways and be entirely within the realm of conventional masculinity. If anything, the frequent hugs were more ironic; as I've mentioned before, hugging around here is something sexual partners do.

At some point during this set, I also overheard a couple speaking in English next to me. I leaned in as the boyfriend walked to the bar and said "Hey! Where are you all from?" To which the girlfriend replied with an Irish accent, "Yay! You speak English! Are you American?" "No, Canadian." "OH!" holding her hands up apologetically, "So sorry! No offense, luv." I laughed awkwardly, trying to show that I appreciated her acknowledgment of the difference between the two countries, but didn't necessarily take offense at the confusion. International relations, ahoy!

3h30-6h00: Anja Schneider

I really enjoyed Anja Schneider's set. Her set was squarely within what I would consider microhouse, pushing fine-grained, crackling high-and-mid patterns through punchy grids of house kick drums and hi hats. At some points in the set, her sound migrated towards more straight-ahead minimal techno, and towards the end she even dabbled in Schaffel, which is a style applied to various genres of techno (usually minimal in texture) where the "swing" setting on the sequencers is set so high that the beats appear to be subdivided into 3 instead of 2. In other words, it feels like there's three sub-beats to every beat; if you're familiar with time signatures, it makes 4/4 feel like 12/8 or 6/8.

Towards the end of the evening, as things were beginning to clear out and there was a bit more room at the back of the club, I was taking a break from dancing back there and watching the stage absentmindedly. Suddenly, I feel someone touching my ear and slipping something behind it. A guy that had been standing next to me for the last few minutes was putting a cigarette behind my ear (as a very French gesture of goodwill, I suppose). The cigarette fell out of his hands and to the floor. With shout of surprise, he bent down to pick it up. Trying to smooth it over, I said "It's OK, it's OK! It's still good!" Of course, I was going to chuck it as soon as he got out of line of sight, but I didn't want him to waste another cigarette. Nonetheless, he took the cigarette and said "I'll smoke this one," and then took out a fresh one and put it behind my ear. "You have such small ears!" Um...okay...I've never heard that before. Honestly. Changing the subject, I said, "Thanks for the cigarette!" and then leaned in and gave him a peck on the cheek. He smiled and said "No problem! How's your night so far?" "Great! Yours?" "Great! I saw you up front a moment ago..." Pause. "You know, I'm hetero, but...hey! The cigarette's falling again!" He caught the cigarette as it fell and put it back behind my ear, forever depriving me of the end of that sentence. Sensing that he was a bit uneasy, I put my hand on his shoulder and said "That's cool! Thanks nonetheless and have a good night." He smiled and wandered off. Once he was out of sight, I offered my cigarette to a girl near the bar.[ADDENDUM: I can't believe I forgot to mention that this guy kissed me on the forehead after successfully securing the cigarette behind my ear.]

A few minutes later, in the exact same spot, I was dancing as a blonde girl passed in front of me. She caught my eye and smiled and I smiled back. She asked me if I was having fun, and I said yes. Picking up on my accent, she switched to English "Where are you from?" "Canada," I said, answering in French. We chatted for a bit about her visits to Canada as well as what I'm doing in Paris. She kept on inviting me to speak in English, so I eventually got the impression that she wanted to practice her English. We switched to English for the rest of the conversation, as she told me about how she works for a multinational consulting company that organizes clinial drug trials. She was eager to speak in English, so all I had to do was nod occasionally and say "Cool!" or "Oh, neat!" After nearly 10 minutes of discussion about careers and the medical research industry, during which she kept on absentmindedly playing with the collar of her very low neckline, she said "I better find my boyfriend. Pleasure to meet you!" And off she went.

Throughout the encounter, I was reminded again of how I'm glad / not glad to being doing this work as a male. As we chatted, my interlocutor was grabbed and fondled by random strangers 3 times. Each time she glared at them and told them where to stick it, but nonetheless she was subject to a kind of physical sexual aggression that I rarely encounter. Of course, as I've mentioned before in this blog, being male means I get less attention, and that attention can lead to contacts. Although I had great luck that evening talking to people that night (helped by my own determined gregariousness), there have been other nights where I spend the whole night without exchanging more than "excuse me" with anyone.

5h30 rolled around, and I began to make my way to the coat check. It wasn't nearly as busy as it was when I got in, so I got my jacket in a few minutes and headed out the door. The trip home was relatively uneventful. I had thought I should walk to a nearby boulangerie to get some bread to eat the next day, but my usual boulangerie was closed and I was too tired to walk all the way to the next one. So, second night in a row, I head home and crash in my bed.

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