samedi, mars 03, 2007

Happy People Only: Be My Chose, Bruno B., Nick-L

at La Scène Bastille

0h00-1h30: Nick-L

Alas, I didn't actually see much of Nick-L's set. In fact, I only caught the last couple of tracks as I was heading to the coat check. You see, I perfectly timed my arrival that night, getting there when the club had already begun to fill, but before it was packed. Fantomette from Be My Chose put me on her list that night, so I arrived at 1h30 ready to walk past the line and loudly declare my privilege. There wasn't much of a line outside (I give credit to the bouncers for not artificially creating a line outside by making people wait arbitrarily), so instead I just approached the door person / host for the evening, who was apparently trying to mess with me.

"Hi, I'm on Clothilde's list."

"I'm sorry, she's not here tonight."


"Just kidding! What's your name?"

"I should be there under Garcia

"Nope, no Garcia."

"How about Luis?"

", wait. Here you says you'll have one companion."

"Yeah, he couldn't make it tonight."

"Well, I'm afraid you can't come in, then."


"Kidding! Have a nice night."

I've only been here two times, but I swear this club has the most jovial doorstaff. In most clubs, they conduct the guestlist process with the seriousness of border guards--which, considering my experiences last night, is not an insignificant comparison.

Anyway, I missed pretty much the entirety of Nick-L's set, although what I heard from the the folks who had been there was very positive. His DJ moniker when pronounced with a French accent, is a homomym for "nickel," which has the same literal meaning as in English, but also means something like "neat" or "cool." This is one of those expressions that seems a bit odd to a linguistic outsider. From an English-speaker's perspective, it might seem odd to use a word to express approval that seems to suggest "Hey! This is just like nickel, a metal which is shiny like silver but is disappointingly not as valuable!" Nonetheless, the word makes perfect sense in French. Languages are fun, eh?

1h30-3h30: Bruno B.

Bruno is apparently the manager of La Scène Bastille, although he is clearly a capable DJ as well. His set ranged pretty broadly, running from progressive house through electro to techno. Although he had a couple of moments of uncertainty during the early part of his set (beatmatching, scratching), things smoothed out quickly and the rest of the set was really great.

I'm particularly proud of some of the pictures I took, which, like last night, merit their own little photo-essay:

OK, of this one I am less proud. It's got the haze that is a result of digital noise combined with smoke machines, but it gives pretty good detail of Bruno himself.

This one I particularly like. This used a flash with standard exposure (ISO 400), but a long shutter (1/2 second), which picked up a lot of colour and also some luminous motion blur that really creates a feel of activity.
This one was taken with the same settings as the last one, but I got a bit more digital noise and my hand jittered a bit. Nonetheless, I like how the stage lighting shows up in the background.

Although the picture is rather grainy and Bruno is barely visible, I included this pic because Nathan appears to be eyeing Bruno's back with suspicion; considering Nathan's cheerful disposition (see below), I find this little moment absurdly amusing.

Of course, I didn't fail to get a bit of video of Bruno as well...

3h30-6h00: Be My Chose

The duo of Fantomette and Nathan H. put on a great show, spinning a set that started of in the more lush and thick-textured areas of electro and tech-house, and made its way into minimal-aesthetics/maximal-intensity microhouse (sorry, I tend to over-use that term). Although both their set and that of Bruno B.'s could fall under the rather broad category of "minimale" here in Paris, Be My Chose's set was certainly closer to the more restrictive North American meaning of the term. They played a harder and longer set than last time, running until nearly 6h00; it's a testament to how much I liked the set that I stayed right until they turned on the lights and kicked us out.

When I say that they put on a show, I also mean it in the more literal sense. Nathan in particular is the unofficial cheerleader of the duo: pumping his fists in the air; smiling broadly or wincing with that "I can feel it, it's so good!" face; dancing around the stage when he's not mixing; hugging and kissing his friends that gather near the stage. This was pointed out to me when one of Nathan's friends--let's call her J.--jokingly taunted Nathan, yelling, "Enough fooling around! Get back to work and earn your pay!" She then turned to me, laughing, and said, "That boy doesn't stop socializing!" Indeed, Nathan is quite the social butterfly, and--considering the French norms about touch and body space--remarkably affectionate. Even before the set started, he spent most of the night criss-crossing the dancefloor, hugging and kissing everyone he knew.

So, I guess what all of that does for my own project is remind me that performers can have a substantial impact on the feel of an evening and the currents of intimacy and affect in the room--not only by the music they play, but also by the way they behave and interact with their audience. I suppose none of this is particularly shocking; popular music scholars from the late 70s were underlining the importance of performer-audience rapport, but most scholarship has tended to underline the many-to-one relationships between the performer and individual fans, rather than among fans as a group or crowd. This makes me want to inaugurate a new category of intimacy, oblique intimacy, as a way of describing how bearing witness to the display of intimacy in one set of people (i.e., performer--audience member[s]) can engender intimacy among another set (i.e., clubbers). Mind you, I'm reluctant to start creating new terms...but I'm really fond of the word "oblique."

So, I had originally planned to take TONS of pictures and videos of Be My Chose, since they were delighted with the coverage I gave them last time, but near-disaster struck right at the beginning of their set. As I raised my camera to take a video clip, a dancer in front of me swung her arm up and knocked the camera out of my hand. She was too distracted/drunk/high to notice and I was too freaked out to bother her about it. I looked down at the dark sea of stomping feet and realized that I had only a few minutes to save my camera. After a few panicked moments, I found that it had landed underneath the lip of the stage, so I picked it back up and dusted it off. The camera's zoom lenses were jammed! I tried turning the camera on and off several times, but the mechanism wouldn't budge. Getting desperate, I grasped the lenses with one hand and wiggled them clockwise and counter-clockwise, only to feel something loosen and slip into place. A moment later, the lenses finally retracted into the camera and closed. All that was left was a scuff mark on the preview screen.

After a moment, I re-opened the camera and started taking another video clip, but the camera suddenly turned off. Panicking, I turned it back on, only to see a blinking light telling me that the batteries were dead. It's weird, only a moment ago the batteries were fine (not full, but not giving me a warning) and now, after a sudden impact, the camera couldn't function for more than a second. The result was a series of 1-second video clips that were sort of hilarious in their uselessness. I didn't post them here, but you can find them on YouTube if you go to my channel; everything from Part 1 to Part 4 are these short clips. I could still take pictures, although if I used flash the camera would shut off after saving the picture. I tried every trick I could think of--switching the batteries, warming them in my hand, shaking them, licking the ends--but nothing produced substantial results. Finally, I just left the batteries alone for about 30 minutes and found that I could take about 30 seconds of video before the camera cut off. So, the result is a long series of photos and two rather short clips.

Also, I need to start carrying batteries with me.

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At one point later in the evening, J. pointed out to me this guy that was clearly completely "lost" in the music and his own internal experiences. With his eyes closed (which I tend to do a lot myself), he swayed around, made large sweeping gestures with his arms and hands and seemed to be completely immersed in sensation.

"I love that sort of thing," said J., "you're a little bit défoncé [smashed, plowed, high] and you're having all these feelings that nobody else is having and you're totally lost in yourself and the music and the experience and it's awesome!" Smiling at him while clutching my hand and forearm and and pulling me closer, "I just love to see that. It really makes me happy [me fait plaisir].

To me, this seems like another situation where I could employ my notion of oblique intimacy. Here we were, watching this guy from a distance, but J. was imaginatively projecting herself and her own memories into his experience while acknowledging its incommensurateness. At the same time, this play of imagination and memory/nostalgia gave her a certain sort of pleasure that also brought about some form of intimacy. On the one hand, she expressed a form of distance-but-identity with the guy we were watching--a sense of having intimate knowledge of his experience while understanding its alterity; on the other hand, she was clutching my hand enthusiastically, effusively, almost wistfully sharing these feelings with me. Again, one form of intimacy begets another.

At the same time, what J. was describing was only half of the story. This "lost" man actually went through cycles, emerging from his immersion to make eye contact with the people around him, make brief comments to his neighbours about the quality of the music, display his particular style of dancing and trying to generally interact with the people around him. As I had suggested a few weeks ago, making eye contact and initiating interaction with those around you at these events are also inaugural moments in intimacy; we ask the people around us: "Are you feeling this, too?" In many ways, he was a bit awkward and overenthusiastic, but everybody around him seemed to appreciate it and encourage him. At that moment, I realized that this was the first bona fide "geek" I had seen at a Parisian event since...well...I don't even remember.

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