vendredi, mars 02, 2007

Party's under the Bridge! Elegangz vs. Tigersushi Party


Well, my daytime activities were almost exclusively work-related, so I'll keep them out of the picture, although I'll mention that I later went out with Tommy and DJ to a Canadian "theme" bar called The Beaver (actually owned by an Australian, I think) for some beer and poutine. Ah, poutine. I think they used shredded cheese rather than cheese curds, but it was still tasty and heartattack-inducing.

BIGFIGHT: Elegangz vs. Tigersushi at Le Showcase

click to enlarge

0h00-1h30: Random Nameless DJ

Well, that's not his actual DJ moniker, but I was far less interested in what he was spinning (low-intensity "background" house) and much more focused on playing with my camera settings, checking out this massive space, and--most of all--actually getting in. You see, I had learned two things from my friend S. (who I was meeting there) earlier that night:

  1. Entrance was free (i.e., hordes of people)
  2. Guestlist people got in first (i.e., potentially endless wait for non-listed)

Now, this was a problem because I hadn't put myself on the guestlist. This meant that, if I wanted to get in at a reasonable time, I would have to start lining up around midnight. Conveniently, my beer-and-poutine date with Tommy and DJ ended around 23h30, so I just hopped on the métro and headed over to the club. The place is actually beneath one of the older and more ornate bridges that crosses the Seine, the Alexander III Bridge. You follow a set of steps down toward the quays that run at the level of the river. Right where the steel arch of the bridge meets the stony banks of the Seine, there's this huge club. All of it runs underground, held up but a double-row of stone arches that create three galleries in total (some pictures below).

I made it down to the quay around 0h15 and saw two massive lines. Although one was for "invited" guests (i.e., those who were on the guestlist), both lines were the same length. This worried me a bit, but both lines seemed to be moving rather quickly. However, what I quickly realized as I was getting to the door was that my line (the non-invited, so to speak) were being turned away almost as often as let in. It seems like the club here was practising a bit of "crowd control." That mix of selection and self-selection that makes the composition a club's crowd seem "spontaneous" was really visible from my perspective.

  • All girls get in, along with whoever is in their party--as long as the overall composition of the party is more female than male.
  • I didn't see any women get turned away for failing to "look" the part, but, then again, there were no women in line who didn't already look the part.
  • Groups of guys without female accompaniment will get turned away--unless they're REALLY hot / well-dressed.
  • If you know one of the organizers, this trumps everything and you jump the line.
  • I didn't see anyone get turned away due to their ethnicity, but, then again, I didn't see many ethnic minorities in the line, and those that were there were mainly light-skinned (i.e., Maghrebin) and doing their best to look generically European and affluent.
  • In particular, none of the urbanwear popular among youth from the banlieues (strongly underpriviledged suburbs, often filled with failed housing projects) was anywhere to be seen, let alone rejected.
  • Reasons for rejection are rarely if ever made clear. The answer is "no" and you'll just accept it and move on.

Mind you, much if not all of this applies to other clubs and bars in Paris, so this is nothing particularly shocking. Nonetheless, the long lineup and the clear view of the woman performing the crowd control allowed me to watch it at work in a more intense way. I would hear her say, "How many in your group?" then look them all up and down, and then say yes or no. Interestingly enough, no one really argued when they were turned away. They just nodded and walked out of the line, discussing their "plan B" with each other as they headed away.

I was a bit worried myself, because I was male, coming alone, not on the guestlist, with gauged piercings in my ears, wearing a biker-style leather jacket and loose-fitting jeans. Even more worrying, the two guys in front of me were turned away, despite looking quite good and being well-dressed. Hoping that queer guys might be the exception and also hoping that I broadcasted my queerness enough to exploit it, I smiled and announced that I was the only person in my party. She looked me up and down impassively, paused at my shoes (black nikes) and then gestured towards the doors of the club. Trying not to sound relieved, I thanked her and headed inside.

I began to wait in a gargantuan line for the coat check, only to have someone from the club tap me on the shoulder and say "There's a coatcheck inside the main room, too. The line is shorter." Grateful that he had just saved probably 30 minutes of my life, I headed into the club and checked my coat. From then on until the end of the DJ's set, I was pretty oblivious to the music. I mostly ran around snapping pictures of the immense locale and observing the crowd. Nobody was dancing; instead, a large crowd of people were milling about, buying drinks at the bar, watching the video displays against the interior wall, and waiting expectantly at a stage near the back that seemed prepared for a rock band. I spent a lot of time fiddling with my settings while taking these pictures, so this is an excellent opportunity for a photo-essay on the challenges of taking pictures in nightclubs.

No Flash, ISO 1600, Shutter 1/10s, Aperture f2.8: This is my standard high-sensitivity setting without flash. Note the great colour from the lighting, but poor detail and motion blur.

Flash, ISO 400, 1/30, f2.8: This is the same pre-set but with flash. The flash washes out the lighting and combines with the high ISO to create a lot of digital noise, which makes the picture hazy. Great detail in the foreground, though.

Flash, ISO 100, 1/30, f2.8: Same as above, but with a much lower exposure setting. This gets rid of the digital noise and provides excellent foreground detail, but everything else is dark.

No Flash, ISO 400, 1/2, f2.8: Normal exposure with no flash, compensated by a REALLY slow shutter. The result is more luminous and a more realistic representation of the "feel" of the place, but detail is crap and blurry.

No Flash, ISO 1600, 1/8, f2.8: Similar to the first high-sensitivity setting, but with a slightly slower shutter. A very steady hand and a largely stable crowd minimized blur, but detail is still low.

Flash, ISO 400, 1/30, f2.8: Virtually the same as the second picture, with similarly hazy results. Used here as a point of comparison with the next picture of the same spot

Slow Flash, ISO 200, 1, f2.8: Bingo! Although this isn't perfect, I really like this setting. This uses a relatively low exposure sensitivity, with a flash to get the detail and a super-long shutter to get the light.

Oh, and although this doesn't have much to do with the preceding photographs, here's a picture of the view through the windows, onto the quay, and through the iron arches of the bridge into the Seine river.

1h30-2h30: Poni Hoax

I was at the far end of the club when I suddenly noticed that the music had shifted from house to rock and the main areas of the club seemed to have thinned out. Following the sound, I suddenly found that the stage area that I had passed earlier was now occupied by a band. This was Poni Hoax, a band signed on to the Tigersushi label. Although I actually rather enjoyed their set, I couldn't help but imagine their press kit saying something like: "Do you like LCD Soundsystem? Great! Now, what if they sang in French?"

2h30-??: Joakim (Bouaziz)

Although Joakim is apparently the head honcho and founder of Tigersushi, I have to admit that I wasn't blown away by his set. The set started off rather slow, but showed some potential of going somewhere:

However, even when the tracks picked up speed and intensity, I kept on waiting for that feeling of arrival that would signal that his set had finally begun. For a headlining, prime-time act, I was expecting something a bit more...I dunno...strong. Either way, I felt that the big moment would arrive any time, but never did.

All in all, the set was good, danceable electro, but I never got the feeling that it was going anywhere. At about 3am, S. and his girlfriend decided to head home, and I followed suit about 30 minutes later. Normally I would've stayed until the métro re-opened (5h30), but I had to work a bit more the next day with Tommy, and I didn't want to be all cracked-out from an endless night of partying. However, this did mean that I spent more than an hour finding the nearest night bus, taking it to Châtelet, then taking my usual night bus back to my place. Still, it's cheaper than a taxi!

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