vendredi, juin 08, 2007

Rex Trilogy II: Interview and Jack de Marseille

After sleeping in a bit to recover from last night, I spent a large part of my day running errands. Perhaps most importantly, I finally dragged those three boxes of books and sweaters of to the nearest post office. Each one of them was a bit over the 7kg limit, so I was carrying somewhere between 23 and 24 kilos in total. I slung them into a combination of hefty bags and then nearly killed myself getting them 1 block down the street. By the second block, I came across a bus stop that was in the direction I was going. I waited for the bus, rode it for only one stop, and then got off right in front of the post office.

I picked the main post office in Les Lilas, technically in the banlieue outside Paris, rather than the post office closer to me at Porte des Lilas, because this was was big and open and generally less miserable-looking. After waiting in line for several minutes, I noticed that everyone in front of me was waiting to cash social security checks, money orders and so on, while a "boutique" selling pre-paid envelopes was also weighing and posting packages. Since my boxes were ready and pre-packaged, I switched to the much shorter boutique line and waited a few more minutes.

Thankfully, I had chosen the right line. Just as I was being served, a man came from some other line and walked up the front and demanded to be served. He was obviously angry about having to wait in another line, but this is how French bureaucracy works, and the post office is in many ways its platonic ideal. When the woman at the desk told him to either wait in line or go speak to a supervisor, he marched off around the corner and starting yelling up a storm at some very unimpressed-looking man with a clipboard. I took the opportunity to commiserate with the woman at the desk, making clichéd comments like, "Some people are just poorly-raised," and "I used to work in retail, I totally empathize." This seemed to have the desired effect, as she was very patient with me as I dropped of three packages, bought three more packages, and also bought three pre-paid envelopes for some other stuff I have to send.

With everything taken care of and three new boxes under my arm, I headed back home. I spent most of the afternoon and evening catching up on blogging and emails (I was almost a week behind on blog entries since Carla's visit). By about 22h00, it was time to head over to my friend S.' new apartment to interview him. He had been kind enough to give me a bit of his time before tonight's outing to Le Rex to let me pick his brains. I headed over to his place and hung out with his roommate, his girlfriend and their friends; after a little while, the rest of them headed off to a nearby bar while S. and I sat down to the interview.

As is often the case with interviews, I came with a set questions that I promptly deemed insufficient and abandoned; nevertheless, it was useful to have a set of general questions that I could fall back on during lulls in conversation. Indeed, the interview turned into a sort of extended conversation, as I would ask him a broad question, he would say something interesting, I would focus on what I found interesting, and then we'd chatter about it for 20 minutes. An additional challenge to this whole endeavour, however, was the fact that we were conducting it in French. My French may be good, but it's hard enough to articulate my thoughts about my project in English; it's a whole other struggle to translate the po-mo jargon and the specially-chosen English terms into French. There were many moments when I had to pause and re-start my train of thought with a new set of terms. If anything, I suppose, it was a good lesson in just how much our thought is shaped by the languages available to us.

Thankfully, I caught all of this on my iPod, so I didn't have to worry about taking notes. I bought the Griffin iTalk a long time ago, which is this little accessory for iPods that records sound through it's own internal microphone or through any mic that you plug into it. I had bought a cheap electret cavalier mic to record the conversation, but when I ran some tests the night before, I discovered that the internal mic actually worked better than the electret mic. I think part of it is that the mic is internal to a rather resonant casing (the accessory is shaped to continue the form of the iPod, so it probably has a lot of empty space). Either way, I only had to take occasional notes that would later serve as guides when I had to transcribe this.

We managed to put in nearly 1.5 hours of conversation before we had to leave to meet the rest of the group at Le Rex. S. now lives close to the Rex, so we headed off on foot; wandering through sidestreets that we hoped would serve as shortcuts. A few blocks away from Le Rex, we got a call from S.'s girlfriend, saying that they were running late and just hopping into a cab right now. S. was feeling rather peckish, so we stopped at a kebab stand for a bit. As it turns out, we took too long to eat; as S. was finishing his fries, he got a call from his girlfriend, asking him where the hell he was. The rest of the group was already at the front of the line, apparently, so S. told them to go inside and we would catch up with them. By the time we were on our way over, I checked the time on my cellphone and realized that it was already 1h30. Aw damn.

So we had to pay our way in that night (13€), which made things all the more bitterly ironic when the music for the first 2/3 of the night was pretty...well...bad.

Automatik vs. Technorama: Slam and Jack de Marseille

1h30?-4h30: Slam

I've been overwhelmed by DJ sets before; at times, such as during Kraft's set last night, I've been underwhelmed; but this time, I was just whelmed. I didn't love Slam's set, but I didn't hate it either. I didn't clap my hands over my ears and run screaming, but I was having a really hard time getting excited about this duo's set. I will acknowledge that they were indeed spinning techno of some sort, and they were indeed capable of mixing records together (or, in this case, mp3's of records run through Final Scratch). But they were missing the hard-to-articulate extra stuff that makes a good set not only functionally danceable and stylistically recognizable, but also fun and exciting.

For one thing, the set felt very flat. There were regularly-spaced moments of climax and breakdown, but they totally failed to entrain me in their movements. Some part of me recognized that, "Oh, now is the time to be excited," but my body just wasn't resonating.

Also, the track selection didn't really surprise or excite me. All the tracks were certainly techno, but of a very generic and and slightly dated sound that made me feel as if they had done all their music shopping in the "Electronica" bins of the Virgin megastore in 2002. Again, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't...well...much of anything.

I'm actually surprised at my own ineloquence at pinpointing what was wrong with the set. It's like I had absentmindedly skimmed a novel for a grade-school literature class, and now I'm trying to improvise a book report on it. I may add on some more commentary in the comments section of this post if I can think of a better way of articulating my (non-)feelings about this set.

Either way, they were a hit with the crowd, although they rarely acknowledged their fans. Much like last night during Kraft's set, we all kept on checking in with each other, curious to see if one of us would start to like it. S. and his girlfriend, D., gave up and left about halfway through, but the rest of us stick it out for all 3 hours of their extended set.

I only managed to get a couple of pictures, but I got three pretty decent videos, including one taken a higher spot in the club, giving a nice view of how the lighting system works at the Rex (see last video).

4h30-6h00: Jack de Marseille

I had never heard of Jack de Marseille, but Fantômette told me that his was the first DJ performance that really surprised her and drew her attention to the genre. His set was great, with very much the sort of sound that I would expect from someone that has been spinning (successfully) for many years. There were a few older and "classic"-sounding tracks, but mostly new stuff that probably fell somewhere between the techno and progressive house streams. I'm usually not a big fan of progressive tracks (they seem to be obsessed with 10-minute-long buildups and little else), but he made it work. It also helped that he sped up the tempo of the music in comparison to Slam. Overall, there was something more intense and driving about his set that I quite enjoyed.

At 5h30, as I was heading out to catch the first métro train, I walked up the steps from the basement-level club toward the exterior door. As I turned a corner between flights of steps, I saw a young woman sitting on the steps and leaning on the railing, looking as if she planned to spend the night there. "I wonder what she's doing over here when the party is still going on downstairs?" At that point, I stepped in a puddle of something warm and chunky.


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