Well, I'm blogging about this literally two months later (summer happened, as did moving and painting and life), so I don't have a detailed memory of the event. However, I do have a few good pictures and bits of video, along with some fragments of memories. The first memory I had, actually, was finding this poster on a window a few blocks down from the club, as I was parking the car:
If you can't quite read the fine print (click on the image for a bigger image in a new window), it lists several famous thinkers, writers, composers, artists, and then declares "People with Mental Illnesses Enrich our Lives." Neat. I like the approach that doesn't just exhort people to tolerate the mentally ill (which is an euphemism for "put up with"), but to in fact appreciate the contributions some of them make to their society. Admittedly, the guy standing on the corner of Sheridan and Foster strumming a de-tuned bright-red guitar and shouting random words may not be out generation's Schubert. On the other hand, he might just be an experimental performance artist; the two categories blend more than you think.
23h00-0h00: DJ Sassmouth
After getting past the doors (no lineup! no bagcheck!), I did the rounds and caught up with a bunch of friends I hadn't seen in a long while. I had already gone out the week before, but not everyone was out at that event, so this was in some ways the real "I have arrived" party. It was great to catch up with everybody, chat about music, hear apocryphal stories about the parties I missed, and take a few pictures. I got to the club early enough to catch most of Sam a.k.a. Sassmouth's set, which was just the sort of techno pounding I had been hoping for. Alas, I was standing in the middle of a very loud crowd when I took this video, so a lot of the sound in this clip is drowned out.
Well, leaving aside that video clip, I at least have some great pictures of DJ Sassmouth:
0h00-1h30: John Tejada live
John Tejada's set was GREAT. His sound somehow balanced between microhouse (i.e., minimal and glitch-inspired house) and punchy Detroit Techno without ever really sliding into the ascetic minimal techno that was hot in Paris last year. What was surprising about this is that, if all three of these genres were mapped onto some sort of continuum or plane, I would imagine minimal techno lying in between microhouse and classic techno—and yet Tejada somehow navigated around it (check out the video clips below).
The set was (as advertised) an all-hardware live set. For those who are not conversant in the terminology of dance music scenes, "live" sets are DJ performances that don't primarily involve mixing vinyl. Up until the late 90s, this always meant a performance with "gear": sequencers, effects boxes, samplers, drum machines and the like. Sometime in the late 90s (concurrent with the rise of glitch and click-pop), it became increasingly common to see live sets performed from laptops. At first, these DJs were simply using the same gear in software form, but eventually programs were designed that allowed laptop users to do things that were difficult (if not impossible) to do on "gear" (a good example of this would be Ableton Live). At the same time, mixing programs like Traktor, Serato Scratch and Final Scratch gave DJs the ability to perform canonic vinyl-style sets (i.e., tracks chained together rather than short loops and samples stacked and tweaked) using their laptops. All of this blurred the line between the traditional "vinyl" set and the "live" set. The alternative label "laptop set" is sometimes used to distinguish between a set performed on software and one performed on hardware, but the usage is too inconsistent to really preserve "live" as a term exclusive to "gear" performances. All of this comes down to proof of work, really. When a DJ does a laptop set, there is very little tangible, visible evidence of her work; all you see is the back of a laptop screen, the performer staring intently at it. When it's a "gear" performance, the artist has a bank of impressive looking knobs, switches, lights and dials—all of which she can manipulate in a way that seems physical, kinetic and transparent. Sure, there could have been the same amount of work put into preparing both sets, but appearances count when you're trying to sell tickets, and "gear" performances are still valued above laptop sets as "special" events.
Anyway, this is just a long way of saying that I took several pictures of John Tejada and his gear setup. Part of this is because I like to have a pic of the DJ, but part of this was also to document the impressive array of technology Tejada had before him. Even if you're not an expert in music technology (e.g., a gearwhore), you can still look at the blinking lights and innumerable knobs and be impressed by his ability to master these technological beasts.
At some point during the set, I was chatting with a friend, R., and he said something very interesting. I'm paraphrasing two months after the fact, but here is the gist of it:
I like going to events where I know some of my crew will attend. That way, you can be pretty certain that you'll fit in--or at least that you won't be excluded. I still like to go out and meet new people, talk to strangers and such, but nobody wants to be excluded.
I had just been reading some essays by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick about shame and rejection, so this sort of struck me right between the eyes. Everything R. said is pretty obvious and unremarkable, but it was a really succinct summary of how and why socializing in nightclubs works the way it does. Certainly, an important part of why we go out is the "you never know" effect: maybe you'll meet someone new and have a moment of closeness and connection. However, the risk is that you might not meet anyone or find your attempts and friendly interaction rejected, ignored or maybe even ridiculed. The quest for intimacy is one that travels between pleasurable possibilities and ego-bruising risks, and ensuring the presence of friends at these events can function as insurance against those risks. Sure, an important goal of going out is to expand your social network and make new friends, but bringing along your existing social network helps smooth things out.
01h30-2h00?: Kate Simko
I don't recall exactly when the bar manager told Kate to cut the music, but it felt too soon. I was still running on the Parisian party schedule, which started at midnight and ran till 6am at the earliest, so I felt like we were just getting started. Nonetheless, Kate's set was great, rounding out the evening and providing a slightly lower-intensity conclusion to the whole thing. Alas, my batteries were running low by then, so I only have one fuzzy picture to show for it. Sorry, Kate!