samedi, septembre 27, 2008

N.A.M.E. Festival in Lille, Day 2

I slept in until about 13h00 or 14h00. I have a hazy memory of the cleaning lady barging into my room about 12h00 and then hastily retreating, but I actually got out of bed about an hour or so later.

I had this great idea: I’ll take my computer in my backpack and head over to a café overlooking the largest city square and work on my blog notes. But there were a few problems: 1) there was some sort bizarre open-air aerobics class going on in the square that involved blasting really horrible trance (EDM music) across the square, so there was no way I was going to sit in a terrace and get any work done; 2) when I found a café on a side-street that seemed promising, I opened my computer to discover that it hadn’t actually charged during the night. Boo! Well, I finished my coffee, enjoyed the brief moment of sunshine, and then went back to the hotel and kept on working from there.

There was a roundtable discussion scheduled at 19h00 today, hosted by a philosopher called Yves Michaud, at the auditorium in the Palais des Beaux-Arts (Palace of Fine Arts). The philosopher has been apparently married to a woman from Ibiza for decades, currently lives there, and has seen the emergence and solidification of the year-round Ibiza party scene. He’s apparently writing a book of memoirs and observations on the subject, so he decided to hold this roundtable today on the subject of hedonism as a philosophy / ethic and its importance in EDM communities.

When I was heading over to the event, I had somehow forgotten that it was planned to be a round-table, and I was bracing myself for one very self-satisfied “public intellectual” holding forth for a couple of hours on a scene that he’s merely been next to. Thankfully, this was a real round-table, and the guy himself was functioning more as a moderator, so he didn’t actually speak that much, aside from posing questions and guiding the direction of conversation.

Otherwise, there were 4 speakers, one a philosopher who specializes in epicurianism and hedonism, one a classics scholar with a specialty in Latin philosophy, one the head of the local general counsel that sponsored the N.A.M.E. Festival, and one journalist that had been a “specialist” in parties and partying. As a result, the discussion was actually pretty interesting; each of the speakers geared their discussion toward a generalist’s knowledge, and they each had an interesting perspective to give on hedonism. I probably most appreciated the philosopher and the classics scholar, as they both historicized the development of hedonism and Epicureanism and explained the differences between them and what these words might mean in the 21st century.

Interestingly enough, for the first 75% of the discussion, nobody discussed illicit drug use, despite the obvious and frequent connections to hedonism (in a negative way, usually). When the moderator finally pointed it out, the rest of the discussion for the rest of the event circled endlessly around that topic. Most of them came out with the now-standard arguments for an alternate approach to drugs than full abstinence / scare tactics: harm reduction is more important; hyperbolic warnings about drugs make the entire drug education project seem disconnected with reality; the “profile” of a drug-user in politics has little correlation to the sorts of casual recreational users that make up a large portion of the EDM scene (and many other scenes); alcohol is a more potent poison than many of these drugs; etc. While most of these are good arguments and I certainly didn’t disagree with them, they didn’t really add a finessed or expanded argument from their particular positions of expertise. What does the history of philosophy tell us about tolerance for the use of intoxicants? How do various philosophies make sense of desire and need and pleasure?

The only major disappointment was during the Q&A session at the end, when some woman raised her hand and asked whether the “tribal dance style” of EDM parties might show some connection with primitive cultures. Gah. I realize that there’s a whole sub-section of the EDM scene that sees itself this way, but the unexamined colonial desire embedded in that sort of narrative is just too much for me to swallow. Thankfully, the moderator jumped in before anyone else could respond and explained to her very succinctly why the dance practices of EDM and “primitive” (shudder) communities are only superficially similar.

From there, I headed back to the hotel, grabbed a greasy but satisfying kebab on the way, and then relaxed in my hotel for a little while, until Fantô and about half of the Frenchy Krew were ready to head out for some pre-partying (the other half stayed in and wanted to sleep a bit more before the main event). We went to At Home, a bar we had visited briefly the night before. We hung out a lot more this time, visiting all the floors in the building. The owner had bought an entire tall-house and converted into a bar, where the theme was home décor. The first floor was made up to look like a kitchen, the second floor was done up like a living room, the third floor looked like a bedroom and bathroom (complete with tiles and seats made out of toilets) and the fourth floor was the real apartment, where the owner lived. It was a pretty cute idea, I must say, although his decorating style was a bit IKEA-heavy for a stylish bar.

After hanging out with the owner and his friends until about 1h00, we finally made our way over to the main festival event, again at the Tri Postal:

N.A.M.E. Festival 2008, Lille (Day 2)

(Check out this picture! I took this from the view from Fantômette's hotel room, just across the street from the Tri Postal.)

We again stopped by Fantô's apartment-hotel to drop off our things, and then headed across the street and into the bar. Unlike last night, we had arrived at high-tide, so getting through the coat check and getting our first drinks were a bit of a hassle. Nonetheless we eventually took care of that and got on the dancefloor.

!!! (chk-chk-chk)

We got in just in time to hear the last part of their set, which was predictably rock-electro fusion. It wasn’t really anybody’s cup of tea, so we headed over into the next room after a few minutes.


This guy’s set was mostly pretty hard techno, making use of some minimalism in the sense of slowly-changing structures, but otherwise using a texture and aesthetic that was more “hard” techno. It was good enough to dance to, certainly, but I’ll admit that I was mostly just waiting for the next set to start.

We noticed that, unlike last night, the bouncers weren’t hassling people very much for smoking pot or taking drugs. The night before, bouncers were constantly walking through the smoking area, sniffing the air for the scent of cannabis. If you got caught doing anything of that sort, the bouncers kicked you out permanently, without any “final warning” or anything like that. This time, they seemed to be a lot more relaxed about it.

Also, while the crowd was still pretty young and pretty intense about their partying, there wasn’t quite the same Dionysian extremes of intoxication and drink-spilling that there was the night before. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get a drink or two spilled on me, just that it wasn’t as much and I wasn’t elbowed in the ribs nearly as often.

Oh, and here's a quick clip from his set, although I am again totally embarrassed by the audio compression on this !@#$ camera. It takes much better low-light pictures, but this audio crap is bull!@#$.

Radio Slave

I recall seeing Radio Slave at mutek as well and being pretty disappointed with his sound, so I wasn’t expecting too much from this set. Although it was still as bombastic and loud as I remembered back in June, his track selection and his mixing style managed to make it work. It felt like the tempo was a bit slower than in his previous set at mutek, and his transitions were smoother.

Ambivalent live

Ambivalent’s set was really quite nice, although Fantômette complained that it was a bit “too cold,” which I think I can understand. There was no trace of the sort of “funky” house influences that one usually finds in contemporary minimal. The style was very much minimal-with-heavy-beats, but there wasn’t much swing or groove to the sounds. I still liked it quite a bit, especially since he seemed to be very good at creating well-paced ups and downs in the set, which is difficult to do well in a live set (i.e., just working with loops rather than completed tracks).

Gaiser live

Gaiser’s set was perhaps a little bit too heavy for my tastes, but was still really well done. I only saw about 30 mins of his set, though, before I headed into the other room and discovered that Danton Eeprom was playing.

Danton Eeprom live

I remember seeing Danton Eeprom back at Mutek this June and being really blown away by his live set. It was pretty epic and large-scale, while remaining well within a certain kind of elaborately minimal sound. He created smooth alternations between heavy and light textures, giving the set a greater feeling of unity and direction. It was probably the best set of the night, and according to Fantô, it was also the best of the whole festival, both weekends.

If the SIS track, “Standing / Nesrib” was the tune of the night yesterday, Dubfire’s remix of Audio Slave’s “Grindhouse Tool” was the one tonight, being played twice by other DJs in addition to Radio Slave himself dropping it. At some point during this set, an adorable girl with a super-cute haircut was dancing next to me, clearly drunk/high and beaming with pleasure. There was a guy making his way through the crowd, pinching girl’s butts and trying to come on to them clumsily, which all of them rebuffed pretty pointedly. When he got to her, he wouldn’t leave her alone and she was a bit too tore up to put up substantial resistance, so I inserted myself between them and made it look like we were together. This had the desired effect (he left), but then she spent the rest of the night trying to make intense eye contact with me. As I’ve mentioned before, this sort of eye contact, especially when initiated by a girl, means “What’s keeping you? Jump on me, dammit.” She never actually tried to talk to me or anything, so I didn’t have to break the news to her that I liked boys.

Davide Squillace

I have only vague memories of seeing this guy play at Club der Visionäre in Berlin, and I vaguely recall liking it a lot. This context was a bit different from the low-intensity biergarten atmosphere of that club in Berlin, so his set was a lot harder and more intense at this event. Nonetheless, it was probably my favorite set of the evening, with an emphasis on melodic, rhythmically complex and bouncing basslines and reverbed, “smeared” samples above it. I’m usually not a big fan of those tracks that make heavy use of reverb and panning to create a sort of blurry echo chamber effect; I find it usually defuses the music’s drive and sort of takes it out of focus. But this set was really well done and really effective. I was dancing like a mad fool right up until the end of his set, shortly after 6h00.

[Again, OMG I'm so sorry that the audio is so awful on this thing.]


When the second room had closed, they left the first room open for a bit longer. This DJ was apparently connected with the organization putting this festival together, and his set was pretty straight-ahead techno. Well done, if a bit too heavy-handed for my liking. What was interesting was, as his next-to-last track, he put down some white label or recent release that involves Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC speech layered over a techno track, which seemed to be a direct homage of earlier House tracks that quote Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Apparently, the parallels between these two people has not been lost on Europeans, either. During that track, the video artists switched to a new set of videos, which showed Obama speaking at the 2008 DNC Convention in slow motion, while cycling through various Obama campaign posters, as well as a “Vote Obama” insignia. It was night and I appreciated the political engagement, but I wondered what good it would do at a party that appeared to be 100% European.

When things finally tapered off, we headed outside and regrouped. Danton Eeprom was going to mix at the afterparty and some of us were really determined to go see him. I, however, was already pretty tired and I knew that I would have to get up before noon to check out of my hotel, so I begged off it and headed back to the hotel for some very brief slumber.

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