Goodness gracious! This has been a long, 24-hour day. I started at 6h00 this morning, and I ended around 7h00 the next morning, so there ya go. It was also pretty exhausting, seeing as I spent 12 hours of the day walking around Poitiers and the last 6 hours of the night dancing like crazy.
So, to begin with: Poitiers. The UofC students currently at the Centre were going on a day-trip to Poitiers and the Centre offered to let me tag along. Unlike previous trips I had done in the past, I wasn’t actually responsible for shepherding the kids around town and keeping them in line, so all I had to do was show up. Of course, my instincts eventually kicked in and I found myself helping the other responsables count heads and collect stragglers, but it was nonetheless a lot less stressful when I wasn’t responsible for them.
The city of Poitiers, located in a hilly ridge that connects the Paris Basin from the Aquitaine Basin, covers a large promontory that is surrounded on three sides by the river Clain. The old city covers the hillsides as well as the wide plateau at the top of the hill, where all of the main city buildings are located (city hall, prefecture hall, dozens of churches and the diocese cathedral, etc.).
Anyway, although this wasn’t technically “work,” this involves folks from work, so I’m not blogging about it in any detail. The only highlight I would want to point out is that Michel Foucault’s childhood house is located in Poitiers, and the house has been converted into a the Bureau for the Protection of Young People or something like like that. One of the teachers in the group suggested bringing a copy of Foucault’s Discipline and punish and getting your picture taken between the plaque that says “Foucault lived here” and the plaque that declares the house’s current political uses. Deliciously ironic.
Anyway, the day at Poitiers was fun and not too far (1:45 by TGV), but it involved a LOT of walking around the city. By the time I got back to Paris at 19h00, I was loathe to plunge into the métro to make the trek from Gare Montparnasse to my place.
I considered taking a nap before going out tonight (since I had failed to get some decent sleep on the train), but by the time I had gotten home and done a couple loads of laundry, it was already getting late. So I fired up my recently-acquired MacOSX port of Diablo II and killed a couple of hours before going out.
Happy People Only @ La Scène Bastille
0h00-1h30: Roman Noriega
I was on the guestlist (yay! Thanks, Fantô), but I wasn’t sure if there was a time-limit on the guestlist, so I headed down rather early.
However, I’m really glad that I did, as Roman Noriega’s set was really good. He was in the unenviable position of spinning the warm-up set, which means that—by convention, at least—he’s not supposed to show up the headliners or exhaust the crowd with an overly-intense set. He nonetheless managed to strike a good balance, mixing in really good minimal techno and house tracks. I think why it worked as well as it did was that his track-selection was as on-point as any headliner set, but at the same time he avoided extremes of intensity in his mix. There were still moments of tension, anticipation, climax and arrival, but they were scaled back to maintain the right ambience.
Although this wasn’t my first night of partying after my return to Paris, this nonetheless felt like the homecoming / family reunion party. Upon arriving in the club, I found my old party buddy Nathan H, who was to spin tonight. After some hugs (one of the few French people I know that gives hugs), some catching-up and some introductions to new friends, I was off to continue my round of the room. As the hour approached closer to 2h00 and the room filled up, I continued to run into people I hadn’t seen in more than a year. I’ll admit that it does the ego good to return to a place and discover that you weren’t, indeed, forgettable.
1h30-3h00: Nathan H (and GuiGui)
From what I could gather, Nathan is planning to form a duo with his friend Guillaume, so tonight he invited him (a.k.a. GuiGui) onto the stage with him. The two performed a set on what appeared to be a Traktor or Serato setup, although I didn’t see them working with vinyl, so I’m guessing it was Traktor.
The set started off quite well, showing that Nathan’s mixing technique and general polish had continued to improve since the last time I had seen him. The overall sound of the set was louder, heavier and faster than what I usually prefer to hear, which was not entirely surprising; as I recall from when Nathan H and Fantômette were performing together as Be My Chose, Nathan was always the “electroclash” to Fantômette’s “minimal.” At one point, I turned to a friend and remarked that this set would’ve benefited from a slower tempo to open up the tracks and let them swing a bit more.
As the track selected drifted into vocoder-vocals-and-synthesizer territory, I sort of fell out of the set. Don’t get me wrong, I have a special place in my heart for anything that sounds like digital artifice or technology, but these particular elements combined with the fast and very heavy beats pushed things into Trance territory, which is just not my cup of tea. Overall, great technique but the selection wasn’t consistently to my liking.
Watching Nathan and GuiGui work on stage, though, reminded me of something that I’ve always really appreciated in Nathan. He is definitely a kiffeur (taken from the Moroccan Arabic word, kif, for pleasure and the regional variety of marijuana), that is, he’s generally a very cheerful and outgoing that places an importance on enjoyment and fun. And so whenever I see him play out at a club, I’m always impressed with his ability to broadcast that energy to his audience. He is always very clearly having a good time, dancing on stage as he’s putting on tracks, interacting with his fellows on stage or those dancing nearby, and otherwise making it clear that he really loves his work. To the extent that DJs are performers, it always helps to give a good visual performance to go with the aural performance. Check out the picture and the following videos, which give a bit of an idea of what I'm talking about; Nathan is the one in the red t-shirt.
During this set, I got to know a young DJ who I had seen spinning more than a year ago, during my last stay in Paris. In my review of that night, I had apparently written a critique of his set, which he later found online, read and found to be “mean;” he used the English word here instead of the French one, so I think he meant something more like “stern” or “exacting” or “cutting.” I went back recently to read the blog post in question, and it wasn’t diplomatically worded and a balanced mixture of positive and negative things. Anyway, he said that he had been dégouté (literally “disgusted,” but also like a more intense version of “bummed out”), but later came to realize that the aspects of his set that I had taken issue with were precisely what he needed to work on.
I felt a bit awkward at this moment, not despite but because of his eventual agreement with my critique. When someone says to you, “You said something about me that hurts, but I’ve come to realize that you’re right,” you can’t exactly answer with “Great!” And “Thank you!” risks sounding like, “I told you so!” I eventually went with something closer to a French version of, “I appreciate you telling me that, and I’m really impressed with your ability to take critique without taking it personally.”
Actually, if I can generalize about French people (just watch me), it’s that they make disagreement and critique much less dramatic. Certainly, French people can have loud and memorable fights about things and say awful things to each other, but there’s an everyday tolerance for disagreement and distaste that you don’t find in North America. If a friend gets a new haircut and asks me what I think, I can say, “Meh, I don’t really like it,” without that turning into a friendship-ending crisis.
3h00-4h30: Eric Labbé
Apparently, this guy runs a record shop in town and hasn’t really emerged as a DJ quite yet, but Fantômette had told me that his track-selection was really excellent. In my opinion, she was certainly right; although there were a couple of really rough mixes in his set (mostly beatmatching problems, which tend to plague DJs at this venue), the tracks he laid down were consistently great. I might still complain, nonetheless, that he didn’t quite have a sense of pacing for the whole of the set; the tracks were all great, but I didn’t get a feeling that they were moving in some direction or becoming (in the Deleuzian sense of the term). The next thing for him to work on, I think, is creating some well-defined contours in his set.
After spending a summer partying with her, I’m probably a bit biased and our musical tastes have probably come into alignment. Nonetheless, I declare Fantô’s set the best of the night. Her mixing technique was pretty much rock-solid and smooth; she didn’t engage in any particularly complex or virtuosic manipulations, but neither were there any audible problems. Her track-selection was very much informed by our summer in Berlin, and definitely in line with my current tastes in minimal house / techno. The sound was firm and loud, but also fine-grained, crackling and delicate at the same time. It was very much the sort of stuff that I had really enjoyed at events in Berlin.
At some point around 5h30 or so, some guy comes up to me on the dancefloor and asks me a question. He was clearly drunk and possibly also high, so his speech was practically incomprehensible. After asking him to repeat himself a couple of times, I picked out the word “salle fumeur” (smoking room) and pointed him in the right direction. But he kept talking to me, and I honestly had no fucking clue what he was going on about.
To add to the confusion, he was being really, really tactile. As he talked to me, he pressed his cheek right against mine and spoke so close to my ears that I could feel his lips brush against my ears. His hands were alternately on my shoulder and on the small of my back, and when I put my arm around his shoulder to lean in and tell him my name (which he asked for at least three times), he slid his arm right around my midsection. As those of you who’ve read this blog for a while know, this kind of body contact in a French context usually means, “And later, we have sex.” But this guy was also pretty drunk, so this left me pretty confused as to his actual intentions.
I honestly didn’t understand 90% of what he was saying, and he kept on expecting me to answer him, so I only got so far with neutral affirmations before he realized that I wasn’t getting it and moved on to the smoking area. I swear that one of the things he said to me was that there were too many ladies in the house tonight, which made the possibility that this was a sloppy sexual advance all the more likely. Either way, he gamboled his way over to the smoke pit and I kept on dancing.
The music ended around 5h45 and things started wrapping up. There were a few of us who were waiting for Fantômette, but since she is one of the primary organizers of the Happy People Only series, we knew that it would take a while for her to pack up and say goodbye to everyone. So we headed outside and watched all the party casualties spill out of the club, stand around dazed, and smoke. Once Fantô got outside, she still had to play the hostess and say goodbye to everyone. Eventually, one of the girls in our group pretty much forcibly tore her from a conversation and we finally headed out. I think the plan was to hang out at Fantô’s place for a little while longer, but I was beat from more than 24 hours of being awake and upright, so I headed home and got me some sleep.
Oddly enough, in the most intensely Turkish area of the city, I couldn’t find a kebab place that was open.