Happy Halloween! I’m sad to say that I didn’t have the time and energy to dress up in costume this year. Mind you, the Parisians aren’t really into Halloween. Apparently, there was a fashion for observing the tradition in Europe about 10 years ago, but it’s fallen off now. On the other hand, the French do observe Toussaint (all saint’s day, Nov 1), which they usually spend at home with their family, much like Thanksgiving in the US / Canada.
So, don’t have much to show for Halloween, but here’s a picture from my friend Amy / SmittenKitten dressed as Bjork in the infamous Swan Dress.
Tonight, Fantômette was booked to spin at a club called Barramundi, which I had never been to before. Afterwards, she was booked at an afterparty called Jett about a 15-minute walk from the first club. I was braced for a long night.
I first went out with a friend for dinner at Les Trois Marmites, which was perhaps not the best idea. It was delicious as usual (I had rabbit in tarragon sauce), but the portions are also famously huge there, so I was feeling overstuffed and sluggish when it came time to go out. It also didn’t help that we drank two bottles of wine between us, which made me a bit sleepy. Nonetheless, I put myself together and headed over to the club.
Halloween @ Barramundi
I got to the club around 1h00 and it was still pretty empty. S. (from last night) and his girlfriend, D., had just arrived as well, so we checked our coats and went down to the main dancefloor.
Barramundi is a much swankier place than we would usually frequent for clubbing, and just the décor made us feel a bit out of place. Also, the confused-colonial style of the interiors—African masks in alcoves; batik patterns on the walls; Indian temple doors—marked the place with a sort of ostentatious privilege that didn’t quite go with the techno-kid style here; Parisian clubbers prefer to sublimate their privilege into shiny futurist interiors or gritty “underground” venues.
Anyway, you can go to their website for some prettier images of the space, but here are the pictures I was able to take with my camera. The flash horribly over-exposed the dark-brown interior, but the low and very warm lighting made my non-flash pictures come out really dark. Nonetheless, they’ll hopefully give you an idea of what I mean.
Anyway, you can imagine the irony that the security and bar staff were almost exclusively Black / Arab, and there was one diminutive Central-American guy who’s job apparently was to stand near the dancefloor and immediately clean up any spills. The empire lives! The bar and security staff were super-friendly, by the way, which made me feel only more conflicted about the whole thing; surly service might’ve reduced the discomfort of partying in some nostalgic memorial to colonial expansion.
0h00-1h30: DJ Gilda
This guy was spinning as we arrived and I only caught maybe the last half-hour of his set. I can’t say that I much enjoyed what I heard, though. In French, you might describe his set as pouet-pouet, which is onomatopeic for "honk-honk" and translates into something like “generic” (in a bad way), “mainstream” or “unsophisticated.” I’m not a big fan of dumping on the mainstream and invoking classism/elitism, but I’ll admit that I’m not much pleased when a DJ set sounds like a top-of-the-charts radio broadcast. While all of the records he was putting down were electronic stuff, they were a jumbled mix of styles, mostly clustering around a noisy—and, to my minimalist tastes, overburdened—trance and hard-techno.
I see this guy’s name everywhere on Paris flyers, especially as a headliner for “minor” club nights and venues. I remember seeing one of his tracks feature on a MixCD of Matthew Herbert (Let’s All Make Mistakes, 2000), so I expected to hear some relatively pleasant minimal. His set was probably the best of the evening, with a solid selection of minimal house that didn’t necessarily blow me away, but certainly got me dancing. He occasionally trended toward coarser, more frenetic tracks, which didn’t work in the under-populated club space. The resto-club, with most of the tables and chairs stored away, could easily accommodate 200 people, and there were maybe 50 people at most that evening. So the extra-heavy tracks felt a bit out of place.
Fantômette and I talked about the difficulty of filling a nightclub space in Paris. On the one hand, it seemed like there was a lot of competition between various nightclubs, and there wasn’t the constant influx of European tourists flooding the clubs every weekend like in Berlin. Also, the cost of partying in Paris (10€ drinks, for example) makes people less likely to go out and party.
Fantô has been thinking about starting another series of club nights (after a break from Happy People Only), but she’s worried that the same thing will happen to her that happened here tonight. That is: organize an event, bring in a set of DJs, but only fill about 25% of the capacity. What I suggested was to start at a small venue, so that the people who do come get the feeling that the place is packed, and thus popular / successful. Then, as your attendance numbers begin to exceed the capacity of that place, you shift to a larger location. In my experience, there needs to be a certain “critical mass” density of people in a space before a group becomes a crowd and a soirée begins to feel like a party.
3h00-4h30: Jeff K.
I’ve heard good things about Jeff K from various sources, including Fantômette, but I was rather underwhelmed by his performance tonight. His set started out solid—if more on the thumpy, heavy side of techno—and soon lost coherence. It eventually became a similar sort of mish-mash of styles as DJ Gilda earlier that evening, with a heavy emphasis on trancey and hard-house tracks with lots of vocals. At one point, D. rolled her eyes, waved her hand and declared the sound to be généraliste; that is, unimaginative and banal. Ouch.
4h30-6h00: Fantômette and Alyotis
I don’t know if Fantômette had been warned in advance, but she found herself going a back-2-back set with this other DJ. It did not go well. To begin with, his style was all noise and thunder, staying within the territory of noisy, pounding “big-room” techno. So Fantômette would put down two finely-wrought, spacious and airy minimal house tracks, and he would follow with two tracks of thundering bluster. It also didn’t help that he was clearly not entirely sober, as he made several really obvious mixing errors (including a couple of total trainwrecks) and didn’t seem to be the least bit disturbed by it. Fantômette suffered through the experience with admirable diplomacy, but I don’t see her repeating a booking with this crew. Fantômette is, I think, in a position now where she doesn’t need to say yes to every booking that crosses her desk.
By about 5h30, we were all a bit tired and not feeling up to the afterparty. As D. pointed out, we probably would’ve been in finer form to keep partying if the main event here at Barramundi had been more fun and exciting. The awkward mess that was Fantô’s ping-pong set with Alyotis, however, didn’t leave us in a festive mood. We gave our best wishes to Fantô as she prepared to head over to the afterparty event, and we made our separate ways home (in horrid, cold rain).