I had actually stayed out pretty late last night, about 4h30 or so, as I had hung out at a friends place with some others for a while. So I slept in rather late and got up slowly. I spent some time catching up on blogging, working on some of the photos I had taken in the last week, and caught up on some correspondence. My network router was giving me some trouble, too, so I spent some time tinkering with it and eventually updating the firmware. As it turns out the Linksys WRT54G has a whole range out open-source firmware available.
Anyway, my friend Damien (a.k.a. Timid Boy) was going to be spinning tonight at Batofar before one of the headliners, Fairmont from the Border Community label (also known as Jake Fairley on Dumb-Unit). Damien had put me on the guestlist and I’ve never been disappointed by a Jake Fairley live set, so I decided to check it out. I hopped on my bike for some much-needed exercise (I think I’ve gained a bit of weight this week, despite my bike-riding) and headed over to Batofar. The bar is located about 5 minutes’ walk from my workplace, so the route was familiar and easy to undertake, even in the dark.
When I got to the club—which is in a large boat floating on the river Seine—there was already a line nearly all the way across the pier. Ugh. I braced myself and sent a text message to Damien to make sure that, indeed, I was on the list. Fortunately, the line moved pretty fast and I was on the list, so I got in easily. Alas, the long line outside was a foretoken for the craziness inside; the coat-check was already full at 1h00, the interior was hot and sweaty, and the entire dancefloor was PACKED.
0h00-1h30: Timid Boy
One of the upsides of there being such a huge crowd this early in the night was that Damien had a lots of people to play to, which allowed him to play a more dynamic set. As a DJ, you’re expected to adjust the tone of your set to the crowd in the room; it can look a bit ridiculous to play pounding, high-intensity music to an empty room. So Damien was able to make the most of his rather early timeslot and lay down a very strong set. He stayed mostly in minimal-house and full-on house territory, with an emphasis on bassy grooves that had a forward, driving motion.
I ran into lots of people I know, including the group of people connected to Damien as well as other folks I know from the Paris scene. We hung out together and chatted a bit, but it was hard to talk very much, as the crowd was so tightly pressed together.
Fairley’s set was really fantastic. There was little about it that would qualify his sound as the sort of “minimal” techno that has been emanating from Berlin for so long; it was much more emphatically in the realm of straightforward techno, but with a focus on non-canonic sounds in the high registers that you would usually hear in “minimal” / microhouse. A friend standing next to me said, “I call this neo-trance.” I would’ve never thought of calling Fairmont’s sound anything approaching trance, no doubt because I’ve never been a fan of trance and so labeling this style as trance-like wouldn’t really be a good thing. But when I thought about it, I sorta saw what he meant. The underlying rhythmic groove is certainly techno, but his frequent use of sustained, spatialized samples (often called “pads”) and his attention to long build-ups do refer to the trance style.
It’s also worth noting that his live set was a “gear-only” live set. That is, his music was entirely produced by an assemblage of “physical” sound devices, like samplers and sequencers, rather than the “virtual” sound devices on a laptop. I’m a skeptic of that whole “live sets are better when the performer’s setup looks like an electronics pawn-shop” authenticity claim, but these days it’s pretty noteworthy when someone does a non-laptop live set.
I spent most of Fairmont’s set being stepped on or trampled by various people, as the place was totally and completely packed. I don’t think I’ve ever been in Batofar when it’s been this full. It also didn’t help that something about the water or maybe the sheer number of people on the boat made it sway back and forth all night, which meant that the dancefloor was shifting from right to left all night long, and at some pretty disorienting angles. This meant that the tall drunk people who were dancing on top of me would frequently lose their balance and careen into me. It was something of a miracle that I finished the night without any drinks on me.
2h30-4h00: Eric Labbé
I had last seen Labbé spinning at the last Happy People Only party, and he had impressed me with his selection if not so much with his technique. This time, I found his selection decent, and his technique pretty far off. He managed to create some pretty noticeable trainwrecks as he had trouble beat-matching. Considering the constant listing of the boat, I would’ve been willing to chalk up some of this to “technical difficulties,” except Timid Boy / Damien had given a flawless performance a couple of hours ago.
Popof started later than had been expected, and played a vinyl set instead of a live set. What I heard through the grapevine later on was that he showed up to the club late and announced that he was just going to do a short vinyl set instead of the planned live set. As you might imagine, this pissed off some of the people involved in organizing the night. Live sets are more expensive than vinyl sets; you can only demand 1 hour of work from the performer for a live set, as it is much more work-intensive to prepare, which means that you have to spend more money filling up the rest of your evening with DJs. I felt bad for Damien in particular, as he was supposed to do a second set from 4h30-6h00, but with Popof starting 30 minutes late and possibly running longer, there was a possibility that Damien wouldn’t spin the closing set.
I went outside onto the docks to get some fresh air, since I wasn’t really enjoying Popof’s set (too coarse and heavy), and saw a young girl, surrounded by a group of friends, yelling curses and insults at the top of her lungs, apparently directed toward the club or the club’s staff. After eavesdropping for a few minutes, I figured out that some guy had tried to feel her up in the club; she had gotten the bouncers to kick him out, but her own reaction was violent and loud and, when she refused to calm down, they threw her out of the club as well.
Her friends stood around her and smiled uncomfortably and occasionally tried to calm her down, but otherwise let her rant. What was interesting to me (aside from the mixture of empathy and exasperation that the spectacle elicited in me) was how she was self-stimulating. That is, she would begin by muttering to herself and to anyone around her about how she had been wronged, and then her own words would raise her affect and within seconds she had spiraled into a screaming litany of abuse. At times, when she got really angry / upset, she was practically incoherent; just a word-salad of insults. Then she would calm down for a moment, pull on her cigarette, and then start muttering again.
I went back down into the club to see if I could make myself enjoy Popof’s set, but after another 30 minutes or so, I gave up and headed out. As I left, that same girl was still alternately muttering and screaming while her friends milled about restlessly.