samedi, mars 31, 2007

Katapult Party at the Rex

Sometime around 11h00, Mark and I woke up. Mark put himself together, packed his stuff and headed off to the train station. For my part, I fell back asleep.

I can't remember how most of that day went. I woke up in a haze, did some blogging, made myself a bit of food (using this quinoa-based pasta that tastes lovely but breaks far too easily) and got ready to go out again. I'm pretty sure I ate dinner with DJ, but even that isn't clear. Hmm...

Katapult Night @ Le Rex: Baby Ford, Mark Broom, Skat, Alex&Laetitia

0h00-2h00: Skat

I had forgotten that the métro runs till 2am on Saturdays, so I ended up taking the train at around 0h30 and arriving at the Rex far too early. The line was pretty long, though, so by the time I got in, the place wasn't completely empty. The coat check line was pretty short, too, which was a nice change.

Shortly after getting in, I ran into a large group of students from work. Apparently, they were celebrating someone's birthday, and had thought that the Rex would be the best bet for clubbing in Paris (the Rex is generally known in the way that Crobar in Chicago or The Tunnel in NYC is). It was almost 1h30 and they were concerned that the place was still nowhere near full, but I assured them that people usually flood in between 2h00 and 3h00. For the record, I'm not actually teaching these students, so this still doesn't count as my "Holy crap, my students saw my partying" moment. A few minutes later, I ran into another group of students who were out partying. Ironically, both groups had gone out separately, thus making the "critical mass" of U of C students at the night even more amusing. It was like we had organized a field trip.

Skat's set was a overall pretty disappointing. Part of it was that his mixes tended to be abrupt and not well-chosen (i.e., the overlapping tracks didn't mesh), but a large part of it was that I came expecting one sound, and got something very different. My memories of Katapult events come mainly from their float at the Techno Parade last September, as well as their after-party for the event. In both cases, I got the impression that most of what Katapult artists produce gravitates toward microhouse and minimal techno, overlaying a playful house sound over minimal techno's otherwise austere face. In the end, I've discovered that what I like about Katapult is mainly Cabanne.

So if I came expecting click-pop and microhouse, you can look at the videos I uploaded of Skat's set to see what I got instead--especially the second clip. It was like some sort of retro classic house set, which I just wasn't in the mood for. He even dropped the "In the beginning there was Jack, and Jack had a groove" track, which signifies for classic house much like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" signifies for the grunge era.

2h30-3h45: Mark Broom

This was another story of misplaced expectations. You see, my mistake was to remember Mark Broom through his remix of Ken Ishii's Overlap. Listening to this (note: much like most .mp3 blogs, this link will go dead after a little while, so listen now) back in 1996 was almost revelatory. Anyway, as the three video clips below can attest, this wasn't quite the sound Mark Broom is producing these days. It was like there was some sort of nostalgia-fest for 90's era house that I had not been told about. As far as I could tell, that moment of nostalgia had arrived and left on New Year's Eve, 2004, in Toronto.

This isn't to say that I didn't manage to get my dance on, I was just a lot less enthusiastic about it and a bit anxious about what Baby Ford might do to follow Mark Broom's set. At one point, one of my friends walked up to me and said, "What's going on?! What is this stuff? Do you think Baby Ford will sound like this, too?" Clearly, I wasn't the only one taken aback. Nonetheless, clubbing involves both appreciation and celebration, so if we were having trouble with the former activity, we could always focus on the latter.

3h45-4h30: Baby Ford

OK, Baby Ford's set was great, but far too short. He was spinning vinyl, so I presumed that he was going to go for 1.5-2 hours, but instead he lasted barely 45 minutes. His set was definitely microhouse, with a real emphasis on punchy, sparse textures and interlocked percussion. As soon as his set started, I found the same friend I had spoken to earlier, just to share the moment. "Finally!" "Yeah, it was about time!"

This is another one of those moments of affective mirroring and intimacy. During Mark Broom's set, we inquired into each other's experience ("Are you feeling this set?" "No." "Me neither."), and had a moment of connectedness as we found someone to share our disappointment. Now, during Baby Ford's set, we check in on each other, find that our affective states match but in a more positive way, and have a moment of closeness and mutuality. At this point as well, "appreciation" and "celebration" overlap in a moment of intimacy. Later during the same set, I ran into Laurent and several friends of his, and we hung out near the DJ booth and had similar moments of "Are you feeling this?!" "Yeah!" "Me too!!"

For some reason, most of the pictures of Baby Ford came out pretty well, so the lucky bitch gets a bunch of photos, as well as some video:

(That's the back of Laurent's head in most of these photos)

4h30-6h00: Mark Broom AGAIN

After about 45 minutes of dancing to Baby Ford, I began to notice a shift in the sound of his set. The tracks were still somewhat minimal, but getting noisier and veering back toward the classic-vocal-house-without-vocals sound. I looked over at the booth to discover that Mark Broom had quietly taken over for Baby Ford. I was disappointed and pissed, but at least I can say that this second set by Mark Broom was far better than his first. One could imagine it as a sort of middleground between his earlier set and Baby Ford's set. Also, he got on this disco / new wave kick that climaxed in New Order's "Blue Monday" followed immediately by Giorgio Moroder & Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," which totally made the rest of the evening worth it. I love that you can still drop the original 7-minute extended mix of that Moroder track and get a room full of people hopping. I bet most of the people in the club weren't alive when this track was first made. I think I was 1 year old...

I made my way to 5h30, and then limped out to the métro and headed home. The ride home was pretty amusing, as a very drunk and slightly belligerent guy was sitting on the 11-line platform, occasionally yelling "Shut up!" at the whole platform, even though nobody was being particularly loud. At some point, another very, very, very drunk younger guy--who was essentially being held up by his friends) started a conversation with him, which went sort of like this:

"Hey! It stinks in this station.

"Yeah, it stinks of Sarko." [right-wing political candidate Sarkozy, who's not particularly popular with young and/or brown people]

"Yeah, it stinks of that rat Sarko and his little whore.

"Yeah, Sarko's playing in the gutter."

"Yeah, Sarko's a cocksucker."

"Yeah, he sucks tiny Chinese dick."

So, this conversation made sense until that last phrase. Nobody around me seemed to be particularly offended or confused, so perhaps this has metonymic content that I'm missing. I mean, I understand that sucking cock is supposed to be an insult for men, based on rather banal heterosexism, but I don't quite understand why Chinese cock is particularly worse--or why it needs to be tiny. Either way, I'm waiting for the day that someone says that again, so I can ask for an explanation.

vendredi, mars 30, 2007

Mark descends on Paris, and Open House @ L'Elysée Montmartre

After getting home and crashing Thursday night/Friday morning, I slept in until I got a call from my friend Mark, who was arriving in Paris that day. I gave him directions to my place and started cleaning up my apartment; a short while later, the poor, tired boy appeared and I brought him up to my place. After a quick (but delicious) lunch at a bistro near my place (Le Clairon), I left Mark to take a nap while I washed a load of towels downstairs and worked on some blogging.

Once Mark had finished taking a disco nap (and my towels were dry), we started getting ready to go out. Mark was heading off to Lyon the next day, so the plan was to do a bit of clubbing tonight while he was still in Paris. We first headed out for dinner to a Moroccan restaurant called Au Petit Cahoua. It is a favourite of mine for tagine and couscous, and this time didn't disappoint. I was a bit annoyed that we ordered a vegetarian couscous for Mark and they brought out chicken, but at least they corrected the situation quickly.

After dinner, Mark had expressed a desire to do "something gay," so off we went to the Marais. We wandered along rue Ste.-Croix de la Bretonnerie, the main drag of the gay neighborhood, and eventually wandered into a bar called Cocks (I swear I'm not making this up). The place was nowhere near as racy as the name implied; it was your standard "grab a beer and pose" bar, with innocuous house in the background and reasonably cute bartenders. After a few minutes of wandering around, clutching our beers, we were approached by a friendly couple who wanted to know if I was Spanish ("guess the ethnicity" seems to be a popular game for breaking the ice). They were both very excited to hear that Mark and I worked on electronic music, and we spent a good couple of hours chatting. The only thing that marred the evening was when a certain burly man, who claimed to be a Parisian cop, got rather fresh with Mark. I realize that the police wield a fair bit of power here, but I'm pretty sure they don't have the right to do that sort of thing with their finger...I'm just sayin'.

Since we didn't have pre-sale tickets, Mark and I left Cocks at around midnight, to head to l'Elysée Montmartre for this evening's festivities.

Open House @ L'Elysée Montmartre: The Hacker, Loco Dice, Ivan Smagghe, and Paco

0h00-1h30: Paco

When we arrived at l'Elysée Montmartre, we had a rather amusing "organization à la française" moment. The doors had a short line trailing to the right, a long line trailing to the left, and a disorganized mass of people waiting right in the middle. I approached the shorter line, and asked someone if they were waiting to enter on the guest list, with presale tickets, or without. The guy said "I hope it's the guestlist!" Hmm. We wandered over to the end of the longer line, presuming that it must be for people without presale tickets. I asked a girl who was in line ahead of me, and she said that she wasn't sure, but she was there with a presale pass. One of her friends went ahead to check and then came back and confirmed to us that we were in the wrong line. So, Mark and I went back to the main door to try to see what we could glean from the signs on the doors. One sign indicated a line for people holding presale tickets from a particular online vendor, another one for "passes" from some local radio station, another for the guest list, and another for some other sort of presale ticket.

So, in sum, there were four signs for four different lines, only two actual lines and a disorganized mass of people, and none of them were for people paying cash. Awesome. Mark and I got into the shorter line and asked the people in line again. Nobody was quite sure what the lineup was for. I asked the bouncer at the head of the line, who I recognized from other events at Le Rex, and he shrugged, saying, "Frankly, I don't know. Just get in line and find out." Thankfully, the line we were in was both short and fast-moving, so we got our answer pretty quickly. A host/portier came out and asked us how many were in our group. I said two, and without pausing to ask us what list we were on, waved us into the building. We paid at the booth near the stairs to the main hall, and then we were in.

Once inside, Mark and I circled the large hall, gave up on coatcheck, and hit the bar for a drink. The drink prices were especially painful (11€ for a mixed drink), so we grabbed the "Happy Hour" special, which was two bottles of this "red" beer stuff for 7€. It was AWFUL. We also ran into Nathan and a friend of his, but they seemed to be "on a mission," so we didn't see them very much that night.

The club itself was architecturally quite lovely. Obviously an erstwhile theatre / ballroom, it was now a large room with a very high ceiling, a balcony at the back, and quite a bit of detailed moulding on the ceiling. Check out the pictures below; the lighting made it really hard to pick up the detail, but I managed to get a bit of it.

Paco's set was fun but a bit generic, mixing somewhat house-y techno with occasional moments of electro. During most of the set I took pictures, most of which didn't turn out very well, but here's a few shots of the stage that I liked.

2h30-3h30: Ivan Smagghe

Ivan Smagghe is very well known in Paris as an electrohouse / electroclash DJ, although he is probably better known outside of Paris as a member of the electro group Blackstrobe. Incidentally, one of the men Mark and I were speaking to at that club in the Marais ("Cocks") had mentioned Ivan Smagghe, complaining that, while he had the potential to be one of the best DJs as far as track selection is concerned, he wasted his talent away through drug use. (Note: This is alleged by a third party, so take it with a grain of salt and in no way should this be construed as an accusation of anything illegal whatsoever). While I will stop short of labelling his selection "the best ever," I can definitely say that it was good. It was very much within the electro vein of things.

While I can't say that a great deal of interesting stuff happened during his set, I did get a bit of video, as well as a few interesting shots of the stage. They had the stage backlit, which made for some really neat but entirely accidental effects.

3h30-4h30: Loco Dice

Loco Dice's set was also pretty electro-house, although there were moments that strayed into minimal house territory (you can see what I mean in the video clips below). Earlier in the evening, I had told Mark about my observations of intimacy and sexualized play among (presumably) straight guys at clubs (previously mentioned here, among other places); during Loco's set, I had the opportunity to point out some of the same behaviour among some of the guys around us. Although nothing that night quite matched what I saw at the Rex 2 weeks before, nonetheless there was a group of guys who were getting rather fresh with each other when they weren't getting fresh with the women around them. Shame I didn't get a picture...

Mark had to catch a train the next day AND he had just arrived from an intercontinental flight that morning, so we threw in the towel around 4h00. We tried catching a taxi, but it was the wrong neighborhood and the wrong time of night to catch a taxi, so we grabbed the night bus as it passed by.

jeudi, mars 29, 2007

Dinner with Anisa, and Fantomette's b-day

So, after the unpleasantness of last Tuesday at l'Ourcine, I was eager to show my friend Anisa a properly good Parisian bistro dinner. After trying to make reservations at a few other restaurants on short notice, I got a recommendation from my boss for a restaurant that he had discovered hear the Parmentier métro stop, called Le Marsagny.

We arrived too early for our reservation (they were still having the server dinner when we arrived), so we spent a moment chatting outside under our umbrella. Once seated, we took a look at the menu and were suitably impressed. For 22€ you could get an appetizer + main dish, or a main dish + dessert. For all three, there was an extra 6€. Anisa had an avocado and shrimp millefeuille (essentially, a pile of sliced avocados and shrimp with a vinagrette), while I had their foie gras (which filled me with the usual mixture of delight and guilt). For the main dish, Anisa chose a grilled steak au poivre (if my memory serves me well), while I had a roasted filet of seabass. Both were delicious--my fish especially, which was crisped on the outside yet soft and moist on the inside, without being too translucent or raw. For dessert, Anisa had a crême brulée with saffron, which was delicious although a bit too bitter (the burnt sugar taste). I had an "evantail de poire" (poached pear partially sliced and fanned out) with chocolate ice cream. I wish I could remember what wine we had, because it was lovely.

After polishing off a great dinner (with great service, I might add), we headed off to a nearby bar, On Cherche Encore... to celebrate Fantomette's birthday.

Fanto's b-day @ On Cherche Encore

Happy birthday, Clothilde! Clothilde / Fantômette's birthday was actually a week earlier, but she scheduled her celebrations for tonight at On Cherche Encore... , a bar located near the Goncourt métro stop. Clothilde is one half of the DJ duo Be My Chose, who have appeared on this blog several times. I must admit that I wasn't really in fieldwork-mode that night, so I didn't keep a close eye on the evening's events and personalities. It was mostly just a great opportunity to hang out with Clothilde and her friends and catch up with Laurent, Nathan and others. Nonetheless, I did come up with a cute set of pictures:

A shot of the crowd from next to the DJ.

Nathan (mixing) and Laurent (live set) keeping the party going.

Nathan and Laurent again, plus some very happy guy in the foreground.

mercredi, mars 28, 2007

Meatless yet hearty

After a forgettable day at work, I went over to a friend's house to prepare for her the Mispireta family recipe: arroz chaufa (cantonese fried rice, done Peruvian-style). Since she's a vegetarian, I substituted seitan (wheat gluten) for meat, which has worked wonderfully in the past. The results this time were great as far as the consistency of the mock-meat was concerned, but the soy-ginger-brown sugar glaze was too salty and not sweet enough. Also, I've discovered that you need to add a bit of oil to the mixture before reducing it, since the seitan doesn't render any fats in the way that meat does.

Of course, now would be the right time to include a recipe for this fantastic Peruvian fried rice dish (recently mentioned here), but I am determined to give this thing a thourough photoblogging in the manner of the ají de gallina that I did last fall.

So, in other words, you'll just have to wait.

mardi, mars 27, 2007

Alas, L'Ourcine,

...I'm breaking up with you. When I visited you the first time, it was magical. The food was delicious, the waitresses were knowledgeable about the food and the wines, and we had a great time.

The second time was just as wonderful. I brought my sister along and we revelled in good food, wine and just a bit too much foie gras. The milk sorbet was fantastic.

The third time, you told us that there wouldn't be a table until 22h30, and then suddenly called us at 21h00 and told us our table was ready and waiting NOW. Once we finally scampered down there, the food was great and we forgot all about it.

The fourth time, the entrée and plat were great, but the desserts were inconsistent, to put it lightly. But--shock and betrayal--our waitress chased us from our table before we had asked for the check, so that she could fill it with another pair of guests. You should've known bettter, L'Ourcine; the only kind of French restaurant that does that is the kind that serves its food in cardboard or plastic. Nonetheless, I forgave you based on past experiences, and DJ forgave you because the waitress was cute.

This last time, however, will indeed be the last time. I brought a friend visiting from Chicago (by way of Cairo) and I even made a middle-of-the-evening reservation in the hopes of avoiding the unceremonious boot I got last time. Instead, we sat at your "bar" (a corner with two stools) for more than a half-hour, while our table--which you had given to another couple before us--was still occupied. Why didn't you chase them out the way we had been chased last time?

As time passed, a table of two opened up somewhere else on the floor. When I asked you about it, you told me that it was reserved for a group of five. Sure, but the five weren't there yet, were they? A few minutes later, another couple arrives and is seated before us. Why? Oh, because that table was meant for them--never mind that they were also a group of two and they had arrived after us. Why the differential treatment for us? The only thing I can think of that was true in both recent visits is that we both spoke French with foreign accents. If that's the reason, L'Ourcine, then fuck you.

In the end, the food was good, although I can already taste the quality slipping along with the service. The hors d'oeuvres came to our table after the entrée with only a grudging half-apology--and it was the same mousse of leeks that I've had at every meal here; are you capable of anything else? The entrée and plats were fine, but my dessert had the taste and consistency of lightly whipped bookbinding glue. Throughout the meal I saw you smile perhaps twice; the rest of the time your face was so sour I thought you might spoil our wine by looking at it.

So I'm not sticking around, L'Ourcine. This city is full of good bistros that will serve me food with a modicum of respect and likely for a better price. So that's it. We're breaking up. I'm moving on. I need my space. I've found someone else.

lundi, mars 26, 2007

Cuisine Trois Pièces

Well, the beginning of the day was...early. I got up much earlier than usual to get myself ready to take the new group of students off to the UCParis center. Things went reasonably well. Everyone made it to the center (eventually) and settled in. After giving them a short tour of the building, I ran off to my office to get settled in. From there on, the rest of the day was spent taking care of IT issues that often come up on the first day of classes (although I'd like to point out that a lot less of them would happen if certain instructors wouldn't request their Chalk websites the morning of the first class meeting).

Sometime during that day, I get an email from DJ saying, effectively, "Let's get out of here and eat." And, thus, I have inaugurated the DJ+LuisEat label for my blog. Between eating out and eating in, we'll soon have enough material to write a cookbook and a restaurant guidebook.

Anyway, DJ took me to this great little bistro west of Montmartre (near métro Rome, on line #2) called Trois-Pièces-Cuisine (trans: "3 rooms plus kitchen"). It's this adorable corner bistro / bar that is (surprise!) arranged into three rooms, with a bar wrapping around the wall between two of the rooms. The third room has essentially been annexed by the largest room, with the dividing wall nowhere to be seen. The walls have ancient wallpaper that may now be retro but was probably once earnest, the chairs and tables seem to be mostly second-hand, and the décor is generally very functional.

As the review in suggests (see previous link), this place is full of young'uns. As the night progressed, however, things got a bit older, but never losing its core audience of late-high-schoolers. Most of the servers were, as DJ termed it, "pretty young boys," which was certainly true of the guy who served us; he was slim and well-groomed and stylish and just a wee bit fey.

What was also true about him was that he had one dead eye that would never focus on you. This isn't something I would normally find particularly noteworthy, but it was the subtleness of his condition that made it somewhat distracting. It was only after he visited our table 3 times that I figured out why his stare seemed so unsettling. Afterwards, every new visit to the table was an opportunity for me to try to puzzle out whether his eye was lazy, glass or simply non-functional. That much being said, he was a very effective waiter, one eye or two.

Both of us had salads. Or, rather, we had salades, which are dinner-sized portions of fresh greens with piles and piles of toppings. In the process we polished off a bottle of wine, several beers and a coffee. As we were getting ready to leave, our server realized that there had been an error at the cash and another table had paid for our bill and their bill was...well...substantially smaller. So we quietly paid their bill, thanks Bacchus for our luck, and headed to the métro station.

dimanche, mars 25, 2007

Not so Memorable

Why is it that I remember nothing from Sunday? Admittedly, part of the problem is that I'm trying to blog about it 4 days later. But still, I feel like I should at least remember what I ate or where I went. I'm pretty sure I didn't stay indoors all day. And I'm pretty sure I was somehow productive. Hmmm.