vendredi, juin 22, 2007

WE #2: Triple R, Franck Valat, and Be My Chose

[So, my mom is still in town and I've been still hanging out with her, so I'm continuing my practice from last week and not blogging about her visit. Things were a lot more relaxing when I didn't have to stumble home after every evening out to blog about it. Anyway, one thing that IS worth mentioning is that my mom, DJ and I all went out to La Gueuze for beer and mussels, and I ordered a beer that apparently was supposed to be served flambé. The took a huge stem-and-bowl glass and covered the interior of the glass with liquor, then lit it on fire and poured a bottle of rather sweet Ayinger beer over top. It was pretty amusing, although not all that tasty.]

0h00-2h00: Franck Valat

It was show-and-tell night for me and DJ. The idea was that I would take DJ out to a dance club night to show him my "workplace," and DJ would take me out to a jazz club to show me his scene as well. There seemed to be no better opportunity than tonight, as the evening was organized by the good folks of La Petite Maison Electronique, it was two days after my birthday (June 20th; send me presents!), and it was probably the last opportunity I would have to go out before I return to Chicago.

We ended up running a bit late (my fault), so we arrived at the club just under the 1h00 deadline. This got me in on the list, and got DJ in at a reduced rate (8€). As I was waiting for DJ to pay at the door and chatting with Nathan, the bouncer next to me said something to me that ended with the word "vestiaire." OK, I thought, I'll check my jacket. When I came back downstairs and tried to get into the club, it quickly became clear that what the bouncer wanted was for me to check my bag. I was frankly surprised, since I've been in La Scène several times now without having any difficulty entering with my bag.

I was pretty miffed about having to check my bag; my camera is a bit too large for a pocket, the combination of my cellphone, wallet, coin purse, keys and transit pass are too bulky to stick in my jeans, and my bag has useful things like pens and papers--which are sort of essential when you're trying to make connections with people. Anyway, as I was muttering testily about this while preparing to check my bag, the coat check guy pointed out that, if I was supposed to be taking photos of the event, I should be allowed to bring in my bag. "You need to ask to the left and to the right," he said, implying that I need to pull some strings.

So off I went to find someone I knew. Thankfully, Fantô was still at the front door helping with the guest list, so I grabbed her and told her that my photo-video-blogging coverage of the event was in jeopardy. Immediately she said we needed to talk to the owner, Bruno B. He happened to be standing right next to us, so we stepped over and Fantô explained the situation to him. Bruno recognized me from previous events and quickly agreed. Bruno walked over to talk to the bouncer and tell him I'm all right, while I thanked Fantô profusely. A moment later, we were finally in the main room.

DJ and I made the rounds of the room, which was still pretty empty (it was only 1h00 after all), and then settled on one of the banquettes to chat and comment on the surroundings. It was a lot of fun having DJ around, as he would notice things that I took for granted, or ask for definitions and explanations of things that I had never thought to work out. Even a simple question like "Is this considered a big club?" elicited a long and interesting response.

I actually don't have a great deal to say about Frank Valat's set. His tracks were generally quite good, but very low-intensity and difficult to engage with. He was properly fulfilling his role as a warm-up DJ, so his choice of pleasant but unobtrusive tracks created a sort of background. There wasn't a direction or feel of trajectory to the whole set; it was as if he was simply linking together an un-ordered set of records to kill time until the headliner came on. Having said that, the mixing was mostly fine and I was never inspired to complain about the overall sound of the tracks.

2h00-4h00: Triple R

I was in mid-conversation with someone when I noticed that the overall sound of the music had shifted. I looked up, and realized that a Triple R had come on. It was rather odd for a headliner to start his set without some sort of fanfare. Often, there is a pause between sets as one DJ takes over from another. Even when the following DJ mixes directly into the set of the previous one, there is often some relatively dramatic manipulation of texture and/or volume to articulate the switch. Either way, a signal is usually made to the crowd. And the crowd can usually be counted on to alert each other through cheering and clapping. At least a few people close to the stage would notice the change in DJs, and both applaud the previous DJ and cheer the next one. In this case, instead, Triple R just quietly took over the turntables.

Some of the quiet shift may have been due to the technical issues he seemed to be having. At first there were some routing problems with the mixer, and later it seemed that the pre-cue channels weren't working properly. Either way, he may have been avoiding drawing attention to his arrival until the technical difficulties had been resolved.

I don't know whether the issues were fully resolved, but Triple R's mixing was a lot rougher than I remembered from the time I saw him in Chicago a year or two ago. There were two undeniable trainwrecks in the set, but they were pretty clearly technology-related. For the rest of the set, however, transitions between sets tended to be either short and abrupt, or long and increasingly out of sync. All in all, it sounded like he was having a hell of a time beatmatching.

That much said, his selection was great. All of the tracks that he played I really enjoyed, and there were a few that I thought were amazing. To use an expression that Anatoly passed on to me a few months ago, good selection and bad mixing is tolerable, but bad selection and good mixing is intolerable (insupportable). Despite the technical issues, the music was great.

As DJ would later point out that night, this is sort of situation where, in jazz circles, you would say "Great set! That didn't swing at all." In other words, the musical/sonic content was there at some level, but the "feel" that is associated with the style is absent.

Also, among the pictures and videos below, check out the second and third videos. The video artist working for tonight's event had several rather interesting loops of video that he used. The first of the two was a rapid and rhythmic flow of faces, apparently chosen to be as broad and diverse as possible. I couldn't help but assume that this was resonant with the title of the soirée ("WE"), and the ideal of the eclectic, mixed crowd. The second video loop seemed to involve some sort of mash-up with Twitter, the "what are you doing right now?" website. I thought the videos were interesting, and I especially enjoyed the twitter mash-up, which had had this mix of intimacy and voyeurism that I will probably have to write a paper about sometime.

4h00-6h00: Be My Chose

Well, Nathan and Fantô have just been getting better and better, ever since I first saw them spin. Much like their performance at the first WE event, their set was well-chosen and well-paced. Be my chose managed to "work" the crowd in a way that the previous DJs had not been able to do.

I think the most important thing they did differently was that they created more points of articulation within the set. They played with the EQ's, cut and dropped the bass, used filters and effects, and generally did their best to create moments of departure and arrival that helped to engage the crowd. These punctual moments of arrival both entrained the crowd and synchronized it, both manipulation and prompting.

Regardless of the precise mechanics and causality, Be My Chose very clearly got the crowd moving. Although the club was never packed during the night, the dancefloor filled out quite nicely during their set, and the crowd danced and cheered with great enthusiasm. Considering their set started at 4h00, I was pretty impressed with the reaction they were getting. Admittedly, I did run into one person that night who found the changes in texture and intensity to be excessive and ultimately static. But aside from her, everyone I spoke to was really impressed with their set.

Just before 5h30, DJ was getting tired and I had managed to give myself a vicious stitch in my side, so we decided to start heading home. I did the rounds and said my goodbyes, we reclaimed our jackets, and then we headed off to the métro. The métro was the usual mix of odd creatures that one finds at 5h30 on a Saturday morning, which provided us with enough entertainment to stay awake until our stop. From there, we dragged ourselves through the hallways of our building, past those !@#$ morning people who were all getting ready to !@#$ing productive and chipper and sunny, and collapsed into bed. (In the interest of DJ's flawless reputation, we collapsed into separate beds.)