samedi, janvier 24, 2009

Sassmouth in Paris!

So I managed to get up relatively early today and to get to work preparing my apartment for my friends. After a morning spent cleaning and an afternoon spent doing laundry, I rushed out the door and got to Gare du Nord just in time to pick up DJ Sassmouth and her husband as they walked off the Eurostar from London. We took a moment to pick up sausage from an Auvergnate store in the train station, and then stopped at my neighborhood bakery for some bread (as you can imagine, I’m going to keep them well-fed while in Paris).

We hung around at my place and relaxed for a bit while we waited to hear from the promoter, DJ Childerik, who was organizing tonight’s events. We eventually heard that he was having a combined birthday dinner and pre-party dinner at an Indian restaurant near the club in about an hour, so we hopped on the métro and headed over. Dinner was tasty (although the chicken Vindaloo was completely unspicy), and the company was great. Childerik works in a different social circle than my usual one within the techno scene here, so it was a real pleasure for me to meet so many new folks all at once.

By about 23h00, Childerik headed over to the club to start setting up the system and getting the evening started, and we headed back to my apartment to pick up Sassmouth’s records and gear. We sat down for a moment to have a little coffee (the wine over dinner was sorta knocking us out), and we made the mistake of keeping time on Sassmouth’s computer, which was set to London’s timezone, which is 1 hour behind Paris. So it wasn’t until much later that I looked at my mobile phone and realized that it was already 1h00 in the morning. Crap! Sassmouth wasn’t slated to spin until about 2h30, but we felt bad about missing the opening act, considering he would certainly be around to listen to Sassmouth.

Follow the White Rabbit @ Barramundi

So we zipped our way over to the club and made our way in. We managed to get through the door and find ourselves on the list, but the bouncers wouldn’t let us downstairs without going through coat check. He let Sassmouth through, since she was a DJ, but me and her husband were still forced to check our coats, at 2€ a pop. Considering that they were charging 10€ for mixed drinks and beer, it seemed unnecessary to make a money grab at the coat-check, as well. Jerks.

Anyway, we had unfortunately just missed the opening DJ, Julien Parisé, so when we got downstairs, we saw…

1h00-2h30: S. Bromberger

Bromberger one of the founders of the label Modelisme, which has produced some great music in its time, so we were all pretty stoked to hear his set. His set seemed to aim for eclecticism, but instead landed somewhere in “all over the map” territory. His mixes were mostly smooth and well-executed, but he seemed to zig-zag erratically from one sound to another in a way that prevented me from engaging with his set. Also, he tended to linger too long in low-intensity lulls between more intense peaks, which also tended to lose my interest. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a bad set or anything, just not particularly exciting for me.

A funny thing kept happening during this set. Various friends and members of the promotion team would approach me, looking for Sassmouth. Except, since they were all French-speakers, they would pronounce her DJ name in a way that was totally unrecognizable to me. So I had a lot of conversations like this:

“Ware eez Sahsmooze?”

“What? Sick schmooze?”


“Big smooth?”


“ Size moose?”


…and so on.

2h30-4h30: Sassmouth

Woo! Go Sassmouth! I’m totally biased, obviously, but her set was really spot-on. She moved between punchy techno and latin-tinged microhouse in a way that seemed to really get the crowd going. This past summer had been sort of the summer of “Latin Influences” in Berlin minimal techno, and that recent trend has intersected with the Paris scene’s ongoing love of things lightly flavored with brownness / blackness in a way that went down really well with tonight’s crowd. It definitely helped that her “techno” moment’s were pretty robustly so; all of the upper-register detail was anchored by a solid foundation of bass drum patterns that gave the whole set some forward motion.

Anyway, Sass didn’t actually start her set until around 3h00, because the plan had been to let the birthday boy, Childerik, put down a few records first, sing happy birthday, and then let Sassmouth do her set. However, as the head organizer of the event, Childerik wasn’t in the same place for more than a second, so nobody was able to get a hold of him in a timely manner. So, after a fair bit of waiting, Bromberger finished his set and “Sassypants” got on the tables.

I was able to gauge that the crowd was loving her by three methods:

  1. People who knew that I knew her kept coming up to me and exclaiming, “Elle cartonne!” “Elle envoit!” “Elle déchire!” “C’est trop bon!” “Elle est trop forte!” and so on. All of these are expressions that translate roughly to “Holy shit! She kicks ass!”
  2. She had a crowd of enthusiastic fanboys (and sometimes girls) in constant rotation in front of the booth, vying to get her attention for a moment so that they could declare their eternal love for her or the track she was currently playing (the hand gestures and facial expressions were the same, from my point of view).
  3. As soon as her set was over, she was mobbed by admirers right at the exit from the booth, who quite literally formed a line to talk to her excitedly. It took nearly half an hour before she finally joined her husband and I over near the bar.

There were also some antics in the DJ booth itself, from what I could see and from what I heard afterwards. The door to the booth locked automatically from the inside, so every time someone needed into the booth, they would have to distract Sassmouth and get her to interrupt her mixing to open the door. Between that and people bringing their friends into the booth to introduce them to her while she was mixing, I was beginning to feel irritated on her behalf; in any other club, there would’ve been someone controlling access to the booth. To her credit, she took it all with more grace than I would’ve.

Since the door to the booth locked, quite a few people with “connections” left their bags in the booth, which led to the inevitable theft. Sometime during Sassmouth’s set, some guy realized that he couldn’t find his bag and started freaking out. As she was spinning, this guy started tearing up the DJ booth, looking for his bag and losing his temper. Sass managed to ignore him most of the time, but when he grabbed her record bag and looked ready to toss it over his shoulder, she grabbed it out of his hands and pushed him out of the way. By then, some of the promoters had come into the booth and were talking him out of the booth.

4h30-6h00: Childerik

After Sassmouth’s finished talking to her swarm of well-wishers, she joined us over at the bar as we started listening to the birthday boy’s set. I was actually really impressed with his set, which featured lots of punchy techno tracks with fewer house influences and grander gestures—big buildups and strong contrasts in texture and intensity. I’m usually not much for this more hyperbolic style of “minimal” techno, but he pulled it off really well, perhaps because he was working with a crowd that was already pretty excited and enthusiastic.

The party ended at 6h00, but the night wasn’t over. There was going to be an afterparty organized by Jett, over at a bar near Odéon, where Sassmouth was scheduled to play around 11h00. Childerik offered to host us back at his place for a little while before heading over to the afterparty, so that we would have a moment to recharge our batteries.

But first, they had to deal with the guy who lost his bag. He had stayed until the end of the party to see if he could find his bag after everyone else had taken theirs, but it was nowhere to be seen. The bag wasn’t showing up and he didn’t seem ready to accept the possibility that the bag was gone and there was nothing more to be done about it. One of the co-promoters, exasperated, finally got his name and phone number, promised to call him if something showed up in the venue, and then got one of the bouncers to show the guy to the door.

Intermission: Childerik’s place

We made it over to the apartment of Childerik and his girlfriend with a group of maybe 6 other people. We sat around his living room, drinking and chatting, while Sassmouth spun a bit more on his tables and Childerik told me all about why he was never going to host after-parties at his apartment ever again. Sure, there was, technically speaking, an afterparty going on at that very moment in his apartment, but he stressed that he would no longer let friends-of-friends-of-friends bring over people he didn’t personally know. To illustrate his point, he gave a list of shady moments at past afterparties at their pad, including a broken sink, a broken toilet (which was still broken), fights, excessive intoxication and hard-to-clean-up messes. The lesson for today was that it was OK to risk opening up and being close to strangers on the dancefloor, but inviting them home had become an intolerable risk.

Time flew by, and by 8h30 Childerik was getting very testy phonecalls from the people at the Jett afterparty (many of them friends that had continued from his event and waiting for him to join them). So we finished our drinks and headed out on another surreal morning subway ride to the afterparty location.

Jett Afterparty @ Club des Quatre Vents

The club didn’t look like much at the door, where there was only a nondescript landing and a cramped coat check (also obligatory), but then you went down a set of stairs into a cavernous stone-vaulted basement. The location itself was pretty nice, with a patina of grime that definitely said “after hours locale.” However—and I can’t stress how distressing this was—the drinks were still 10€ for mixed drinks or a beer. I mean, come on. With an admission charge already at 8€, how can you be screwing people so hard for drinks? Christ.

Anyway, Dyed Soundorom was spinning and was slated to spin up until 11h00, at which point Sassmouth would take over and close out the party. Childerik was feeling bad about her late slot in the playlist, so he kept on giving her the option to ditch the party and not play if she was feeling tired. He felt even worse when, at 10h30, he heard from the promoter that he was planning to spin in Sassmouth’s timeslot, and that she could only play if she agreed to a back-to-back set with him. So it was left to translate his profuse apologies and the following options to Sassmouth: do a ping-pong set with this guy for an hour or give up and go home.

Sass was perfectly ambivalent (i.e., she was equally happy to do either), and neither I or her husband had any strong opinions on the matter. So incapable of a decision were we, that we spent 10h30 to 11h00 trying to figure out what to do. But by the time Soundorom had taken apart his Serato Scratch setup and we heard the first few tracks from the next DJ, Hak, we decided to head home. Besides, I had a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, and some delicious cheese waiting for us at home.

The After-After-Party, chez Luis

So we limped home, wheezed our way up the 6 flights of stairs (with record bags!) to my apartment, and took some time to unwind. We finished the bottle of wine, finished the round of cheese (Boucle D’or, soft and creamy), finished the bread, drew the curtains, and then opened up my fold-out bed and laid down for some well-deserved rest.

vendredi, janvier 23, 2009

Time Warp!

Well, nothing particularly exciting happened in the past couple of days and I’m now super-behind on blog posts, so I’m skipping Wednesday and Thursday and jumping right to Friday. My friends, DJ Sassmouth and her husband, were coming to Paris tomorrow to spin at a party and stay with me, so I had a bit of preparation I needed to do ahead of their arrival. In the end, most of that had to be delayed until tomorrow morning, because I stayed up until 7h00 this morning / last night to finish writing up the sample syllabus for the Tave Fellowship, which involves teaching a senior undergrad course of your own design. The course is titled “Nightlives: Music and Nighttime,” which will look at all sorts of musics that are conventionally performed at night, including techno but also night-time funerary music, initiation rites, jazz & blues, musical theatre & opera, and so on. The more and more I think about the course, the more excited I am about teaching it, so I really hope I win the fellowship! If not, I’ll at least have a “sample” syllabus for my application package when I’m on the job market.

Anyway, the crazy all-nighter was followed by sleep until 14h00, at which point I had to get ready to head over to a colleague’s house to spend the afternoon working on a collaborative project with her. I stayed for dinner at her place, and then walked home for a quiet night of sleep. There was a party going on that night that I should’ve attended, but I was still totally pooped from last night’s work.

mardi, janvier 20, 2009


So I had all sorts of plans of getting some important reading done, working on some writing I needed to do, and maybe cooking a nice dinner. Instead, I spent the entire evening before the TV, transfixed by the presidential inauguration ceremonies going on in the US. There are other people who have written better descriptions of the event, including this amusing series of play-by-play liveblogging posts on Wonkette, so I’m not going to go into detail about the entire ceremony. Instead, here are a few comments:

  • Aretha, darling, how did you manage to find a hat that was both gaudy and drab at the same time?
  • Is it some sort of cosmic poetry that Cheney attends the ceremony ending his vice-presidency in a wheelchair?
  • Sasha and Malia are still totally adorable, and their outfits were nice and bright. Well done!
  • Michelle, on the other hand, I’m a bit ambivalent about. The outfit had a good shape and I appreciate her dedication to wearing a sheath dress for hours in the freezing cold, but that color and that lacey fabric was a bit odd.
  • Good speech from Obama, if not particularly uplifting. He gave some pretty strong indirect criticism of the Bush regime while Bush was sitting right next to him, which was pretty awesome.
  • The poet-Laureate who spoke after Obama’s speech: wha? The poem was actually quite nice when I read it later in written form, but her delivery was practically catatonic.
  • Rick Warren’s “prayer” was infuriating, not only because he’s a well-known homophobe who claims an equivalence between homosexuality and pedophilia, but also because he just couldn’t manage an ecumenical prayer, instead including “Jesus” in his prayer (4 times in 4 languages!), thus alienating non-christian Americans. Also, he said Sasha’s and Malia’s names like some sort of dirty porno narrator.
  • Rev. Lowry’s “benediction,” on the other hand, was fantastic and beautiful.
  • I was terrorized—to the point of having something akin to pre-PTSD hallucinations—with the possibility of an assassination attempt. I was acutely aware of every moment when he was exposed to a large crowd. During the drive over to the White House, when he and Michelle got out of the car to walk out in the open, I was having palpitations. I’m not even American and I wasn’t even alive at the time, but even I am traumatized by the tendency for promising progressive leaders to get shot in the USA.

lundi, janvier 19, 2009

Not-so-healthy vegetarian

So tonight I had one of those “vegetarian” dinners that was certainly nutritious but also hyper-caloric. I had a couple of eggplants, some onions, some sweet bell peppers, some carrots and some turnips (and some garlic, of course). So what did I do? I roasted the onions and eggplants with some garlic to make a fantastic baba ghannouj, I cut up the rest of the vegetables and ate them raw, then I ate the baba ghannouj spread on little Swedish crackers, and then I hauled some very stinky cheese out of the fridge and pretty much finished it with the remaining crackers.

Veggies! Cheese! Crackers! All of these sound like a light dinner, but I can assure you that I was stuffed to the gills by the end of the meal. Phew.

dimanche, janvier 18, 2009

Canette de Barbarie, rôtie

I got home around 6h00 last night, soaking wet, so I slept in pretty hard, not getting up until nearly 15h00. I lazed about for a bit, and then worked on blogging yesterday’s events, took care of some email correspondence, and then made dinner.

I had a canette de barbarie (a young duck of the Muscovy Duck variety) and some potatoes, so it was time to make like a volailler and whip out the rotisserie grill! My oven has a rotisserie attachment, which works relatively well. So I washed a bunch of potatoes and cut them into large chunks, and then put them in a baking pan and drizzled a light coating of olive oil (just a bit, since they’ll continue to be basted with the fat of the duck). After mixing the potatoes to give them a good coating, I turned them all on their skins, so that the cut sides of the potatoes were facing up. I stuck them in the oven and turned it to high, so that they would start to bake while I was prepping the canette.

For the canette, I gave it a wash and then gave it a good coating of rosemary and oregano all over the skin, and then added a generous dash of salt. I didn’t put any pepper on it, since black pepper can burn under high heat.

I put the canette on the rotisserie skewer and then stuck it into the socket in the oven, with the bird positioned over the potatoes. I let it grill quietly for almost two hours, during which the fat from the young duck dripped onto the potatoes and the skin turned a caramel brown. The last time I had made poultry this way, I had pulled it out too early, thinking that the first sign of brownish skin was a sign that the bird was done. This time, I waited until the skin was beginning to look crispy and the tips of the wings were beginning to go black. At that point, the bird was perfectly and thoroughly done. The breasts of the duck came out a bit tough and iron-heavy, but that’s the taste that comes with the duck, and it was corrected with a bit of gravy.

The potatoes weren’t completely done (the rotisserie attachment requires the oven to be left partially open, so they didn’t get much heat), and so I pulled out the bird and put it on a serving plate to rest while I closed the oven and put the potatoes to roast on high.

Once the potatoes were ready, I pulled them out, placed them on the serving tray, carved the duck into pieces, and then poured the pan drippings (duck fat!) over the whole thing. Then, I put the pan over the stove and heated it and splashed in a bit of water to bring up all of the tasty browned solids from the bottom of the pan. I transferred the liquid to a saucepan and reduced it by nearly half, and then threw in some tapioca flour that had been mixed into a slurry with a bit of water. Eventually, the sauce took on a thick consistency, and I drizzled it over the cut duck breasts.

Delicious! And that was my day.