dimanche, mai 31, 2009

Peruvian Food (and Richie Hawtin, Magda, Gaiser, Barem)

OK, so this is the second time in two weeks that I’m guiltily playing catch-up. As always, I have an excuse. This time, it was a series of things: first, I spent nearly two days just writing up the previous post, where I summarized 3 weeks of activity; second, I managed to give myself some sort of food poisoning from chicken broth that had spent too much time out of the fridge on a rather hot day; third, I spent most of Friday, Saturday and Sunday preparing for the second French installment of my Peruvian food orgy party.

So that was the last few days, and here’s what went down Sunday night:

Peruvian Food Orgy, Paris v. 2.0

I had been very, very disciplined in getting as much of the cooking done as possible the previous day, so the only things left for me today were the dishes that had to be made fresh the day of the meal. I had realized a while ago that arroz chaufa (the Peruvian version of Cantonese fried rice) always tastes better the next day anyway, so I had prepared it yesterday. The preparation of this dish is probably what takes most of my time when I usually throw this party, so my evening was much easier when all I had to do was slide in the rice in a warm oven for a little while.

Anyway, I had taken care of everything but the fried yucca (cassava, manioc) by the time the first guests arrived. Amusingly, all of my friends that I knew from the University of Chicago (many of them Americans, but some also French) arrived on time at 20h00 or a little while afterwards. My techno-related friends started arriving at 21h30 and kept arriving until about 23h00. Standard clubber timing!

Richie Hawtin, Magda, Gaiser, and Barem @ We Love Sonique @ La Grande Halle de la Villette

At about midnight, guests started leaving my place. The original plan was for all of us to head over to La Villette as a group, but a bunch of them got impatient and couldn’t wait until I was done putting away the leftovers and doing some preliminary cleaning. Thankfully, about six of my friends hung back and waited for me.

We made it to the party without incident, catching one of the last trains. There was apparently a Johnny Hallyday concert just finishing up, so there were some odd moments on the train as young clubbers were packed in with aging (mostly working class) baby-boomers and their progeny.

When we got to the Parc de la Villette, I split from the group for a moment to get some cash while the rest of them got in line. As I was heading over to the Halle (which is a massive 19th-century glass-and-steel industrial-era building), I noticed a pair of young-ish girls laughing and making their way towards the lineup. One of them stopped to fix her shoes—which is a difficult task when you’re wearing stilettos and a mini-skirt—when I passed them by. A second later, I heard her voice in my ear:


“Um, hey.”

“Yeah, uh, it was those earrings of yours that drew my attention.”

“Oh really?”



“How’s it going?”

“Uh, great, thanks.”

I was more than a bit confused at this point, since it is almost a hard-and-fast rule in France that women never make the first move. Since I doubted that she was scorchingly hot for me, I was wondering if she was after something or just being exceptionally, almost inappropriately gregarious.

“So, are you sober tonight?”

Oh, I see where this is going.

“Yeah, I’m sober, and I don’t really have any connections for anything, either.”


At that moment, my phone rang and the woman was relieved of the task of extracting herself gracefully from the conversation. I would see her and her friend a few minutes later, having jumped into line next to two men that seemed to be holding their attention.

The phone call was from one of my friends, trying to explain to me where they were standing. After a few moments of confusion, I discovered them standing right at the point where the line passed behind a barricade. One of the girls in our group had apparently had the balls to cut into the line, and then the rest of them had just “merged” behind her. I wasn’t particularly proud of the stunt, but as I glanced back at a lineup that stretched nearly to the end of a building that is easily three blocks long, I decided I could live with it. One other guy from our group, however, was pretty uncomfortable with it, and the whole thing was complicated by the fact that he had seen some other friends of his further back in the line. As we passed behind the barricade, this friend hovered fretfully on the other side of the barrier, unwilling to jump in the line but also reluctant to leave us for the back of the line. I don’t know if it was the length of the line or the fact that everyone in front and behind us was letting people cut into the line, but he eventually relented and hopped over the post. Ironically, we got in before some of the people that left the party before us.

In addition to the massive amounts of line-jumping, there was a rather unpleasant trend of pushing, which just seemed to get worse as we got closer to the door. An interesting effect of these sorts of crowded situations is that, if you turn around to yell at the person pushing you from behind, you always find that they’re being pushed, too. It’s like the pushing isn’t coming from anyone in particular, but just building up as a side-effect of having so many bodies pressed into a tight space.

The pushing and the tight spaces seemed to push a young guy near me over the edge, as he started shoving around himself indiscriminately and violently, cursing up a storm and seeming to be looking for a fight with anybody that talked back him. He eventually cooled down, (not) coincidentally at the precise moment when some security guards arrived to see what the fuss was about.

0h00-1h30: Barem

We finally got in, checked our stuff, and headed toward the main room just as Barem finished his set, so alas I have nothing much to say about his set.

1h30-2h30: Gaiser live

Gaiser put in a good, solid set, although it was nothing revelatory. It had a certain punchy sound that I associate with the M_nus record label (the one that all of the artists tonight are on), with a combination of very dry bass beats, short bleepy synth patterns in the middle registers, and very sparse use of sweeps and washes.

We gathered on one of the raised balconies on the side of the hall to get some drinks and gather together as the rest of the crew arrived. Once we were all assembled, we headed down to the main floor to claim some space on the dancefloor. The crowd was already numerous and densely packed, so our rather large group got squeezed and separated, and we quickly lost each other. I was separated from the main group with another two people, and we spent a good 15 minutes trying to find the rest of our clan in a crowd of easily 2 000 people. We eventually did all find each other, near the back of the main room.

After finding everyone, several people suggested going out for a smoke, and I followed them to get some fresh air (I know, the irony). They were allowing people to leave the building to smoke on the side opposite the entrance, but you needed to have a bracelet to get back inside, which they only gave you right on the way out. If you hadn’t noticed the people giving out bracelets and left without one, you were stuck outside. One of my friends managed to do that, but thankfully we were able to get him back in by accompanying him to the door and attesting that he was with us.

2h30-4h30: Richie Hawtin

Richie Hawtin had just started his set as we were heading back into the building, and an excellent set it was. The sound was streamlined and focused, with a texture that was generally robust but never too complicated. In other words, it was minimalistic in its structure, but not in its scale. He still had his moments of experimental oddness, but they were rather few. In fact, one of my friends complained that the whole set lacked an overarching contour or structure, which I think I agree with. There wasn’t the sort of consistent departure-and-return form that he used to such great effect when I saw him at Nouveau Casino back in the Fall of 2006. In addition to the great musical set, the people taking care of visuals put on an amazing set of projections to go with his set ; they mostly involved simple geometrical forms in white on a black background, moving and rotating in various configurations. As the set went on, the visuals introduced color and representative figures; there was a real emphasis on arcs, circles, eyes (especially the iris), and spheres.

At around 3h00, two other friends arrived, who were not usually into the techno scene but had been at the earlier dinner party. Apparently, they had managed to talk their way into getting two of the last 10 tickets available at the door. Yay! And they also managed to find us in a crowd of thousands, which was even more impressive.

4h30-6h00: Magda

I liked this set less, although I’ve come to the realization that Magda’s style overlaps a lot with my own musical preferences, but at the same time rarely seems to work for me. I feel as if I should like her stuff a lot, but in the end I’m often rather lukewarm about it. The set started off at a slower pace and felt somewhat sluggish, and it meandered stylistically through electro, neo-acid-house, and even Sterolab-like dissonant atonal stuff, before finally landing in some solid, forward-driving techno. By about the mid-point of the set, I was back into it and enjoying myself.

At some point, a guy dancing energetically next to me noticed me at a point when Magda had dropped something exciting into the mix and I was dancing with renewed enthusiasm. He turned toward me with a long, drawn-out “Ouais!” (“Yeah!”), and then we proceeded through a complex, rapid, and improvised pas-de-deux of momentary togetherness. First we exchanged smiles and pumped our fists in the air towards the DJ. Then, he approached me and we danced “with” each other in the sense that we danced closely side-by-side and adapted our dancing to each other in a way that was sometimes mimetic and sometimes contrapuntal.

A friend of mine approached and said, “Oh, do you two already know each other?” (Clearly, my fellow dancer was also an acquaintance or friend of my friend.) This guy throws his arm over my shoulder and says, “Well, we do now!” And then we keep dancing together, his arm over my shoulders and mine around his waist, for a few minutes before drifting apart. I never really talked to him or got his name or anything, but for that moment we knew each other in some way, as if that moment of glancing contact was enough for some sort of relationship to emerge. Or maybe it was that we were referencing some timeless relationship, acting as if we were just continuing an already-established relationshp. It was interesting, too, that the first moment of substantial touch (arm over shoulders) happened just as this guy was claiming that we now knew each other. There’s something interesting in how temporality is collapsed and twisted in instances like these; it’s as if we don’t have time to begin and end a relationship when we’re colliding into each other on the dancefloor, and so we all improvise—relationality without relation, friendship without familiarity.

By 5h00, one of my friends ran out of energy and headed home, while the rest of us stuck it out until 6h00. At first, I left with a friend who had left his bags at my place, but then as we waited for the subway, another 6 of my friends showed up. Apparently, one of them went to the cloakroom to get something from her coat, and then the bouncers told her that the party was closing and she couldn’t get back into the main room. So she angrily had to call her boyfriend and get him to collect the remaining crew of friends to leave and join her.

The subway ride home felt like ages, but eventually I returned to my place with the friend who had left his stuff here. We ended up hanging out and chatting until about 8h00, when he decided to head back to his friends’ place (where he was staying) and I decided I needed at least a bit of sleep. I had to be at work by 12h00.