Gigs, dance, art

June 22nd, 2008: Pina Bausch – Bamboo Blues

@theatre de la ville

As usual — but next year will be different — I mark the close of my dance season with a “new” Pina Bausch work. Quote-unquote new, because it’s been so similar over the year, with a series of solos that sometimes actually looked the same from year to year, and the token nod to the official country of reference relegated to props or costumes for a postcard effect that was getting on my nerves. Nonetheless, every single year there has been at least a couple of great moments that would make be come back, and very often some part of the soundtrack that would strike a chord — the shock I got from hearing les reines prochaines ‘s take on Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game will be hard to top, as it’s my all-time favorite cover ever.

This year was different. In a good way. The theme was India, but the “local” moments were unobstrusive and left me with the impression that she did connect with that country on a deeper level, as if the influence was strong enough to be diffuse, and props and all were no longer needed. Any such props were seamlessly integrated into her own language, which is the best combination I’ve seen from her in a while.

I was still more of the same, but better. Dancers kept their personalities, but there that rehashed aftertaste was just gone. The dance was different yet still her own, the comedy bits were fewer, just enough to make the regulars comfortable — I guess this being at least my fifteenth means I’m one — but there was enough new twists to satisfy me without reservations. And of course the dance reached just as high a level, but more often; I even think most of it was great, as opposed to some of it. Not really business as usual, and it’s a great feeling to see such a seasoned choreographer pull this off when she could just settle in the surefire and familiar. OK, no revolution in her language, but being sensitive to such shifts is one of the benefits of familiarity.

One more thing: I think that anyone who still spouts the old saw about dance-theater hasn’t been paying attention, and this one makes it even more obvious. There was more theater in at least a dozen of the dance shows I attended this season. And if I wrote earlier than next year would be different, it’s because she comes earlier, because I’m definitely going to be there again.

Finally, this marks the end of the last season with Gérard Violette at the helm of that fine place. In the last sixteen years, that man has brought me an awful lot and I’m just grateful for that and glad I had the opportunity to tell him so in person this year. I wish him the best of luck in his well deserved retirement, and hope Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota will prove up to the task of going forward. I think Mr Violette would appreciate the way I put myself to task: I bought more tickets for next year than ever, adding music to dance, and the only dance show I didn’t book was because I have seen it this year, it will be sold out and I want someone else to get the opportunity to see it — that would be Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Origine. Godspeed and, again, thanks a lot.

June 25, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , | Leave a comment

June 20th, 2008: Jorgen Teller & La Destination

@instants chavirés

Video and live music again, and it was better than last week — no feat really, as I hated that one so much I didn’t even want to write about it. Not that great either, I think the only such performance that I really liked this year was David Watson playing with a video by David Linton and Angie Eng.

Here I had read that part of the sound was generated by sensors activated by the images themselves, and that was easiest to notice in the beginning — or maybe I was so intent on hearing it that I made it all up. Three “screens” on the wall, the center one with black and white images of streets for the most part, the side ones displaying blurred brownish images. A bit too arty again, but the immediacy of the earlier sequence made it OK.

I liked the music, electronic pulses and high drones, with nice interference patterns unfolding, but I felt it would have been better to hear Jorgen Teller on his own. That thought was reinforced when technical difficulties shut down the center screen for a while, and he stepped up to fill the void. That was easily the most interesting part of the gig for me, and left me with the impression that he could have done more but chose to leave more room for the other performers. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel they filled that space.

And it was just too long. In other words, I liked it at first but felt they had run out of ideas about the halfway mark and just kept running in circles after that.

June 22, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

June 19th, 2008: Benoît Lachambre / Louise Lecavalier / Hahn Rowe / Laurent Goldring – Is You Me


I know I usually name the choreographer alone in post titles, but that was the way it was listed on the posters, and it makes a lot of sense as the contributions were pretty much balanced. The stage setup featured a white incline in front of a white screen, and that would be the backdrop for Laurent Goldring’s live drawing; which was the main or only light, a fact driven home when the background went black and his white scribbling was the pool of light making the dancers visible. I really liked most of Hahn Rowe‘s music; some of it was sample based and even featured beats, some was processed violin, and overall diverse and so compelling I sometimes got distracted from the dance itself. As for Louise Lecavalier and Benoît Lachambre, that was even better than their previous work together, and this time both were dancing.

The show opening with Louise Lecavalier lying on the incline and swaying from the right to the left of the stage. That extended pattern made me dread yet another overstretching of an idea, until Benoît Lachambre appeared in a corner, stone-faced and moving in those quick burst of motion than look like a strobe light is on, except that the smooth motion of the other dancer both dispelled the illusion and made it more arresting. That contrasting came up at times but it was not the only thing going on, thankfully proving my initial fear completely wrong.

That stop-and-go pattern lingered a while in a less extreme form, with not-quite-natural movements and angles, but even though each idea was given time to be explored quite in depth, it hardly overstayed its welcome, with diverse speeds as well, from slow sliding to hectic shaking. The dance in and of itself was probably not all that great, but it worked so well with the music and light that this show really has to be taken in as a whole, and I definitely think it’s a success in that respect.

My only moment I had to roll my eyes and sigh was when they pulled that trick with the torso of one and the legs of the other. I mean it’s a good thing the season comes to close, I just might run screaming the next time I see this. Or fall asleep. They went on with such tricks for a short while, and that was the weakest part in my opinion.

In another sign of the times, both wore hoodies throughout (black, white, green or yellow, but hoodies), and more were lying around. Seems like it was the Year of the Hoodie in contemporary dance too this season. No gray one with cut-off sleeves though, but then again the Pats did eventually lose, didn’t they?

June 21, 2008 Posted by | Dance | , , , , | Leave a comment

June 16th, 2008: The Dirtbombs / Servo / 25


Not exactly feeling better but definitely hearing better — better than usual, for reasons I only know too much about — and not a moment too soon. I was afraid I would lose part of it, and I would have been mightily pissed off had that come to pass.

25 did the first set and they were an efficient punk drum/bass/guitar combo. Not really original or ground-breaking, but that’s not the point, is it? I got a bit tired of the screaming vocals along the way, but not that much and it was pretty neat to get to see such straight shooters for a change. That being said, I don’t think I could take this kind of stuff more than once every few months without falling asleep.

Servo started their set with a song I actually liked — check that bomb or something — and that raised my hopes quite a bit. Quite a bit too much, it turned out. More rockish than punkish, and with both the good and bad of that. At times pretty good, but my progressive lack of interest came for a big part from their consistent sound. At least they have one, but it’s not that new or anything and I could have used a few surprises. As such I saw too much of it coming. That set was too long for me, but I’m such an elitist that way.

By then it was high time for The Dirtbombs. I must say I always get a kick out of watching them set up, for a bunch of reasons including their doing these last checks themselves and the way they seem to get along real well, but even more for a chance to see Mick Collins before he switches into rock-star mode — which involves putting on those killer glasses.

They came on stage one by one, starting with the drummers of course, and just plunged full speed ahead and didn’t let the pedal get a hairbreadth from the metal for about five songs. And even then the pause was definitely not a long one. It basically went like this for the whole set, and even the slower tunes later on kept that same intensity. That was a scorching set, definitely the best I’ve seen from them, and it ranks up there in my personal favorites all time — at last completely validating the consistently glowing reviews of their gigs I have been hearing for years.

What more to expect from a rock gig than such power and intensity combined with interesting music AND killer covers — their take on need you tonight was so much better than the original, overcoming even my deep seated dislike for much of my high-school era music. The Dirtbomb gig classics — Underdog was just grand — were showing them at their very best, and they mixed material from most of their records, which was great because as much as I like their latest release, it would be a shame not to hear some of those gems.

And for the first time Mick Collins’ voice was not drowned out, which had been my main gripe the previous times I saw them. The only bad thing — aside from Ben Blackwell’s beard — was that I had a hard time hearing Ko at the beginning, but that got better along the way. All joking aside, Ben’s standing on Pat Pantano’s bass drum at the end was a great touch. And Mick Collins is so impressive in a good way — charismatic and somehow pulling off being completely into delivering a pure rock show while letting on that there’s much more to him than this. I hope I don’t have to wait three long years for the next one.

June 18, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , | Leave a comment

June 14th, 2008: Kobra Matal / Jeune fille orrible / Lubriphikatttor / David Fenech

@glaz’art / coord

That’s actually the first set of a festival and three fourth of another gig. I’m putting them together because I went from one to the other and was not able to enjoy them as well as I could have because of hearing issues. So I don’t have a lot to say.

David Fenech‘s set started great, with his playing records, recording loops and layering a bunch of these to great effect. That’s what I like most in his performances, anyway, this piling up topped with vocals that have the good idea to avoid words. Problem is I went mono about halfway through, which proved very distracting.

Then I took off to get to the other gig, where I had the nice surprise to learn that Charles from Blue Sabbath Black Fiji would be playing as well, so that both of them would be featured, if separately. Lubriphikatttor started quite late, but it was pretty good. I still think their performance in February was better overall, more cohesive — even though that’s a strong word — but there were a bunch of great moments and they sounded just great. Unfortunately, what I first thought were overloaded speakers crackling was actually an early sign of an ear infection acting up, and that unwanted additional noise kinda spoiled the fun halfway through.

So maybe I was not in the best mood for Jeune fille orrible, with their dragging of furniture and banging of stuff. I usually don’t really like that kind of thing though, and had thoughts of calling it quits then because I thought Kobra Matal would be more of the same. Turned out it was not the case at all, and seemed like a good blend of my favorite kind of noise. I’m even more annoyed at my missing out on most of it because I liked a lot what Lionel Fernandez was doing, which is usually not the case. By then it was really late and it was clear my ear was going to spoil the evening, so I left before Charles played. Which just sucks.

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

June 11th, 2008: Métal Mité / Vermisst Susi / Ero Babaa


Back to that small basement, it had been a while. Things are winding down anyway with summer allegedly getting near. Four short sets nonetheless, starting with with a female singer with an electric guitar. She said several times she could have used a drummer, but I don’t think I would have liked it much better anyway. Not that it was bad, but too mainstream indie for me.

Speaking of drummers, Ero Babaa had conned one into joining them. That was almost scary at first, as his presence made the whole dangerously close to coherent — maybe even within the area code. I don’t know whether that spurred the other into deeper chaos, he consciously cut the sense or I just got over it, but it got worse/better over time. Another fun filled performance with new tricks but in the same primal spirit — in the alcoholic sense of the word, of course. Definitely my favorite set of the evening, and surprisingly maybe my favorite of theirs.

I’m not even sure of the name of the other band, some noise but definitely sounding tame after the havoc. A couple of interesting parts — especially with some faint voice snippets barely coming through — but overall I thought it was too flat and lacking interaction between the two guys. Métal Mité was better, even though I’m not that fond of him. But still, it was quite fun and his set was just long enough for me — I know I would have gotten bored soon after. Not all that metalish though, but I couldn’t exactly expect cookie monster vocals, could I? I would probably have loved that though.

June 12, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment

June 8th, 2008: Buraka Som Sistema / Sage Francis / B Dolan / El Guincho / High Places

@ parc de la villette

Free outdoors gigs are back again, even the weather wasn’t that summerish, though the sun did make a token appearance. It started with a disappointment, because I really wanted to see Dan Deacon, but he canceled his show a few days ago. That letdown was short lived enough though, because I liked High Places a lot. Part had to do with the percussive side of it, underlined by the sticks even though it was more pads than actual drums. Lots of electronics, not the experimental ones I’m more familiar with, but the singer has a nice voice and it all fell together nicely enough.

El Guincho didn’t live up to all the hype surrounding him, at least for me. He said he wasn’t used to playing outside of the club scene, and I can understand why. Party music, decent at that, but the beats were borderline moronic in their single-mindedness. A club would have been better suited, his music didn’t have much to it when scrutinized too intently. I guess that would have been par for the course but I kept thinking of Filastine and that comparison was cruel. Now that’s some party music I can enjoy on several levels. And I somehow believe he could pull that kind of gig off.

Then it was off to a bigger stage for B Dolan, who was another pleasant surprise. He might make a fool of himself with ridiculous costumes, but he’s a good MC and I had a good time listening to him. I had never heard of the guy, but I’ll try to fix that lack of knowledge soon. He seemed to have brought along by Sage Francis, as they both took the stage at the end of the latter’s set. He was the main event as far as I was concerned, and didn’t disappoint. He’s so good and it was heartwarming to hear some quality hip-hop in this place for a change. And hearing people scream “yes we can” was nice as well, a feeling of hope mixed with realizing it will be downhill from here. My only gripe — and it applies to both MCs — is that I wish they had teamed up with an actual DJ or two. Throwing in a few B-Boys and graf artists would have been even better, but why do these MCs stick with a laptop is beyond me. It’s not for lack of talented ones being around — at least around them, because it’s been a rare treat around here. I would just love to see DJ Alf, hopefully at 4:19, but any time would do.

After that, I had a hard time enjoying Buraka Som Sistema. I still think it would have been better suited to a later day, like in actual summer. Maybe coming back to such less demanding music was just beyond my ability. I do think I could have enjoyed it on its own, but here it just felt like coming down after Sage Francis, so I didn’t like it much while being fully aware I was to blame.

June 9, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , , , | Leave a comment