Gigs, dance, art

August 28th, 2008: The Swamp / The Einstein Tremolos

@la cave se rebiffe

Seeing the same band twice in three days is not something I do often, and even though I know a guy in this band, the reason I went was because he praised the other band — plus there’s not much going on anyway.

The Einstein Tremolos were better that the other night. The sound was just better, and they seemed more relaxed, so that there was none of the tension of the previous gig. So it was worth showing up to get a better impression of them. The funny thing is that, again, they brought more people than the band they opened for, which was made obvious by how many left during the break. Parisians coming for the opening band then leaving, usually it’s the other way around, but that’s still aggravating.

The Swamp are clearly the more seasoned band by far. Better technically — especially the drummer — and just more at ease. Their sound is definitely richer and louder, but that didn’t seem to agree with the venue’s small PA system. Very nice guitar sounds at times. Musically, some basic rock’n’roll but with good execution — not garagish enough to qualify as r-r-real, more the JoeBelockish kind. I was not impressed by their cover of ring of fire, but I appreciate the reference anyway. There were not many blemishes in their set, and they gave a lot despite the sparse attendance, poor sound and static people. They’re probably worth seeing in their real element. But I probably won’t do that, I’m not really into that kind of music and hopefully my schedule will be suitably full for a while.


August 30, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

August 26th, 2008: Dusk / The Einstein Tremolos

@mécanique ondulatoire

I had low expectations about The Einstein Tremolos, even though — or because — they were those I went to hear. I know one of these guys, and he’s been telling me about their recent lineup changes and generally lowering my expectations. Sure, they’re not playing perfectly, but that’s pretty much besides the point anyway. Nothing experimental or innovative, but I didn’t expect anything like that. The bottom line is that I had a good time and was definitely not embarrassed nor bored. I may even go again for the other band they’ll be opening for. Standard rock fare, but after the tense few minutes they let go and went into it, and that was enough for me tonight after that long drought. Not weird enough to sustain my interest for long, but at least they did an out of character cover of Daft Punk’s Robot Rock, and that’s still worth some points.

I didn’t like the main act, apart from a couple of songs. Billed as a surf-rock act, Dusk had the raw sound pretty right — especially the guitars — but lacked the attitude and feel that go with that. Downright stilted at times, and far to precise and metronomic, and that was more annoying in the more surfish fast tunes, and it was often too fast for me. Plus I just hated the cheerleading side of their frontman bass player, but that’s more about me than about them.

August 27, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

August 23rd, 2008: Yours Truly / TG / Bone Rattle / Helicoptere Sanglante


Maybe I shouldn’t have looked at those videos before going, this way I wouldn’t have been disappointed. That’s too big a word anyway, that was a good gig, but I expected something different and that’s why I was a bit taken aback. But it’s sure good to see the end of that dreadful summer getting closer. Hopefully I will get to be more active now.

Helicoptere Sanglante went first, with a set that was almost subdued. Less of the performance stuff — I won’t complain about that — and more on the music side of it. Then again I was so starved for live music that I think I was in a very positive mood and just eager to hear some noise again.

Bone Rattle were pretty good, but I had to forget what I was expecting because there were no drums. Voice, violin and electronics, interesting but those videos had me expecting something more dynamic. And I really liked the drumming, so it kinda spoiled my experience for a while, the violin picking was nice, and might have been drowned out by the drums though, so maybe I got something I would have missed otherwise. I hope they come back with a drum set, so that I can hear the usual stuff.

In another related letdown, Blue Shift didn’t play. She broke her bow, which also explains the picking, but that was bad news for me because she was the one I was most curious about, again because of youtube videos. So I do hope she’ll be back to this city so that I can experience it live. I just love processed violin, and her use of a contact mike sounds very interesting. But I usually need to hear it live to fully appreciate that kind of music. She talked of touring in Europe again next spring. That’s a long wait but still beats no plan at all. My going on at length about something that didn’t take place is hopefully a small step toward making it happen. I’m not holding my breath but there’s no downside I can think of anyway.

I know this is homerish, but my favorite set was TG‘s. Just what the witch-doctor ordered to brush aside the cobwebs in my ears. Nothing special on the face of it, just guitar with a lot of feedback, but it was great. Well done, without any overthinking or high-brow aims, but something that had me physically engaged and I just enjoyed the moment. I had been missing that kind of gig, a lot. That’s a personal take, without any attempt at justifying or analyzing anything — which I suck at anyway — and a shameless one at that. Thanks man, that was a blast.

The last act was a performance thing, and I just don’t go for these, so I didn’t like it. I just don’t relate. But despite all the ways in which it didn’t live up to my expectations, it was a very nice evening, and it sure beats anything I’ve had to settle for lately. One more quiet week and I’ll hopefully be on the out and about again.

August 24, 2008 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

August 13th, 2008: Yayoi Kusama – Dots Obsession

@la villette

I had been hearing about Yayoi Kusama for so long I had to take a look. A bit of a disappointment there, due in part to the place itself. Those pink spheres with black dots didn’t mesh with the industrial setting. I think something more suitable to a sensory immersion would have worked better, as did the two sphere one could walk into. One was a quiet place to sit and read or just relax, but it was a bit too crowded for me. The other contained a square room with mirror balls and big balloons attached to the ceiling. Again, too much people in there, the kind who have to pose for pictures fooling with the fragile balls, pretty much ruining the experience for me. But it’s a free show in Paris, so that was to be expected, even though I went there late to avoid the worst of the crowd. Anyway, my favorite was one sphere with a lens to a small box inside, line with mirrors and with a few small spheres reflecting to infinity. Despite the long line to take a look, this gave me a tantalizing sense of the proper immersion that I think is required to appreciate her work. I’d like to get the chance to experience that properly, someday.

I didn’t really like the videos though. As usual, the early one from the 60s were too far from my own experience for me to relate, though the first parts of Kusama’s Self Obliteration, with the horse, water, and tree, did draw me in. The comparatively recent flower obsessions pretty much left me out, too polished for me. I did enjoy Kusama’s room, for its welcoming weirdness. Overall, I just didn’t find a way in.

August 16, 2008 Posted by | Art | , | Leave a comment

August 6th, 2008: Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

@jardins d’Eole

I made the right choice by going that day, as a storm most probably rained out their performance the next day. It sounded promising, a free outdoors gig with an appropriate band. Not that I can be picky these days with basically nothing going on. The place is nothing special, probably a reclaimed warehouse area next to a big train station. The nice touch was the local people setting up a stand selling drinks and food.

The big letdown was the flat sound. Not because of Antibalas by any means, probably a combination of a small PA system, wind and being outdoors. They sounded much better on the monitors, and their being just standing without a stage made circling them easy. Of course that meant losing any kind of balance and the ability to take them in as a unit, which was not that good either, so I settled for a flat sound most of the time. Not my favorite kind of music, but they are good performers, and there are many of them, so that was a very nice set.

Actually better than I expected, as it was more diverse, not just afrobeat. Not that much of it in a pure form, though that impression might come from the lack of a powerful sound. Anyway, I’m pretty sure they would be impressive in a more regular venue, or with a better PA. There are a few gig recordings over at the internet archive, by the way.

August 11, 2008 Posted by | Music | , | 2 Comments

July 31st, 2008: Traces du sacré

@centre Pompidou

I didn’t expect much from this one, actually I was undecided about going until I read that there was a video from the Ann Lee series that I hadn’t seen yet. I had read the press kit, and the boast about 350 works by 200 artists made me reluctant to go. Especially in that place, I know such an accumulation can end up too much for me. Often these huge things tend to be about the curator and his views, to the detriment of the actual works. I have had rather negative experiences with these shows that are so obviously designed to be the cultural event of the year.

It turned out to be about what I expected, with the additional wrinkle that the way the works were displayed made little sense to me. I had the feeling that the curator was seeing his god everywhere and went with an attempt to cover all the bases and them some. It just didn’t work for me, as the works tended to cancel out each other. All those big names gave a textbook feel as well, and precious little stood out. Anish Kapoor’s was the one that did, easily my favorite.

Even though the last room was called The Shadow of God, that pall was the curator’s shadow. I stopped reading his words real quick because they were just rubbing me the wrong way: the piety and the Nietzsche fetish were bad enough, but his cut-and-paste were even more annoying. Lifting words to make up a sentence that fits with his beliefs and attributing that to the artist was crossing the line. So I just ignored these and the pompous names of the rooms and was reminded of pseudo-concepts; his seeing religion everywhere — I mean, the flatest reading of Karawane as a religious experience, are you kidding me? — voided his discourse of all meaning.

That Ann Lee video wasn’t that good, by the way, or maybe the setting had already made me cranky. Then there was the aggravating pretense of the last few rooms, close to presenting buddhism as an alternative lifestyle created by beat writers to expand their perception. It’s a bit older than that, and as far as I know, it’s not a drug. On a positive side, including a reading of the footnote to Howl by Ginsberg was fitting, even though I think that early reading pales in comparison to the later ones. Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! sounded right on. But why only that part of the poem? I guess this guy’s worldview is just alien to me, and his efforts to stay on message were grating.

I think I would need to go again to get another chance to see what I missed, but I don’t think I will, I don’t feel it would be worth the trouble.

August 3, 2008 Posted by | Art | , , | Leave a comment