Gigs, dance, art

Please help Instants Chavirés!

My favorite venue is in serious jeopardy right now due to severe funding cuts. Go to their site for details.

Right now a way to help is to sign their online petition. If everyone who enjoyed a gig there, or played there, just shows some support through this it might get the local politicians to reconsider.

Obviously, anyone who actually lives in Montreuil or anywhere in Seine-Saint-Denis can take it a step further and contact those politicians and voice their displeasure as a constituent.


July 19, 2009 Posted by | Music | | 1 Comment

July 17th, 2009: Damily

@alimentation générale

First time in this place, and they didn’t exactly endear themselves to me. That’s a downright ridiculous aside, but I’d rather have a bar not carry Guinness at all than serve it so poorly. I won’t go into details, but I didn’t even know it was possible to do it that wrong.

I intended to catch Damily in Aubervilliers last Sunday, but I just got the time wrong and by the time I figured that out it was just too late to get there in time. Then my dislike of crowds ruled out the Bastille day eve’s gig, so that was my last shot at hearing them live. Definitely not an appropriate setting, but they did set the place on fire eventually. It took a while to get going, but their relentlessness finally paid off. I was kinda hoping they would have provided me with an opportunity to run into some people from Madagascar I haven’t seen in years, but that would have been more likely had I been smart enough to stick to my original plan. It’s all my own fault. Nonetheless it felt good to hear this again, it was much closer to my original experience than Tefa last month. No dis to them, it’s all about the setting.

It’s a challenge for me to tell the actual gig apart from the welling up of memories of my long past hanging out with people from Madagascar, and that’s probably a sign that they’re the real deal. The steady bass line and drumming — steady but not dull by any means — would have been enough, but the voices did most of the trick. The male singer was most prominent, he really got better as time went on, feeding off the increasing response from the attendance, a sure sign of a true performer. The female singer’s voice was the most striking reminder of my own long gone experience though, just the tone of it. Seeing her come down from the stage to dance with the audience was a real treat, totally sending me back to those long gone parties. Special mention to the man himself, Damily on guitar, who pulled a nice trick by both being totally in line with the stuff I heard back then and putting a personal twist on this familiar music. I can’t exactly pinpoint where that came from, but I felt it had less to do with his sound or notes than with his timing, some slightly unexpected offbeat notes that made a big difference for me. His performance pulled me back from comfortable but dead memories into what was going on right then and there. That doesn’t make me any less stupid for missing their most promising show, but it’s still better to have heard them live there than not at all.

July 19, 2009 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

July 9th, 2009: Keiji Haino

@instants chavirés

Last gig for a while here. There’s the usual summer break, but this year drastic subsidies cuts — much worse than expected — are putting them in serious trouble. So they had to cancel all events until next year. It’s bad enough to make the place’s closing altogether a distinct possibility.

At least this final gig was a good one, a single long set by Keiji Haino showing his noisier side on guitar and occasional voice. High intensity sustained basically throughout. Not too loud either, enough to be claiming full attention, but it never got painful or excessive.

This guy definitely knows what he’s doing, and that was especially on display with loops. When building up a dense texture of noise, those would keep the sound intricate, with several layers moving at different speeds, and those patterns were there to be followed without one obscuring the others. And of course he would sometime just stop the loops suddenly, but even those breaks were part of the bigger picture, an obvious switch to something else but with a continuity nonetheless. Of course, the loops are not even half the story, the guitar sound alone was totally great, and his mastery of the instrument just awesome.

It wasn’t just an onslaught by any means, and not just because of the parts where voice would be the main course. Obviously those are a big part of what makes him special, but there was a balance in this show that made it possibly the best I’ve seen by him. It’s hard to say because the very first one has something of an edge from the pure shock value of my first contact with his music. That one was clearly divided into two parts though, and this latest one was one continuous set that nonetheless covered a lot of ground. And that made it very satisfying and interesting. A great experience.

July 16, 2009 Posted by | Music | , | Leave a comment

July 8th, 2009: Diane Cluck / Ken’s Last Ever Radio Extravaganza / Capricorn Band

@espace en cours

I had had this one circled for a while, because of Ken Garson‘s longtime and highly visible role in the station. He’s the Kenzo in the KenzoDB powering the playlists, and is also responsible for the new flash player. So even though I had only heard a couple of his shows on the radio, I’m more than a little familiar with — and grateful for — his handiwork.

Capricorn Band went first, and even though both of them are in Antilles, it was really different from that band. The most obvious being there were no drums, but a pad instead. Actually what he was doing with that was closer to one of the guitar sound the last time I heard Antilles, but the comparison stops here, because he was also modulating that sound and throwing in twists that just took it in a different direction. The guitar was more quote-unquote regular, which means less percussive and more about the sound textures. Pretty cool sound overall, but sometimes a bit too much of the same for too long. Then again it’s been a long year and I might just be getting used to what Erik Minkkinen does. Actually, I’m trying to convince myself that the coming summer drought has a silver lining.

Speaking of being spoiled, I wasn’t all that into Ken’s Last Ever Radio Extravaganza as a live set. I mean it sounded like great radio, but felt a little out of place. Probably just my being used to hearing that kind of thing alone, and even his talking wasn’t breaking that impression. I mean it’s quite impressive that I could see firsthand his pulling this all out of thin air live, but it’s more confirming a claim than a shock. Maybe the sense of a narrative thread unfolding is something I have a hard time associating with a gig. That came from the blending of sounds and recurrence of some samples, and it’s something I tend to associate with my favorite radio shows. Maybe the sense of intimacy is kinda generating some of disconnect, as it’s less a shared experience with the rest of the audience as something both shared with unknown strangers and a broadcast from an identified stranger. Not that different from any live set come to think of it, so I guess it was all in my mind.

Another totally different experience with Diane Cluck‘s set. More in a folkish style, a reference hard to shake with her guitar/voice setup. I loved her voice. So much that I can’s really tell whether I liked the songs on their own or just because of it. Anyway even if the latter is the case this means that the songs were a great setting for it to shine, and I tend to think there was more at work than just that, because I usually tire of these, and I didn’t. Another reason to check her out again if I get a chance.

Pretty diverse gig, in a place I like. That alone underscores how much I’ll soon come to hate summer, when nothing is going on for a couple of months. Well, I’m planning to get back to live music with Ornette Coleman very early in September, and that’s a cheering thought.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | 1 Comment

July 7th, 2009: Santigold / Amanda Blank

@elysée montmartre

I admit my being there was a stretch. I do love her record though, and I had an urge to go and check out something different for a change, to take a tentative step back into the relative mainstream.

Of course I had never heard of Amanda Blank. I liked her stage presence, especially as she put the show on her shoulders by taking the front of the stage before a couple of DJs. It’s not really my kind of music though, so I can’t say I liked the set much on that front. But her energy made it nice enough. I was not much into the DJs play for most of the set, but they did drop in a couple of classic bits that got my attention back, so they deserve some credit.

Santigold‘s set was quite a letdown. I think I would have been impressed had I not heard the record before, but I had — many times — and the performance was just too close to the record. It is a good one, but what’s the point of a live performance when it’s that rehearsed and polished? I could see where the praise I heard about her comes from, but this was just too professional for me. I guess people who saw her in her Philly days were the lucky ones. On the other hand, I do love a bunch of her songs, and her cover of The Cure’s Killing an Arab was an unexpected treat. I love covers, and this one was both well done and just surprised me. It’s not because of the genre, but because of the age of that song. Together with a snippet from LL Cool J’s I Need Love, that had me thinking she must be older than I thought.

As for the venue, I hadn’t been there in almost four years, from a combination of the place being too big and expensive for my taste, and my taste in music having moved away from the mainstream. It’s pretty much the same as back then, and it could very well be another four years before I go back.

July 12, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , | Leave a comment

July 3rd, 2009: Buffle / Cotopaxi / City Hands / Flat Forme

@espace en cours

Flat Forme’s set was very short, yet kind of a mixed bag, on several levels. Despite the consistency of the sound of both synths — especially one — adding voice or a stick-banged hand drum made a lot of difference. On the other hand, I thought some of it was a little bland, some parts were kinda rough but showed promise, and there were a couple times just right on. I think my favorite was the second one, both because it featured my favorite synth sound overall, sounding a little more industrial/mechanical and foremost because the chord changes didn’t come when I expected them, and I’m all for that. It was a fleeting moment, but worth a lot to me. Overall I liked the combination of pulses, long chord and the reverbed third element. I guess the songs could be more eventful, but a good sound is a nice start.

City Hands easily got my attention early on, again through a rhythmic pattern slowly weaved out, within a mainstay of more regular electronics and effects. I wish he had sustained that over the length of his set, or even better pulled in another one, but that didn’t come to pass. So I felt a bit let down later into the set, I’d probably have come out of it totally convinced had the part I liked best come at the end. Nonetheless I’m grateful for anything that makes me pause and take notice. I also take the rest of the set as a sign I should take a step back. It sounded just too familiar, it’s just high time for me to go and listen to something else, I’m barely hearing it right now.

Cotopaxi may not have brought me the most rewarding moments, but I thought theirs was the most satisfying set. Percussions — a pretentious name for basically banging on stuff — usually gets my attention, especially if said stuff is smallish and not an official drum. Some of my noisish fare thrown in made me even more comfortable, and the mix of both elements worked pretty well as far as I’m concerned. It lacked highlights and I thought it lacked chances and failures, but on the other hand I liked it for that very reason. Not uneventful, but that set came at the right time for me, I’m almost burnt out and their relative consistency hit the right note for me at that particular time.

Buffle looked promising, with a weird string instrument that had me eager to hear what they’d do with it. Not enough for me anyway. That introduced a pattern that would hold throughout their set. Some interesting stuff — most often from the guy crouching over pedals — but spoiled by their quickly settling into a routine. Maybe it’s just that burnout speaking, but I couldn’t find a way in, whenever I thought I did I would lose interest quickly.

Reading this over, it somehow hits me how my earlier avowed despise for synths has melted away. So I guess now’s the time to thank former WFMU DJ Mita! for showing me the light by sending a Ike Yard comp my way. Somehow that made me take a different look at those sounds and years, with open ears and my current blank mind, free of echoes from my teenage years.

July 11, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | 3 Comments

July 1st, 2009: Abbey Bookshop anniversary

@St Séverin

That dance show was an early one, so I could make it to the garden of St Severin church for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Abbey Bookshop, a Canadian bookshop of which I’ve been a customer for many years. It’s almost my sole puveyor of books, and even if they don’t carry what I’m looking for, I usually scout the details on some online dealer’s site before ordering through them. It might be more expensive, but Brian has given me great advice along the years, and that’s worth shelling out a little more once in a while. Plus there’s usually some coffee hidden in the middle of the towering piles of book, and how many shop do this in Paris?

Anyway the celebration was shared with a Mexican restaurant named Mexi & Co, also around since 1989, but I’ve never been there. So there was Mexican food and some cinnamon and rice drink I liked a lot, a piñata and some latin music, in addition to the medieval theme more specifically brought by the bookshop people, including a guy doing colorful medieval calligraphy. They even got the use of the church’s organ for a short performance, the sound was great even though I’m not into that kind of music. There were a lot of people doing some medieval dances, and they looked like they were having a lot of fun; they’re probably part of a club, because many dressed the part. The music for that was by an ensemble called l’Escarboucle, and I thought they were great, playing until night fell and put a reluctant stop to the dancing. I don’t know anything about this kind of music, but that’s something I might want to fix, hence this reminder.

July 6, 2009 Posted by | Life, Music | , | Leave a comment