Saturday, December 29, 2007

The San Francisco Zoo: Run by Satan's Zookeepers?

As usual, I headed to Nebraska for the holidays, and when I got to my parents' house, one of the first things they asked me was if I'd heard about the tiger that killed somebody in San Francisco. Er, what? Well, all I had to do to find out about it was turn on the TV, since the story dominated newscasts all through the holiday, until the assassination of Benazir Bhutto knocked it off the screens. While the thought of being attacked and killed by an escaped tiger at your local zoo is horrifying enough, the way the zoo handled things makes me wonder if the place is being run by a satan-worshipping cabal of sadistic freaks, secretly presided over by Dick Cheney, who's writing all their public statements.

First of all, check this out: zoo employees initially told police that the reports of an escaped tiger that had come in to the 911 center were the "ravings of a mentally unstable person" according to the Chronicle. When fire crews and police arrived, the zoo was on "emergency lockdown" and employees prevented them from going inside. Now, wouldn't you think that police and fire crews would be exempt from an emergency lockdown, and that in fact, you might actually want them to get involved with the emergency? Zoo officials apparently panicked during the crisis, telling police that up to four tigers had escaped, until somebody thought to count the ones still in the cages.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, of course, everyone is demanding to know how a tiger could have escaped, and zoo officials are insisting the tiger's enclosure is surrounded by a 20-foot-wide moat and 20-foot-high walls; accusations that the victims "taunted" the tiger or that foul play was involved started to hit the press. Word leaked of a shoe and/or blood found inside the tiger's enclosure, like that was proof the victims were somehow responsible. Then came this quote from zoo director Manuel Mollinedo that absolutely blew my mind:
"Somebody created a situation that really agitated her and gave her some sort of a method to break out," Mollinedo said. "There is no possible way the cat could have made it out of there in a single leap. I would surmise that there was help. "A couple of feet dangling over the edge could possibly have done it." Sources said pinecones and sticks that were found in the moat might have been thrown at the animal. Those items could not have landed in the grotto naturally, they said.

Let me get this straight: you're saying the victims lifted themselves up over the wall, dangled their feet towards the tiger, who then was able to jump up and grab those legs, since the wall had been perfectly calibrated as being only a foot or two beyond the reach of the animal's leap; then, using superhuman strength, the victims were able to pull the leg-dangling taunter and the attached tiger back over the wall, so the tiger could run free? Is this guy for real? And yeah, sticks and pinecones, there is no way those could ever be found in a zoo exhibit. Besides, don't you know tigers use those sticks to build exit ramps from their cages?

Well, if it did build a ramp, it didn't have far to go: now we have reports that the tiger enclosure's wall was only a little over 12 feet high, which is below national standards. Whoops. Police chief Heather Fong says that no shoe or blood was found inside the enclosure. Oh, sorry. An employee of a photo booth at the zoo said he couldn't believe anyone would taunt the tigers, saying "It's pitch black around here by 5 p.m... I would have been scared to be anywhere near that cage the way they're describing it."

Anyone who knows San Francisco knows that the area of town by the zoo is kind of a "land of the lost." It's perennially fog-bound and cold, and salty air from the nearby ocean seems to have sucked the color and life out of the surrounding buildings. It's where the last, supremely creepy Doggie Diner was, and the ever-present eucalyptus trees give the air a sickly sweet, moldy smell. Smack dab in the middle of this area is the zoo, and I've never been there: it gives off a vibe of being the black hole of misery in the center of this galaxy that time forgot. The dysfunction--and, really, sheer evil--of zoo officials in this situation seems to confirm all these images, like the employees are calcified zombies, barely aware of how to deal with the outside world. Zoos in general are kind of fucked up, and putting a bunch of tropical animals in the middle of this freezing, miserable, gray area seems completely insane, an idea straight out of the 1800s, when animals were treated like objects for our amusement.

Ultimately, whether or not there was any "taunting" of an animal at the zoo is completely beside the point: animals shouldn't be able to escape. Teenage rowdiness does not condemn you to a horrible death at the hands of a tiger. Zoo officials' response and statements implying otherwise are shameful.

I'll say it: shut down the San Francisco Zoo.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Video from the Gettin' Euros Tour: Liege, Belgium

DJ Klax, a lovely young lady I met in Liege (who was kind enough to interview me after interviewing DJ Zebra for a local radio station, even though my French was terrible and it was pretty clear Zebra was the star) has posted some cool videos of Zebra's and my sets at Soundstation, and while I have to say it's kind of boring to watch me since I'm just, you know, playing CDs, you can kind of get an idea of stuff I was playing, and hey, look at that, some people in the crowd seem to like it (remember it was 3am when i was on). Most awesomely, she made a crazy intro screen using my "Gettin' Euros" logo and a giant euro sign, which by the way Nako is threatening to have T-shirts made of.

Party Ben at Soundstation Liège (Belgium) 03

Do people get the semi-ironic way in which I'm playing "Pump It Up"? Actually I've lost track of whether anything I do is ironic or not any more...

Also, if you watch Video #1, you can hear a point where my goofy mix of "Jump Around" with Queen and GHP's Queen/AC/DC mix suddenly ramps up about 5% in speed, and as you can see I'm not touching the right CD player, it just did it by itself, I swear. This is the kind of hardship I was dealing with all over Europe people! But thankfully there was a 3rd CDJ so I just abandoned that one.

More Pics from the Gettin' Euros Tour: Poland

DJ Spox sends over some lovely b/w shots of the gig in Warsaw, although a couple of them look kind of weird since the red light makes everything red look white, like say, the red & white Polska scarves. Go here to see them all, and here's a couple good ones:

Party Ben and a couple fans post-set:

Duze Pe, Spox and myself, celebrating Poland's qualification for the Euro 2008 championships with scarves:

Dancing peeps:

Monday, December 17, 2007

United Airlines Operating New Time Machine 747s

As a frequent (and frequently frustrated) flyer on United Airlines, I'm a subscriber to their "E-fares" e-mails, which let you know about last-minute cheap fares. Usually it's pretty slim pickings, with $200 flights to Boise or Wichita, but tonight I got the e-mail and clicked over to see where they were offering inexpensive tickets, and got a bit of a surprise: some e-fares allow you to travel back in time three or four days.

That's right: "Depart anytime Saturday December 22nd, return anytime Monday December 17th or Tuesday, December 18th." Also, E-fares entitle you to change your velocity without a force acting upon you, take actions without equal and opposite reactions, and know both the position and velocity of quantum-scale particles. Buy now!

Good Times at French Kiss

Although I didn't play the Lil' Louis track of the same name and I totally should have done that. Anyway, French Kiss is a new Sunday night electro/b-more/indie/retro/mashup club over at the lovely Club Pink on the not-so-lovely stretch of 16th between Mission & S Van Ness, although it's gotten slightly lovelier with the addition of Bar Bambino, which looks incredibly inviting but I'm afraid I'm not that big a fan of Italian food. Too much cheese. Actually I would have tried it anyway but it closed at 10pm on Sundays and I wasn't over there in time.

So, at French Kiss, Mykill and Forever 21, the promoters and resident DJs, kindly allowed me to do a guest set there last night and it was tons of fun: I got to fully indulge my Baltimore/bassline house/freestyle/Herve/Sinden addiction and also played a bunch of my own more electro-leaning mashups including some new items. I think my playlist went something like this:

Party Ben - "Callin' Up the Pieces" (Baltimore Remix)
Party Ben - "Rocky Done Gun" (MIA vs. a bunch of stuff)
Diplo - "Shake it Out"
Amy Winehouse - "Valerie" (Sinden & Count of Monte Cristal remix)
Larry Tee ft. Princess Superstar - "Licky" (Herve Goes Low Remix)
Shannon - "Let the Music Play"
TEPR - "Minuit Jacuzzi" (Data remix)
Party Ben - "Pump Up the Beat" (Simian Mobile Disco vs. Technotronic)
Party Ben - "D.A.N.C.E. (Like a Record)" (Justice vs. Dead or Alive)
Party Ben - "Busy (Like a Hurricane)" (Crystal Method vs. Scorpions)
Bart B-More - "Killing It"
Switch - "Brick n Lace"
Herve - "Cheap Thrills"
Pimp Daddy Supreme - "Thrillershake" (Michael Jackson vs. Yin Yang Twins)
Payroll - "Daft Prayer" (Daft Punk vs. Bon Jovi)

There were a bunch of things I wanted to play but didn't get to, alas, like I can't believe I forgot to play the new "Beeper" mix. But anyway, for a Sunday night there was a really great crowd and I ran into like 4 people I knew completely randomly, i.e. they didn't know I was going to be there or vice versa. Mykill and Forever 21 are really good DJs and it's cool to meet people on the same musical tip as myself: obsessed with crazy new sounds but with a soft spot for the cheesy oldies. Although Mykill told me it was okay to play my Scorpions mix and it kind of cleared the floor. But the "Thriller" megamix at the end, boy do people love "Thriller."

Anyway, it's a great time, check it out if you're antsy on a Sunday night, and thanks to the guys and fellow guest DJ Shaun Slaughter who kicked off his set with the super duper "All Through the Night" by Escort, whose muppet-tastic video still gives me the giddy giggles. Let's watch it again, please can we?

I Just Figured Out

...that the title of Radiohead's album, In Rainbows, is most likely a reference to the title of the Boards of Canada song "Roygbiv," (as in, "Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet") whose bassline and general spaciness they appropriated for "All I Need."

Am I just slow? Did everybody else already know this?

Boards of Canada - "Roygbiv" (fan video)

Radiohead - "All I Need" (fan video)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

SF: I've Got to Admit It's Getting Better… But Is It Enough?

The always-smart John King has an article in today's SF Chronicle about the changes taking place in Golden Gate Park, with new, challenging architecture and a revamped landscape, and he rightfully lauds the architects and planners for creating an "innovative" public space:
The Music Concourse district also demonstrates what San Francisco should be - a city open to new ideas even as it protects what's of value from our past.

The de Young Museum is a near-masterpiece of a building that's both surprising and oddly site-appropriate, and the new Academy promises to be a fascinating interpretation of "green" architecture. It's an inspiring spot, and it got me thinking: San Francisco has had more than a few of these good things come to fruition in the past couple of years. Octavia Boulevard, despite its flaws (why did we need the elevated freeway to go all the way to Market street?) has allowed a neighborhood previously strangled by on-ramps to flower, and it will only get better as (hopefully) interesting architecture fills the newly created vacant lots. SOMA is exploding with high-rises, and again, while most are part of block-wide mega-projects and decidedly out of touch with the mottled, Jane Jacobsian approach that creates truly livable neighborhoods, it's a damn sight better than parking lots, and the Rincon Hill plans that include a newly two-way Folsom Street look fantastic. New architecture is breaking with SF's usual aesthetic conservatism, especially in SOMA, with examples like the crazy new Federal Building and the more subtle but perhaps more successful Plaza Apartments filling in the blank spaces in the neighborhood. Don't forget changes from the last few years like BART to the airport and the new neighborhood sprouting up around the ballpark. These are all great moves, executed well (if not exactly perfectly), but is it all enough?

I hate to be a Euro-snob, but having just returned from a trip across the continent where I saw all different cities and their approaches to urban planning, transit, and architecture, it's hard not to get the feeling that San Francisco can never be as truly livable as even 3rd-tier European hubs like Warsaw or Munich. Take Warsaw for example. With barely a rudimentary knowledge of the language and a vague sense of the city's layout, I was able to buy a week-long tourist pass and figure out the transit system in a snap. Trams go in pretty straight lines, they're fast and plentiful, the routes are clearly marked and not shared with cars, it's all on the honor system, lots of trams even have cool LED sign thingies (see photo at left) that show you the upcoming stops. Contrast this with our recent experience with DJ Moule and DJ Zebra when they came over to DJ. They stayed with me and on their free day we wandered around the city; at one point we were downtown at the cable car turnaround on Powell and Moule wanted to go to Amoeba in the Haight. Easy: the N-Judah goes right there. We go down into the Powell Street station, I go up to a machine to get change for the Muni, and when I turn around I see Moule and Zebra, wide-eyed, wrestling with a BART ticket machine, trying to put their money in the ticket slot. And these are guys who are familiar with complex public transit systems! But think about the complexity of what we were about to do: use the BART machine to get $1.50 in quarters, but don't actually get on BART, go to the Muni entrance (if you can tell the difference), put the quarters in the turnstile, but then don't forget to take your ticket when it pops out since the damn trains become "proof of payment" after they leave the subway, then go down into the station and go to the far 20% of the platform that will actually be in front of a tiny 2-car tram, and then wait for an "N" to show up, which you can hopefully squeeze onto. It will glide happily through the tunnel until it lurches and stops, and then inches cautiously up out of the tunnel on a goofy ramp, then the driver hops out at Church Street and who knows, gets a coffee or something, and after he comes back and starts it back up, you rumble along at about 3 miles an hour, as cars dart out in front. It's like this was planned by a sadistic madman, it takes 20 or 30 minutes, and we were basically going to places almost adjacent to the line.

Now that the truncated and basically useless Central Subway plan looks like a go, one shudders to see the ways Muni will fuck this up: one potential plan (picture at right) has a northbound line running under 3rd Street and a southbound line under 4th Street, both of them featuring more awesome ramps to the surface around Townsend that you know will run about the same speed as the one behind Safeway. Another plan has the trains making a 90-degree turn from 3rd to Market and then a 135-degree turn to head up Stockton. Again, why build the damn thing if you're going to strangle it with poor planning? Even in the best case, it will only go from mid-Chinatown to the ballpark.

Further down the road (and probably less likely at all) is the California high-speed rail plan, with a fancy new station planned for the currently hellish Transbay Terminal bus depot at 1st & Mission. Even if this gets built, and even if they do spend the zillions of dollars to tunnel from the current Caltrain station to this new position, it's a full-size SOMA block to Market street! It doesn't even connect directly with BART or Muni!!! Did anybody think, "Hey, if we're going to spend 100 bil on this thing maybe we could tunnel the extra block to make the damn thing actually usable?"

The video is pretty cool though:

I have theories about why San Francisco has so many built-in flaws in its urban structure, and continues to make the same mistakes: the dominance of the Democratic party machine has created a corrupt one-party system, for instance, without a credible opposition to spur real action. That's just an idea. But either way, even when San Francisco dreams big, like with the new rail station, it dreams wrong, and in denial about the massive flaws in the plans, that, like the clusterfuck at Church and Duboce, will crush the souls of hapless commuters for years to come. Will San Francisco ever see itself with enough clarity to make the changes necessary to become a truly world-class city, or will its problems (traffic, lack of housing, etc) ever become so grindingly awful that they force a wake-up call? It's hard to see it happening in my lifetime.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Au Revoir, Paris

And bye Europe... for now.

Below: Me and DJ Zebra hamming it up on top of the Arc du Triomphe

My two all-to-brief days of respite in Paris have almost come to an end, and while I'm sad to be leaving the EU, I do have to say I'm ready to see my apartment again and go get a nice burrito (and of course some f***ing antibiotics). It's been a wild ride across Europe and there's already talk of some sort of summer reprise of the tour, where I could possibly hit some of the locales I missed this time (hello, Berlin, London, Dublin, and, er, Switzerland), but for now, the Gettin' Euros Tour has been a great success as far as I'm concerned. Thanks to everybody who helped out, including Duze Pe, DJ Spox, El Barto & Liam B and the crew at Forma, Prozak and Balsam in Poland, Ashley in Prague, the Soundstation crew in Liege, Bootox, Frank, Schmolli, Morgoth and Comar in Munich (and Comar just in general), and of course Zebra and Moule in France as well as the crews at 4 Sans, Le Kleo, Elysee Montmartre and Grand Mix and the kind folks at Radical Productions. And of course thanks to everybody who came out and said "hi." We now return you to your regularly scheduled website.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gettin' Euros 2007 By the Numbers

Flights and inter-city trains taken including r/t SFO-Frankfurt: 18

Estimated # of people who saw me DJ: maybe 3500?

# of "I Saw Party Ben on the Gettin' Euros Tour 2007 and All I Got Was This Lousy CD" CDs I threw out to the crowds: 97 (I have 3 left)

Items lost:
- One (1) pair black gloves, in a cab in Warsaw
- One (1) stocking cap, somewhere in Prague
- One (1) scarf, somewhere in Cologne
- One (1) brown Jedi robe, Elysee Montmartre, Paris
- One (1) CD, "Johnny Greenwood is the Controller," that I gave the sound guy to play after the doors opened at Elysee Montmartre and then forgot to get back

Number of times I visited H&M to replace lost or soiled items: 4

Number of times I laundered the single pair of jeans I wore the entire trip: 1 (thanks Zebra and your washing machine)

More Pictures: Paris

Cidric Rivet, the official photographer for the Paris event, has some nice shots posted up on his site here, and here are a couple highlights:

Pictures: Paris

Pictures from the Paris gig are starting to roll in... Thanks to Licette for forwarding these, she's got about 30 posted up over here, and here's a couple highlights:

Video: Party Ben Kenobi vs. Emperor Zebra

Found on YouTube already!

Elysee Montmartre, Friday, November 30

Part 2, apparently:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Quick Post-Tourcoing Wrapup

Left: Line out front of Grand Mix in Tourcoing

Well it was the last gig of the Gettin' Euros tour and it went pretty well, although again, Europeans splitting surprisingly early. There was a big line down the street when we came back to the club from dinner at 9pm, and we traversed the crowd to get back inside. Zebra and I had a fun back-and-forth set to kick it off, Moule did an amazing job as always, Zebra had a kickass set with some local musician guests, and then I did a kooky set with an extended Baltimore-style mix towards the end. Unfortunately the crowd had thinned somewhat even during Zebra's set, we learned later that the local metro closes at 12:30 and with recent police crackdowns on drunk driving people are reluctant to drive home after gigs, I guess. So, definitely less people than the Paris event but still an enthusiastic crowd, and after playing Snow Police I thought I'd let the last song on the tour be one by my buds Adrian & Mysterious D, so I popped on their "Don't Stop Believin' in Planet Rock" and waved goodbye.

Thanks Europe, for the euros and everything else... more pics and stuff coming soon.

Video from Bootie Munich

Yes that's me speaking German. And I'm using the word "speaking" loosely here, but what I'm saying is basically "Good day Munich, I am Party Ben Kenobi. I come from a faraway galaxy... with the name San Francisco." But tonight the force is with Munich, yada yada, you get the idea, Star Wars, yeah I'm really running this thing into the ground aren't I.

Thanks to FM24 for the vid.

More Paris Pictures

Stormtroopers in my dressing room

Zebra's big show

Me and DJ Electrosound in front of the venue after the show

On the Place Pigalle walking back to the hotel after the show

Paris: The City of Love

Left: the crowd immediately after my set at Elysee Montmartre, technically Moule had started DJing at this point but I'd ended like 30 seconds before and they're totally holding their hands up because I'm taking the picture

Okay France, you're back on my good side, although I could still use some antibiotics. After some disappointing gigs (and, honestly, disappointing performances on my part) in Toulouse and Bordeaux Wednesday and Thursday, we got into Paris at around 4pm Friday and I went right to the dressing room to rework my set. I made some new versions of a couple things on my laptop and got a few new ideas on how to structure things. Zebra's band started to arrive along with the guest singers and five storm troopers (!!) for the Star Wars intro. It was an early event, 6:30-10:30 (with another event starting at midnight so the times were totally set); doors opened at 6:30 and when I headed up to the stage at 6:45 the place was already about 2/3 full. I started off pretty slow with some classics and stuff, and people were into it but just hanging around really, i mean I would be at 7pm too. It was basically full by around 7:15 or so, and I started to speed it up, then went over to the microphone and said "Je sais que c'est un peu tot, mais nous pouvons nous amuser, oui?" (I know it's a little early, but we can have fun, right?" The crowd erupted into cheers, and the volume level of the cheers took me back a little bit. This place is as big as the Fillmore, bigger perhaps, and from what I understood they oversold it, and I think at the peak attendance was in the 1600 range. So just a little cheer is pretty loud. Things went really well and I got a big cheer for the Wiseguys/Grease combo I hadn't really even planned on playing, and then at the end during the big Dr. Who On Holiday finale, I went up to the front of the stage to hand out some of the CDs I made to give away, and this roar comes up from the crowd that's kind of terrifying. People bush to the front like I'm handing out, I dunno, euros or something. I throw some CDs out but can't really reach people so I say "fuck it" and jump across the gap onto the hands of the crowd, just about falling back into the security pit at first but finally making it over for a quick crowd surf, before running back up on stage and taking that picure. Paris, you're awesome.

Moule went on and proceeded to do another great set, but my part wasn't over: I was reprising my role as Party Ben Kenobi in a battle with Emperor Zebra at the beginning of Zebra's set, and I was supposed to do the thing we did at Bootie in October where I interrupted MC and French radio personality Laurent Lavige, with a whole dramatic thing of "i sense a great disturbance in the force," all of which I had to memorize in French and try to deliver with my horribly stuffed up nose. Thankfully I know Mr. Lavige from doing an interview with him back in 2005 so he was very helpful with making it all go off without a hitch, and I know there's about 200 videos of this around so when I find some I'll link them here.

Actually hold on lemme look on YouTube.

Okay nothing yet, but I know there are videos out there so, really, just wait til you see this.

Zebra's show was really outstanding, a true achievement, but more about that later as I have to run and grab a train to Tourcoing.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Malade en France

Greetings from the Toulouse airport where our EasyJet flight to Paris has just been delayed, allowing me to buy a quick WiFi session. The first two dates of the French tour have been a mixed bag -- Wednesday night in Bordeaux, I had the job of kicking off the night at midnight, directly after a hip-hop/reggae/drum 'n' bass fusion kind of combo, so I bore the brunt of the stand-and-stare-with-arms-folded crowd, and I'm not really sure what French people like to be honest. Cheese. And I thought I played enough of it! The set went okay I guess but I like to have a more dynamic kind of audience experience and like to see more people dancing, but again, it was the nature of the gig I think. In Toulouse last night we had more of a club environment but I had to DJ so late there wasn't much of a crowd left. Of course, DJ Moule and DJ Zebra are carting along their guitar and bass so of course they're the rock stars on this tour, and I'm just, you know, the American mascot. Assuming we make it to Paris, the gig is kind of early tonight, 6-10pm, and I kick it off at 6:30 which I assume is the moment of least pressure (or least attendance) but I'm still a bit worried -- the French gigs have been the toughest of the tour. What I wouldn't give for Warsaw right now!!

Also I'm still pretty ill, so if anybody knows of any secret cures for the flu, I'm honestly willing to try anything. How does so much gunk come out of one man's sinuses?!

Not to complain. I guess I'm complaining. Sorry. I suppose it's all about expectations -- I approached Poland and Germany with like zero expectations and so of course they exceeded them. France, honestly, I was hoping you'd be a little nicer.

But in any event a lot of the French crew I know will be at the Paris gig tonight, and of course it's an incredible honor just being included. I just wish I didn't have a bright red nose for what is apparently a 4-camera video system to capture...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Munich Pictures...

...are here.

Thoughts on France

First of all, let me just establish that I'm pretty ill, actually miserably so, with a painful hacking cough and a runny nose that's used up most of the tissues in DJ Zebra's house. While I'm thankful this has come on at a point in the tour when I have a free day (and don't have to travel) it does suck to be sick at someone else's house. You feel like a disgusting bag of germs and you can't exactly give your kind hosts a break from your face by taking a long walk in the cold. Plus, there's Paris out there which would be nice to see, but again thankfully I have a few extra days planned at the end of the tour next week for sightseeing. While I'll probably miss today's interview with France's international radio channel, my main concern is feeling better by tomorrow when we have to take off for Bordeaux. Apparently one can secure antibiotics without a prescription in France so we might try that later today. Anyway, sorry Zebra (and Zebra's family) and sorry anybody who wanted to hear my terrible attempts at speaking French on the radio today.

Speaking of Zebra's family, my French lessons were put to an unexpected test upon arrival here Sunday night when I came into the apartment to discover Zebra's parents, here for dinner. They were of course incredibly gracious about my bumbling French but wanted to know all about San Francisco and the presidential candidates and stuff, and I realized sadly that I don't really know how to say "Kucinich saw UFOs at Shirley MaClaine's house." During dinner, the TV was on, and a couple things kind of threw me that I couldn't really express at the time: one, the weather came on during the newscast and everyone turned to see what conditions would look like for the tour. What I was noticing, however, was the weather lady had on the skimpiest black silky cocktail party dress and makeup and hair done up like for an awards show. She'd pose dramatically (seductively, even) as she pointed at the maps: "sunny and 10 degrees celsius in the south of France Thursday, mon cherie." Later, a movie came on and at one point I look up to see a naked old man in complete full frontal display who has apparently walked in on a young couple in bed accidentally. Nobody at the table batted an eyelash.

My dad woke me up at 2am to alert me to a new round of French riots, and yes, apparently two teenagers drove a motorbike at high speed into a police car (an unlicensed bike, and without helmets) last night in the northern suburbs of Paris and were killed; people in the area have some hazy accusations that the police didn't do enough to help the kids or something, but most reports are saying they were aiming right for the police car. Not to be unsympathetic to the racism and xenophobia faced by France's ethnic and relligious minorities, but it just seems like setting the McDonalds on fire after something like this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But, you're angry and feel powerless, so what do you do, I guess. Anyway, it's all very far away from here so nobody worry about me, and I promise that if I feel like setting a McDonalds on fire I'll wait til I'm home.

Monday, November 26, 2007

More Stuff About Munich and Sausage

Left: sausage breakfast with the guys

Finally: a second to sit down. I'm here on Air Berlin's cheap-ass flight from Munich to Paris—I think it was $60, and I only booked it like a month ago—and it's the first second I've had of relative calm in about 30 hours. That last post below was written in a hurry in the last 15 minutes before we had to leave for the airport, and the drive was kind of hilarious: Comar's flight was leaving at 4pm and mine was scheduled for 5pm, so we just went together, but of course we were running late and Munich's airport is a bit of a ways outside the city (make a note of that if you're traveling—45 minutes by train, 30+ by car). And you know how everything goes wrong when you're in a hurry? Well, first, Alex (DJ Bootox) had forgotten to get gas so we were way below the red line, and even his well-engineered VW wouldn't have made it. We stopped for gas, and when we went to get back on the autobahn, I noticed something odd: were we on the right onramp? Nope, Alex had taken the wrong turn and aimed us right back at Munich. Plus those autobahns don't have a ton of exits and turnaround points, dontcha know. It actually turned kind of good for me since where we eventually turned around was the exit for the new Allianz stadium, a bit of an architectural marvel that changes colors depending on the team playing--red, white or blue. When we drove in last night in the misty rain, the whole sky was glowing red in the distance and I was like, "what's on fire? Austria?" But no, it was just the stadium, switched on because the soccer team was playing, bright red lights turning it into a kind of giant glowing spaceship.

In fact, I saw lots of interesting architecture in passing from the autobahn: of course there's the Olympic stadium and grounds (anybody see that Munich movie?) and the BMW World center, a sci-fi-looking thing whose massive roof appears to float over huge glass windows, sending off a tendril-like bridge that spirals down and expands into a weirdly organic entrance. And yes, the autobahn is speed limit-free in parts: I noticed the speed limit signs (light-up LED screens over each individual lane, of course) said "120" at points (that's km/hr) and then later would say "120" with a line through it. I asked if that meant the speed was lower now and they said no, that's where the no-speed-limit zone begins. Apparently Germany is planning to impose country-wide speed limits within the next couple years--interestingly enough, for environmental reasons.

Right: In Germany, mustard comes in tubes

At the airport, I got a sandwich and a tea at the only snack bar in the gate area, and of course everyone is getting big mugs of beer. When I ordered tea the woman looked at me with a mixture of shock, pity, and disgust, and asked me what I assumed was something like "are you from the planet Pluto, where beer is poison, because otherwise there is no excuse not to imbibe our Hofbrau and you have deeply insulted our country and will not be allowed back." I gestured half-heartedly at my scratchy throat and sniffled a little, but she just shook her head and threw a teabag in a cup.

Anyway, I can't emphasize enough how awesome the Munich party was, and while I know the list of DJ names involved sounds kind of like a sci-fi villain convention (Bootox! Schmolli! Morgoth! Comar the Barbarian!) they were all really fantastic. I expected as much from the latter three since I'm familiar with their mashups, but Bootox I'd never heard spin and his wacky EQing and segue-ing reminded me of my own goofball style. Huge thanks to them and everybody involved and all the mad Germans who came out.

Coming up, France...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

München ist Verrückt

Left: the early crowd at Bootie Munich

Grüß Gott (good day) from München, where the beer and the Bavarian pride is as strong as ever. I'm recovering from Bootie Munich last night which was completely insane, and I was unfortunately unable to enjoy it as much (and as long) as everyone else since I've finally succumbed to the dreaded cold I'd been afraid I would catch. Cough.

But let's begin back in Liege, Belgium on Friday night where the Soundstation was one of the most professional clubs I've ever worked with. It's an old train station and every once in a while a train will rumble over on tracks that are directly above what's now the club's entrance. The dressing room is perched three rickety flights of stairs above the main room, and evidence of the building's old purpose is everywhere. It's more of a performance venue, unfortunately for me, since I prefer to be in a DJ booth and don't like being up on a huge high stage with bright lights on me, but my co-DJ Zebra revels in the limelight, and during his headlining set before mine from 12-2am, he jumped around the stage and sang along with his (mostly French) tracks. I'm not that kind of DJ, plus I don't speak French well enough to shout cool stuff at the crowd. It was a little rough, since even during Zebra's set the uber-hip young Belgians were more interested in standing and nodding than dancing around—honestly, it was a kind of rock-feeling venue so that's what people do. So my set from 2-4am was a little less interesting to watch but hopefully interesting to hear, and surprisingly there were Party Ben fans in the audience requesting some of my mashups, which ended up helping me out since I would have forgotten to play "Walking With a Ghost in Paris." My camera died right as we'd arrived at the club so of course I don't have any pictures but a lot of people there had cameras so I'm sure some will turn up. Anyway, we headed back to the hotel (the adequate Liege Holiday Inn) around 5, where I slept three hours, and then it was time to get up and head back to the train station.

The Thalys train wound through the frost-dusted Belgian and German hills for about 90 minutes until we were back in Koln, and then I headed out to the airport for the flight to Munich. Bootie Munich was put together by a couple crazy German dudes, and I'd like to reiterate that none of us at Bootie in SF have necessarily pursued the international "franchises;" Booties Paris and Munich came to Adrian & Mysterious D to see about starting their own versions of what I guess is our now-legendary club in the Bay Area. So these guys are, shall we say, wildly enthusiastic. I was in town with just enough time to go to dinner and experience the real German beer hall: the Augustiner, one of the oldest such establishments in Munich, and one which is apparently off the beaten track enough to avoid most tourists. The place was cavernous and completely jammed with beer-swilling, pork-knuckle-devouring Bavarians. Solidly-built women would barrel through the crowd with trays filled with giant mugs of the eponymous lager, and if you happened to inch even slightly into their path they would just shove you out of the way with a guttural shout of "Auf d'seitn!" ("off the side!"). It was, in a word, awesome, and the pork knuckle and dumpling was melt-in-your-mouth fantastic.

But soon enough it was time to head over to the Munich club, located in a kind of complex of night spots out by the train station, with about 30 or 40 bars and clubs all in the same zone. We still weren't sure when (or if) people would show up, but by about midnight the place was pretty jammed, with some of the attendees tracking me down to let me know they'd driven in from different places just to see me, which was of course humbling. It was a hopping party with a great crowd and tasty drinks, but I had started to feel under the weather on the train to Koln and was both exhausted and somewhat ill at the club. I actually felt terrible but didn't want to worry the promoters or let down all the fans so I was trying to put on a good face, and I sucked down "Cobras," the local version of Red Bull, to try and wake up, a bargain with the devil since I knew I'd feel worse the next day but what are you going to do? Thankfully, whether it was the caffeine or the infectious energy of the crowd, I jumped back into the old routine, running out of the back room with my light saber and Jedi robe and giving the crowd a " Grüß Gott" and my typical silly intro which I'd memorized in what I'm sure was barely-comprehensible German. The crowd went nuts and only proceeded to get crazier: Germans are completely insane! Fellow DJs Alex, Schmolli, Comar, Morgoth and the whole crew were drunkenly jumping around the stage and hollering my name, and they seemed to think that despite my exhaustion, my set went off pretty well. The crowd responded a little less enthusiastically to their specially-made German mashup than the Poles did: I'd put together a track using '80s German duo Modern Talking's "You Can Win if You Want" with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," and I think the shock of hearing this quintessentially German hit mixed with a current smash was a little much for everybody, and the energy level of the room seemed to go down a little bit as people's jaws dropped. But thankfully I got them back with some of the Baltimore-style stuff I've been playing lately, and a drunken DJ Comar told me afterwards it was one of the best sets he'd ever seen.

Left: Frank from Bootie Munich, Austrian DJ Schmolli who's also a resident in Munich, myself, Paris' DJ Comar, Berlin's DJ Morgoth, and Bootie Munich mastermind/madman Alex (Bootox)

I had used up all my energy on the set, and when I finished at 3:15 or so, I crashed, and could barely stand up. The party was still going strong at 5am when I told the guys I needed to catch a cab back to the house and go to sleep. This morning they told me people were still there until 7am, with new arrivals paying the entry fee way into the 6am hour. I wish I could have stayed to witness it but I needed the rest.

Alex put together a breakfast of sausages and pretzels (I know, I know!!) and now Comar and I have to head to the airport to catch our flights to Paris. But yeah, especially because I wasn't sure if I would be able to stay upright for the whole thing, my DJ set here was another one of the highlights of my career—a crowd that up for it is an honor to play for.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Auf Wiedersehen, Köln...

Above: Köln's "Dom" catching the rays of the setting sun bonsoir, Liege!

Above: the Santiago Calatrava-designed (and still unfinished) Liege Guillemins train station, and by the way, when I mentioned I was excited to see it to the guys from the club who met me there, they were like "yes, Calatrava is good, but it does not fit here." They kind of have a point, and perhaps a word of warning to New Yorkers?

How Much Longer is This Tour?

Left: Köln, photo not by me

Happy Thanksgiving (yesterday) everyone, I'm here in Köln, Germany, a place I chose to fly to from Prague based entirely on the cheap German Wings airfare--$60 one-way. It's a quick 90-minute train ride to Liege, Belgium, where my gig is tonight, and thankfully, the German train strike was quick and efficient, German-style, and I was easily able to reserve a seat thanks to the very helpful and fluent-English-speaking lady at the Deutsche Bahn office, who had a nose ring, by the way. It came to about 30€ ($44) round trip from Koln to Liege and then back to the Koln Airport on Saturday where I'll catch a flight to Munich. I'm starting to feel a little like everything in Europe is within what Americans would consider commuting distance: if you can't fly directly to your preferred country, fly to the next-door country and hop the train, and it'll take you basically the same amount of time it takes to grab BART to the airport in San Francisco. By the way, Prague got much more enjoyable on my last day, and I met some more people who restored my faith in American expats, two English teachers who were very sympathetic to my run-in with the Transit Police and said they'd also tried to run the first time they got accosted, thinking they were being robbed. We had phenomenal Indian food at a random place in Prague's outskirts, randomly enough.

But now, I'm in Germany, and I kind of forgot how tough it is to be alone in a country where you don't speak one word of the language: a flustered inability to make yourself understood is far more anxiety-inducing when you're standing there by yourself. Köln is lovely and about 15 degrees warmer than it was in Prague or around Poland, enough so that I've been leaving my scarf in the hotel room. Speaking of the hotel, the CityClass Europa, directly adjacent to the main train station and the cathedral, was 48€ ($70) for a single room, and while there were a lot of nicer-looking places in the 80-90€ range, I figured the $40-50 savings would be worth it, but jeez, it's pretty bad: smaller even than my tiny room in Frankfurt, with a built-in twin bed that wasn't quite long enough for me, non-functional WiFi, and a distinctly orange tint to the water when you first turned it on. But with even an espresso, tiny juice, roll and yogurt at the free-WiFi coffee shop I'm writing this from coming to 7€10 ($10.43), you take your savings where you can.

Perhaps it's the holiday or the fact that I'm under the aforementioned language blackout, but I'm kind of pooped. My feet are sore from walking around, my one pair of jeans I've worn the whole trip are starting to sag unpleasantly, and I could really use a burrito, pollo asado, especial style. But coming up in a few hours I won't have time to dwell on my petty annoyances, as things will start to ramp up again: the gig in Belgium is set to be pretty large, Bootie Munich should be wild on Saturday, and then it's off to France where from what I understand the transport strike has pretty much wound down, merci Dieu. I'm completely baffled about what to play for the Belgiums, and unlike my mini-hit in Poland, I don't have any tracks that explicitly address, say, the country's current governmental crisis or anything. Also, hopefully they aren't too perturbed at me for rooting for Poland over them in the recent Euro 2008 qualifying match. Sorry guys, but when in Warsaw…

So, what do Belgians throw when they hate your set? Waffles? Mmm, airborne breakfast cake.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Prague, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down

Left: the funicular that, ironically enough, brought me up, and not down

Well, I suppose I deserve it: there's no better way to invite Larry David-style annoyances than to gloat about how lovely a place is on your blog. Today started out okay with a visit to the Veletržní Palác, Prague's 20th century art museum (where I discovered the amazing František Kupka), but went downhill from there. First, I'm in the subway about to get on a train, and a weird-looking dude grabs my shoulder and says something in Czech. I shake my head and try to get out of his reach. He jogs up after me and says something again, and I keep trying to move away—is this just an aggressive panhandler like I'm used to in San Francisco, or is somebody about to take out their anti-Bush sentiments on a random American? In about three seconds, a policeman appears, and I'm relieved: they'll get this weirdo away from me. But the cop goes right for me, getting in front of me and hollering at me in Czech. What did I do? What's happening?! "Ne razumiem!!" I wail in Polish, hoping it's also Czech. "Ticket!" says the policeman. Ohhhh. It's my first transport ticket check! If you aren't familiar with much of the rest of the world's transit systems, a lot of them operate on the honor system, where nobody checks you when you get on a train but there are supposedly random sweeps for scofflaws. I dutifully bought a 7-day pass in Warsaw but never once saw anybody get checked, and thank God, I had my Prague 3-day pass in my wallet here. I'd read in a guide book that Prague employs plainclothes officers to check people, but jeez, isn't this taking it a bit far? Although, again, perhaps I'm just so used to dealing with crazies on the SF Muni that I'm a bit jumpy. Anyway, I showed the guys my ticket and we had a good chuckle—they were very apologetic. After another annoyance—the whole point of my trip on the subway at that point was to go visit the Prague historical museum which turned out to be inexplicably closed when I got there—I came back to the same subway station and saw about six similar scenarios playing themselves out near the entrance: old women with pleading voices, sporty-jacket dudes searching their pockets, all surrounded by the same policemen and plainclothes officers. So, if somebody grabs you on the subway in Prague, you might not necessarily want to run.

Right: view from up by the castle zone

Other annoyances today include a pastry stand that wouldn’t sell me a small pastry since those are not sold by the piece but only by the 100 gram weight and they wouldn't just weigh one, and the equivalent pastry (a blackberry thingamabob) did not exist in the large pastry section for individual sale; the Deutsche Bank that took me 20 minutes to find in order to make an ATM withdrawal since BofA has a no-fee deal with them was temporarily unable to dispense cash, and the funky café the guidebook recommended for breakfast seemed to have vanished into thin air. Also, I think I found a general flaw in what seemed like Prague's unassailable façade, and the flaw is us: annoying American expats. I met a couple people last night, friends of a friend here in town, and I'm just going to go ahead and talk about them: they were snobby and rude in this way that I'm theorizing may have something to do with long-term life abroad, although perhaps the seeds were there already. When I met them I was exhausted and I tried to apologize and explain that jet lag (and my wonky schedule) is kicking my ass unexpectedly on this trip, and the guy pauses and says to me, "Do you complain about being tired in America?" What the f***?! Later I see a sign on a garage we're walking by that says "NEPARKOVAT" and I laugh, since that was just starting to be an imported Americanism in Russian when I lived there, and I ask the gal if that's a real Czech word at this point or if the writer was being funny, and she rolls her eyes and says, "It means 'not to park' or 'no parking'." Oh does it now. Perhaps the fact that I'd just pronounced the word correctly might have clued you in that I'm familiar with it? They had this way of making sure to flaunt their knowledge of Czech and only grudgingly explaining the random insider-y stuff they dropped hints about in the conversation. Later in the evening the guy turns to me and says, sneeringly, "jeez, I'm just so out of the loop, so tell me, what's that Britney Spears doing?" Which I suppose could be innocuous but in this context (and tone of voice) took on an air of "you silly home-based Americans and your petty concerns." Anyway, I'm not really worried about them seeing this since they didn’t give one whit about my tour or what the hell I was doing there, and didn't ask my DJ name or anything. But if they do see this, sorry guys, but you were a little rude.

Left: old town square

Boy, I really hope I wasn't that much of a jerk when I lived in Russia and met Americans who were kind of clueless about the place. I suppose I probably was, but I was also like 22 and thought I was the only foreigner to ever truly understand the Russian soul. Sigh.

But even with all these annoyances, Prague, I still love you: I had an awesome lunch at the Café Louvre of French onion soup, a glass of the new Beaujolais, a towering club sandwich, a raspberry caramel sundae, a local fizzy water and a frothy espresso, and the total price: 300 koruny, or about $15. Plus I freakin' smoked afterwards, right there in the restaurant!! Also the city continues to dumbfound me with its beauty: there's this spot by the river where some buildings are built out over the water on a pier and the water cascades underneath into a kind of lagoon by the Charles Bridge, and it's just about the coolest spot in the world. Like on much of this tour so far, I can't help but think to myself, "this would be really awesome if it wasn't freezing."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Polska Boyz" Now Available...

...back at the regular website, remember that one?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Prague: Cheap and Easy, But Also Cute

Like a fantasy date! Well, after riding a wave of Polish good tidings, it finally came time to say goodbye, and so I headed out for Chopin airport to hop on Czech Airlines for a flight to Prague. A DJ gig didn't quite come together in Prague, which really has turned out to be a bit of a relief -- after the madcap tour of Poland, (and before the madcap tour of Belgium, Germany & France) I could really use a few days to recoup, and it turns out Prague is the perfect place to do it. First of all, my friend Ashley is living here, a former LIVE 105 employee (like myself) who came over almost a year ago, currently working at a fancy crystal and home-decor store. She knows her way around and last night I got my first whirlwind tour of the city, and despite all I've heard and seen about Prague, it, like Krakow, is still a bit overwhelming, with its winding streets and hidden passageways. What's awesome, though, is that it's cheap.

Below right: snack aftermath

Poland was surprisingly expensive: for instance, yesterday I went to Starbucks clone "Wayne's Coffee" for lunch before I left for the airport, and my sandwich, a small dry roll with salami and cheese, was 15 Zloty, which at 2.5 zl to the $ is a whopping $6, and the espresso was like 8 Zloty, which is over $3. I'm not sure if this is a recent development due to general European exchange rates pummeling the dollar into oblivion, but still, it was a bit annoying: aren't places that feel kind of ex-communist supposed to be bargains? So Prague's cheapness has turned out to be a crazy surprise. Dinner last night at an amazing multi-level cafe (whose name I forget, sorry) which included spicy toast, croquette appetizers, a cabbage salad, two entrees including my pork stuffed with cheese and olives, and two glasses of wine, all came to about 560 czech koruny, which at about 5 cents to the koruna, is around $28. For everything! Our glasses of totally tolerable Czech wine were 32 czk each, and yes that's $1.50. My hotel, the amazing Miss Sophie's (which is part hostel and part hotel), where my beautifully modern room with custom metal furniture and an awesome glassed-in walk-in rain-head-shower thing, I booked at 1450czk/night but when I showed up they charged me 1100czk/night, which is just around $55. It's hard to believe that there's anywhere left where Americans can use their rubles so effectively, but here it is.

Below: the astronomical clock in the town square, and the awesomest thrift store in the world which is right next door to my hotel

I'd also heard there was grumbling (and general Eastern European dourness) on the part of the local populace about foreigners, especially loud Americans, and to expect unfriendliness, but again, totally not the case: everyone's been incredibly nice and only mildly smirking at my pathetic attempts to try out some Czech, which is only 35% like Russian as opposed to Polish at around 60%, so in other words I'm not getting it right.

Back to Poland for a moment: Fellow DJ on the Polish leg of the tour Liam B sent me this video of my Party Ben Kenobi entrance in Krakow although you can't see a damn thing and it cuts off right before I get on the mic. Come on, Liam, learn to run your camera!

Also check out a gallery of pics from the Krakow gig here, including some highlights like this one of P.B. Kenobi or this one of regular Party Ben wielding the light saber while Duze Pe whips up the crowd.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Poland Update: Krakow & Warsaw

It's Sunday afternoon in Warsaw and I'm finally back in reach of a wifi signal, and more importantly, I have a few minutes to write some things down. It's been a phenomenal couple of days and I'm not sure where to begin, so let's just start at the beginning, grabbing a train to Krakow on Friday afternoon.
Left: Scene from a Polish train

The Poland leg of this little tour has basically been put together by DJ/MC/promoter/musician Duze Pe, who along with cohort DJ Spox have a whole variety of musical projects, and they both accompanied me on all the dates; I'd corresponded with them via e-mail before the trip but hadn't met them until my arrival here and thankfully both of them are awesome and hilarious and speak pretty fluent English. Anyway, we piddled around on Friday and went to a Georgian (as in Tiblisi, not Atlanta) restaurant and just about missed the Krakow train, a 3-hour express from Warsaw's central station. About halfway there I looked out the window into the dark Polish landscape only to realize that the ground was in fact covered with a thick blanket of snow.

Below: Krakow at night with reflected chandelier

Our arrival in Krakow was overwhelming. Warsaw, with all its luxury hotel updates, still feels like a rough, modern city, hampered by Soviet-era infrastructure. The train station in Krakow was similar, bare and concrete, but then we emerged into the connected mall and another world: a brand-spaking-new luxury shopping establishment, filled with fancy brand-name stores, under a glittering skylight, putting San Francisco's new megamalls to shame, and packed with Saturday night shoppers. Leaving the mall under its glowing colored glass exterior, I got my first glimpse of Krakow, and it was jaw-dropping, covered in about a foot of snow, a fairy tale of ancient buildings and glittering lights, cobblestone walkways filled with people. The walk to the nightclub was like an assault of beauty, something amazing around every turn: the snowy park ringing the city center, an ancient city wall, the central square. But there's no time to linger, we have to get to the club and start to get set up.

Below: Party Ben banner outside Prozak in Krakow

The city is a real tourist destination for Europeans, especially Brits apparently, who take advantage of the favorable exchange rates to get rip-roaring drunk and roam the streets hollering like Amy Winehouse at the MTV Europe awards. As the night wore on, and the club started to fill up, there was clearly a high tourist contingent, and probably mostly regulars at the venue who didn't really know who I was or anything, but that didn't mean they weren't totally up for it. The venue itself, a winding two-story labyrinth built into the basement of an old building, was stunning, and our cavernous dancefloor was totally packed. I pulled out the Obi Wan getup which people seemed to enjoy, and had a really fun set where I tried a bunch of new stuff, as well as the good old standards that had the crowd singing along. After my set I went upstairs only to realize they had been piping the music to an upstairs dancefloor almost as big as the first, jammed with people. The night lasted until about 4:30 am, at which point we were put up in the club's own apartment on the 4th floor of the building, accessible through two winding staircases and a tiny elevator, and outside the double-paned windows the city sparkled and the first trams of the morning rumbled by.

Let's not get romantic about it though because after about 5 hours of sleep it was time to get up and head back to the train station to return to Warsaw. Sorry, Krakow, but I'll be back, I'm sure.

Back in Warsaw, I'm told an interesting bit of news: Poland's national soccer team is playing Belgium that night in a qualifying match for the Euro 2008 championships, an event whose importance is second only to the World Cup and which Poland has apparently never qualified for. The game would be shown out at our club immediately preceding our event, and we were all a little nervous: if they lost, would people even feel like having fun? Well, we needn't have worried. Poland dominated the Belgians and cinched a spot in the finals with a 2-0 victory, and the place erupted. I later found out people had poured onto the streets all over the city, chanting "Polska, Polska."

(Below: Moment of Polish victory)
Out at our club (Balsam, part of a rehabilitated complex of old army barracks in which the writing of German soldiers can still be seen on the walls), things started to pick up around 11, and by the time I went on at 12:30, the place was packed, the giant disco ball swinging wildly. I had a bit of a rough set – a drunk guy came up and started bugging me and threw me off, and I made some technical flubs, but managed to recover. I'd been given a soccer scarf to wear during the set, which I sported proudly, and as my set built up to a frenzied finale, Duze Pe thanked me and described for the crowd the mashup I'd made of the classic Polish band Kult, which I proceeded to play as my last track. Let me just say: if you're a DJ, and there's any way you can plan your set to immediately follow a massive soccer victory, and then play a track you've made whose lyrics repeat the country's name over and over, and you have a scarf you can hold over your head with the name of that country on it to incite the entire crowd to sing along, and then you grab a bottle of that country's local vodka to take a big swig of it to the crowd's clear approval… that wouldn’t be a bad way to end your DJ set. It was mayhem. My only regret is that my camera, set next to the cold window, fogged up too much for the pictures to be anything but a white blur, but other people had cameras so hopefully there's video somewhere. I left the stage and was immediately set upon by people wanting autographs and pictures, some of whom had just caught the CDs I'd thrown out to the audience, and some of whom actually knew who I was and gave me embarrassing compliments. Anyway, a real highlight of my life as a DJ, and while it was clearly just riding on a wave of soccer victory euphoria, hell, I'll take it.

Below: Party Ben poster at the club in Warsaw behind serious condensation -- it was hot in there!

In a bit of a daze I stumbled to the front of the club for some air and called a friend back in San Francisco to shout (incoherently, I'm sure) about Poland winning and I had the scarf and Polska Polska! The night ended around 5 and I collapsed into bed, turning on the TV to see what looked like a Polish Sally Jesse Raphael hosting talk show on which the topic seemed to be, well, gay people, although a subtopic might have been involved which I didn’t understand, since the descriptions of each of the guests said "gej" and then a bunch of other stuff. It might have been "gays with terrible fashion sense" because they were all wearing giant goofy sunglasses and had weird hairdos, perhaps in an attempt to remain anonymous?

Today I have to go buy gloves since I left mine in the taxi last night, and we'll all go have a celebratory meal; tomorrow morning: Prague, and converting Zloty to Koruny!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oh, and Jay-Z...

I was wayyyy ahead of you.

Płock: Pwawesome!

That's funnier if you know Płock is pronounced "Pwotsk." Or maybe not. Ahem. Anyhoo, yes! Just got back from the first gig of the Gettin' Euros Tour, and while I got Zlotys instead, it was still great. A little context here: this gig was the last one finalized -- after setting on venues in Warsaw and Krakow for Fri. & Sat., we just filled one in for Thursday night at a smaller club in this city about 90 minutes drive west of Warsaw. I had no idea what to expect, and besides I'd been having an annoying day, with somebody stiffing me for about $10 in change and not realizing it til I was back on the tramway (dargh, unfamiliar coinage!) and still feeling perturbed with myself about the Bis set, yada yada. So, here I am, heading west of Warsaw in this crazy country to a city whose name I can't even pronounce. Pwonounce. What the hell am I doing? Would anyone show up, would they be nice, and have they heard of Lyrics Born?

Well, yes, yes, and oddly enough, yes. (Answer to that first question still to be determined). The venue was small but great, with a bar area in front and the medium-sized dancefloor area in the back. When we got in around 8:45 there were a smattering of people (as well as posters announcing my arrival with a kind of disconcerting skull motif, am I a death rocker? Plus that's supposed to be "Mash Up Your Life"; "For Life" sounds like, I dunno, an anti-abortion bootleg party. But no matter.) and by about 10 the place was hopping, with everybody responding really well to the opening DJ's stuff. When I went on at 11:30 I didn't do the full "Obi Wan Kenobi" drag since I was a little nervous about it, but I did pull out the light saber to start "Galvanize the Empire" with. Anyway, a really great response, and people sang along to a whole load of the songs, and surprisingly it got completely nuts when I launched in to what I thought might be a bit of a challenging set of sped-up Baltimore-style beats including the Lyrics Born mix you can hear on my Myspace page and some other new stuff. Of course it wasn't without technical errors -- I mistook the "pan" dial for the "bass" dial and when the speakers were shaking I tried to turn it down, and was actually just turning it all to the left. Derrr. But I figured that out quickly enough.

And yes they were labeled in English, I'm just dumb.

Special note to DJ John, whose "It Takes Two to Kiss" got played 3 times during the night: I played it in my set, not knowing that the opening DJ had played it, and then as we were leaving the DJ after me puts it on. "Hey, DJ John, again," I said to DJ Spox, one of the opening duo who rode with me. "Oh yeah," he says, "he's my favorite, and 'It Takes Two to Kiss' gets played all the time here. Why doesn't he make more mashups?" "Well, I dunno," I said, "I'll ask him," feeling like I'd just said "I'll check with Brangelina about getting you a kid."

Anyway, a great night. A whole bunch of people had heard of me and came up to express their positive feelings for my productions in halting English, to which I would respond with a hearty "chen-kwee" ("thank you," yes turns out it's Borat language). Thanks to Club Forma and everybody who came out, nice to meet you all. Not too many good pictures though, since I was busy, you know, DJing and stuff.

Tomorrow, heading off to Krakow by train and not sure when I'll be back in Internet range, probably Sunday.

Look, Party Ben's on the schedule

These nice ladies were singing along with everything.

Weird sign at the gas station on the way back. Put on your best Pterry the Pterodactyl voice and say: "Why no PB?"