Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Something's Fishy in La Rochelle

Wonk, wonk. Cause look at them sea critters I done ate! More on that later, but first, greetings from La Rochelle on France's west coast where I'm enjoying Bastille Day amongst the throngs of French tourists and attendees at the Festival Francofolies, a French music-focused festival where I played, somewhat inexplicably, last night. I was recommended to the festival by Parisian DJ Zebra who has helped create a real interest in mashup/remix culture in France and at this festival specifically, so they booked me, but at first I didn't really understand how French-centric it is: it turns out I'm either the first or second American to play the festival, ever, in its like 17-year history. So I was a little nervous about my gig at the smallish "Club Cosy" and created 6 or 7 new mashups and mixes using French music, and had a whole set planned using other local heroes like your Daft Punk etc. The other DJs playing with me got in touch and asked whether I wanted 12:30am-2:30am or 2:30am-4:30am, and I took the early set, thinking my somewhat mainstream tunes might be better to open the night with. Unfortunately another thing I didn't understand was that they were closing the venue after the 10:30 band, emptying it out, and then re-opening, right at 12:30, so even best case scenario my first, like, 4 or 5 songs would kind of be throwaways, to an empty room. That was about right, and I had a frustrating 30 minutes of trying to please the people walking in the door but not play any of my hits or new creations. Thankfully it was pretty packed at about 1:00 or 1:15 and I got to do a compressed version of the set I'd planned, at least.

Those mashups, by the way, along with most or maybe all of the other items I've made on this tour, I'll be posting to my website as a package-album-deal sort of thing, when I get back – a lot of it will be pretty silly stuff but a couple things turned out pretty good, I thought, like a new track matching Frenchman Katerine with Darude that made people go nuts last night. I forgot to take pictures but there were a bunch of cameras (and a TV camera taking footage for the festival to show on the big screen at the main stage tonight) so hopefully we can track those down.

Probably the most awesome thing that happened last night was that after my set, one of the festival coordinators brought me a form and asked me to fill it out. My French is very rough, but a lot of the festival employees' English was worse, so when I didn't understand the form it took a while to figure out what it was: it was a music-rights form on which I was supposed to list every song I played. Darrrrr? Can you say "c'est impossible"? "Uh, I played 10 seconds of the guitar from that song, but backwards, and 3 words from the acapella of 'Pump Up the Jam,' looped for 25 seconds…" I balked at that but they seemed to forgive me, or at least give up on trying to explain to the bumbling American what needed to be done.

Actually the most awesome part of last night was the meal I had "backstage," actually on the deck of the building where the event was taking place, a few hours before the gig around soundcheck time. Check it out to the right. On my rider from now on: a good Bordeaux and a view of the Atlantic.

Today is of course Bastille Day, and I got to enjoy a little French touristy fun times around town with the aforementioned DJ Zebra and his wife Alexandre, and as you can see above, the local specialty is seafood. Let's take a closer look at "La Plate du Capitaine" or whatever it was called:

Let's see. Clockwise, we can find mussels, some sort of chewy clam item, giganto prawns, normal sized shrimp, and the prawns are kind of balanced over a mega-huge crab claw that practically exploded when I cracked it open. Then we've got mini-mussels of some sort, the ubiquitous snails, and then teeny tiny little brown mini-shrimp that were impossible to peel so I just started popping them in my mouth like salty little sea insects that they basically are. All this, fresh from the sea, for only 26EUR (about $36). Anybody remember that Simpsons episode where Homer wants to start a new life "under the sea," and they cut to him swimming about in a Little Mermaid takeoff, gleefully ingesting all the dancing fishes? It was kind of like that.

The music festival continues today with one of my favorites, Birdy Nam Nam, a French group whose charming first album focused on wobbly sounds executed mostly on turntables, and which I used extensively in imaging production for LIVE 105. However, their new direction aims more for the arena-techno of Justice, for better or for worse, but they do have a rep for a great live "show" complete with expensive video and light show a la Daft Punk. The festival graciously gave me an artist pass for today as well so I get to chill in the VIP when they go on later tonight. Since the main stage is right in the center of the city, we went over for a few minutes early this evening where I checked out Sefyu, an up-and-coming French rapper whose aggressive style and glacial rhythms could probably be classified as "gangsta," but his live show was surprisingly sprightly, with two backup guys chasing Sefyu around the stage in and executing cheeky, carefully choreographed tandem dance moves.

The biggest break of my Euro Stim Tour starts for me now, with no gigs til (dun dun, dun dunnn) Portugal! Which will be next week. So for now, a bit of R&R here in France, a quick trip back to Germany, and a brief foray to an undisclosed location…

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