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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Calexico at Le Bataclan, October 29, 2006

Bataclan theatre, Paris, October 29, 2006

by Jayson Harsin

A concert is a multi-faceted affair that includes venue, audience, performance, even ticketing. On these levels there was much to celebrate and a bit to disdain at the Bataclan Sunday night.

First of all, the Bataclan is a decent venue—lots of space, 4euro half-pints (not a bargain, but it is worse in some places), and a big stage. I will pardon the significant number of annoying concert deadbeats who hung out at the bar and talked through even the most pianissimo parts of the set. I complained about that in Chicago, too. But another problem with Bataclan and thus this concert by association, is that for some reason Bataclan uses FNAC (the giant French audio-visual chain) to do their ticketing.calexico on stage at bataclan

Like Ticketmaster in the U.S., these bigwigs corner markets on ticket distribution and jack up prices. They’re expensive, and they make you go to FNAC to pick up the tickets in person. The marketing assumption is no doubt that if you make people come to the store to pick up tickets, some of them are bound to spend money. This is an extra and unnecessary trip, and it produces a "middle-man" in the process which takes away earnings from the band in the end. My friends and I wondered what the band’s cut was at the end of the day. So the tickets were a bit steep at 25 euros. We further wondered how much of the tickets went to the elaborate cinematic backdrop to the stage, which consisted of a giant string-art screen on which Calexico's border images, the same kinds one finds on their cd art, were projected in between hallucinogenic fractals.

But it’s true that Calexico played their hearts out, especially just after announcing to rousing applause in the Encore, "They’ve given us 15 minutes, and we’ll play as much music as we can in that time." They held nothing back.

Calexico was the brainchild of the classically trained musician Joey Burns and John Convertino, who had met in 1990 in L.A. and then moved to Tucson, Arizona. Burns and Convertino had collaborated with Howe Gelb’s fascinating indie experiment Giant Sand, and then the Tucson lounge act Friends of Dean Martinez. Calexico broke into the indie American (then world) music scene in 1996 with their highly acclaimed Spoke (on Germany's Haus Musik Records). They experimented with indie twang, balkan folk, spaghetti Western, and surf on that first album. It was decidedly indie experimental, with hints of Tom Waits, the Go-Betweens, and soundtracks to Emir Kusturica films.

But it was on Black Light in 1998 (Quarterstick) that they really came into their signature sound, exemplified by songs like "Minas de Cobre." American country twang (mainly the steel guitar, vocal style, motifs, and time signatures) met mariachi in the indie gumbo they'd already been simmering. The result was a fresh sound that became as hot as the Tucson sun that incubated it.

Some critics did and still do miss the point, arguing that they’re just a cheap Anglo (they’re not all Anglo) mariachi imitation. But that’s never what they were trying to do, and a close attention to their musical hybridity (noted above and below) demonstrates their distinctive project.

Read on by clicking here...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

¡Forward, Russia! at La Maroquinerie 10/19/2006

Many bands are not “live” bands; they concentrate on studio recordings, often laying down meticulously produced tracks in a beautifully crafted overall work. Others have something else going in stage presence, charisma, rapport with an audience, raw energy, seduction, which is lost in the alienated form of consumption that is the CD or Mp3. A few rare bands seem to be able to pull off both. I’d count Leeds’s ¡Forward, Russia! among the latter. That was clear in the show I witnessed Thursday night at La Maroquinerie in Paris.

In my minimalist, satirical reviews of music consumption and criticism, “Indie Reviews for the Attention Deficient,” I hyperbolically doted on the resemblances ¡FR! shares with the Gang of Four. After seeing them live, and now writing in a different commentary setting, I would have to slightly revise my description.

Thanks to the nimble picking of Whiskas, their aptly named red-chopped guitarist, they do play with the pointy, repetitive guitar riffs that branded the Gang of Four. Likewise do they play with lefty symbols and figures (as their name and song titles scream) and hail from Leeds, but it would be unfair to either band to push the comparison much further. ¡FR! has created their own style and identity by reassembling others' and pushing them further.

Let’s begin with the vocals and stage presence of talented singer Tom Woodhead. Woodhead has the rare vocal ability to jump scale from falsetto down an octave in short bursts, which will remind some of D. Byrne’s copyrighted yawps. But Woodhead doesn’t just yelp about maniacally from one octave to another. He also gets a repetitive momentum going and brakes it with sustained, almost baneful falsetto notes and wails. There are moments of resemblance in this area between Woodhead, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, and Morrissey. But Woodhead’s fellow choirboys lack his energy, his momentum.

Also like Morrissey, Woodhead has a peculiar stage presence and choreography. He turns his body in slow rotisserie style, somewhat in tandem with his vocals, in an interpretive dance marked by his fetish for self-wrapping in the micro-phone cord and slowly moving his hands and elbows from one-arm akimbo to elbow held high and palms upturned, as if carrying a waiter’s serving tray. He accelerates, then brakes. The movements are smooth. They’re mesmerizing. In a word, they’re memorable. Here’s a man with the suppleness of talent and confidence of sexuality that could take him from a jazz-handed role in Cats to the pogo and punk mosh pit.

Woodhead is certainly the star, but this band works well together. They seem to enjoy one another, which no doubt adds to their tightness. Drummer Katie Nicholls gives a strong, energetic percussion backbone and occasional vocals to the band, and bassist Rob Canning, a late Cobain look alike from a distance, helps Nicholls with that crucial structuring role.

A few of their songs were especially pleasurable for their change of pace and ability to build from a snail’s pace of slow chords and riffs while Woodhead warbled, to their wild, choppy guitars and vocals that are perhaps their signature.

This is also a conceptually playful band. There was something liberating, something very, well—anti- about hearing Woodhead’s announcements of songs: “This one’s called “Seven!” It shifts the listener’s attention from easy pneumonic anchors in titles to the songs as a collection. In fact, I didn’t know what Woodhead was singing most of the time. Today, when I went scouring the internet to find the lyrics, I noticed that ¡FR! have a penchant for modern verse, which produces lyrics that quickly dispel any misconceptions that this is some sort of nostalgic Soviet realist art project. Take, for instance, “Eighteen,” a song off their recent album Give Me a Wall.

It's hard to save a life
When the dreams you enter fracture through
A million and one reflections
But tonight
I'm saving a life
Through the hissing of watches and the ticking of clocks
I'll show the hours my open palm
I'll protect your sense of right
I'll dissect your senses till you find me.

But I didn’t know their lyrics well enough the other night to sing along with them.

I just found myself enchanted by what I was witnessing. Their love of performance, solidarity with each other and their audience, energy, as well as their conceptual traits reminded me a bit of the Poster Children, though they sound nothing alike. Perhaps more than many bands, ¡Forward, Russia! is a sound, a vision, an encounter, and not, like a lot out there today and yesterday, an ad, a sexual appeal, a story, or even a particular commentary on everyday social, personal, or political life (even if their total identity that precedes and succeeds their performances has all sorts of things to say about spectacular packaging, routine rock choreography and trends).

The indie-Parisian (yes, oxymoronic) and expat audience was not disappointed. But it would surprise me if audiences of this genre could react otherwise. ¡FR! is a minor religious experience, which I would gladly pay for every week had I the chance.

(See a YouTube video snippet of this concert by clicking below)

Sunday, October 01, 2006


Jonathon Richman, La Trabendo, Oct. 17
Russia! La Maroquinerie, Oct. 19,
Alamo Race Track, La Fleche D'Or, Oct. 19
Texas Terri Bomb, La Maroquinerie Oct. 15

Sparklehorse, La Cigale, Oct. 22

Talk Taxis, La Fleche D'Or, Oct. 27
Calexico, Bataclan, Oct. 29



Oct. 29 Calexico (Tucson,U.S.) Mariachi-infused indie rock. Highly Recommended!
Coming Next Month...

Nov. 8 Les Tetes Raides (excellent French gypsy-crossed indie rock)

Nov. 9 Sufjan Stevens (U.S.) indie-folk. Highly Recommended.

Nov. 10 The Bellrays (U.S.)

Nov. 17 Lambchop (U.S.) The opinion leaders at call them “arguably the most consistently brilliant and unique American group to emerge during the 1990s.” Worth checking out? Are you crazy?

Le Batofar (13me)

La Boule Noire (9me)

Oct. 17 The Datsuns

Oct. 28 The Veils

La Cigale (18me)

Oct. 22 Sparklehorse (U.S.). Grandaddy meets twang. Beautiful, yearning soundscapes and vocals. For those who love Grandaddy, Silver Jews, Handsome Family.

Oct. 23 Nouvelle Vague (FR) You know'em and love'em from their clever cocktail lounge re-makes of Cure, Dead Kennedys, Flock of Seagulls, etc.

Coming Next month: Nov. 9-12, Festival des Inrocks (artists TBA).

Le Divan du Monde (18me)

Elysee Montmartre: (18me)

Oct. 18 New York Dolls (U.S.). That’s right: Geriatric Glam Rock from the Kings of the genre. Have they still got what it takes?

Oct. 28 Brian Jonestown Massacre. Sold Out. But maybe you can find someone with tickets if this is your thang.

La Fleche D'Or (20me) (No Cover!) Equally exciting offerings.

Pick of the month: Talk Taxis, Oct. 27

Oct. 2 Deerhunter

Oct. 3 Deerhunter, The Patriotic Sunday, This Melodramatic Sauna, My Name is Nobody

Oct. 4 Pixeltan

Oct. 6 Airguitar

Oct. 7 Joe De Marco (Fugees);Veo Veo (Paris: folk rock with American singer); Love Bandits (Garage)

Oct.8 Selfish Cunt (London): Andy Capper du NME « Wow, this is amazing. London's finally burning again , ou encore Vice Magazine “The world needs this band as much as America needs a new president " Mix Gun Club-like vocals with electro and classic Brit guitar punk. Also on the bill: This is Pop, Neon Birds, and Beyond the Real.

Oct. 9 Rock & Roll Party: Penny Inkinger (Aussie);Demi Dero;Wok; Youpi Youpi Yeah

Oct. 10 Tiger Force (London art punks); Rose Kemp (Bristol, "Somber Pop");Light Brigade (UK, pop rock); Underground Railroad (London/Paris, noise rock).

Oct. 13 Soiree Indie Rock: A*Song (folk, pop rock);Moustache;Sweet Apple Pie; Kim Novak.

Oct 18: Soirée Rock: Ampop: Icelandic rock trio from Reykjavik/Glasgow. Influences: Joseph Authur and Norway’s Kings of Convenience. Not certain whether they are still playing in Paris. Sheeduz: Three femme fatales from France. Rock/Hard rock Robert Roth: Seattle based pop-rocker.

Oct 19: Alamo Race Track: The evening is dedicated to the Amsterdamer’s new album. Definate influences from Moby (Black Cat John Brown) and late 60s rock à la Kinks (Kiss Me Bar). Extremely catchy. Will leave you wondering how they haven’t already been ruined by MTV. Official Site You Tube accoutic session Charlie Winston: British rocker with influences like Tom Waits, Jack Johnson, and Jeff Buckley. Feel good music on any day.

Oct 21: Soirée Citizen Cabaret: Leisure: Rockers from Bordeaux. 60s rock influences with a bit of the modern to the likes of the Libertines, Oasis, and a hint of Belle and Sebastian. Folks: Parisian rock quartet

24 Oct Soirée Indie Rock: Cocoon: French folk rockers. Influences from Devendra Banhart, Coco Rosie, and the Velvet Underground. Narrow Terence: (France) draws from a well of Tex-Mex, blues, and even latin influences. Vocals very similar to Tom Waits raspiness. Le Bal des Boiteux: Instrumental Belgian group with a likness to The Most Serene Republic, Yann Tiersen, and some accordian.

25 Oct Soirée Indie Rock: Not really your typical idea of an “Indie Rock Night” but anyway…The Wankers: English name but really French. 80s punk and synth-beat blend. Vendas Novas: (Brittany, Fr) Techno/Rock. Has some Chemical Brothers influence.

26 Oct Soirée Are You Loaded? Featuring : Put it on Tape: (France) rock: strong early Strokes influences with a dash of Daft Punk syth. Elida: (France) strong late 60s and early 70 rock influence. The Kinks, bit of Bowie. Brooklyn: (France). Wombats : (UK).

27 Oct Best of “Rock made in the UKTalk Taxis: (UK) An affinity for punk beats reminiscent of The Clash but guitar riffs and voalcs tend to recall something of Interpol. This is by far the band to go see when there. Fatels: (UK) Traditional punk with some ska here and there. Cheenah: (UK) Ska.

30 Oct Soirée Indie Rock: Eon Megahertz: (France) Mainly 90s alternative sound, Foo Fighters, Blur etc.

31 Oct Soirée "The Kids Are Freaky": Driving Dead Girl: Great, energetic pure rock band from Belgium. A pint of Leffe to complement that bass drum and you will be pretending to head-bang all night. Add Leffe as needed. Head banging make way for hip-swiveling: 8 of Spades will ensure this continues with punk/rockabilly flavor for the rest of the night.

Les Mains d'Oeuvres (St. Ouen)

Oct. 27 Merz (Gronland / UK), folk rock; + Marissa Nadler; 20h30 • 8 euros
Check out Mains d'Oeuvres site for other indie happenings. They host theatre, art expos,etc.

La Maroquinerie A banner month! Difficult to narrow best picks down to two!

Oct.1 Gallon Drunk (UK); Garagey, Iggy Poppy, with organs. Myspace page.//Demi Dero, Inc. Myspace page.//Silverstation

Oct. 2 Therapy? (UK). Somewhat legendaary alt.metal, melodic, (dare I say?) grungy rockers. Got Street Cred.

Oct. Kwak. The M. site cites their poetic rock qualities (lyrics). But check out their impressive bag of instrumental bric a brac: musical saws, clairinets, guitars, harmonicas, a flute...Sounds quite promising.

Oct. 4-12, 20h. Cali, up close and personal--Cali w/a guitar and a piano. His first solo album was catchy and quite up-tempo, a kind of French version of the Housemartins and Old 97s but stripped down. Recommended.

Oct. 8 Doomfoxx, from Australia. Myspace page. Sounds kind of glammy-garagey, homages to Iggy Pop and the New York Dolls.

Oct. 15 Texas Terri Bomb (LA). Descendants of bands like the Didjits; older and more aggressive than the Donnas. If you want to rock, don't miss this one.

Oct. 17 Saul and Jeronimo

Oct. 18 Minor Majority + OMR

Oct. 19: Inrocks Indie Club II: Forward, Russia! + New Young Pony Club+Fuzz. Okay, if you're making me choose a top pick, here it is

Oct. 20-21 Dko

Oct. 22 Fleshtones + Dollhouse.

Oct. 23 Metal Urbain.

Oct. 24 Below the Sea + Electroluminiscent.

Oct. 25 Percubaba

Oct. 26 Polar

Oct. 27 Shearwater+John Vanderslice+Luke Temp

Oct. 28 Marcos Valle+1eres Parties

La Miroiterie (A squat, art and music space in Menilmontant, 20me)

Oct. 15 The Rodéo + Mischief Brew + Helluvah - La Miroiterie

Nouveau Casino Pick of the Month: Pere Ubu. Don't miss a classic!

Oct. 13 Pere Ubu (US); experimental rock. Founded in 1975, they have “defined the face of music ever since” with their style of midwestern riff rock and syth. They claim to have influenced Joy Division, Pixies, and REM among others.// Frigo (FR); pop electric/experimental rock.

Oct. 16 Elli Medeiros (FR); pop-rock, alternative.

Oct. 17 Sophie Solomon (UK); Eastern European folk, lounge.

Oct. 18 Lazy (FR); Rock. Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down.

Oct. 21 Shora (CH); experimental comme God Speed You Black Emperor.

Oct. 23 Elli Medeiros

Oct. 26 The Spits (US); similar to early Ramones, will be accompanied by Jacklean Kikuko (Japan) and Volt.

Oct. 31 Evergrey (Germany); Rock.

L’Olympic Cafe (18me) Located appropriately in the edgy and mixed Goutte d’Or, this place might be described as offering Indie World Music.

Oct. 19 Les rencontres Afro Punk : "Les larmes de l'éxil, frères et soeurs d'ailleurs" : Afro Punk Mastars (punk rock), Spinter Sister (Country, rock gothique et salace), Capitaine Slam Project (Piano & slam), Wilfried (guitare & chant de l'exil), Novosens (vidéo designer) ; 20h00 - Entrée: 5 €

Oct. 31 The HUB, (NY) power trio mixing jazz, rock and death metal—Ooh, la ! Pluse Franck VIGROUX/Michel BLANC. Entrée: 9 €.

Point Ephemere (19me)

Oct. 15 Rock Noise Lightning Bolt + Sightings + Neptune

Oct. 20 NoiseSoirée Büro Merzbow + Evil Moisture

Coming in November:

Nov. 3 Ambient Rock Animal Collective + Davide Balula + \'skate music mix\' by büro selector: Aï

Nov. 4 Electro Pop:Olamm & friends + The Konki Duet + Hypo Dj / Davide Balula Dj

Nov. 10 “Intelligent Rock” (That’s what their site says): The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden + Permanent Fatal Error

Le Trabendo (19me) Pick of the Month: Jonathan Richman "American proto-punk icon and one of the progenitors of "indie rock."

Oct. 14 19h30 La Fête à Zao.

Oct. 17 : Jonathan Richman: Before Bright Eyes, Jose Gonzales et al. there was Jonathan Richman. He was and still is quirky and smart. Great songwriter. This is the "Old Skool" pick of the month. As Wiki says, "American proto-punk icon and one of the progenitors of "indie rock."

Oct. 18 Baobab (South Africa); Blur, Violent Femmes, Oasis. // Big Youth (Jamaica); reggae. Produced by Keith Hudson, and considered by some to be a prequel to American hip-hop.

Oct. 20 Juliette and the Licks (US) Actress Juliette Lewis’s rock/grunge band from Los Angeles. // Onmyo-za (Japan), hard rock/metal.


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Formerly "Parisnormale: Paris Rocks"