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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Indie Paris in August: Dead Beat?

Paris Dead Beat in August?

Is the non-tourist Paris really a cultural-commercial Phoenix who dies in August, only to rise from its ashes at midnight September 1? Let’s be honest. Many places do shut down for a couple, even three weeks this month. Some lingering residents complain that they travel two or three metro stops away just to find a mediocre boulangerie in service. Is this true also for so-called alt. and/or independent music?

Certainly, many places take a break. The excellent programs of live concerts at Le Nouveau Casino and La Maroquinerie take the entire month off. The Oberkampf bar L’Orange Mecanique where I dj monthly shuts down for the first two weeks of the month. Le Truskel, a major rock haunt that veers towards a younger crowd also takes a repose.

And yet, it would be seriously misleading to resort to the hyperbole that everything stops and one can not find a good concert for indie pop, folk or rock, or jazz during this admittedly more low-geared month.

Even the Nouveau Casino, whose concerts take a three-wehiatus, still cranks out dj-ed dance club evenings. Le Divan du Monde runs at full speed but only half of the week, featuring djs and local indie bands Thursday-Sunday. The mighty La Feline, arguably the best edgy rock bar in the city of lights, has regularly programmed concerts of local garage and experimental rock bands sprinkled into a regular rotation of rock, swing, ska, garage djs on almost every night of the week. The Social Club keeps up the steam during August, giving a steady line-up of mainly djs specializing in cutting edge electro. The spacious Mécanique Ondulatoire in the Bastille area is a slightly more upscale version of La Feline, also with nightly djs, and little known but often quite talented artists that favor the blues, rockabilly, and garage genres. However, it has strictly dj’s from July 30-Aug. 17. In the same throbbing Bastille neighborhood lies Les Disquaires. It’s a new club run by the management of the celebrated old haunt of many indie scenesters, the now extinct 9 Billiards on Rue St. Maur. Djs (including yours truly) rotate there on Monday and Tuesday nights in August and the rest of the year, featuring a potpourri of genres and styles. Les Disquaires is not just for listening, either; it enjoys ample space to conspire with the djs and inject the boogie in your derriere. But the real diamond in the rough of the Parisian alt.music summer is indipustably La Fleche D’Or.

La F’Do’s August program does favor local and national French acts. But make lemonade: it’s as if you get a little festival of the alt.French scene. Witness the lineup on Aug. 21, a recovering garage-punk Parisian’s fantasy bill. The driving garage of tellingly named The Dukes of Killing Death; the freshly bizarre wedding of electro-punk and chanson francaise chez Sandie Trash; the unabashedly retro-punk of Yakusa; and the psychadelic punk of puckish I Am Un Chien.

And yet there are impressive exceptions from the Anglophonia and beyond. On August 22, F’Do features the tonic folk-psychadelia of Argentian artists Los Alamos. On August 8, came the rising international alt-pop stars from Down Under, Sparkadelia, aptly described by NME as “singin’ tales of woe against Phil Spector rhythms, with glossy pop melodies allowing smooth passage.” For me, they’re the sonic top shelf bourbon: a strong drink whose deceptively inoffensive first impression travels down to the gut to build a fire whose flames climb up and singe thy scalp. At the end of the month, the mesmerizing folk-pop of L.A.-based Sirens and Sailors, whose general Ann Hadlock began with an autoharp in London, and then traveled across the Atlantic, acquiring six more comrades in the process, including the talented accordionist Vanessa Gonzales (formerly of folk-punk trailblazers The Starvations).

Of course for those smitten with summer festivalia and who un-snobbisly tolerate the cohabitation of rising indie acts with lowest common denominator pop-rock , you also have Rock-en-Seine on Aug. 20th (a primer), 28th and 29th at Porte de St. Cloud. The lineup on Aug. 20, strangely disconnected by a week from the rest of the festival, serves up Rage Against the Machine. The program on the 28th features R.E.M. and Hot Chip. The 29th features Amy Winehouse among others.

For those who identify with an arguably more artistic culture of rock and overlapping genres, the summer can hardly be characterized as grinding to a halt on August 1, though it does shift tempo and talent in significant albeit refreshing ways.

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Formerly "Parisnormale: Paris Rocks"