Wednesday, June 4, 2008
20 years of the Parisian Rex club
It has been a while since I have blogged, but I have an excuse, I am in Europe at the moment (we are thinking about moving back to Europe, more on that another day).
A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine, Nicolas, wrote saying "if you need an excuse to come to Paris, here it is". The Rex Club, Garnier's residency, is a mainstay of the electronic night in Paris. They have been celebrating the 20 years of the club. The 2 week long line-up is massive, Robotnick, Dubfire, Larry Heard (Chicago) and as a grand finale, and all-nighter with Jeff Mills on Friday and another all-nighter with Garnier on Saturday night.
I am seriously thinking about it. See the advantage of coming from the US for such parties is that when it is 6AM locally and most people start to fade quickly (except a few chemically enhanced souls) it is really 12PM for you, so you look like you are fresh. If someone asks what you are on you can always respond "on jetlag". Very stylish.
So anyway, I decided to fly to Paris and book a 3 nighter and attend both night Mills and Garnier. I make it to Friday night, with a table reserved, excited as a school-girl going to a Hannah Montana concert. With me was of course Nicolas, and a friend of his, but also Mark Spencer and a friend of his, Skylar. Yep, I am talking about that Mark Spencer, who had left his native Alabama, the guns, the farm and the ATV behind, happened to be in Paris on business, and was keyed up for one of the most avant-garde electro-nights in good old Europe. Turns out, Mark is quite the franco-phile and the electro-phile (yes that is him in the picture above, I swear!)...
So we make it to the club, we wait in a long line. In talking to people in the line they have come from all over the continent for the Jeff Mills night. The Rex is a relatively small club (kind of like the Wetbar in ATL for the cognoscienti) but with a killer sound system. They have redone the sound-system with directional speakers and the resulting sound is crystal clear, almost too loud (I use wet paper in my ears to get -20db but keep the range) and is almost as good as the Space in Miami. Crystal clear minimal cuts the air.
Of course, neither Mark nor Skylar know who Jeff Mills is. We all do. Jeff Mills is a legend in EU. One of the techno pionners from Detroit. The man is 46, doesn't look one year above 28, is skinny as hell and behaves like a lanky alien in the DJ booth. (see picture)
Jeff is playing for 8 hours straight. He starts with Disco and Funk, old Techno (Big fun... see Techno-Fetichisme 5 for the reference). Only in Paris do I get to hear UN-ABASHED disco, stuff straight out of the 80's, the US has gotten so washed out in Trance, something like that would never fly. Here it feels almost natural, Nicolas is lapping it up, so am I. Just before the disco gets old, the man goes to house, playing the seminal "gotta have house", the mixing is fresh, the tracks, while old, still sound really good.
The night is real fun. Mark and his friend seem to really enjoy the night. Mark drinks like a fish. He holds his liquor, at some point I was scared of the amount of Vodka he was drinking but he just plows on. Nicolas looks at me and just says "your friend is getting drunk". I explain to Nicolas just what KIND of geek Mark is, and I know for a fact that Mark can hold his alcohol. On the other hand Nicolas seems to be fading fast and he is way past drunk (he got up at 6AM in his defense). That is one reason I stay away from alcohol at night, not good if you want to last. By 3:30AM Mark leaves. Skylar wants to stay but Mark reminds him they have business meetings to attend to on the morning (a Saturday no less). I realize I have lost Nicolas, he has gone home.
At around 4:15AM Jeff Mills goes Techno. In good Detroit tradition, this is Techno with Soul, hard beats with great melody. I truly relish the hour that follows. I find myself thinking while dancing that I haven't enjoyed a session this much in a long time. I love the tracks, stuff I know, stuff I don't know, stuff I wish I knew. I do enter the "zone" where I don't care about anything or anybody, just enjoying the music. A guy in front of me is wearing a t-shirt that makes me smile "good music, I dance, no good music, I no dance".
At around 5:30 Jeff Mills takes a dive and goes all abstract and minimal on me. He bows to the nihilist gods of abstract dark techno. The sound system makes it somewhat enjoyable, but frankly by that time, that's it for me. I just don't enjoy head pounding minimal. Plus I am sweaty, tired, drenched after 3 good hours of dance and I figure, if I want to make it again to Garnier I better call it a night.
I get out at about 5:40, the sun is up, I decide to walk back to my hotel due west and head in the wrong direction given by a guy that was obviously completely drunk (that will teach me). When I find myself deep in the 9th district, with a drug dealers around me, I realize the Sun is dead ahead of me... I think I must be going East. I need to find my way back and a random walk through the dangerous parts of Paris is not going to cut it. I get in a cab. The driver is a Rasta guy. The cab smells strongly of ganja. I notice a few roaches of the moroccan hash variety in a glass cup he has by him. The guy is listening to some french easy listening music. It frankly sucks. I wonder how the hell he is going to drive this thing back to my hotel, high as he is. He is doing something with his hands. I ask "you rolling a joint?", he replies "nope, counting my money", "even better" I reply.
The brother takes me back to the Concorde Lafayette without a hitch, like he is on auto-pilot, except he gets stuck right in front of the hotel by a barrier and it takes him a good 30 seconds to wake up and say "oh merde, I need to go to the right", which he eventually manages. I tip him very generously.
I get back to my room, stare out at the Parisian morning, God, I miss Paris! I finally find some shut-eye around noon. Never made it to the second night.
What a great night!