Are you familiar with sharing?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about customer experiences.

We’re kicking off our U.S. Now / Next / Why swing on Wednesday in NYC (followed by May 16 in Chicago and June 11 in San Francisco) and the event is all around the idea of “obsessing experience.” And there’s a ton of stuff to talk about around your typical Brand Experiences, but I wanted to isolate one specific instance that might not feel immediately relevant but is.

My wife, Juno, is passionate about food. You could say she obsesses the experience. Whether it’s going out to try new restaurants, reading about chefs and cooking, organizing an intricate weekly meal plan and now writing about food and nutrition full time, Juno’s got it covered.

One of our running chuckles is around an entirely condescending phrase we’re becoming accustomed to hearing in variation, when we eat out:

“Are you familiar with the concept of sharing?”

Forget about the fact that we all learned to share at age four. When a server asks this, it’s a snapping flag to me that we’re in for a less-than-perfect experience. Because it validates something very important in the restaurant power dynamic: that the kitchen rules.

It doesn’t matter if we’re eating together, and each of us order one thing that we want to eat exclusively: the food comes when it’s ready. And Juno’s even experienced instances where her dining companion has finished her meal before Juno’s even arrives. It’s becoming commonplace to put the food before the people.

To me, this is emblematic of the celebrity-chef-obsessed, ego-driven foodie culture that’s bred a new generation of restauranteurs. Many careers have been launched and pockets have been lined by the idea of the kitchen as altar.

But it annoys me, needless to say, and I wanted to pass along an attitude that’s the antidote, one I hope more restaurants will adopt, and one that might be relevant to how you view edge cases, or needy customers, in your work, whomever your literal or metaphorical customer might be.

Brooks Headley is the executive pastry chef at Del Posto, a fine dining restaurant in New York.

He’s a fun writer, too—loose and confident. And in February Bon Appetit ran a column by Headley in which he wrote about accommodating people with allergies.

Our mission is to make people happy—think of us as your surrogate grandmas for the next few hours. I want you to come in to Del Posto and have the grandest, amazing-est time of your life, shooting the breeze with your date, the mom, that boss you’re trying to impress, swirling the wine in your oversize goblet, utilizing your purse stool. And if you’ve got some dietary issues you wanna toss my way? Bring ’em on!

 

It’s a great little essay, and an even better attitude. You can say what you want about the identity politics of food, which tires me to no end. But this isn’t about identity—it’s about humility and service.

And the reader responses agree:

It is a sigh of relief to read of a mindful, creative, and enthusiastic approach to what can be a stress laden experience for the food allergic diner.

What a treasure the patrons of Del Posto must experience, knowing that they are safe and also no burden at all.

I’ve been following Brooks’ career for a while. He was the drummer of two of the best American hardcore bands ever, Universal Order of Armageddon and Born Against. And it’s no surprise that he’s got the sort of level head around making diners feel cared for and safe—that’s not far cry from the life of an independent underground musician. Community. Hospitality. Giving all your energy away to those your performing for.

I know this small strike against the haute pretension of the chef-as-universe’s-epicenter won’t change any “concept of sharing” irritation.

But it will help me line up my values with those of the restaurants that do–and don’t—behave like Brooks.

 

Writing elsewhere: Nicolas Jaar in Flaunt

flaunt-jaar-parish

Wow, a celebrity profile!

Pick up this summer’s Flaunt, the Context issue, to read a piece I wrote on Nicolas Jaar, one of the more interesting figures in dance music today. I tried to give a sense of the big ideas Jaar’s grappling with, and his perspective as an artist.

To get a sense of how that’s coming through in the music he’s making, check out his page on SoundCloud. The second issuance from his DARKSIDE project is out now, so you can give that a listen, too. That’s probably my favorite work of his.

Tetsuharu Kubota shot him quite well, I think. Apparently it was a cover story, but one of four. The cover of the copy I got has Beyonce. And includes a poster! Fancy.

Expiration Dates for Creative Companies



A few weeks ago, my favorite music act abruptly broke up. But it wasn’t the standard faff from a band that’s released a bunch of albums and toured forever, ‘we’re having artistic difficulties’, the cover for a junkie drummer or clashing egos. The group was cautious and enigmatic in the first place, and its decision to quit further cemented the realization no one would ever know the full story. The group is called Sandwell District, and it makes deep, dark, often abrasive hypnotic techno dance music, the sort of stuff that begins going through your head after your third day trapped in a well, I’d imagine, or when you’ve spent too much time on a tilt-a-whirl. Some of us, due to genetic programming or maybe many hours of social conditioning in dark rooms listening to loud music, think better with this sort of stuff pumping. I’m one of them. And Sandwell was certainly, to me, the most expressive and aesthetic-oriented group I’ve seen in dance music in some time. It had a formed artistic ethos much like Detroit collectives Underground Resistance or groups like Drexcyia, far from the personality-driven side of the dance music world. In short, Sandwell innovated, and will, in some form or another, continue, apart or together, to make amazing, provocative music. This essay isn’t about Sandwell District, though if you want to find out more about it, its Tumblr is a good place to start , as is this piece from The Wire.

New Values
Beginning the 31st of December 2011, regular audio communication from Sandwell District will cease. All vinyl artifacts have been decommissioned. There is a possiblity of future, albeit irregular, print communications with audio accompaniment. However, details — and indeed content — is uncertain at this moment in time. The Sandwell experiment will exist through live actions — which will continue to expand into new sonic territory — in addition to audio / print installations as previously witnessed in New York, Los Angeles, Gdansk, Bialystok, Berlin and London.

Stasis is death.
See you on the other side.

So, you say, they’re breaking up, but they’re not stopping playing shows, and doing other ‘print communications with audio accompaniment’ — so what’s the big deal?

Well, I know we haven’t seen the last of Sandwell.

But what if we built our creative businesses, our design studios, our content companies, our  journalist’s collectives, with a set of time-based values?

What if businesses had an expiration date?

Obviously, this repels much of the capitalist ideal. Once the company reaches its peak, then is the time when it’s ripest for squeezing, a milking of profits that can continue, managed well, for some years.

If the participants were to agree to pack it in, and go their separate ways, after, say, three years, it would give no hope for investment, no hope for mechanisms of control that come with outside funding.

The best potential test case for this is a small design studio, with 3-5 partners. It is stated at the outset that this is a transient endeavor, meant to last three years, then everyone is released, the property liquidated, business cards tossed into the trash, web presence turned off.

Needless to say, it wouldn’t work as well with businesses based on making artisanal salami or high-grade thermocouples.

In the Wire story, one member of Sandwell, Karl O’Connor, says, ‘As we everything I have been involved with, it’s about creating situations – some you go with, an dsome you abort. We hate this whole ’20 years of so-and-so label’ or ’40 years of that label’. We know when things need to be killed or moved on.’

The ‘we know’ comes with a feeling of creative completeness, but a stated end point would set that feeling in stone, and force an arc higher and brighter than otherwise.

I often am able to connect the dots between people who have bonds to specific companies at specific periods, that is, they all worked at Company X during its heyday, and they all went on to places or things much more interesting than you would expect, given their relative lack of experience prior to Company X. There are a lot of factors at play here, like where Company X was in its life cycle already, or where the winds of novelty were blowing in its industry at the time, or the sort of work they were able to do  while together. But I believe companies with a stated half-life and a strong mission at the outset will create cadres of exceptional people.

Dust in the Wind: A Playlist

Reading Sam McPheeters’ ode to the cripplingly depressing ‘Dust in the Wind’ by Kansas I was reminded of the list he mentions near the end of the article, a do-not-playlist compiled by the management of Clear Channel, which owns over a thousand radio stations reaching over a hundred million Americans, in the days after 9/11. It was a sly bit of corporate self-censorship of songs that might push the nation over the brink.

There are a lot of different kinds of music on the list, but it’s all affecting. Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ joins the entire Rage Against the Machine catalog, and USMC favorite ‘Bodies’ by Drowning Pool sits on equal footing with Nena’s ’99 Luftballons’.

The songs declared forbidden by the bigwigs at Clear Channel, deemed unfit for consumption, define an emotional range that completely saturated everything after the attacks. It was chaotic and sloppy and raw, and seemed to fill every place you could fit an interpretation. A story from The New York Times published September 19th says the list’s “intended aim is to ensure national mental health, though First Amendment supporters may point to it as the first shadowy blacklist in what President Bush says will be a war against terrorism.”

I arrived in New York City, pulling a U-Haul onto Lorillard Place in the Bronx, four weeks before September 11. Afterwards, I spent the next three months in a big, new place wandering in a strange trance. Our landlord, who was in the Coast Guard, was never around, and the house quickly turned into a haven for our confused weirdo friends to pad about like mental patients as we all tried to get our heads back together.

I’d like to think that if we had Spotify, and the ability to have access to a playlist containing the most-affecting songs from the last century of American popular music, it might have been a bit easier to snap out of it. Instead we listened to a lot of Can and G.G. Allin, which may have worked just as well.

At any rate, here’s that Spotify playlist. Enjoy the songs of sorrow and elation.

Clear Channel’s 9/11 ‘Lyrically Questionable” songs by Nick Parish

RIP Dan Sicko: A True Techno Rebel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m incredibly saddened to learn Dan Sicko, husband, father and author of the hugely influential history/hagiography of electronic dance music Techno Rebels passed away today after fighting the vicious cancer ocular melanoma.

You can read more about Dan’s medical struggle here: http://mattsicko.blogspot.com/

Many people who knew Dan, either through his work in music or the online advertising world, only found out he was sick very recently; he faced his illness bravely, without making a public fuss about it.

Admirably, many who have had their lives touched by Dan’s work and spirit have joined together to stand by his wife Amy and daughter Anabel and help defray costs of his hospice care and other outstanding medical expenses.

You can donate to help the Sicko family here: http://www.gofundme.com/DanSicko

Dan’s book that remains, for me, the defining work on electronic music in America, and getting to know him better revealed a patient and caring guy.

I met Dan several times after coming into contact with his work very early in my career as a journalist, listening on the 313 list and trying to soak up every slice of information I could about electronic music.

When I was in town every year for DEMF, I’d get in touch with Dan and try to rendezvous and chat about music. Every time, he wasn’t the slightest bit irritated a fan would try and track him down and seek his thoughts and opinions on what was important or interesting to him.

It was only later that I learned Dan was working at Organic, coincidentally also involved in the wooly world of digital advertising. Dan’s name inevitably brought out good cheer in people who’d worked alongside him, which wasn’t surprising at all.

I last saw Dan in May, when he was hanging out in the Ghostly International tent at the festival, signing copies of the new, expanded edition of Techno Rebels. I joked I’d take a few, because, like most of my favorites they have a habit of getting pressed into friends arms with “you have to read this!” and not returning.

If you haven’t read it, it’s a must for any serious music fan. Purchase the new edition here.

Please consider helping Dan’s family; here’s the link again.

Consider how deep the void he left behind, yet how wide he spread electronic music’s message.


Steve Goodman aka Kode9 on Sonic Warfare: Well Weapon

goodman_sonic_talk

With a flyer boasting quotes from both J.G. Ballard and Colonel Kilgore of Apocalypse Now, by the time my chum Luis and I arrived at NYU a few weeks back for a special lecture we knew we’d be in for an interesting discussion.

Steve Goodman, aka Kode9, dubstep producer and owner/chief curator of the massively great Hyperdub record label, was talking about his new book Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. (MIT Press)

Introduced as a “rogue academic” and member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, it wasn’t immediately clear if the talk was going to be highly abstract or grounded, but it turned out the latter–lucid, well researched and informative. Here are some notes.
Continue reading “Steve Goodman aka Kode9 on Sonic Warfare: Well Weapon”

McPheeters & Miscellany

photos by Billy Whitfield
photos by Billy Whitfield

It’s always interesting when punks get old. That’s why my emphatic finger-point this week is towards a story in Vice by former Born Against frontman Sam McPheeters. McPheeters ventures into one of the Midwest’s  strangest regions, the wealthy suburbs of Michigan’s capital, Lansing, to profile Doc Dart, former frontman for hardcore group Crucifucks. Dart, who calls himself “26,” appears to be suffering from several forms of mental illness, and has become a suburban pariah in the Mason-Okemos area.

Continue reading “McPheeters & Miscellany”

Total 9, Wish I Was There

There’s only one place I’d rather be in a few hours, and that’s good old Köln for the Total 9 party. The compilation itself comes out next week, and buying it is the smart thing to do. It’s very, very good.

My good pal Jimmy told me a fun Total story from a few years ago, when his friend ran up to Wolfgang Voigt, maybe a bit intoxicated, and surely in awe of the whole affair, and told him “Wolfgang, you’re my hero.”

Wolfgang gave him a smile and calmly said “When we make a party, we are all heroes.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Radiohead, but with lasers.

Oh, you know, just another day at the office writing about Radiohead, lasers, and the folks that love them. Last week I talked with James Frost, the director of Radiohead’s new “House of Cards” video. I’m seeing the group play for the first time at All Points West next month; I’ll report back if the stuff from the video is used at all in the live show. It’d be a bit of a shame if it wasn’t; this look is too closely connected to this song to be utilized in a fresh way anywhere else. So Radiohead might as well keep trotting it out with “House of Cards” when they play it live. Come to think of it, as amazing as applying this technology to film the crowd and band during a live performance would be, it’d probably be impossible to render the data in time to produce anything but the crudest preview. But I’m sure you stopped at the link to read Frost say that in our talk and have already ruled out that possibility.

Good thing, too, as who knows whether that LIDAR stuff might cause some impromptu LASIK for audience members, like these dodgy Russian rave lasers.

Speaking of Speaking in Code

Have you ever imagined someone would take the very thing youíre most interested in, travel far and wide in search of concrete answers, chronicling the persons and places they encounter, and present it all back to you in the form of a documentary film? Well, thatís precisely how I feel about Speaking in Code, a film currently in editing stages, conceptualized, executed and lovingly nurtured chiefly by the wonderful duo behind Boston’s sQuare Productions.

Iíve been lucky enough to watch director/producer Amy Lee Grill and her husband, co-producer David Day in action, early this year as they shot footage in Miami and later in Barcelona, interviewing the principals of the independent dance music massive, capturing moments in musical togetherness while showing subjects both profound and simple. Amy recently took the time to flesh out a few of my questions about the project after the crewís most recent trip to Europe. Check out the trailer before you read on.

They still need bucks to finish this thing, as youíd imagine homegrown independent film goes. So if youíve always wanted to be a movie mogul, hereís your chance. A fifty-dollar contribution will go toward any manner of sQuareís mounting expenses, and land you a special thanks in the credits. Head over thattaway for details. East Coasters keep an eye peeled for the next benefit, coming later this month.


When you say Speaking In Code isn’t about the music, what do you mean?

ALG: Well first and foremost Speaking In Code is a film about interesting people. Certainly the music is the binding force and colorful backdrop to the film, but we aren’t focusing or delving into the details, specific sound quality, influences, process and history of a genre beyond info that is delivered in a way that serves character development and basic context. We are much more interested in painting the underground electronic music scene with some broad strokes and then getting more in-depth with particular character and label stories to get a sense of place and people. We want to invite the viewer into this world and get to know, love (or whatever) and feel for the DJs, journalists and promoters. We want the viewer to care about what happens next for Modeselektor or Philip Sherburne or Robag Wruhme because they’ve all experienced life changing events over the last year – and the viewer will experience it with them – through tears, goofy antics, fear, excitement and vulnerable moments.

There is a historical element to the film but it has more to do with actual history and how it affected the indie electronic scene and its ability to survive and/or thrive as a subculture…the effects of the Berlin wall coming down, the dot com boom bust and now this uber digital age we live in. All this told of course though the people who lived it and felt changed or moved by these historical events because it changed their lives in relation to their music scene.

What has the reaction been from the artists when they realize the aim of the project?

ALG: Well during the first six months of production, although I hoped the film would develop into a strong character piece, I did not explicitly explain that we hoped the film would be more about people than the music since I was still camera testing several people and didn’t want to make them nervous or feel weird.

Now that we’ve narrowed it down to a core cast of characters that we’ve built trusting relationships with, I am and have been even more open about the themes and aims of the film with the people who we’ve chosen as main characters. The characters after all are absolutely collaborators in the project and we need them to buy into the character focus in order for it to work.

All of the main characters are 100 percent supportive and are very intrigued and as far as I can tell they find this project to be an unexpected but welcome surprise. Many of them are media savvy (but not jaded and complacent) and certainly appreciate art film and real documentary film. The more we work with them, the more they understand that we are making a real film, not genre, DJ worship trash, boring insider information or surfacey-banal ‘cultural’ observations that amount to showing people fucked up on e talking about unity and the evolution of humanity. That shit makes me want to vomit.

Amy talks about the project’s status and some surprises after the break.
Continue readingSpeaking of Speaking in Code

Navel Gazing and other Humid Pursuits

Self reference time! Post-Euroswing I’ve had to relearn the most basic human motor functions, including complex cognition and not expecting chilled bottles of champagne lurking at every turn and beaches packed with delirious hedonism. Unravelling? No, I’ve tied up several loose ends in recent weeks in several strange twists of fate.

The first came in Cannes, a few days after I left the techno madness of Barcelona behind. I was dining at a quaint Italian restaurant called Arcimboldo when I noticed a guy at the table next to me was wearing a M.A.N.D.Y. T-shirt. I had to mention something, and when I did he introduced himself as Peter Hayo, a founding member of Get Physical and producer of many fine dance records. He was in town as part of his other concern, Perky Park, a company that does music production for commercials and otherwise. His two co-conspirators, Walter Merziger, Arno Kammermeier are also known as Booka Shade. So, naturally, I asked him about a rumor I’d heard, that they produced Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” The rumor delighted me–that the popularity of a silly Danish pop song I’d found so much delight in could have been been responsible for the genesis of one of the biggest forces in contemporary dance music would have been an utterly fun piece of cosmic coincidence. Alas, not so, entirely. Hayo and chums just remixed the track for Universal Music, and, as you know, it spent a significant amount of time on the charts, and, subsequently, fattened the Perky Park synth fund.

The second weird, ‘What the?’ techno moment came after I returned, and got a tip from a diligent German about the closeness between the group awarded the Titanium Lion at Cannes and work done by pfadfinderei, Bpitch’s design gurus. Turns out, shaping barcodes to make them look cool while still functioning is a pretty routine concept in graphic design. So kids, don’t believe everything the awards shows tell you.

Also worth noting, on recommendation from this man I picked up some Hans Fallada, which, some months and many pleasurable pages later, turned out to be appropriate here:

Hans Fallada wrote The Drinker over two weeks in 1944, while residing in a a criminal asylum near AltStrelitz, Germany. He was confined there for the attempted murder of his wife. Given these inauspicious beginnings, the book has been especially troublesome for critics. It’s disingenous, however, to look at The Drinker as anything but the personal reflection of an author torn asunder by a turbulent society in collapse.The novel begins as narrator Erwin Sommer’s successful grocery concern teeters on the brink of collapse. With sparse language, the book composes an intimate psychological profile of an obsessive who would fling everything to the wind sooner than ask for assistance. He empties his savings and steals his wife’s silver — anything for another moment with his muse, Elinor, a village barmaid he fixates upon during his initial jag and who becomes his queen of schnapps, ruler of a woozy and throbbing world.

All his life, Fallada — a pseudonym chosen by Rudolf Ditzen — has inflicted tortures upon himself and others. During a melancholy childhood, he killed a chum when a suicide pact disguised as a duel went awry. Ditzen later grew into morphine addiction, alcoholism, and a carton-a-day smoking habit, with eventual trips in and out of institutions and prisons. Astonishingly, Ditzen found time to write nearly two dozen books during his dissolute life, very few of which are available in English. While Little Man, What Now? is justly famous for its excavation of pre-War German consciousness, The Drinker is an equally profound exploration of the author’s own demons of substance abuse.

While the book’s spare tone, lack of flashy language, and stark portrayal of German society are all signature marks of Ditzen, The Drinker more closely resembles Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. The novel is clearly founded in life experience, yet its narrative flights of fancy cultivate readers who place confidence in the narrator’s inner turmoil, but remain wary of the details.
– Nick Parish

Vivan los chiringuitos

In Barcelona, the days begin and end as you will them. If you want to stay up for a few cycles of sun and moon, well, the city is with you. For the most part, it accommodates. Rather than test its patience in a string of consecutive time warps, Sunday I relaxed on the beach with a few hundred beautiful, friendly people and the gentlemen from Kompakt records. The event was in support of c/o pop, a yearly music festival in Cologne replacing Popcomm, held at a chiringuito one beach east of Friday’s scene. For a moment, let me reiterate my praises of these magical places. There are parties from 4-1 a.m., on the beach, with dozens of similar places on down the line. Next door yesterday was Get Physical’s bash. Next came Minus. Did I mention there are no cops, traces of bad attitude or norms of dress or consumption? To be honest, if the vibe was the same and Jimmy Buffet was on the stereo it would still have been fun–Kompakt’s touch made it magical.

I arrived as Michael Mayer as playing a light, sunny afternoon mix, nothing nutso or too pounding, beach music. He was waiting for DJ Koze, known to some as International Pony or Monaco Schranze, working now as Adolf Noise. Germany’s most popular DJ belted out a set that began hard and ended with what sounded like Glen Campbell, a cheeky choice but exactly what the crowd was looking for.

Next was Tobias Thomas, tidying things up a bit with humpbacked bangers. Some other day I would have watched Tobias Thomas jubilantly snapping photos of the crowd and pondered how these digital media have impacted the way we look at important events–are we any longer subject to only our own memory? No; by seeing Thomas with a radiant smile capturing what, for him, was a fantastic thing to remember, his became part of mine. But thatís neither here nor there, as it was time for Mayer’s finale.

Mayer back and forth, from the past to the present, pointing to roadside diners where the ghosts of house and electro and rave wait for the dusty traveler with sand in his rolled up jean cuffs. Wolfgang Voigt looked on in approval, and Richie Hawtin and Ricardo Villalobos sauntered in from their game of techno paddleball. Elephants trumpeted, monkeys chattered, ‘Safari’ played its course and the evening concluded.

Earlier, as Thomas played Ada’s cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ ‘Maps,’ I realized I was off to Cannes, where last year the YYYs picked up an award for their song in adidas’ “Hello Tomorrow,” inspiring another song, ‘Gold Lion.’ Funny, I’m zooming across the French countryside now, how’s that for a transition?

Rich y Ricardo

This time we can start with the easy part–the daytime. I slept through most of it, then sat on the beach and ate a huge plate of tiny broiled squids.

Nighttime gets a little bit more complicated. Here’s some background. Sonar By Night takes place about a 15 minute bus ride away from the center of town, around a mountain that has a cemetery built into the side. The venue resembles a large convention center in the middle of an industrial park. The venue itself is massive–about 10,000 squared meters, they say, and that means four giant hangar-type spaces to cram people. Two are essentially that; traditional hangars, while two are longer and thinner and have no roof. After steaming at Nitsa the breeze was a welcome ally.

So, you get bussed out to the spot and after that what you get up to is anyone’s guess. But it probably involves freaky music, dancing and intoxication. There’s plenty of open space, enough to play tag, do a conga line or just writhe around on the floor (yes, I saw all of those things happen.) The first folks I got a chance to see were the Pigna People, of the label with the same name. I was very impressed with one of their members, Raiders of the Lost Arp, several years ago, so I was looking forward to seeing what he sounded like with a few co-conspirators. They delivered the shimmering Italo-house I was missing. The MFA played live next in the Sonar Club. Some hits came out– “Disco 2 Break” to mention just one. I was a little surprised the Spaniards were getting into that atmospheric stuff, but Miss Kitten playing next may have helped. She’s huge here. Next came an unenthusiastic Matthew Dear as Audion. It may be me, but the last few times I’ve seen him he’s seemed pretty detached. The “Take Me Home, Country Roads” award goes to Diplo and A-Trak, who got into the usual mashiness and scribbling. Diplo dropped TI’s “What You Know,” and that was enough to inject a little bit of gangsta in my evening. Ryan Elliot dropped Aaron Carl’s “Down,” also covered by Aguayo the night before, making it the ersatz song of the festival. I’d figured on “Rej” by Ame (caned by Hawtin later on) or “Falling Up” (which I hear has been saturating Berlin).

Big stars of the night, though, were Hawtin and Villalobos. They went on at around 4:45 and played until 7:15. I’d seen Hawtin a few weeks before at DEMF and was nonplussed, but the Chilean injects a certain funkiness that seals the tasty package and wraps it in a bow of jamon Iberico. Towards the end Hawtin bounced around pleading for one more record, some nuts climbed a light tower and it got brighter and brighter as things wrapped up.

Getting back to Barcelona proper was a bit of an adventure. Imagine thousands of f-ed up kids trying to get onto five busses (only five because one cannot come until one is loaded and leaves). Things would have gone smoothly if the busses were free, but they weren’t. So you can imagine the nonsense. I wasn’t too concerned though, so I watched the human zoo.

Viene la locura!

It is with a heavy heart that I convey to you this terrible bit of news: Sonar has been cancelled and everyone has gone home.

Ah! Dear reader, I joke. Please be kind and let the clumsy japes of your humble narrator slide.

After lunch at a fantastic joint here called A Contraluz (On the suggestion of my companions I had a deluxe breakfast; potato, egg, cheese and Mallorcan sausage all layered and shaped into a patty. Very filling, very, as they’d say here, comida tipica.) I met with compatriots at Bpitch and Border Community’s beach party. Imagine a tiki bar with seating for about thirty with a DJ booth, two bars and, maximum, 40 feet by 40 feet of a footprint on the beach. Now imagine 150 or 200 people dancing in the sand (they point the speakers toward the sea.) Pristine like whoa. Did I mention there was music? James Holden and Petter tag-teamed, and Kiki and Ellen Allien played sets. Ellen as on as ever. She’s a remarkably consistent performer; I probably have seen her six times in the last year, and each time she’s been great or great plus.

When this wound down around midnight we headed for Nitsa, one of more established Barca venues, for a night billed as Kompakt vs. Freud am Tanzen. When we arrived Superpitcher was in the main room and, like a flash, the club filled up. I think the Spanish have a system whereupon all of them show up at exactly the same moment. Luckily everyone arrived to catch Matias Aguayo, who completely destroyed my preconceptions of what his music would sound like interpreted live. Aguayo used multiple percussion pieces, slide whistles cranked into bird chirps and purrs, all sorts of methods to highlight his slithering voice. For a few songs (including a cover of Aaron Carl’s “Down” (remember that one?) his voice was pitched down to a deep gulp. He sampled, looped and toyed with his vocals live, much like Jamie Lidell. Good stuff.

Nitsa was once a theater, so Kompakt was set up at the main stage and FAT played downstairs. One half of the wigged out Wighnomy Bros. appeared as if from thin air and proceeded to break up the party like a drunk uncle, toying with jagged R&B samples and scratchy interludes only to throw things back into groove mode at the slightest inclination. And he was pirouetting.

After Monkey Maffia some nutters from Leipzig called Krause Duo played. They began their set with heavy rave breaks and wound up settling into a nice groove. A German kid who throws parties in Leipzig said they regularly play 12-hour sets. Not sure if I could tolerate that, but they were refreshing.

By this time it was nearly five, and Michael Mayer took over upstairs. He only played for fifteen minutes before the house lights came up, but continued in encore after encore until half past five or so. The crowd was going absolutely bonkers, total pawns in the masterful game he seems to play, dialing up the intensity at will, like a yo yo master who rocks the cradle then spins the toy around in a violent arc. The club scene was a mess–people were climbing over everything, someone had pulled down a ‘salida de emergencia’ sign and was dancing with it, there was broken glass everywhere–but everyone was enormously friendly. Don’t worry, darlings–you all have European doppelgangers who are getting into the festivities.

Here are some lo-fi vids. Besos from Barca!

BarcaNova

The festival madness continues, dear reader, and courtesy of a fine WiFi connection at my Barceloneta lodgings, I’m going to try to give updates over the next few days. I’m here ostensibly for Sonar, a bit of relaxatation before the ad madness in Cannes, so might as well drop some insight in for y’all at home.

Sonar is in its thirteenth year, and by now it has become a city-wide occurrence. So much so, in fact, that the off-site offerings are tantamount to the booked artists, and as taste may have it, I’m looking much more forward to the offerings around town than at the actual festival itself.

The daytime component is held in the MACBA, a contemporary art museum near Barcelona’s center. Yearly it’s repurposed with several stages, multimedia art components and all the usual festival trappings. The evening component is a little further afield, but I haven’t had a chance to check that out yet.

The Knife were a late entry to the festival lineup, and the last-minute nature probably caused the grief surrounding their performance yesterday. They were in the Escenario Hall, an underground theater area at the main Sonar complex. They stood out as one of the stronger artists on the bill, and twice as many fans wanted to see them as could fit in the hall. The result? A courtyard full of folks following along on a video screen, reticent to clap at a performance taking place two stories below them. I too was trapped aboveground, trying to choose between paying attention to the set (mostly stuff from Silent Shout with a tweaked version of Heartbeats thrown in) and waiting in a mass of people hoping to be let down. Groups were allowed down every twenty or so minutes, so about 45 minutes into their performance (they were billed as 5-7 p.m.) I decided to wait. Well, as you’d imagine, when our group got through around 6, the performance was ending.

Later I made my way to the Mobilee records showcase, at Raum. They’ve been on my radar for a few months as one of the tribes making delightful techno out of Berlin, and last night was a confirmation etched in stone. First artist I caught in the Raum basement was Sebo K, who played a clean, divergent set of minimal techno, perfect primer for Excercise One on a live rig, blasting out deep bass and twerked, busy techno. Following the duo, Anja Schneider tore it up. Neu rave loudness, with patches of atmosphere and big, nasty basslines. I really dug her style, physical performance-wise–she’d throw records onto the decks with a sort of semi disgust, leaving them to wobble around off the stem for a minute while she jammed to what was coming out the other table. Travel caught up and I had to split before Patrick Chardronnet, playing live, got into it.

Today I’m off to venerable Barcelona institution S,C,P,F and then it looks like an afternoon at the beach, despite the show that just cleared the sand (yes, I’m looking at the beach between sentences…and it looks glorious.). BPitch Control is throwing a seaside do, and later on it’s Kompakt vs. Freude Am Tanzen in what looks to be an epic evening at Nitsa. I’m excited to see the Wighnomy Brothers for the first time. Check out the calendar here, dear friend, and send me a note about what you think’ll be good. Photos (and maybe a vid or two) tomorrow.