Saturday, June 6, 2009

Deerhoof V's Dan Deacon @ Villette Sonique

Villette Sonique 2009

We were out of Paris on another side trip to the UK for a few days and as a consequence missed most of the Villette Sonique festival, but we were back in Paris in time to catch the last day and to attended a couple of the sets of free music in the park.

Deerhoof @ Villette Sonique

We arrived on a warm spring afternoon to the guitar groove of Deerhoof skimming across the waters of Canal de l’Ourcq as we walked along the path between the canal and the Parc de la Villette.

It was a fun and uptempo set from Deerhoof which greeted us, but sadly it was also a very short performance, not helped by our long walk from the centre of the city following Canal St Martin up to Parc de la Villette on the outskirts of the north-east arrondissements of Paris. But we only missed the first 10 or 15 minutes of their set and it still seemed rather short. There was also a very large crowd, perhaps larger than expected? The PA was rattling as it tried to project the sound of Deerhoof across the audience and into the park below and behind us.

Deerhoof @ Villette Sonique

The spaces within Parc de la Villette were full of groups of friends and families enjoying the lovely warm day and listening to the sounds emanating from the various corners of the park. As I watched Deerhoof I could see a small group of men practicing martial arts on a park below, another couple were playing badminton, two children were playing soccer, numerous groups were stretched out on the grass (away from the performance but still within earshot) enjoying their food and drinks … it was all very nice.

As were Deerhoof. They did their best to advise the local punters, in French, when and where their next gig in France would be and they played a well received set with a couple of encores requested. They even played a cover version of Canned Heat's "Going Up The Country" which was a fun treat.

Dan Deacon was in many ways the opposite of this experience. The band were still setting up and doing their sound check, on a separate stage to Deerhoof, even after Deerhoof had played several encores and the audience had made the five or so minute walk between the two stages. I even had time to queue for a beer, and the queues were long and slow, although much better than the 30-40 minutes (literally) it took to buy a beer at the Jesus Lizard gig.

Dan Deacon demands a sacrifice @ Villette Sonique

When the Dan Deacon ensemble sound check was finally completed, and we had made it closer to the stage, there were still long and specific requirements from Dan Deacon … all spoken unapologetically in English … for the audience to:-
i. all raise their hands
ii. all walk towards the tallest person in the audience
iii. all place their hands on the head of the person in front of them
iv. all turn to face the stage and walk towards it
v. all do something else very specific which had nothing to do with the band playing any music.

This was before they had even played their first song proper. It was a bit like being in kindergarten.

We were eventually treated to a very small number of quite fun tunes when all too soon it was time for Dan Deacon to get the audience (again, all in English, he even made a joke about the inabilities of Americans to converse in any language other than English) to:-
i. form a circle
ii. step back 5 steps to make the space within the circle bigger
iii. now step back 3 more steps to make it bigger still
iv. he chose two audience members
v. who were required to name their “dance team”

Finally the band started up again, and again it was a collection of fun, uptempo and dance based tunes which Elizabeth and I and the audience around us all enjoyed thoroughly.

Villette Sonique

Dan Deacon has a table full of some very cool toys and he seems to have fun playing with them. He is constantly manipulating his voice with some sort of vocoder, has a theremin-esque effect which squeaks and squeals, a number of delay and chorus effects … all very cool. He also has a huge band, who also seem to have a fun time. Plus there are two drummers, which is always a powerful live experience. In some ways it reminded me of Caribou.

But then it was time for a second dance contest … again there were intricate requirements:-
i. the audience had to form an obtuse triangle
ii. while standing only on their right foot
iii. unless they were on the right hand side of the stage, in which case they had to hop on their left foot
iv. while humming le Marseille
v. in the key of B# (not in the key of C)
vi. but if they were at the back of the crowd they had to stand on their head
vii. while whistling the keyboard refrain from Je T’aime Moi Non Plus

… I’d stopped paying attention to these overly specific and foolish directions by this stage … again all spoken in English, and again the audience seemed to take this in their stride, although there were ever growing cries to hear some more music.

Dan Deacon and his dozen dudes should have just played their fun tunes.

I started to wonder why the Deerhoof set was so short in comparison. They just played, tried to speak to the locals, and had a fun time. I’m sure Dan Deacon spent the same amount of time setting up and demanding the audience play kindergarten games (in machine gun fire English) as Deerfhoof were playing for.

But it was great fun to see some cool music on a warm spring afternoon in a park on the far edge of Paris.

We walked home along the canals which lead back to the centre of Paris and the Seine, watching the hundreds of people along the path enjoying their picnic dinners in groups large and small.

The weather is certainly getting better all the time.

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