barbed wire garden – strasbourg

we travelled slowly out of lyon, following the path of the river as it wound its way beneath the majestic basilique de fourvière set high upon the hillside, shimmering in the beautiful morning light. having slept so very little, by this time we were already five very weary travellers indeed. crossing the bridge that offered us one last glimpse of the cities glorious diorama we began to ascend into the hills, ready to take the highway on an easterly course as we headed steadily below the foot of the vosges, into alsace, in the direction of strasbourg; this magically historic center of european culture, and one i have not set foot inside for a number of long years.
our journey was smooth and how the beautiful weather continued to bless us with bright blue horizons and a vivid sun to bath the green fields, woodlands, rivers and valleys on our journey to the most easterly edge of france. how each new mile had us all slowly lifting ourselves out of the early start on no sleep from the morning, a number of roadside teas and coffees contributing to the effect. by the time we arrived within strasbourg city limits we were back to full strength, glad to take in the sights of the town as we made our way to the location, and full of absurd jokes and larks; poised to take to the stage for an early show at the endearing maison mimir.
we pulled up at the location to be immediately welcomed by the local troops, as captained by the omnipotent jérémie fallecker, the ongoing king of strasbourg in terms of alternative bookings for discerning listeners. still, the moment we stepped inside the perimeter walls of the maison mimir we were taken aback with how truly picturesque and charming a location it is, and how the atmosphere was directly set to match. a very small gated driveway takes one through an arch into a wonderfully cosy courtyard, the house running along the right side and the musical location along the left. we had arrived in time to catch the remains of a late lunch buffet in the courtyard and we soon equipped with fresh drinks, hugs and wide smiles; wonderful strasbourg.
still, how it was an early show and how we directly needed to set-up, soundcheck and make everything ready for the audience, already making their appearances in steadily increasing numbers as the first shadows of the sinking sun began to drift across the scene. yet more delight was immediately in store though, as we soon found ourselves welcoming the amazing trip saarpreme and his better half, the always charming lisa, all the way from glorious saarbrücken for the performance. how it was such an  honour and a delight to have their presence for the show, and how ideas were immediately bubbling as to finding a way to twist trip’s arm into joining us onstage for a little freestyle action; there simply was no other way.
with pierre, francis and geste working their combined technical powers, alongside the very awesome olaf, our marvelous soundman for the evening, everything was set up and ready for the performance, and how the audience was very much arriving in drones, til by the time it got to show time we found ourselves gathered amongst a completely full room of super-nice, super-warm, super-responsive people, giving us all the opportunity to play out what has ended up to be one of the most enjoyable shows of the tour, one filled with really wonderful memories for all of us.
still, how under meticulous planning from pierre, we also planned to make this particular performance a little more special by mixing all of our sets together, taking turns, one song at a time, to create a really nicely rounded show, thusly also generating a lot more fun and energy for everyone involved. pierre and i had already tried and tested this routine back on the ‘our accents sure are pretty’ tour in north america with all of the gang, and how it did prove to be a real joy in the right circumstances; and how we all unanimously agreed that these were indeed absolutely the right circumstances.

i must confess that i would be hard-pressed to guess the total length of the show, but it must have been in the region of ninety minutes, during which the energy and audience attention level was super-high, leaving us all pretty exhausted by the times the last rounds came about, but how the did, and how we did indeed manage to get the mighty trip on stage during the ‘400 years‘ freestyle, letting him chew horrifically for the eager crowd in a series of expert assaults; a wonderful addition to the proceedings, and one that steadily helped to round the show out, nicely in time for early-finshings, leaving every to start wending their ways back home before the dusk fully descended.
we must have remained at the location for not so very much longer ourselves, only needing to pack away our gear and talk of the full lebanese feast awaiting us back at jérémie‘s to inspire our relatively swift exit, us having really not fed ourselves adequately all day and the excesses of the show taking their toll. just a little time left to bid farewell to the remaining guests, including the ever-marvelous pierre schmitt who had been telling isaac and i some fascinating insights into the world of sign language, particularly within an artistic context; a conversation which very possibly could have continued all night. but our stomachs rumbled harder and harder and how the weariness was calling us to the calm of jérémie‘s abode, and how we loaded into the car and made our short way though the city as the night sky had finally set over the scene, casting all in the slightly unreal light of the street-lamps and rising moon.

to my great interest i found that jérémie no longer resides in the apartment of his that i had grown so very used to; it’s beautiful rooftop veranda always a wonderful location; whether under the stars  after a show, or in the soothing light of the morning before, eating pain au chocolat, ready to face off to the next location. but now he and his flatmates occupy a very magnificent apartment in a tall town-house, traditional of the city. large rooms, high ceilings, great windows, ornate flourishes in the cornices; all combining to create a really charming residence, still filled with all the original character of the building. and how, set along the vast dining table, a lebanese feast, enough for twenty people, sat in an astonishing magnificent spread of colours and fragrances.
i can not exactly specify our number as we all sat down to eat, but we were very many. yet still how we all managed to make relatively short work of this exceptional feast, how every last mouthful was utterly delicious and how it was exactly what we needed; some wonderful food for our stomachs, so wonderfully welcoming friends old and new with which to enjoy the moment, and these most comfortable confides to relax in after three intense days of travelling and performing; the perfect rest point indeed. having taken our fill we all sat back and let ourselves take in the moment before the steps would need to be taken towards farewells being made for the evening; it being a sunday night and early starts for most in the morning.

slowly but surely our numbers dwindled, as the kind souls around us slowly made their way to their respective abodes and sleeping places, many a fond farewell was bid in this short time. finally we were left almost to our own devices as we took one more round of tea, pierre and francis attended to some more end-of-day business and how we all slowly let our eyes grow heavy and start to think about getting a little sleep, glad of this relatively early-night after the chaos of the last three days. so, we finally put ourselves to bed, weary as hell, but in high sprits, autoblow-jokes still flowing thick and fast as we steadily drifted into the dreaming.
we arose early in the morning, to the sound of pierre‘s first autoblow-jokes of the day, and took our turns to shower and dress before gathering around the table once more for an early breakfast. tea, coffee, pain au chocolat; all exactly as it should be. how the morning also gave me but a few moments to take in the morning air from the balcony and watch the citizens of strasbourg wander gently in the morning light between the beautiful architecture surrounding them. all too soon it was time for farewells, and how we bid our bold captain jeremie farewell before piling out onto the street, taking the early-morning tetris challenge and climbing into our iron horse to press on across the border, into deutschland, sachsen, leipzig, connewitz; the legendary zoro.
so, might i offer our collective thank you’s to the very amazing jérémie fallecker for his masterful organisation and hospitality, the masterful olaf for the superb sound the whole wonderful maison mimir family for their kindness and enthusiasm, to everyone who came down to the show and shared this lovely night with us, to jonathan, jules, lukas, jess, eve, pierre and many, many more! here’s to next time indeed.

next field report : leipzig

barbed wire garden – lyon

the first order of business as we drove south-east out of paris, en route to lyon, was to set about raiding the vast bag of albums that geste had cunningly packed for our listening pleasure across the long miles of the tour. it would be sage at this moment to immediately mention the almighty double-album from danyèl waro, which proved to be one of the first albums we auditioned and subsequently the one we returned to the most; beautiful maloya sounds along the highways of the old world. still, how the geste collection on this particular drive led to a long discussion between the man himself and swordplay surrounding the facts in the case of the richmond and dc hardcore scene and all the myriad bands therein that they realised they both shared an interest in. while they talked long and in depth, pierre and francis talked business up front and i let my eyes rest a while, desperately trying to catch up some of the missing sleep from the past two nights’; which would rapidly become an ongoing theme indeed.
as our route took us closer and closer to lyon, the weather seemed to improve with every mile, and how, by the time we arrived at le périscope to be greeted by the lovely folk there, we found ourselves in the midst of a truly beautiful spring afternoon. azure blue skies extended above the location and a hot sun bathed everything in the most warming glow as we unloaded our gear, sought to secure ourselves tea and coffee and set about the sound-check situation directly. how le périscope is a truly beautiful location indeed, how the sound was an absolute dream; both onstage and off, and how we could all only be so keenly aware of what a wonderful opportunity it was to play in such a venue. through the exhaustion and the haze of the night before, the makings were steadily building for another magical evening.
still, time was precious and our agenda was packed. with the sound-check all in hand, we steadily made our way en mass via the lyon metro system through the city and to the location of the hallowed jarring effects record store and label headquarters. glad handshakes were exchanged with the omnipotent mo and his expert consorts and how we were treating to a guided tour of their legendary installation before gathering together to take mint tea and talk awhile on the facts in the case of jarring effects, dora dorovitch, the barbed wire garden tour and all else therein. it was in these exact moments that i once again cursed my inability to understand and indeed be able to converse in french. i poured all my concentration into try to gleam any understand i could from the conversations, but was left to resign myself to re-doubling my efforts before the ‘next time’.
subsequent to our gathering, we filed our way back into the store, where a goodly number of folk had amassed in order to catch a small ‘in store’ performance, which we began to set about directly. isaac stepped up to the mic first and treating the audience to three or four songs in anticipation of the nights’ performance and how i followed-suit soon after. with the little showcase very much in hand we filed out onto the street and took in the lyon evening air before starting to think about making our way back to le periscope. it was at this point that the enchanting miss sophie reappeared after her train commute from paris and how our collective evening was once again brightened by her presence and, with our number being unified once more, we steadily made our way back to le périscope with a view to beginnings the evenings proceedings before too long.
once back safe in le périscope we took the opportunity our securing our fill of the tasty food that was now waiting for us backstage and, with our bellies full and the guests having began to arrive, it was time to begin the show. in what was essentially a repeat performance of this night before, francis took to the stage first a set the scene with three of four of his masterful compositions before i stepped up to join him as we made our way through five or six titles together; and how it only became more and more apparent to the both of us how much we enjoyed and how well being onstage together was working out for us. two shows down and it already seemed like we had been working together since the very beginning; these strange intangible musical connexions.
isaac and pierre took to the stage soon after and absolutely destroyed their set. there may indeed have been more people in attendance the night before in paris, but how the sound in le périscope was absolutely crystal clear, and nice and loud; and how it was an absolute dream to get to hear every note, every line, every nuance of their set. truly spell-binding, and how exactly the same could be said of geste‘s subsequent performance. there is something deeply affecting about being able to hear songs in this context, in this undiluted and all-encompassing fashion; one of the many reasons why live music performance is still head and shoulders above any ‘second-hand’ experience by comparison. the strange magic of the arts indeed.
with the show over for the evening, the rest of the night was spent propping up the bar and getting the chance to talk with a host of wonderful souls who had made it down for the performance, many of whom i regrettably let the names of escape me, but how there is so much to be said for these magical moments when the opportunity presents itself to be able to commune with like-minded souls, to celebrate these songs and to simply share some moments together within this curious and magical life. the hour grew later and later and the drinks continued to flow, and how it were as if the spell would never end, but slowly farewells had to be in order and how weary eyes began to signal the slow paths back into the dreaming once again.
at some truly ungodly hour of the night we finally set about loading up the car, bidding fondest farewells to the dearest périscope and jarring effects families and making our way back to the girardeau residence, as per our sleeping arrangements for the evening. as matter-of-fact as it initially seemed, upon following miss sophie to the door of her building and indeed to the door of her family apartment, it quickly became apparent that our lodgings for the evening were far-beyond five star. words can scarcely do justice to how charming the apartment actually was, and how the interior decoration, curated by miss sophie herself, was truly impeccable. i remember that the only compliment i was able to muster in the moment was that it was fit enough for a band of buriers to shoot a music video there; no small feat indeed.
as per what were becoming usual operations, the kettle was quickly brewing and how there was a little time to relax after the chaos of the evening, to take tea and to reflect awhile on these past two days before we would reduce ourselves to but a few more hours sleep before the drive to strasbourg in the morning. slowly but surely we all gradually made our ways into the sleeping; desperately attempting to secure some kind of rest before the early morning light would beckon us up and back into the car once more. still, how perfectly-relaxed a group we were, and how soothing it was to be able to spend even this short while in such a magical safehouse; chances of a lifetime.
the morning arrived far earlier than any one of us would have desired, but we all took it in our stride, even dear miss sophie, who had no actual need to arise with the rest of us, other than her consistently kind and charming nature giving her cause to do so. soon tea and coffee’s were on the cards, the breakfast table was awash with tasty croissant and pain au chocolat treats and we were slowly able to gather ourselves back up to spill out onto the street. after what was becoming the usual morning game of tetris in packing the car, we took our individual turns to thank sophie for her kindness, hospitality and company, before we all piled back in to the vehicle, ready to begin the drive to strasbourg under the beautiful hot spring sunlight. weary travelers on a long road, filled with warmth and ready for the next steps of the adventures.
might i then take a moment to offer collective thanks on behalf of all our number to everyone involved and everyone who made it down to le périscope on this magical night. so many names, and so many of them having slipped away in the sleep-deprivation, but indeed lucas did wonders with our sound, mo and the jarring effects family were gentlemen and scholars indeed, captain alexandre who drove three hours and stayed in a hotel just to catch the show, this wonderful couple who sang along to every word of the ‘tap-water’ songs, the lovely miss sophie for her charming company and willingness to stay up far, far later than i can only imagine she would have desire this night. how we are filled with such gratitude and warmth for all your kindness, and how we can only dream of repeating the performance again before too many long moons pass.
next field report : strasbourg

barbed wire garden – paris

as always with touring, i had stayed up far too late the night before departing and, upon arising at dawn, was only operating with a little less than three hours sleep as i wandered out into the mist-shrouded cold of connewitz, ready to take the straßenbahn to the hauptbahnhof in time to make my first train connexion of the day. i rode the line west to frankfurt, drifting in and out of the half-sleep, reflecting on this long journey ahead, and slowly watched the skies turn from grey to blue until, upon arriving at the hauptbahnhof in frankfurt, it had grown to become a beautiful day. i changed trains and rode the next service to paris gare de l’est, slowly drawing myself out of the half-sleep, ready to ride the metro lines to the eleventh arrondissement and rue saint-maur.
as i emerged from the metropolitan, the first thing that struck me, along with how glad i was to be in this district again, was the wonderfully warm spring-like weather, and how it seemed like a different world to the cold grey of leipzig that morning. i paced keenly along the backstreets of the district, bustling with parisians attending to their early-evening activities, the scene unfolding myriad strands and emitting cacophonous waves as i found my weary way onto rue moret and back to l’internatinal itself, only to find both geste and isaac taking in the air outside the venue. how remarkable it was to be stood before them both again, and how it looked as if they hadn’t aged a day since we last congregated. within moments, pierre and francis appeared from across the road and the circle was complete, with hugs, smiles, warmest greetings and firm handshakes. it was on indeed.
being the latest arrival after my long commute, my first order of business was to head downstairs to check the microphone for the performance, and how strangely wonderful it felt to step onto that stage again, the last time having been back in the fall of 2010, alongside babelfishh, james p honey, bill van cutten and mesparrow. how i could not help but reflect on that night as i checked the sound with ‘subduing demons‘ and ‘alhambra’; how so much time has passed since then, and how so very much has changed. how i had to think on how i could never have guessed that it would have taken so long for me to return to paris and how i was overwhelmed with gratitude to unexpectedly find myself in that place, communed with such close friends; about to embark on an adventure whose proportions and magnitude we could have had no comprehension of.
the night was already marching on though, and how the first souls were already beginning to arrive, and how it was the deepest pleasure for the first order of the evening to be introduced to the perfectly enchanting miss sophie girardeau, the better half of sir geste, who would immeditely grow to be a fond face along the route of the tour, along with the equally enchanting miss charlotte gonzalez, who would brighten our parisian evening and later capture an extraordinary photograph of my performance alongside francis for posterity. we retreated below once again to take our fill of some food, to prepare the merch table and to generally gather ourselves for the performance. and how the time afforded us more opportunities to catch up on our news, to marvel at this fantastic union and to talk in keen anticipation of the upcoming stops along the long path.

naturally, the night quickly grew to become a crazed-blur of hazy recollections amidst the din and madness of any given parisian evening at l’international. i keenly recall the arrival of many more dear friends, both those whom i have not seen in so long and those whom i had been yet to meet in person. how it was the deepest delight to see the brother roma and julien babel once again, and how it was such a real honour to finally get to meet the near-legendary magali vannier and céline du buisson; such dearly-wonderful souls, one and all, and how there were so many good people in attendance this night, some of whom i got to learn the names of, some of whom i did not, and how i constantly had to tell myself and those around me that i really had never expected that it would have taken so long to return; how i can hardly believe where the time went whilst i was away.
still, with all the fantastic turmoil and excitement there was also a show to be played and how we all found ourselves communed in front of the stage ready for the nights’ musical selections. as we are disco doom revenge, francis began the proceedings treating us to a perfectly-brief series of compositions which could easily have continued for a long while as far as i was concerned, until he proceeded to invite me to join him on stage and how we began our very first, completely unrehearsed, performance together. we began with ‘subduing demons‘ and, within the first moments of hearing his bass perfectly complimenting the track i knew that we would be on to a succession of really great shows. we kept our set short-but-sweet and retreated offstage to a rousing round of applause and how it was a truly magical experience indeed; the first of many, as time would unfold.

i was absolutely adamant to find myself in the front row as sworplay & pierre the motionless took to the stage and was only matched in my efforts to rap and sing along as much as possible by a super-nice, super-young guy who had also fought his way to the front row and who, after getting to chat awhile afterwards, proved to be a really decent chap indeed. almost needless to say isaac and pierre absolutely destroyed their set, running though almost every track from ‘tap water’ as well as dropping the majestic ‘no dancing‘ from zoën, as well as a sinister cover version of ‘twice the first time‘ from saul williams, just to raise levels to near-unworkable limits. i can hardly relate how much i enjoyed the show and was far too lost in the moment for it to even occur to me that i would get to witness eight more performances before the tour would be out. truly devilish details.
geste took not a moment to mess around and appeared onstage, hooded, scowling and ready to chew through the walls with his unrelentingly-chaotic sound. the hour had grown late enough for the dancing crowds to start to emerge and how i had to retreat away from the stage for fear of getting trampled by teenage girls enthused by the electronic rhythms; not to be the last time this would happen on this tour. but how it truly was a delight to get to hear his solo live-set again, i shudder to think when the last time actually was; sometime back in london at least. i let myself fall away into the waves of bass and let the highs flitter through my mind as i continued to try to let myself believe that this night was actually happening; that this tour was actually happening.

as always the night grew so late so fast. we were already being reduced to bidding farewell to the dear souls that had communed with us on this magical night, and were soon all cramming ourselves, the charming sophie at our side, into the tour car for the first time, driving south through the city, to gentilly, val-de-marne; to the geste safehouse and our sleeping place for the evening. we unloaded the car which gave us a chance to check out the compound; garden courtyard, rehearsal room basement, first floor balcony and charming residence. we took some measures to fix ourselves a little light sustenance, some hot beverages and the beginnings of our sleeping arrangements for the evening. it was in this hallowed moment that pierre first uttered the words ‘autoblow’, first in regard to his portable mattress and pillow, but before long, across the days, in escalating reference to myriad things that ought not be repeated in polite company. how i had almost forgotten what it is to tour with this man; the hilarity unfolding!
slowly we drifted off to sleep at some ungodly hour, and how the morning alarms were sounding out all to quickly. i can hardly remember what time it was we awoke exactly, but how we had scarcely secured three hours or so slumber, before we were hastily making our collective way through teas, infusions, coffees, pain au chocolat and croissants, loading the car and thinking about making our way to lyon. we were reduced to bidding farewell to sophie for now, but were filled with gladness that she would be taking the train to lyon to join us for the evenings performance and, moreover, that we would have the distinct honour of getting to stay at her families apartment within the city this night, a true honour indeed. with our farewells in order we piled into the car and promptly sat motionless for ten or fifteen minutes whilst pierre wrestled to get his smartphone to charge through the cigarette adaptor; an object of paramount importance as it was due to be providing our satellite navigation for the duration. gladly the device began to behave itself and we were on the road to lyon as the morning sunlight steadily began to build across the landscapes unfolding.
next field report : barbed wire garden – lyon