Category Archives: In touch

Fièvres sudistes, entre-côtes et ouest Coast

Mille excuses aux lecteurs fidèles de ce carnet tribulatif : j’ai été contraint de laisser ce blog en friche, pris dans la joyeuse tourmente d’une tournée qui a soudainement accéléré. Entre deux clic-clacs et sièges de seconde classe, j’ai pu néanmoins vous bricoler un bref récapitulatif des dernières étapes de mon tour de france, au gré d’ordis empruntés à des gracieux hôtes ou aux bibliothèques publiques. Le temps et l’accès au clavier me manquent hélas pour vous en dire plus et mieux (vous me pardonnerez le style parfois télégraphique et austère du récit) mais j’ose espérer que cela parviendra à contenter vos appétits voraces. J’opèrerai sûrement des corrections, améliorations et étoffements lorsque j’en aurai l’occasion sereine.

En escale dans un Nantes solaire, me préparant à entamer le sprint final de cette tournée euphorisante (c’est bien la première fois que je me permets d’accoler ce substantif à ce qualificatif), je m’efforce de ne pas perdre mon souffle épique et d’habiter mes chansons comme il se doit, malgré l’ingestion nécessaire de Lysopadol et autres Nurofen pour tuer dans l’oeuf un virus gênant. Vous aurez le compte-rendu de Nantes, Le Havre, Rouen, Caen et Paris dès ma re-sédentarisation, je m’engage solennellement à ne pas vous faire autant patienter ce coup-ci.

Marseille (ou Une voix-scène dans un port sain)

Après une descente douce vers le Sud dans l’air échaudé d’un printemps précoce, notre Chrysler Voyager décide de ne plus voyager : les freins se mettent en grève sur le Vieux-Port. Récupéré par un copain de Sammy enthousiaste, nous filons à travers les ruelles étroites et électriques de Marseille, arrivant à temps pour les balances au Lounge, petite salle tout à fait Lynchienne: rideaux rouges, personnages peu bavards, musique sombre et lancinante. Les ingrédients étaient déjà là pour une soirée mémorable, notamment grâce à un groupe local qui promettait une belle découverte/prise de risques. Le concert est déjà décrit ici alors je me la joue fainéant et vous renvoie donc à cette description. Le lendemain fut l’occasion d’errer dans les charmants quartiers de Noailles, du Panier et surtout de découvrir la Friche de la Belle de Mai et de visiter les locaux légendaires de l’excellente maison d’édition d’avant-garde graphique Le Dernier Cri.

Nice, very Nice

Dans un un Break généreusement prêté par l’occasion afin de poursuivre notre voyage motorisé, nous arrivons en retard dans un charmant appart’ de Nice-Nord pour un concert à domicile bien sympathique. Cinto s’excite un peu sur les auditeurs assis en tailleur sur des coussins, je profite de l’occasion intimiste pour essayer de nouveaux textes et Sammy fait péter You Can Run sur un bon vieux ghetto blaster. Nice est une sacrée belle cité et je m’émerveille en rare compagnie paternelle à chaque coin de rue. Le second concert le lendemain, dans le cadre chaleureux de la salle associative de la Zonmé (situé dans un lieu improbable et interstitiel de la culture, au dernier étage d’un ancien entrepôt de la Fnac) est tout à fait excellent et étonnamment bien rempli, partagé dans une partie électrique/sonorisée/suintante/medley et une partie acoustique/assis/collaborative/poéticotragique en mode songwriter’s circle avec Sammy. Vous trouverez de belles photos ici. L’asso Bloc Notes/Concerts à la maison a une fois de plus fait un super boulot et nous repartons de Nice heureux et forts de belles rencontres, échanges et interactions. J’irai même jusqu’à dire: pan bagna forever.

Back Toulouse

Quelque peu tendu pour un retour remuant en terres connues. Défilé de visages familiers. My Pulsing Compass interprété dans l’urgence en mode jam improvisé avec les très jouasses et énergiques Odran Trümmel. Duo de The Quiet Escape avec Renaud au piano, un vieux compagnon de la chanson datant de ma période crétacé avec le combo ska-punk Urus Raïdho (qui se souvient aujourd’hui du refrain de notre chanson subversive aux paroles étoffées : Peace for world / and fuck the lord / Change salvation / For human nation…). Nourri et accueilli comme des coqs en pape par le staff jovial de La Centrifugeuse, j’étais mis dans les meilleures conditions pour un bon concert mais la scène surélevée et les gros projecteurs me masquant les visages et les sons du public m’ont empêché de bien interagir, au-delà du déjà difficile exercice du retour à la maison. Les Odran Trümmel avaient la Kangoo blindée alors j’attaquais un parcours parallèle en train pour les rejoindre à Bordeaux pour la suite de notre tournée Another Record...

Bordeaux, étrange millésime

Une fois les retrouvailles orchestrées avec les boys après mon épisode de solitude ferroviaire, concert sauvage dans l’indifférence générale place de la Victoire avec les Odran Trümmel (quasiment personne ne s’arrête pour écouter, zéro piécette et une jeune nous propose la voix pleine de pitié un thermos de café comme si nous étions des mendiants), l’occasion cependant de répéter quelques chansons sur les drôles mini-amplis du groupe. Le Chicho, nouvelle mecque indé, est carrément bipolaire, et le contraste entre la taverne à burritos à la déco désinvolte du dessus et la grotte humide au plancher collant me rappelle les salles improbables étasuniennes, sorte d’interstice étrange de la pizzeria de quartier, du bar et de la salle de concert alternative. Pendant un bref entrevue avec une charmante blogueuse locale, un inconnu demande à s’asseoir à notre table en terrasse et commence à débiter des choses étranges pendant que je parle, me relançant un peu plus dans mon rappel américain. Le climax de sa présence volontairement perturbante est atteint quand il vient brusquement me toucher la mèche sans m’en demander l’autorisation alors que je réponds à une question, dieu merci nous approchions de la fin de l’entrevue et je peux me sortir des griffes glauques de l’hurluberlu, bonjour l’ambiance!

Le concert du soir sera la première et seule vraie déception du voyage, auguré déjà dans ce que j’ai commencé à décrire. Le staff du restau n’en a manifestement pas grand-chose à foutre, nous jette une empanada trop grillée et persiste à nous appeler “les zicos” comme on siffle les chiens ; le groupe local est majoritairement composé de vieux rockeurs “garage” clichés et blasés (j’espère ne pas finir quarantenaire en Converse neuves, tirant la gueule, la clope au bec, avec les cheveux laqués et les doigts jaunis), jouant évidemment un set bourrin et vacarmesque bourré de riffs repiqués. Les Odran Trümmel me foutent bien la claque, et je pénètre avec délectation dans l’univers immense de leur musique. Pendant mon concert, je subis l’arrivée d’un groupe de jeunes alcoolisées qui foutent bien le bordel, braillant à répétition le bon vieux “à poil!” et autres délicatesses, sortant les briquets pour les chansons calmes et dansant n’importe comment pendant les chansons énervées, dans un esprit “foutage de gueule” qui pollue l’écoute du reste du public ramassé dans cette cave humide et enfumée. Je m’efforce de dissimuler mon irritation croissante et de faire le concert en occultant leur présence parasite, mais je me lasse vite et perds trop souvent le contrôle du concert, j’en tire de bonnes leçons pour le futur! Le spectacle de Niort étant annulé à la dernière minute (les risques du booking amateur), je me ressource heureusement le lendemain à Angoulême, notamment grâce à une expo Spiegelman réussie sur l’histoire de la BD.

(ouvert à double) Tours

Arrivée en trombe dans un redoux mérité. Yurie Hu, violoniste ami d’ami d’ami jamais rencontrée, me retrouve à la gare et nous partons immédiatement dans un local de son école de musique pour répéter en 40 minutes The End Of Me, que nous avions prévu de jouer ensemble pour le concert aux Joulins du lendemain. Impressionné par ses facultés d’écoute et d’adaptation et surtout par son jeu versatile et subtil, il me paraît vite évident qu’elle devrait m’accompagner pour la session acoustique prévue à Radio Béton, et nous embarquons dans les bouchons en bus pour rejoindre la tour mythique de la radio associative locale juste à temps pour être en direct. Accueilli par une animatrice érudite sur les starting-blocs, l’enthousiasme désormais légendaire des Odran Trümmel  et un bol de marshmallows bienvenus, j’étais en place pour une session bien agréable comme en témoigne ceci et cela.

Cette nuit-là, décanillage de zombies en mode coopératif dans le tard de la nuit avec l’exquis Franck de Another Record. Le lendemain, concert sauvage sur la place du Monstre, quelques poussettes s’attardent. Les amas de chair juvénile ont la vomissure facile sur la place “Plume” et les petites rues pavées du dédale médiéval sont le lieu de scènes éthyliques où les adolescentes se battent pour leur parité alcoolique, une bouteille à la main et l’autre à la mer. Ce premier séjour tourangeau très agréable fut l’occasion de rencontrer la charmante équipe du label associatif Another Record qui m’a aidé à sortir Long Time No Sea, et de goûter à leur approche solide et conviviale de l’accueil des artistes, d’hébergement en repas maison hors pair.

Le concert aux Joulins du samedi soir fut excellent, et après avoir joué en pull/veste pendant longtemps, il fut délicieux de retrouver le goût de la sueur venant imbiber la lèvre supérieure. Quelle joie de retrouver ces sensations de doigts qui glissent sur le corps de guitare trempé, les tempes perlées et autres manifestations mouillées du folk’n’roll collectif éphémère du groupe The Keys version 24 que formaient les Odran Trümmel et Yurie en grande forme. (voir vidéos ci-dessous) Ils me firent aussi le plaisir de fournir un background musical très soyeux pour une récitation de poèmes bien crus. Intéressant aussi de voir ce repaire de curieux de la musique de tous âges devenir le réservoir/refuge de la faune soiffarde et juvénile de la ville à partir de 2h, changement d’ambiance et véritable passement de flambeau!

* * * The Keys – Tours (Les Joulins) – Samedi 25 Février 2012  * * *

The End Of Me (w/ Yurie Hu & Odran Trümmel)
Where Is My Miracle ? (w/ Yurie Hu & Odran Trümmel)
The Last Laugh

Angers

Contre les pronostics traditionnels du dimanche soir en province, ce fut une magnifique soirée. Retrouvant Sammy qui débarquait de Brest dans son camion prêté “Allô glaçons” (suite des aventures du Chrysler: il a pu le ramener de Marseille en escargot sur la file de droite grâce à un système obscur de pince placée sur une pièce qui permet de récupérer temporairement une partie des freins, astuce donnée par un aficionado des “Cricri” sur le forum Chysler, ô joie d’Internet), le concert était une sorte de réunion musicale des groupes ayant partagé la route et la scène avec moi ces dernières semaines. Accueilli à Un Brin Folk (restaurant gastronomique et convivial transformé en salle de concerts confortable et insolite une fois par mois par les proprios passionnés) par une overdose de chaleur humaine et de délices locaux, de charcuteries en fromages de luxe sur pain bio, nous ne pouvions que nous montrer généreux face à un public multigénérationnel, extrêmement attentif et doté d’une minorité particulièrement énergique tapant dans les mains, hochant de la tête, chantant même parfois. Je ressens des montées de nostalgie anticipée me picoter les yeux en voyant Sammy jouer ses magnifiques ballades en français et en étant rejoint par Andy, Fabien et Odran. Fabien a les doigts en sang à force taper sur son cajon (siège/percussion latino-américaine) qu’il repeint progressivement en rouge de ses giclures. Odran a de la cale qui ressemble à des mycoses, j’ai le bras droit ankylosé et la gorge qui accroche. Après les tartines du patron, je regarde le cul de la Kangoo avec mes nouveaux potes disparaître dans la douceur de la nuit angevine. Le lendemain, c’est les fesses blanchâtres du camion de Sammy que je scrute en souriant, lorsqu’il me dépose sur les rails vers Nantes, où je m’autorise deux jours de repos/découverte avant la dernière ligne droite.

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Pour faire chanter des carillons de bleus venus du Nord

Capitaines d’un brise-larmes

Traversée de la Belgique en bavant dans ma sieste. J’écarquille les pupilles et voici Liège sous la neige, retrouvant avec surprise cette poudre complice que je pensais quitter pour de bon sur le tarmac de l’aéroport de Montréal. La météo annonce la couleur de toute façon: le début de mon voyage sera une véritable vadrouille au royaume des glaces, avec un vent au cutter qui aime me ramener à ma fragilité des joues. Ce soir-là, nous chantons à tue-tête et tapons de la basket sur la scène d’une péniche qui fuit (du toit, heureusement), amarrée sur le quai joliment pavé le long d’une Meuse qui tanguait light. La chaleureuse équipe de Liège 3015 a travaillé fort pour rassembler une petite foule attentive et intergénérationnelle, et je m’excite comme un enfant à l’idée de montrer ma came. C’est devant eux que je pénètre officiellement dans mes chansons depuis l’entame du périple, ravi du déclic un peu tardif de ma musique en mode live, après des sets peu inspirés et précipités au Mofo et au Café Diskaire. Décidemment frustré de ne pouvoir communiquer directement avec les locaux dans la langue de nos aïeux, et inspiré par les talents francophages de mon compagnon de médiator, j’insère des slams érotiques et autres bafouilles poéticomiques dans mon spectacle. Cela fait respirer mon set anglophone et me permet d’exprimer décemment mes angoisses et autres trouvailles de post-adolescent.

Le lendemain matin, en compagnie du généreux Didier, quelques secrets, recoins et ruelles de la ville nous sont révélés au compte-goutte de son enthousiasme bien informé: familles entières de bourgeois brûlées dans une église cadenassée par des guildes mécontentes, rémanences de l’hostilité flamande/wallonne, délires architecturaux du prince-évêque déchu et autres anecdotes du cru. Il nous présente aux charmes du “carré”, ainsi qu’à la déco psychédélique du légendaire repaire estudiantin le Pot-au-Lait (citation  du flyer de la programmation du lieu déjanté: “Les bons conseils de mon onc’ pol: voici une recette simple pour empêcher votre petit ami de ronfler. il suffit de lui écarter les cuisses. Dans cette position, les testicules sollicitées par la pesanteur tombent, obstruant l’orifice de l’anus. Le tirage est coupé. Il ne ronfle plus.”). Il nous enseigne aussi le régal des “boulets” à la sauce “lapin” (boulettes de viande énormes roulées dans la farine et poêlées avec de la cassonade, des oignons, un vrai délice d’hiver). On nous raconte un carnaval liègeois qui n’a rien à envier à Rio de Janeiro, avec le vomis qui coule à flots le long des processions de cancres guindailleurs, émergeant de leurs “kots” (chambres-taudis d’étudiants) pour plonger dans le zwart (le “noir” de la rue festive).

On la r’fait! Lille, le retour de la vengeance

Retour dans un fief lillois sub-zéroien (sans se gourer en passant par Bruxelles comme à l’aller, ignorant les traductions flamandes des noms de villes sur les panneaux de signalisation) pour atteindre le Peek-a-boo et sa faune nyctalope.Vintage 50’s sans les clichés classiques, le lieu exigü se présente vite comme un bar de quartier familial à la patronne mélomane et réglo. L’espace est étroit et séparé comme souvent entre les curieux attentifs et les bavards alcoolisés, ces derniers frustrant les autres par leur vacarme étouffant nos voix et nos paroles. Heureusement, ce soir, nous prenons tous le bruit du bon côté : Isabelle, très classe, égrène ses jolies chansons sans faire vaciller sa concentration ; Sammy dispose d’autres stratagèmes de lutte, il ne se démonte pas et monte sur les tables en criant ; quant à moi, je dissémine ma prose sexualisante avec le sourire entre mes chansons épiques en angliche. Nous dormons à Lille chez un Arthur accueillant qui nous fait partager sa passion pour Simon Finn, folk-psyché obscur et oublié. Il vit à côté d’un bar-cantine de carnavaleux, la Chapelle, qui passe toute l’année non-stop uniquement de la musique de carnaval, devant lequel rôdent des jeunes aux mines patibulaires. Voici quelques perles de leur flyer dérobé pour la blague : “Vins faire tin carnaval toute l’année avec tous ché gins! à la Chapelle, sur l’comptoir tu choleras pas ! à la Chapelle, tin plus biau Klet’che tu mettras! à la Chapelle, les femmes sont mon oncle et les hommes sont ma tante!”.  Je vois un guitare dans un coin du salon d’Arthur sur laquelle est écrit au marqueur noir “I bought this guitar to pledge my love to you“, parole mythique s’il en est du Bill “Smog” Callahan.  En revoyant cette phrase, j’en ressens la pertinence comme un uppercut, vivant pleinement en ce moment cette tension essentielle de générosité dans ce voyage improbable qui nous pousse à braver des publics tranges et étrangers pour leur parler d’amour, du nôtre et du leur, comme une urgence dans cette cellule de crise.

On nous raconte les tribulalations véridiques d’un mauvais magicien qui a joué dans un film porno local intitulé “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tites”. On nous dit que les clochards meurent en réalité beaucoup plus l’été que l’hiver en raison des maladies contractées dans le froid. Les belles rencontres s’empilent et forment un beau collier, et le sentiment bienvenu de connexion avec ma propre musique s’installe et s’intensifie.

Sammy ayant vécu dans le coin, nous allons rendre visite à ses anciens voisins qui nous invitent tous comme si nous étions le sang de leur sang. Pendant notre séjour dans le Nord, les gens semblaient se sentir investis de la mission de confirmer la légende que les gens du du Nord étaient accueillants et savaient se montrer convaincants à grands renforts d’arguments gastronomiques et avineux. Quel plaisir de me retrouver au sein de la “bonne franquette” décontractée et de ses éléments relativement absents de la culture de la table canadienne: corbeille de pain et plateau de fromages pour n’en citer que deux plutôt représentatifs! Glissant mes pieds meurtris sous des tables garnies de mets locaux, de saucissons en patates douces, de flans en pâtés, je redécouvre l’art de manger en prenant le temps, passe-moi le sel, vous avez de la moutarde ? on se régale, merci vraiment. Sur un autre terrain chauvinistique, je me demande quand même par quel plaisir malsain je me retrouve à jubiler devant la grandiloquence des Géant Casino de mon pays d’enfance, jusqu’à apprécier la revisite de ces labyrinthes aseptisés! C’est aussi singulier de ressentir un tel confort en revoyant mes gaufres au chocolat préférées dans les étals des stations-service, there’s nothing like home, indeed.

En raison d’une batterie frileuse et d’une météo coriace, Sammy met le réveil et se lève à 6h du matin pour démarrer le Chrysler Voyager qui nous joue des tours fréquemment en ne se démarrant pas. Cela constitue notre petite frayeur matinale en motif récurrent, qui nous a valu une visite chez Norauto et quelques frissons supplémentaires. Quelques mots d’ailleurs sur les carences de notre précieux carrosse, hormis ces désagréments: nous devons tous rentrer par la portière conducteur, qui est la seule qui s’ouvre, ce qui implique des crapahutages et l’ostension fréquente de la couleur de nos caleçons ; le système électrique général craint à mort tel que lorsqu’on baisse la vitre avec la commande électrique, cela coupe la chique à la musique (évidemment, nous oublions des fois cet affreux lien de cause à effet et on ruine à l’insu de notre plein gré le pic dramatique d’une super chanson en voulant payer le péage: “Et meeerde”) ; il faut laisser le doigt appuyé sur l’allume-cigares tout le temps de son allumage, ce qui laisse le motif du bouton imprimé sur l’index lorsqu’on veut faire nos Clint Eastwood en crapotant des cigarillos vanillés ; un balai doit tenir le coffre ouvert car il ne tient plus tout seul, ce qui fait toujours effet “épée de Damoclès” en mode porte blindée sympa quand on décharge l’ampli. Au-delà de ces dysfonctionnements légers et sujets à plaisanteries redondantes, la bête bouffe du kilomètre sans rechigner, poussée par la country mauve de Jeff Bridges ou le flow de Busta Rhymes, et je lui tire bien bas la casquette. Long may you run.

Normalement, c’est pas mon truc, les plans à Troyes…

Coïncidence étrange, le 3 Février, nous partions à trois (en comptant le Cinto, fidèle passager canin) à Troyes, coquette ville médiévale aux beaux restes de maisons en colombages, fortifications restaurées et vieilles rues pavées. Je m’attendais à un bled sans relief et j’y ai trouvé une ville d’histoire et de caractère. Le Bougnat des Pouilles est un restaurant/bar à vins bondé et agréable, on m’y laisse boire mon traditionnel litre de Coca (en vraie star du mouvement straight-edge) et on nous gave de saucissons et fromages de la région. La scène étant située le long du principal couloir de passage entre les diverses salles boisées du complexe de la night, nous voyons défiler juste devant nous les kakous aux cheveux courts et laqués qui débarquent au fur et à mesure, attendant patiemment que la taverne opère sa mutation en boîte de nuit avec le Deejay local. Ils nous font méchamment sentir dans leurs regards et ricanements crétins quelque chose du genre : “dégagez, les ringards à guitare”, résistance implicite que j’apprécie beaucoup. Cette configuration s’avère vite cocasse, surtout quand les serveurs occultent notre vue du public et braillent à 2 cm de notre manche de guitare : “C’est pour qui, les tartinettes?” ou “Sabine, un café pour la 3!”. Cela donne d’ailleurs lieu à une péripétie plutôt drôle: Sammy, pris dans une des transes de rockeur dont il détient le secret, lance un coup de jambe qui manque d’éborgner une serveuse déjà peu enjouée par le bordel ambiant, coincée entre des folkeux qui schlinguent et qui montent sur les chaises en braillant et les jeunes branleurs du coin qui exigent leur troisième pichet de bièrasse.

Il n’est pas toujours évident d’être pris au sérieux, voir de se prendre soi-même au sérieux quand on joue dans un lieu si peu adapté à notre musique, au creux d’une foule hétéroclite, partagé entre ceux venus pour découvrir une musique inconnue (quelle idée!) et les autres aux motivations cumulables : drague, drogue, déconne, bouffe, bière et frime. Nous nous en sortons pas mal au final, grâce à un second degré éprouvé et une conscience professionnelle solide, mais il fut bon d’oublier et dissoudre mes trimages du soir dans le matage éhonté des “Confessions Intimes” de TF1 une fois rendu à l’hôtel.

Le lendemain, nous reprenons les nationales et je me trouve vite à aimer regarder la fumée des usines danser dans le ciel clair de l’hiver. Dans cette France de l’interstice, nous traversons des patelins fantômes de Franche-Comté (Gourgeon, Noidans, Villersexel…que de villages aux charmes vaporeux!), nous longeons des marais semi-glacés qui ressemblent à des flaques de salive et nous tombons sur un supermarché “Corluyt” frigorifié avec cette caissière éteinte qui nous tend une facture-devis en format A4 pour 5 euros de Haribos…Nous naviguons fluidement dans la chaude lumière qui baigne la haute-vallée de l’Aube, jaune tendance orange, avisant quelques fois des silos désaffectés et autres garages abandonnés qui dénotent une ambiance post-industrielle pour le moins sympathique.

Mules + Loose = Alsassholes

Après un circuit sans-faute, il fallait évidemment que les tuiles commencent à se pointer dans le décor. Nous fûmes rapidement minés par un accueil de glace dans une ville de Mulhouse, il faut le bien dire, hideuse et labyrintique. Le patron nous a fait déguster une spécialité alsacienne avant même notre arrivée lorsque nous cherchions son bar, en nous déconseillant au téléphone de demander notre chemin à des “casquettes” qui ne connaîtront sûrement pas le centre historique vu qu’ils ne viennent pas vraiment d’ici. J’ai rebaptisé pour l’occasion mon compagnon Samir Da Costa, un mix portugais/marocain histoire de déstabiliser les xénos potentiels et essayer de rigoler un peu du fait que nous nous trouvions désormais dans la terre d’origine des groupes de punk néo-nazis, aux chansons potaches du genre “Mohammed, mouche à merde” et j’en passe. Il faut dire qu’en interrogeant une casquette, erreur impardonnable, nous eûmes une réponse pour le moins cocasse : “Le Greffier ? J’sais pas.. c’est tribunal ça!”, et de se barrer comme un voleur avec ses potes apathiques, la bouche collée dans un kebab. On se serait crus dans une page de “La Vie Secrète des Jeunes” de Sattouf, qui a le don de photographier en BD les jeunes beurs dans ce genre de situations peu avantageuses. Enfin bref, les rares êtres humains croisés dans les rues (un samedi à 19h en centre-ville, rappel) n’avaient aucune envie de nous aider et préféraient s’amuser soit à nous égarer, soit à nous donner des réponses vagues et inutiles, soit à nous faire attendre 5 minutes pour finalement avouer qu’ils n’en avaient aucune idée, soit à carrément nous ignorer dès que je baissais la vitre (mon préféré). Faut dire qu’on faisait un peu gitans avec le boxer qui aboie sur la banquette arrière, mais bon, il paraît qu’il faut aider son prochain, même s’il n’est pas rasé de près.

Mais les milieux hostiles, ça on connaît, comme disait Kool Shen, et tant bien que mal, nous avons tenté ce soir-là de faire vivre nos chansons entre les beuglements d’une jeunesse avinée et les papotements de quarantenaires majoritairement désintéréssés. Quelques oreilles curieuses étaient aux aguets comme toujours (les fous), hélas troublés dans leur écoute par la cacophonie ambiante. Sammy est monté sur un tabouret et a fait fuire un groupe de mecs qui essayaient, avec beaucoup de réussite, de tous se ressembler. J’entendis l’un deux, visiblement remonté, miauler en se dirigeant vers la sortie : “Il a marché sur mon pull”. Un mec dit à Sammy que ce qu’il fait est super cool et ressemble à du “Jimmy Cash”.

Pina nous avait régalé avant l’attaque des festivités avec des mets typiques (Fleischnacka, un escargot de viande et des Spatzle, sans parler de la saucisse Viennerla, moins fine que la strasbourgeoise, allez savoir pourquoi), et la famille tenant la maison nous a traité comme des coqs en pape. On nous raconte le mépris condescendant des gens du Bas-Rhin pour cette région prolétaire, le manque de tribunes pour les groupes de compositions originales dans la région (même constat triste qu’aux US, on veut entendre “Stairway to Heaven”). Ce soir-là, j’ai cru entendre un fantôme de fillette ricaner dans un des angles lovecraftiens de la bicoque, mais c’était sûrement les rires gras de la meute du bar qui résonnaient encore dans mon crâne. Sur scène, quand j’évoque Toulouse, un mec me crie “Toulouse-Mulhouse, même combat!” à quoi je réponds que oui, il y a effectivement une connection entre ces deux mots: c’est la loose, ce qui n’a fait rire que moi (ce qui est déjà beaucoup). Des filles britanniques assistantes-enseignantes en anglais viennent nous voir à la fin, avec l’envie manifeste de s’exprimer sur le calvaire qu’elles endurent dans cette ville de morts-vivants saoûlards et/ou neurasthéniques. Nous compatissons, impuissants, n’ayant eu qu’à offrir une modeste soirée de divertissement acoustique pour leur faire oublier le néant culturel qu’elles habitent. Cela confirme l’impression de malaise qui s’est rapidement installée dès notre débarquement dans la cité maudite. Oui, vous direz, je ne ménage pas mon texte question généralité, mais il est question d’émotions primaires ici et non de dossier journalistique nuancé sur la ville de Mulhouse! 2012, l’année du blues à Mulhouse.

Dire que nos ancêtres ont perdu leurs vies empalés sur des baïonnettes de Prussiens pour garder ce lopin de terre désagréable! Les Allemands auraient sûrement fait meilleur usage de ce coin qui nous a divisé si longtemps bêtement et terriblement : Freiburg, de l’autre côté de la frontière, est un contre-exemple flagrant en terme de cachet et d’accueil de la population si mes souvenirs de Schulereisen sont bons. Il fit bon de quitter le navire après une douche karchër, un soulagement comme on en fait plus. Le contraste avec la Bourgogne, avec ses bâtisses charmantes et  ses vignobles vallonnés, fut étonnant.  Difficile de rivaliser avec la gueule d’un Meursault, avec la pierre de Chagny, avec le cachet d’un Santenay! Sammy me déposait à Beaune en escale familiale mais c’est une autre histoire, tournant pour l’instant avec un sourire en coin la  première page de la tournée d’hiver..

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Northbound & Out

Paris by (sleepless) night

Funny how you can still surprise yourself, especially when you’re so old like me. Truth is, against all odds: I feel strangely content to be back around my own, my rough-edged people stuck in these dragging crisis times, my unimpressed buddies, my cold bitches. I’m sick of being shouted at and always being bumped into,  I used to sing one year ago, now it almost makes me smile when I get stepped on the foot with no apologies in the metro, not a crooked sneer, no, a genuine warm smile. I love you, you who struggles and complains, you who strives to succeed and enjoy in this wounded world of ours, you French asshole, you friend of mine. It’s been a while I said this, and even longer that I felt it: it’s good to be back.

Dans l’euphorie des jours de gris! There is no walking in this city where walls stick to your skin and time is a ever-shrinking concept. There is only running, and you soon have to accept that you’re always going to be late and be a permanent deceiver to everyone. I  managed to fit in some decent catching-up with old companions though, even if sometimes in the unsastisfactory form of rushed chatter on subway seats or in the narrow line at a grocery store.

After restless jet-lagged nights in Montmartre filled with repeated nightmares/daymares of giant sharks eating up the world (wow) and checking on the bookstores hosting my books to retrieve my millions of euros, I finally reached the time of my exciting first gig of the tour, at the Mo’Fo Festival.

The hip indie fest was on the pleasant side of cool for the most part, even if I found the audiences disturbingly quiet (in an analytical “should i like this ?” or even “do i have the right to appreciate this act ?” kind of way, looking around to see if the others enjoy it) and fond of mild applause. It felt like not even a third of the people in the room cared to put their hands together after each song, probably an epidemy of hand blisters prevented them from showing their enthusiasm, though I personally wouldn’t vote for that option. But at least they shut the eff up, which is great. I loved the Matt Elliot set, making a smart and tasteful use of looping pedals, and the Tender Forever set, sort of a cheap/alternative Beyoncé in an awesome way. She delivered some heartfelt songs and interspersed her dancey numbers with bold comments on politics full of lesbian pride. She even did some live improvised singing-commenting of some “headbanging” viral videos her brother had just sent her, which was surprisingly entertaining though somewhat risqué.

I missed the last subway after talking with all the nice staff members of Les Boutiques Sonores and tried to help a achingly-drunk handicapped fellow who was crying on the groung to find a cab, but when he realized I wasn’t quite sure which way to go, he told me to go fuck my mom so I let it go after a few waves of insults.

It was then time to hop in Sammy’s van with his dog Cinto panting on the backseat and some good ol’ Patsy Cline on, and head northward, to Lille! But you’ll know more about it very soon…

So long…and thanks all for the views!

Afterword

Well, it’s about time to nicely wrap up this excursion diary!  First, let’s get it out of the way, for those of you wondering all this time: yes, I only brought two sweaters on this tour. And I wore them all the time because it was cold, which is why it looks like I always wear the same thing, even if I promise I actually wore different things under it. I hope it didn’t make our photo galleries too monotonous…Oh well, I’ll bring a third one next time and will think of switching outfits more often. Inevitably, I smelled a lot most of the time because of this limited wardrobe: my armpits could have furnished an Indian restaurant in spicy yellow curry for a full winter season, but again, I’m French, so give me a break, I’m supposed to come with stinkiness.

For closure purposes, here are some observations gathered from this crazy strip of US gigs, also inspired and backed-up by comments made by fellow singer-songwriters. Even if I did play for lots of friendly, supportive and respectful music-lovers, I have to say audiences felt a little rough this time around, and I want to believe this is more a bad series of coincidences than signs of worse things to come for the consumption of entertainment:

1. There are still well-educated adults in this world who sit with their backs turned to a performer when he’s on stage performing the songs he wrote and brought with passion, but not without efforts, from very far away.
2. There are still civilized human beings who talk very loudly with their friends, even a few feet away from a performer, making him/her feel like a set of speakers, or a entertaining puppet. And I won’t even mention the short-attention span disastrous phenomenon fueled by new technology gadgets, causing performers to give out their heartfelt words to a forest of laptops, ear-budded buddies and other smartphone freaks, checking out their Facebook for the 45th time when you play a chorus or loose them with your stage banter for a second.
3. It’s getting harder for bands writing original songs to get booked at venues, making them feel like a jukebox.”Everybody wants to hear covers now” was a recurring sentence heard among fellow songwriters on the road.
4. It’s still very common for other performers to greet another performer’s after-show with a muttered, automatic and highly ungenuine “Great set man!’ or “Good job!”. I had the chance to get thrown twice my new favorite: “I like your style, man”.
5. It’s still not unusual to spy other performers sharing the bill with you to show up right when they’re supposed to play and disappear right after they’re done without even a sloppy handshake or a half-assed salute to the other musicians. The best combination is when they do that but still manage to pretend they saw and heard your show (see #4). I guess we don’t all value the same sense of community.

But enough with my whiny rant, I had a blast and met lots of great people, learnt great facts, saw cool acts, heard fun stories, and witnessed unforgettable sights! Thanks a lot for following our adventures,  you kind and curious friends. 2000 views with a peak at 400 one day, wow!
Mickael gathered a lot of awesome footage on the road, and after letting it rest for a while during the holiday season, we’ll edit it in January and a series of kick-ass videos from the tour will be released this winter, so keep your eyes peeled!

The Keys’ next step is an exciting tour in France in February with fellow songwriters Sammy Decoster, Pollyanna and Odran Trümmel so keep your eyes peeled for more road stories, photos, videos and tour dates closer to you! It also starts to feel like it’s time to think about recording my numerous new songs, but time will come when it shall all fall together nicely. 2012 might be the year of You Can’t Beat Me If I’m Not Playing, The Keys’ 7th musical adventure but who knows?

Have unreasonable daydreams. Feed your fantasies daily. Nurture your friends like you would look after exotic flowers. Give yourself a well-deserved treat at least once a day. Spread love like peanut butter on a never-ending toast. Don’t drink and drive. Keep live music alive. Keep purchasing independent music. Serve and protect. Seven fruits and vegetables, two liters of water (Stay hydrated!), eight hours of sleep a day. Lend an ear to the weirdos.

Off to Southern Ontario now to rest my ringing ears, callused fingers and raspy voice,  I wish you a dreary Christmas and a sappy New Year!

Warmly from Detroit,
Boris Paillard.

High and low times in the Midwest

Pittsburgh

Oh, bleak and odd pockets of the Amerika! You notice you’re entering the Midwest like a slap on the face, a gentle slap though. Ok, a friendly tap on the back. As I experienced before, as soon as you exit the East Coast and start pushing inland, everything gets a little weirder. The good side of weird, mostly. A fun sign of change is always the shift in tone and length of the Greyhound driver’s introduction talk after we leave the station. On the East Coast, drivers are short and straight-to-the-point, but there, the speeches there tend to be longer, beefier and rougher, sometimes involving humor of some sort, as for example: “Keep your conversations on the phone short and at a low volume, no one cares about what you gonna do and who you’re gonna do it to wherever it is that you’re headin’ “. These legendary speeches (often coming through long-time broken speakers in a concerto of feedbacks and mutters) sound as dated as if they were recorded in the 80’s sometimes, as for example a very often stated: “If you happen to use some of those electronic devices, CD players or K7 players, please keep the volume low in order not to bother the other passengers…” What? K7, CD player? Who uses that in 2011? I love you Greyhound drivers, old-fashioned, rough-around-the-edges beasts in uniforms, i love leaving the driving to your reliable hands and eyes… It makes me remember that as you go South, it gets even weirder, weirdness is geographically exponential! I remember this Texas driver last year actually telling jokes all throughout the ride, even when passengers kept calling him out on his outrageous unfunniness.




But I digress. Pittsburgh it is. Strips of snow scattered across the magnificent land, bare naked trees letting the pale winter sun through their scraggy arms, hitting us with low light and weak heat through the bus window. Because we exited on the wrong side of the bus track (yes, never seen before: there was a special one-way lane built only for public buses, on top of now-defunct train tracks), we got lost in a ghost neighborhood, very Detroit-like: huge houses as decaying remains of a glorious industrial era, now broken-windowed, boarded-up and with a ridiculously lush backyard. We went into a burger joint to ask for directions after having been misdirected a couple times and the rude and obnoxious burger-maker got upset about the fact that we couldn’t give him a cross street to work with, giving us rough and useless talk as quoted: “C’mon guys, you’re from fucking France! Well I know where fucking Paris is, it’s by the fucking Eiffel tower or something! See, I know my fucking geography. Now give me a fucking cross street for Christ’s sakes, how do you reckon I can you help you lost dughs out without one fucking cross street? How the hell do you travel like that? Help me help you dudes!”. We thanked him kindly and left before he would yell louder and attempt to put us through his meat grinder for some free French-imported burger patties. The tricky part was to leave without seeming to rush, going for the door in a gentle, very gentle move so that it didn’t look like we were totally just fleeing that loonie’s den.

A creamy soup was waiting for us on a stove after our hour walk through these depressing neighborhoods and we could head to the Rock Room with a restored soul after having recovered from those erratic walks. Located in Polish Hill, a interesting mix of bad-ass punks and resting grannies, this venue was on the good side of weird. Thank god, the show room was separated from the bar room, where giant HD TV screens were showing with cranked-up volume some awful “America’s most violent home videos” type of show consisting of footage of people beating each other up, breaking things or hurting themselves. The line-up regulars were cheering in joyous “oohs” and “aahs”, often in sync, when someone’s car would get smashed by a baseball bat or when someone’s nose would be punched inside his head, or some romantic scene like that. We tried to convince the tight circle of bleached blonde women playing the casino machine in the corner to come listen to live music from abroad, but gambling on a screen still sounded more fun. Famous for its 15 cents perogies on thursdays and lively characters, this was a quirky and oddly charming spot, mixing neighborhood bullies, self-conscious hipsters, notorious drunks and plain old hippies for the same purpose of partying, except with different ideas about what it exactly means.

Also, our hosts had this pretty-awesome bumper sticker: “In 1492, the Native Americans discovered Christopher Columbus lost at sea”. Garett showed us the Harry-Potter like Tower Of Learning or something alike, owned by some university that takes indoor decoration very seriously (I guess you have to justify the insane student fees), and one bagel later, we were out of the Burgh.

Columbusted! Columbus stop

Between deep and agitated naps on the trembling bus window, I managed to catch glimpses of Ohio: flat as a pancake, just like we were warned it would unravel. Under the chalky grey skies of this wearisome winter, I have to admit that this zone didn’t look too inviting, and after getting my soda pop at the gas station for the usual 10-minute stop, I would rush back to the bus illico presto to ensure I was not to be left out in these repellent areas. Quite crazy how everything blends when you move every single day. Where were we yesterday again ? Who did I say that too ? Did I dream this dream in a bus or on an inflatable mattress ? I’m constantly striving to find ways not to repeat myself when I talk about my music project, my tour, my girl, my dog, Montreal, France…A good exercice for a writer, I guess. When the bus dropped us off, we faced another one of those downtown vortex that sucks out all life of the streets after 5pm, and got involved in another public transportation frenzy to find our ways to our host, but we were the welcomed with amazing warmth, in the form of strong hugs, homemade grilled-cheese sandwiches and board-games fun.

The local folky songwriters Brian, Fred and I found ourselves in a rather rare situation that night: waiting for the booker/owner to open up the venue! Usually closed on a Sunday, I guess it messed up their schedule a bit, so we chitchatted in the biting cold until 9.15pm for the doors to be unlocked, but Yalan and Jarod’s warmth, kindness and music-friendliness made up for this little inconvenient episode. It was fun and weird to have both performers and the (few) friends who came to the show waiting outside for the venue to open so that the show could happen! On top of the wonderful staff, what also balanced out the initial disappointment was the absolute splendor of the tastefully-deorated place, most definitely the most beautiful music venue visited on the tour, with incredible asian-style drapes and exotic objects, hyper-comfy couches, a vintage juke-box, fantastic gear and room sound. Too bad the crowd never flowed in, they would have loved it too. Columbus may be rough to start with but on a sunday night, it was really begging for emptiness and failure. It might be the biggest college town in the Us, but on finals week, the timing was a little off and there was dangerously close to no attendance that evening. There was probably something better on TV or at a sports bar or strip club that night too, working against a successful night.

Fred opened up with a mellow set of songs interspersed with tasteful guitar work, coated with a mastered electric sound and strumming technique. I liked when, out of nowhere, he said with a hard-to-read smile, “I’m so old…”. Brian, of the old protest-song school and a supporter of the local Occupy movement, strums weekly his guitar out in the cold there to warm the occupiers with his topical songs “Come on and join us, we’re the 99 percent!” and consorts. You can’t help but respect his solid dedication to causes, and it’s engrossing to still encounter songwriters who trust in music for carrying a meaningful message to rising generations. Alas, I felt bad he had to yell “We need PEACE, NOW!” in front of…pretty much myself (Mika was on his computer, so it doesn’t count) as the attendance grew dimmer when the night progressed.

A bunch of dollar-store chips were swallowed, words of gratefulness exchanged, a Jimmy John’s sandwich was ordered (my favorite chain of the area!) Fun fact: a friend of our host spotted her through the window when we were in the store at 2am, came in and gave us the longest and tightest hug a stranger ever offered to us, followed by “What’s up bro” and other classic lines. Americans, yo.

Cincinnati

This was a peak of our trip, two days in a very inspiring city, full of surprises and great people. The locals joke about the fact that their city is not that great by having stickers that say “Cincinnati is just OK” instead of the usual “I love Cincinnati“, but if this is OK, then we love it! Luck striked again: we arrived just in time for the weekly Couchsurfing community potluck in someone’s lavish apartment, implying fantastic people, Twister entanglement and delicious home-made dishes galore. Walking through Cincy on our first and only day of the tour without a Greyhound trip (long sigh of relief) was great, visiting high-quality contemporary Weston art gallery downtown (where I read highly inspiring local zines) and spending lots of time in up-and-coming hood called Over-The-Rhine, swarming with gem-like independently owned shops, like the incredible YES art gallery specialized in silk-screen printed books and art. This neighborhood was the craziest contrast ever between very scary people, street corners, totally abandoned old brick buildings and very recent fancy restaurants, beautiful second-hand book and clothing stores, art galleries…It was interesting to witness a neighborhood in the thick of massive transitioning, with the obvious and extreme cohabitation of the old ghetto and the first artification/gentrification installments.

The two shows were fun, first a show in a cool and crowded coffeehouse in the student part of the town, Clifton, with on top of the usual laptop tribe 20-something people from Couchsurfing that our host had kindly rounded up for the occasion of me passing through, then a weirder but awesome late-show in a yoga/meditation center. I got to hear there the impressive sound and technique of Gigawatson, emulating his idol Dub FX with energetic vocals and thoughtful lyrics processed through effect and looping pedals, delivering an entertaining mixture of hip-hop, reggae and electronic music. My guitar work feels like it’s getting tighter from playing a lot but my vocal delivery feels sloppier as I feel like I’m straining to get across noisy audiences in big rooms like the noisy coffeehouse that night (It was a very long and packed room and it was hard not be distracted by the constant back-and-forth of people coming in, the excruciating coffee machine sounds, the waitress flying inches away from my guitar every minute to deliver orders in the kitchen…). How also hard it is to connect with your songs deeply and consistenly when you play every single night! I’ll think twice before blaming Neil Young next time he doesn’t look 100% into it on stage…

Us high-plains drifters had come upon an ideal shelter, and had some time to cough up the dust settled in our lungs from our uneven recent days (Yes, Wilmington, it’s you I’m alluding to), but it was time to get in line for another Greyhound bus, and hear another obese driver yell out “Step ahead please, get your tickets ready, OUT OF THE ENVELOPE!”

Indianapolis

Repeated trouble finding healthy food and reliable wi-fi. We watched with perplexity the bored waitresses from Johnny Rockets dance the hippy hippy shake in a mall, moving like poorly-oiled robots: if a customer chooses this specific song on the restaurant jukebox, they have to get out from behind the counter and do this choreography… About six people (a hard-to-break record) asked us during our stay in Indianapolis: “But why did you come to Indianapolis ?”. After a while, I started to ask myself the same question. Even locals agree that Indy is somewhat of a cultural black hole at the crossroads of the US (See? I’m not just a French snob). We still spotted some nice architecture and friendly people, always with a faint “Let’s get the f*** out of here as soon as we can” undertone though. Very conservative and religious, it is the city with the most war memorials in the country, even more than Washington D.C.!

The highlight of the stay was definitely accompanying our host’s protest group “Jobs with Justice” to a pacific protest in front of the Republican Speaker of the house of the Indiana State Bosma’s house door, recently locally famous for trying to push a law making unions weaker in the state (summarizing here for course, find more online). Believe it or not, about 20 people drove half an hour in the “suburbs for the wealthy” and parked in front of this big-shot politician’s massive house with the intention of singing Christmas carols (with adapted lyrics of course) at the doorstep until the cops chase us away. We rang the doorbell, and his wife and 20-something daughter opened. They got really excited, thinking we were actual Christmas carolers, but then their smiles turned backwards as they heard the changed-up lyrics: “On the first day of Christmas, Brian Bosma gave to me, twelve billionaires toasting, eleven bankers counting, ten lobbyists shmoozing, nine bosses milking, eight managers firing, seven bucks an hour, six days a-working, life in poverty! foreclosed homes, three part-time jobs, two percent raise and right to work bill under the tree!“. I also liked the “No-Haired Preacher” one : “Bosma says right-to-work sets us free / lower wages mean more jobs you see! / you can choose any job that you please / Wendy’s, Taco Bell or Mickey D’s!” The girl actually looked at her mom and said: “Hey wait, that’s not how the song goes..”. Once they understood they were a facing a bunch of crazy liberals singing off-tune in the rain to piss off the man of the house, they waved shyly and shut the door, leaving us under an increasing shower that soon shortened our protest-performance (not because of lack of dedication of course, they lyrics sheets were just getting soggy, therefore unreadable). The two women were probably itchy to fly the finger but they were on camera, so they had to smile, rule of thumb! Oh, and we had candles too to look even more the part, but the wind blew our efforts.

Chicago

The grand-ma sitting next to me (window seat, jealous!) drew owls frenetically for an hour on a little heart-shaped notebook. It looked like it was her way of releasing the stress of being cramped in a smelly space full of improbable people, from Amish family whispering a slanted German to recently out-of-jailed dudes (easy to spot: always wearing white and carrying a single plastic bag filled with all their belongings). A sharp and strong wind cutting the cheeks like razorblades greeted us welcome, windy city indeed. The bean in Millenium Park, the Macy’s window displays, the fantastic Shedd world-class aquarium and our sneaking in the 40$ jellyfish special exhibition. After another exhausting Greyhound trip, it was utterly relaxing to be around this quiet animal world, like being cooped up inside a Planet Earth episode, even if I should say they could cut down a little on the fake Amazonian jungle sounds (rainfalls, monkeys, got it, it’s the jungle!) constantly blasting through speakers. Otters are my new faves.

I decided to cancel my last show in Michigan because of transportation technicalities and exhaustion issues, so we’ll have more time in Chicago to check out more exhibitions and try out Jimmy John’s sandwiches. I’m sitting on a bathroom seat underground the Reggie’s Rock Club where I just played and where we’re staying in the “green room”, it’s 4 am and my mind is sore. Mika is snoring unshamefully on a leather couch, it’s been quite the work for him documenting all this craziness, we can’t wait to share the precious footage. (You shall seen events that weren’t even mentioned in this blog, wow! Exclusive content on the way)

This jolly journey is then drawing to an end, voices and melodies are ringing in our ears, faces are meshing in our wired heads, miles are printed painfully on our damaged feet. It feels like we now deserve some serious holidays. And at last, not to feel a highway thundering under us every day. Of course, we’ll miss it all as soon as we’re home for a while, stuck in a luxurious and boring bubble of comfort, but isn’t that the whole push-and-pull charm of it?!

An unlikely kingdom

Baltimore of the same

Blazed by a fantasmatic sunset, we landed in Baltimore with eyes full of sleeplessness. A grumpy cab-driver apparently untouched by the all-around Christmas excitement dropped us off at the Sidebar Tavern, famous for being the “punk bar that refuses uptown”, remaining the only place for live music downtown (which in the US, is commonly synonym for “cultural wasteland of commercial high-rises, maze of grey bank buildings and large deserted sidewalks”. All the cool venues are now uptown, which is understandable, because people actually live there. Sandwiched between an extra-weird strip of shady strip clubs and other video-mega-porn-pizza hubs and closed, empty and ugly towers blocking the last rays of sunset, the Sidebar Tavern was an unlikely sight indeed. Not much to mention about the show, except for some mild heckling and a good size crowd, alas going thinner as it was getting late: it was finals week for a lot of students apparently, but also people came to listen to their local friends’s set and few bothered to stick around and listen to this unknown Frenchman, understandable but unforgivable! We stayed in the pleasant hood of Hampden, swarming with antique stores. One stale burrito and an altercation between a public bus driver and a coked-up passenger further down the road, we were off to the unlikely tiniest state of Delaware.

Wilmington, Delawhere?

Dreary doom of Delaware…Funny that the lowest point of the tour should happen right in the middle of it, as if predicted by a classic arc of natural progression. Before laying down the crapola, I should warn that there’s a happy end: it all went uphill from here, as it could have been foreseen as well. First of all, we knew we were in for a trip when until the day of, none of all the Couchsurfing hosts had answered our requests, first time the otherwise-amazing community failed me! To spice up this initial state of stress, we naïvely followed the ridiculous Googlemaps “Public Transit” directions to the venue, taking a train from the Greyhound station and stopping in the most middle of the most nowhere I had ever encountered. Picture this: we’re the only ones coming down the already-poorly packed train, a thick mist is flying off a few inches from the grass, a few cars are scattered in a gloomy parking lot, a silhouette is yelling in the distance (at us? at itself?), sirens go off blaring in the near dark resembling wolves’ howling their welcome at us, it’s pitch black, there is no sign whatsoever to tell us where what is, the backpack straps are painfully digging in our shoulder blades. This country is definitely not optimized for people who don’t own cars and who have never been there before. We then walked through a semi-forest/semi-suburb (there was no sidewalk of course, who would ever walk there?) in order to get to a big road consisting of a classic line-up of junk food chains, grim supermarkets, somber walk-in clinics…

We had an hour walk in front of us, and ô miracle, we randomly came across a shopping cart that was chilling across a high school wall on our day down the wretched commercial road, which fit most of our burden and offered much-appreciated relief for our suffering backs and exhausted minds. There was something quite eerie about pushing a squeaky cart full of luggage through this endless queue of burger joints. When the firefighters’ christmas parade popped out of nowhere, with their unrehearsed and cacophonic symphony of strident sounds and elaborate light show, it was the peak of total random, our point of entrance into the kingdom of extreme unlikeliness. Santa Claus waved at us from the top of a truck and I was hit with one of those strong and bold “What am I doing here?” moments.

The beaten-down and spooky rock/heavy metal club was finally reached after tricky parts of handling the cart down steep hills through crazy cracked-sidewalks. The combination of untrained cart-pushers in a pedestrian-hostile environment was a dangerous cocktail for sure, but after buckets of back-sweat and cheerful driving, we saw the Mojo 13 sign in the distance and exhaled a sigh of extreme body relief. But that was just the end of the first stage of bad surprises… The creepy decoration involved badly drawn sort-of-sexy women, scary-as-hell clowns and circus monkeys, all in all doing a great job at making you feel uneasy the whole time you’re surrounded by them. The booker/bartender was no less than a jerkface and thought that giving me free coke was a fair compensation to my show instead of the money talked about beforehand. The sound guy saved my weary soul that night by being dedicated to giving me the best sound. The rather irritating night in this gross dive bar in disgusting suburbia-land ended well when we went from stranded to saved, thanks to Tim’s (awesome bass player) kind invitation to put his up in his Newark home. I have to state the the headlining band was the worst band I had ever heard in my short life, cumulating musical bad-taste and assholeness in a highly dangerous and inflaming mix, grinding my gears for good after all these troubled trips. A trip to Wawa to get a sandwich wrap wrapped up this sore night out, and we had fun chosing our toppings for our sandwich using a digital screen at 3 am.

Indianapolis is calling for more adventures now, but you shall soon here about our Midwest joys with stories from our stays in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cincinnati very soon! Stay tuned. Stay hydrated. Don’t drink and drive.

Whooping through the Wetlands

Dear readers! Been a little while since I got in touch here, the endless road has been repetitive and the cities tend to blend, but I’ve been gathering some rough gems on the path for you to look at.

New York

Welcomed by thick raindrops, we hurried straight to the Trash Bar in Hispterdom/Brooklyn. Not much to mention there, except for the unexpected visit of the mighty Peter “Fantastico” Nevins, back from an inspiring staycation in Europe. The rather uneventful show was followed by lively talks in the massive and gorgeous Radegast Tavern, accompanied by legendary Couchsurfer host David “Awesome” Slone. The usual and infamous Williamsburg street fever was seriously affected by a terribly soaked sky, having me stroll the sidewalks with wet sneakers for two days under never-ending cold showers .

Of course, everything turned into a rush in this city of a thousand moves and I spent a whole day running from one bookstore to the other to check on my poetry books left in consignment this summer. Special mention to Desert Island, amazing comic book store in Brooklyn, where Gabe welcomed my Salade de Crudités with rare enthusiasm. This is where I also get to thank McNally & Jackson in Soho for selling out all of the 24643 books I had left there, making me feel rich and famous all at once. How great it is to reminded that there are still people caring for the written word in this wounded world of ours! It was great to check out the famous store Printed Matter, arriving just in time for the launch of a 1500$ pop up book (my poetry chapbook indeed looked like a cheap joke next to it). I discovered great silk-screen printed books there, but astonishingly, all from European publishers, especially Lubok from Germany. It was then quite enjoyable to head to Harlem and play at The Shrine with its quirky African staff generous in long and tight hugs. The great Leslie Graves had offered to do some back-up vocals and she picked up “I Became Who You Thought I Was” in one minute and nailed it on stage half an hour later, quite the pro. It felt great to share the stage with someone after all these lonely performances. Her show was fantastic in dynamics, lyrics and vocals, and was followed by my pal Anthony’s soulful and heartfelt set of folk and blues-inspired tunes. Fun fact from the evening: Mika met a French girl at The Shrine that was born in the same Tarn village as him and in the exact same year. One gross Falafel and two Mexican cokes later, we were out of the maelstrom, pushing down south.

Philadelphia

Philly felt great right from the start. Funded in 1682! Wow, for once, lots of old and precious history to dig our teeth into! The massive city hall with gorgeous and huge outdoor statues (the constructor spent half of his life on this building only!) has a quirky little story: there was an urban legend that there couldn’t be a building higher than the city hall because the bronze statue of William Penn placed at the very top was deemed a hovering protection of some sort, looking after the city with a kind hand gesture. Because of natural progress and necessary estate expansion, the need quickly came in the 1970’s to build higher buildings and the city finally agreed that they had to outgrow the old city hall and therefore overshadow the ancient protective figure. The story goes that all the local sports teams never won a title once the first skyscraper was erected. When the highest of all was built, the workers made a joke and taped a miniature version of the statue on top of the roof when it was done. Of course, that precise year, the local baseball team came home with the championship title…

The city had a lot to offer for the tiny amount of time we had: a great art museum, the “Rocky steps” where Stallone raised his arms in Rocky #8 or something, the broken Liberty Bell, the Independence Hall, aargh! Torn by tricky decision-making, we chose to take the southern route, marching through great neighborhoods, checking out the Magic Gardens – a Facteur Cheval-esque art installation, mostly outdoors, involving beautiful mosaïc including recycled objects in a maze of colours, words and matters. It is apparently considered a unforgiven crime to visit Philadelphia without having a bite of a local Cheesesteak, so we went to Jim’s, one of the two most legit establishments who mastered and fine-tuned the culinary technique (the other half of the city, definitely divided on the delicate subject, was shouting: “Noooo, c’mon, go to Tony Luke’s!”). The large and charismatic cook put together the famed sandwich in 10 seconds in front of us, finding the time in there to fit two outrageous jokes, scratch his knee and yell something incomprehensible at his colleague. To my utter bewilderment, it tasted extra-yummy (for what is really, cheese, steak and bread, come on) and it was fun checking out the faded autographed pictures of the movie and sports stars expressing their love for Jim’s Cheesesteaks. I especially liked the random picture of Larry King freefalling with a sandwich in his mouth and with a written quote saying “Jim’s gets me high!”. I can’t imagine the logistics behind that picture, that’s sandwich-love right there. The show at The Fire was quite uneventful again, except for a giant plush toy dog that conveniently guarded my merch while was I was striving to rock out on stage. More rain and trouble finding the right bus, more musical fellows and good encounters. A much-craved load of laundry later, we were gone down even souther to Maryland…

Soon, Baltimore, Wilmington and Pittsburgh! Stay tuned!

Alone on the Providancefloor

Got in from Boston in a bus packed with Brown University students who took themselves quite seriously, debating for the full hour-and-a-half ride about international policies non-stop (probably getting pumped up for a model-UN Conference or something), leaving Mika and I in a state of stress dangerously close to annoyance when we both realized that cranking up the volume on the Ipod wouldn’t cover their academic chatter anyway.

The anti-gentle driver of the “Peter Pan” Bus threw our bags out the trunk like garbage, which always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Thank God my guitar case fits in the overheads and I don’t have to trust those brutes with it. Mika mumbled a well-deserved “Hey, fuck you” to which the driver replied with a low grumble that (maybe) expressed semi-embarrassment. He then full-throttled through Kennedy Plaza, happy to be relieved of his duties.

After checking out the local high-school ice-skating talents doing a free show outdoors and going through the thin Occupy Providence settlement, we got caught in the usual hell of american public transportation: no schedules listed, no bus numbers or line itineraries on the bus stop pole, just figure it out man! After much confusion and back-sweat, we found the right bus that dropped us in a pretty shady part of town. Firehouse 13 was standing there in its magnificence, unlikely joint located in a dark deserted back-alley behind a Mc Donald’s parking lot ; it’s funny how culture somehow manages to find its way in the cracks of the mainstream entertainment (Remember Ground Zero in the suburban mall…). The staff was extremely nice and supportive, the sound was great and the local acts full of talent (special mention to Keith McCurdy of Vudu Sister, who nailed it with solid heartfelt vocals and strong effective songs) but unfortunately, it was a poorly attended Saturday night shindig. The awesome owner Lizzie made up for it as well as local punk/roots band Revered Bastien’ cover of The Misfits: “Brains for breakfast, brains for lunch, brains for dinner, brains for brunch…”.

We learned some cool things on the ride back thanks to nice fellow Bastien, like how the Italian mobsters ruled Providence for a long time when they came in the 60’s (before being busted and handcuffed after the Reeko act) and reshaped it to resemble their homecountry, building Venice-style water fountains, cobblestoned streets and other great architecture that enhanced the city’s beauty. Built in 1630 and full of nice historical districts (the gorgeous Benefit Street with its old Brown University buildings and student residences, which represents a good third of the city, Wickenden Street and its great strip of privately owned antique shops and coffee houses, and finally India Point Park where the wharves used to swarm with commercial boats’s goods flowing in from India and Africa), it apparently has the biggest design school in the country and as you may see in the pictures, is home to lots of interesting buildings from the late 17th century.

Spending a beautiful sunday walking around to get a sense of what was Providence was about, we were definitely hit with a weird sinking feeling strolling through these pretty but extra-deserted streets, spotting lots of abandoned boarded-up businesses no one seems to bother to pick up, even Downtown. Sometimes a student or two would exit a huge ancient building and pass by with an Iphone with a hood on, like a ghost rushing to its next haunting mission. When feeling uneasy and a little spooked in empty Providence, I couldn’t help but think of the horror master H.P. Lovecraft who used to roam around the West Side of this city, and definitely understood a little more where he got some of his inspiration for coming up with the Miskatonic University, Arkham and the creepy parallel worlds he conceived and located in or around Rhode Island.

Of course, our Couchsurfing host Dan was fantastic, furnishing us with warm welcome (even with repeated late-night arrivals) and delicious breakfast with his favourite hard-to-find hot sauce Lingham’s that he orders by cases from Malaysia from the Internet. Dan’s roommate Brie told us about where she was from in Pennsylvania and mentioned the oddly-named Amish towns of Virginville, Blueballs and Intercourse.

Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a pleasant surprise, which proves once again that good thing come to the ones who don’t expect them at all. Twenty minutes north of Providence, it was even more deserted and gloomy and when we got off the bus (yes, hell again to hop on that one), I knew we were in for a trip. But as soon as we pushed the door of The News Cafe, odd little bar at a odd corner of an odd town, we were greeted with a larger-than-life smile from Jill the bartender who shouted: “Welcome to Pawtucket, sirs! Please help yourself to the hot-dog table, if you’re hungry, they’re still hot!”. It was all uphill from here, meeting Matt the friendliest booker who performed a great opening set of Nick Drake/Jeff Buckley- influenced songs with a lot of soul, gutsy lines and successful ambient instrumentals. His brother Mike closed the night with a great set, playing tasteful electric guitar that had a fantastic tone, and singing beautiful songs in a raw and energetic voice.

So here is how this week-end went: two poorly unattended shows in a deserted city, which made me feel quite alone on the Providancefloor, but I leave with my pockets full of new friends and great inspirational music. This is why I’m in for.

An exquisite party at the Whitehaus

The Whitehaus is the kind of spot that America and the rest of the world needs. A place where you can read “sharing is the gateway to abundance” at the bottom of a hand-crafted mug. A place where people hug the real hugs, care with the right care and smile with a straight smile. A place where art is taken seriously without forgetting the fun of it. It is awesomely located in the pulsing heart of Jamaica Plain, or should I rather say, “JayPeeh”, a very multicultural neighborhood, host to a very vibrant art community. We were welcomed with open arms and hearts, and very soon stories were shared: everybody was still very excited about a big show that happened a few days earlier outdoors with twenty underground experimental bands performing in the bear cages of Franklin Park.

The house show there was a blast, the bomb, the bee’s knees of the cheez whiz. When playing, my knees went from trembling to sweating in the matter of half an hour thanks to the quickly rising of the temperature. More than forty music lovers were gathered and sitting quietly on the wooden floor of a great sounding room, leaving me against the wall with the watching eye of godfather Jimi Hendrix watching over me.
The opening act was a fantastic performance from a hot and inspired couple showcasing rare body interactions, but I won’t say much more about it as I put a excerpt from their great piece on the blog for your enjoyment. Deth West and Cha Feliz continued to break the ice of the room full of bodies warming up by delivering some “heavy mellow” music in the form of quiet and fun acoustic punk. Laura Jorgensen’s rich and pretty voice stood strong on top of her bandmates’ tasteful and intricate playing, involving subtle violin, playful trumpet and groovy rhythm section. This great and diverse niht of music wrapped up nicely with an energetic and friendly set by The Meadowlarks, who had never performed their songs live before, even if studio sharks for years. They had this magical crowd up in no time, stomping and chanting, the smiles were too many to keep track of.

After many great conversations and encounters (including the visit of my friend Dexter, who used to play bad-ass bass in The Keys in Montreal, and his awesome bandmate Nigel, studying music in Boston) We slept in the same room where the show had taken place, which I always love: feeling the electricity slowly settling down, the thick human warmth hanging in the air, the scent of all these sweaty bodies squeezed up in a tiny space for one short magical moment still lingering around and tickling the nostrils… The Whitehaus is the kind of spot that I want to go to and come back from.

Hitting the Ground (Zero) Running!

After a smooth ride through the gorgeous Vermont hills and forests, we finally made it to the tiny state of New Hampshire, famous for its 300 state representatives only paid 200$ a year, mostly retired old guys loving the dirty local politics of it (info given by exquisite Couchsurfer host Ryan). After a quick visit (it couldn’t be that long anyway) of Concord, tiny state capital, my amigo and I got picked up at the happening “Dos Amigos” burrito place to head towards the venue of the night: Ground Zero! A Christian family-owned and run all-ages venue in Out Of The Way, New Hampshire. The 20 minute-ride from Concord was pleasant and informative thanks to Patrick’s gruesome tales about one of the major annual events of the area: the big car racing, which in his own words involves “a lot of irresponsible drunks with kids in the middle running wild and free”. Apparently, a third of the camping visitors don’t even make it to the end and get arrested before the actual race, or just pass out somewhere for two days and miss the whole thing. His description of the behavior and looks of the drunks reminded me of that haunting novel “Feast of the Snakes” book by Harry Crews, in which the author describes the self-destructive binging of all these campers coming for some snake-hunting festival in a village in the South, only famous for this event.

The glowing sign of the “Ground Zero” venue was quite a sight in the chilly and extra-quiet evening: here was this unlikely little haven for indie culture in the corner of a suburban mall, conveniently situated next to a Family Dollar store. Oddly enough, it contains a now defunct video-game shop (the court said it was a pawn shop=illegal, the upset guy was packing up his Nintendo64 games in front of us) and a huge cosy room that felt empty despite the 10-something cranberry juice-sipping crowd that gathered in there to listen to alternative music on a cold weeknight. There were a lot of preachy but somehow fun posters, flyers and tracts everywhere like “Kids always regret abortion”, “Every porno has somebody’s daughter in it” or my personal fave: “Virginity Rocks! I love my husband and I haven’t even met him!”. Some interesting graffiti was displayed on the walls to decorate the space, striving to mix bad-ass legit street art with ancient christianity messages, as for example this huge tagged barbed-wire crowned Jesus face on top of which was written “Hardcore Forgiveness”.

The 4 teen openers played some pretty bland and repetitive high school/heartfelt/highly hormonal songs of the Dashboard Confessional breed, but Dorothy’s set (Getting Found) stood out with really charming and touching words, delivered in a clear Brian Molko-like voice on a way out-of-tune guitar. I remember enjoying a rhyme going like “stop using me like a blanket/i should take all your money and just bank it” and a line something like “you might have screwed me over but at least you didn’t screw me”, that’s golden stuff right there. Of course, there was some mandatory lines involving “Jesus loves me yes I know, because the Bible tells me so” but it didn’t break the flow of the great personal storytelling she kept providing. All in all, it was an OK night as we were surrounded with very friendly music-loving people and funny chatty children (We now know all about some clubhouse a girl built in the woods, in which there’s a spy room, a guest room and then they had a party there once with chips and orange juice and then it snowed so on…) but definitely a frustrating feeling of starting my tour with a extra-small crowd and no compensation. Still a worthy experience of course.

Apart from a sore throat totally numb from sucking all day on Hall’s and Chloraceptic tablets, the travel is going smooth and sweet and the weather surprisingly mild. Mika has been gathering fantastic footage for our documentary that I can’t wait to share. Boston was fantastic but this is another story and we’re on our way to Rhode Island now…

Next post: Boston and the amazing show at the mighty Whitehaus, holy of the holies, where 40+ people crammed into a room pushing the performers against the wall, excluding another 20 squished in the hallway trying to get in and listen.
For now, I’d like to leave you with the words Franky Hurricane kept saying enthusiastically (that we had the chance to interview today, from the band Knight:Owls): “Stay high, stay hydrated Gangstaaa!”.

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