Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Miettes

I got an e-mail asking me why I hadn't blogged the Fête de la Musique, the annual Solstice celebration that happens all over France (and Germany) on June 21, and the reason was, mostly, that I was dealing with a musician. Lisa Shawley is a friend of a couple of people I know in Austin, and she showed up on Facebook announcing that she was busking her way through France, and asked if I knew anyplace good. I asked Bruno, a street-musician I know here (and about whom I'll have to write at some point), and he said there were no particular rules, just a few tips. So she came down on Friday, and had a place worked out through the Couchsurfing website. I helped her find her host, and on Saturday she went down to the market, where I found her with a bass player who didn't seem very interested in what she was trying to do:

She decided to stay until the Fête, and joined in with the festivities at the Globe, an English-language used bookstore and informal cultural center whose owner, Lawrence McGuire, also has a band called the Peace and Love Cowboys. I went home after her set, though, because if she hadn't been here, I would have burrowed deep into my couch and waited the evening out.

This sounds curmudgeonly of me, I know. Here's a day set aside for free music, played everywhere around every town! What a beautiful, idealistic event! But the reality is different. For one thing, you almost never see professionals participating in this thing. For some of the groups and individuals who play, it's the only gig -- or almost the only gig -- they'll have all year. For another thing, the spirit of the thing is vitiated by the fact that a large percentage of the "musicians" are DJs. You're not going to rope me into the "DJs aren't musicians" debate, for the simple reason that I've done lots of DJ work and I know how hard it is to cobble together a set in a club or on the radio, but I will also grant you that it's easy enough to assemble a sound system that'll blast your average fiddle band into oblivion with the touch of a switch. Quite frankly, I think that what my late friend Rollo called "guitar operators" and such should be the focus of the Fête, and not record selectors.

Of course, there are flaws with this, too: the nearest stage to my house for much of the day was from some École des Bands, or École du Rock, and I endured utterly soulless, technically proficient, out-of-context noise from one group of teenagers to the next. Um, Chuck Berry doesn't work as heavy metal, kids. Really. And if Joan Jett could have heard what you did to "I Love Rock and Roll..." No, I hate to speculate. But this was live music, and their parents were out in the crowd with their camcorders filming it all, and no doubt some of it now lives on YouTube. The horror...

After the schoolkids shut down, there was the bar next door, which has a common wall with me, so I know how their tape ends, because they shut down every night at 12:45, before I go to bed. They just moved the speakers out into the street, so now I know what the treble frequencies sound like. But, again, that's cheating: not only was it a tape, but they didn't even bring in a live DJ.

Just as New Years Eve is the amateur night when people who don't drink or party during the rest of the year do more of both than is good for them (and emergency rooms get to see all kinds of interesting stuff), Fête de la Musique is amateur night for both performers and audiences. As most anyone who lives in downtown Montpellier (or downtown anywhere else in France) can attest, it should be called Fête du Bruit, the Festival of Noise.

As for Lisa, she took off after busking the Tuesday market for Arles, will be meeting her partner in The Just Desserts on the 5th, and chances are that they'll be back busking and housesitting in Montpellier around then.

* * *

Lunkhead news: Last year, I was awakened in the middle of the night by something in my apartment which turned out to be a cat which had managed to climb into my place by means unknown. This cat, by dint of being un-neutered, has become a part of the life of all of us who share the courtyard my apartment looks out onto, with her yowling at all times of night and day. Imagine how surprised I wasn't to discover that she belonged to Les Lunkheads downstairs! But there's a happy ending for the cat: a woman moved into an apartment over by one of the roofs the cat hung out on, and started feeding her. Next thing you know, she's adopted the cat -- and taken it to the vet! Lady, we all salute you.

So this morning there was a commotion down below: one of the Lady Lunkheads decided she wanted the cat. So she's been clapping her hands, making kissing sounds, and calling. This works -- for dogs. (Well, sometimes it does). It never works for cats because cats don't care. Finally, Lady Lunkhead decided to bribe the cat out of hiding and placed a bowl of milk, a bowl of kibble...and a dead lizard in the courtyard, where at this moment the milk is probably turning into cheese and the lizard is dessicating in the sun. The lizard, in particular, pisses me off, because from what I can tell it's a Moorish gecko like the one that appeared in my apartment during a windstorm last year:

(Image from Wikipedia)

These useful critters eat mosquitoes, and mosquitoes have begun to appear around here. Anyway, she's still going at it and I can just see the cat stretched out on the other woman's couch thinking that maybe if she exercises patience, Lady Lunkhead will go away. Cats are good at that. 

* * * 

And another week passes without a phone. I now have a Secret Operative, however, who may be able to work things out on Monday. I sure hope so; I hate paying for services I'm not getting. 

Meanwhile, regular readers will notice two new features. First, the PayPal button no longer displays a wall of incomprehensible French or intimidating German: I figured out how to make it display English. And thanks to those who've navigated the furrin languages. 

Second, I've added a webcam to this site in blatant imitation of Ben Perry's Berlin webcam. Unlike his, which displays a nice slice of the city, mine is a bit boring: there's a mountain off to the left which I suspect is Pic St. Loup, but since I have no idea where this cam is sited, I can't be sure. It refreshes only once an hour, too, which at this time of year, when there's not much change in the weather, means there's not much variation in the image. There's an official city webcam that shows the action right outside my house, but it's a fake: it shoots a 5-minute loop and plays it for 15 minutes. It's also not possible to embed here, I believe, although a friend of mine's 8-year-old volunteered to help, and then didn't. Kids today...

The dance festival is up and running, and I'm going to go look at some of the free stuff, and there's also some other cultural stuff happening, so I hope to be back sooner than later. 


  1. Hi Ed, over from SIF. I have to agree with you about the Fete de la Musique. I now avoid it totally. I have participated, but I no longer do the music I did and hate crowds, loud music and pushing.

    Give me a chilled rosé at a beach bar any day!

  2. Actually, meant SFN (Survive France Network). Oops...

  3. Shame about the failure of the fête de la musique. In some villages it can be fun though ...not professional but fun, with brass bands, classical orchestras etc.
    I've just discovered your blog by the way. It's really great!


Site Meter