La Blogothèque organized its first Soirée à Emporter on July 30. Designed like a giant Take Away Show, open to everyone and to the sorts of accidents, surprises, and moments of grace that we find in our usual filming, it gathered Zach Condon from Beirut & SiDi ALi, the mighty Kocani Orkestar, Inlets, Jeremy Warmsley and David-Ivar Herman Düne. Sparrow House & Sebastian Schuller also made surprise appearances.
We’ve asked a few of our good (English-speaking) friends to each write a piece on this crazy, overwhelming night.
When Zach Condon introduces his last song, denial rings throughout the Flèche d’Or. “But after,” he continues, “I will play with Kocani Orkestar. It’s a dream for me.”
This news about a Balkan band elicits very little reaction from the crowd. Most of those crammed into the venue, not to mention the hundreds who are waiting on the sidewalk, have arrived to see Beirut. The announcement of their last song seems to signal the end of a very special soirée.
The opening thump-thumps of “Sunday Smile” see the crowd start to turn around, swaying and beaming with pleasure of discovery. Zach’s attention is initially focused on the job of filling his microphone. When he raises his head for the chorus, looks around and sees what’s happening, a manic grin threatens to wipe out his ability for words.
He is 22 years old, this kid. He has spent the summer in Paris, mere steps away from the stage that now holds him with his musical heroes. Their brass envelops him and sends this unreleased song into the sky. His new neighbors are all around, waving their arms and asking for more.
How did he get here?
It was only a few weeks ago that Chryde broke the news in a Paris café. Upon learning that the Blogothèque was bringing Kocani to come and play with him, Zach was stunned into silence. He lit a cigarette. He said “thank you.” He then retreated into the fear that comes with getting what you want.
That initial astonishment infuses this song with Kocani Orkestar. “Sunday Smile” is taut with anxiety and joy. It is bursting with Zach’s gratitude for the beauty of this moment. By the end of the song he is nearly bowing down before his guests from Macedonia.
When the call for “Siki Siki Baba” is sounded, Zach raises himself up and promptly jumps into the fray. “Watching me listen to this song,” he wrote last year for Said the Gramophone, “is like watching a hyperactive four-year-old without his Ritalin. Pure excitement.” Watching him not only listen but play along to this song is doubly exciting.
The crowd that only an hour ago was held spellbound by delicate sounds is now erupting, their energy in each chorus threatening to break out the windows of this former train station. Zach gushes along with the rest of them, waving his arms like some deranged conductor. His eyes are often closed or fixed upon the distant ceiling as if the sight of this swell is just a little too much. When he opens them and looks around, he can barely contain his laughter.
We are so thoroughly whipped into musical fervor that the end of the song is not an option. The crowd continues to bleat out its ecstasy in chorus after unscripted chorus. Our consolation, when the last note falls, is that this song is only the beginning of our night with Kocani Orkestar.
Let’s hope this is also only the beginning of these Soirées à Emporter.
from Le Blagueur à Paris
I watched Chryde arrive at a party a few nights earlier, leaping into the room with an elastic grin stretching his face. Everyone greeted him and tried to match his cheer, but Zach questioned him, half-joking, “Why are you always so excited? Don’t you remember that life is boring and dull?” I wondered what I would said in response if Zach had asked the same question of me. But Chryde almost too quickly replied that he wanted to make people’s heads explode.
Earlier that day, Jared and I had sprained our ankles and cracked our knees dashing around Paris. At the Sacre Cour a man ran up to Jared and asked him to extend his hand. He began tying a string around Jared’s finger and braiding a bracelet. When we realized what the man was doing, Jared quickly said we had to be going and we left the man standing there with half a bracelet and none of our money.
At Le Fleche d’Or I convinced Jared to duck backstage a few minutes before my set so I could show him a few melodies and harmonies he could help me with. I immediately imagined myself tying a string around his finger, tricking my two-day-old new friend into learning a song moments before playing it on stage and absorbing the risk with me.
At sound-check Garrincha came over to ask if was ok. Yes I was, I thought.
The first night at dinner a number of us ordered a strange appetizer of cold rabbit in a jar of jelly. The notion of eating cold meat from a jar gave me the sense that we were camping in a foreign wilderness, but although I tried, I couldn’t like the dish enough to eat much of it. Instead I sat and watched the Blogotheque crew debate their favorite ’Take-Away Shows’ and tick with a nervous energy that counted down to the Soiree.
“Are you doing ok?” Vincent Moon asked me. I thought so.
Later, when I found myself at the show I still had the feeling that I was camping in a strange wilderness, surviving not with what was familiar, but with what we had: under-rehearsed and feeding back, without our usual band-mates and writing chords on paper we propped on our knees. Zach and I had laughed that none of us knew what we would do to get through the night. But this time it seemed like we were all enjoying the meal, we all ticked with nervous energy, infected by our new French friends and helped each other.
At the end of the night Chryde was drunk. “Yes,” he said, “I am drunk. But I deserve it.” He had worked hard. I hugged him. Ben picked up his Trombone and we began walking back to his apartment. Then my head exploded.
Inlets first EP is available for free here.
As Sidi Ali plays, you can hear murmurs around him. Perhaps I ought not draw attention to it. But the Soirée à emporter, the Take-Away Evening, was first and foremost a soirée, a night out, and a night out is a thing of music AND murmurs, of beauty AND noise, of dimness AND glow. You put up with the distractions, with the plain real fact that somehow or another the microphone’s got to get plugged in. As you try to figure out whether to tip the bartender or not, to talk to that boy or not, to tuck in your shirt or to leave it out; as you lose sight of your friends in the crowd, as you hear the clink of glasses, you’re just hoping breath-in-chest for a moment of magic. That there in the messy nighttime jungle you’ll spend a few moments somewhere precious, part of something somehow secret.
And Sidi Ali plays like you do on nights like these, with songs like these. He repeats the same lines and this repetition is so generous: a hook we can all see and feel. He has a small circle of light and he fills it with want, and love. He takes a deep breath and he invites us all in – all of us, everyone there and even those of us here at home with our own distractions out the window, or in the street, or the stutter of the streaming Flash video. He lays his fingers on his guitar-strings and he asks his question — «Do you come back home ?» He asks it over and over again. He makes you wonder. Do you? Do you come back home? And you hang there in the space between utterance and feeling, trying to decide if you do or if you don’t, if you would or if you won’t, if you know what Sidi Ali means or if you’re even more lost than he could imagine.
And waiting there, caught in yourself, so far away from the distractions that you started with – murmurs, clink, hims – there’s suddenly and softly the sound of Zach Condon and Benjamin Lanz, sounds that are nothing but hope and promise, gold and silver and ocean-blue. It’s something close to peace, there in the place where you were before so unfound.
from Said The Gramophone
Sebastien Schuller is swaddled in a blanket of bodies, a sepiaed circle of fellow musicians — Sidi Ali, Zach Condon, Jared Van Fleet — and soiree guests. Some distracted, sure. (Girls brush hair from their eyes, whisper a word to a friend; boys clutch cameras, jockey for position.) But most: enchanted. They follow Schuller’s porcelain-plate voice with gentle nods. They beam goodwill and are thrilled to be here.
Schuller can use this bonhomie because “Weeping Willow” is a sad song and a difficult one to sing. So delicate, that handled rough, fumbled careless, it might crumble in your hands. You feel creepy like a worm, he sings high and vulnerable, you feel funny in this world. And not to confuse the artist with his work, but at first he does seem like that “you”, alien in this crowd, shy in this spotlight, the camera tight on his solitary figure. He holds his microphone like a flotation device, like a compass, like he’s been tossed in the sea and told to swim to shore. So he does, gathering courage and momentum from the nodding heads and Ali at his elbow, bent double over a ukulele.
When Schuller’s stagemates stumble into harmonies on the oh-oh-ohs and Ali pulls radiant chords from an electric guitar, it’s as if a simmering pot has finally begun to boil. Cheers, whistles and someone starts to clap. By the third clap the entire room is in on it, and the camera has drawn back in a wide grin to reveal Schuller and his song buoyed by the slow-swaying crowd — a field of prairie grass in a Paris club. And what seemed a little lonely isn’t lonely at all. In this world, on this night of spectacle and serendipity, the man with the otherworldly voice belongs absolutely.
from [Shake Your Fist
There are a couple of parts in this video that stick out for me. The first is at the very start of the performance, when Jared Van Fleet, aka Sparrow House, fellow American Sebastian Krueger, aka Inlets, and British artist Jeremy Warmsley begin singing. They’re out of key with the song and with each other but within one line, they’ve gotten it together.
The second part is just heading into the outro, where Van Fleet, who’s been clutching his keyboard unplayed for the whole song – the arrangement to that point was strictly acoustic guitars and vocals with a flourish of trombone – finally finds an opening to insert a single keyboard line into the proceedings and the look of triumph and glee on his face is priceless.
Moments like these are what define the intimate and spontaneous nature of the Take-Away Show. Three artists who have likely never collaborated or even played together before teaming up to tackle one of Brian Wilson’s greatest compositions – a song that’s as renowned for its complex production as its simplicity and poignancy – and in the middle of a packed room, focus on the experience, experiment and sheer enjoyment of the music rather than the performance. Wish I could have been there.