Friday, June 27, 2008

I'll Always Have...Perigueux?

I was hoping to go to Paris this week. I need some clothes, and a little shot of sophistication in my life. And I still need to make up for the lousy trip I had in April, when what was supposed to be a lovely treat to myself before getting hitched turned out to be pretty much a dud.

It seemed like everything was off that time - the weather was cool and rainy one minute, broiling sun the next. My clothes weren't right, and that can make all the difference: I felt like a pluc (read "hick") who doesn't get to the big city too often, which at this point is pretty much true. I was stressed about finding some kind of wrap to wear over the dress I was getting married in and spent way too much time being indecisive in stores. I was supposed to get a facial and then couldn't find the address, ending up buying a tube of facial mask at Monoprix instead. Randomly chose a movie so bad I had to walk out after forty minutes. Got up and left a Chinese restaurant because they never bothered to serve me. And made the mistake of booking a cheap charmless hovel of a room - since I'd be out having a ball most of the time, what difference did it make, right? I think sleeping on a park bench would have been better.

The only really good thing about the trip was I realized how much my French had improved. And it made me appreciate the calm and quiet of the countryside. But I know that the next trip could be completely different - I know it's possible for things to line up perfectly.

But this isn't the week for it, what with visitors and booking and rehearsing. I had to make do with a trip to Perigueux the other day, which was actually a big deal for me because I've never driven that far (over an hour) by myself in France.

In America I'm used to driving huge distances alone. But having recently learned to drive a manual car, and basically having nowhere I need to go around here, solo adventure is unusual. Perigueux is a pretty town in the Dordogne with some decent shops and cafes. It's got a little more of a southern feel and even has a big movie theatre. A good place to wander around for about three or four hours.

The drive was easy and uneventful. I managed to maneuver into an underground parking garage which sounds pathetically simple but again, changing gears and reading French signs is new to me. But typically my timing was off. If I'd have checked the calendar or the newspaper I would've noticed that the big summer sales were starting the next day. So most of the stores were closed in preparation.

I decided to see a film. "Sagan" was playing and I was curious about this film bio of Francoise Sagan. Partly because I remembered reading "Bonjour Tristesse" as a teenager and thinking it was incredibly French and glamorous. But the main reason I wanted to see it was for the period details: fifties, sixties and seventies cars, clothes and home furnishings. If I couldn't keep up with the dialogue there'd be plenty to look at. And aren't most films about writers kind of similar? There's usually a person sitting at a typewriter occasionally, either typing furiously or staring into the distance with a blank look on their face, a tumbler of brown alcohol nearby. The rest of the time is filled in with scenes of the writer fighting with their family & friends.

"Sagan" was no different. Even in French I could tell that the movie was pretty bad. But Sylvie Testud and her haircuts were adorable. And that white 70's cowboy shirt she was wearing in one of the typewriter scenes? That alone was worth the price of admission. It wasn't exactly a trip to Paris but for the moment it'll do.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fete de La Musique, Pt 2

A few rules for next Fete de la Musique:

Bring along some friends. Without Emmanuel and Michel on equipment and crowd control, we could not have done 4 shows in 4 towns in the space of 6 hours. If there had actually ever been a crowd, they surely would have played the heavies with charm.

Nico (patron of le Lawrence d'Arabie), Michel, Emmanuel, Amy & Eric

Make sure you're louder than the generator. Ours sounded like a small plane taking off. Thankfully we had a long, long extension cord, so we could play twenty feet away from it.

If you set up across from a church on Saturday afternoon in June, there is an excellent chance of being drowned out by the sound of wedding bells. The newlyweds surely got their money's worth that day - the off-key clanging went on for a good ten minutes while we waited in the baking sun.


When stopped by the police, be honest. As the gendarmes pulled us over for a "routine check" we considered telling them we were daytrippers enjoying the scenery. Then we remembered the posters we'd stuck on the sides of the car. They demanded all our details - so that they can come see us play next week.

Pick some slightly bigger towns/villages. Notice there's pretty much no one in the photos but us. This part of France is, shall we say, tranquil. It was best when we had listeners, gawkers, and the occasional dancer.

Face your enemy. We saw a poster proclaiming that our arch-rivals were playing outside a bar in the village. We showed up to play (thankfully, they had already finished, so we didn't have to listen to it) and taught them a lesson. Don't. Mess. With. Wreckless Eric. &. Amy. Rigby.

La Cabane (enemy territory)

It's hard to keep looking groomed after hours of sweating and playing. And it's wonderful to stop caring.


It's worth taking a risk. From the time Eric and I talked about doing a commando raid for Fete de la Musique, I kept wanting to back out. I wished we'd gotten a spot on one of the many organized stages or at a bar in the region. When we went to pick up the generator and it turned out to be super loud and impractical, I really hoped that meant we could put the silly idea to rest and stay home.

But Saturday was one of the best days I've spent in France. With all the traditions and prescribed ways of doing things that exist here, it was such a relief to go right in the face of all that and just do what we do. I felt like myself in a way I don't often get to, what with trying to speak the language and fit in somehow.

Michel, Amy, Eric, Emmanuel, Nico

In the end, the day really was about freedom. And we got three other gigs out of it. No sitdowns required.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fete de la Musique

I got the impression that Fete de la Musique in France is a free-for-all, that it's a crazy day of anarchy and mayhem, where by government decree anyone can play any kind of music anytime, anywhere they choose. And that's possibly the spirit the day was started in, back in 1982.

I love playing for French audiences, but even booking a show in a tiny bar in the back of nowhere here requires a sitdown with the proprietor, various family members and some friend of theirs that owned a guitar once.

And it's not surprising they take it very seriously - if the French performing rights society catches wind of them putting on live music, they are subject to heavy charges.

So June 21, Fete de la Musique, seems like a perfect day to get around all that and just go out and play. We've rented a generator and have a plan to go around to some of the more populated towns neaby, set up our PA, plug in the guitars and play.

But just to be on the safe side, at the suggestion of our friend Michel who would hate to see us languishing in a French jail, I checked the rules on the government's website. And found, to my amusement or horror, I'm still not sure which, this chart regarding the organization of this very spontaneous day:

This, for an event that gives the impression of being about freedom. And it's written there in the really fine print that one is obliged to inquire in each town what their policy is regarding public performances on June 21, "for the safety of the public."

But we're going to pretend we never saw any of this stuff, and play anyway. Is there internet in jail?

Sunday, June 15, 2008


We got back from England early the other morning after a temporary breakdown at the Dover ferry terminal. We were in line to drive on the 2 PM departure, knowing full well if we shut off the engine the car might not start up again. But we absolutely had to get a quick cup of tea in the cafe after travelling all morning without stopping.

Between us, Eric and I have lived through several lifetimes of worn out vehicles, tow trucks and roadside assistance, so missing the ferry and spending a few extra hours dockside waiting for a repair was nothing new. We were able to catch the 6 o'clock ferry and it was fascinating to learn that some people actually arrive a good two and a half or even three hours before departure time, instead of skidding and squealing through the gates just before the boat leaves. Car maintenance, careful preparation and allowing plenty of time is our new code of behavior. In theory at least.

It's good to put aside all the frivolous work of finishing the album now, and concentrate on what really matters: surveillance.

First, there are all of our properties. We don't actually own any of them. We're merely real estate stalkers.

"That place across from the supermarket is still for sale."
"Which one, the little fifties-style house across from the ATAC or the partially-finished barn conversion out past the Intermarche?"

"They're working on that place next to the beauty parlor."
"What, the old auberge?"
"No, on the other side. With the maroon shutters. I noticed them clearing out a lot of rubble."
"Better check back and see what's going on with that."

There's the weird house with workshop next to the tower, the plain but with good potential fixer-upper two doors down from the furniture repair place, the cute but impractical maison de garde-barriere that we fell in love with two years ago.

And that's just the properties. There are our business interests as well.

"That corner store for rent? I think someone's moving in."
"It looks like a pharmacy."
"Wait, but there's a pharmacy up the road. I don't think the village is big enough for two pharmacies."
"It's them. They're expanding into the bigger space on the corner."
"Oh. Good."

"You know that British hairdresser that was opening across from the church?"
"I think they changed their minds. The sign's gone."
"Oh. Good."

And on and on. There are also all the blogs of strangers, friends and family members, plus the myspace pages of my brothers & daughter (and even some of her friends if her page is lacking pertinent details/updated information). Keeping tabs on our turf war rivals. All of this barely leaves time for maintaining watch on the moral behavior of our local commercants.

"Wasn't that the boulanger going into the tavern across from the chateau?" Like in school, where you can't believe your teacher could possibly exist outside of the classroom, it seems so incongruous and...somehow extra tawdry.

Which is why we must remain vigilant.

Sometimes it even pays off. Like just yesterday, I noticed a new business opening down the road. We better take a walk later and check it out - it might be a car mechanic.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

It's Only Make Believe

Eric and I are back in England putting the finishing touches on the album (mastering, artwork). When we're not busy watching "The Apprentice" and "Big Brother", dodging speed cameras and eating bacon sandwiches that is.

It's always one of my favorite times in the record-making process because the initial hard work is done and there's this brief moment of hopefulness before the actual release and inevitable disappointment. For a tiny second, you can imagine a world where every person is singing along to your song, where every festival and promoter is clamoring for you to play, where, at long last, you magically succeed.

And this time, I have another believer to share it with, because Eric's the same kind of deluded fool that I am. I guess it's insane to still feel this way, at this age, making pop music. But it's somehow the only way to go about it. When things screw up or stall or just stay the same, when it's the reality of one more night putting makeup on in the not-too-clean ladies room of an Indian restaurant because the club doesn't have a dressing room, I want to remember this feeling.