Boulevard du Techno

photo: dancers on techno float

Real humans dancing to sounds of robot factory noise.

Sheer Noise and Trashy Junk

Paris:- Saturday, 18. September 1999:- It is absolutely necessary that Paris must have its own carnival and the city is leaving no stone unturned to get its way. Paris has to be modern too - maybe even ahead of its time - so it has chosen 'Techno' to carry the flag.

Berlin doing this with its 'Love Parade' is just Berlin taking the mickey out of itself. Besides, as a 'Love Parade,' it can be anything it wants to be. 'Love' is universal.

But Paris has adopted 'Techno,' a very loud and possibly passing fad. If it falls out of favor, Paris can just dump it, saying its time is over. No sense in being stuck with 'Love' like Berlin.

In fact, Berlin is where Paris 'found' Techno. France's ex-culture czar Jack Lang went to the 'Love Parade' therephoto: roller rando staff a couple of times, found it good, and brought the idea back to Paris. I don't know whether he intended it to be called 'Techno.'

The roller 'Rando staff' clear the way for the Techno Parade.

It is just plain insane. Why couldn't have Jack gone to Rio and brought back carnival from there? I know, when you've heard 437 samba bands in a row, all you can remember are the costumes and the dancers. Still, samba is based on something musical, and it has an existence of its own outside of the carnival.

Like Jack, I know Paris needs its carnival. Therefore, in the interest of public information, I am at today's Techno Parade.

The parade aspect is the part ordinary citizens can witness. The rest of the techno, of which the parade is only the beginning, continues at the parade's destination out at the Pelouse de Reuilly, which is in the southwest corner of the Bois de Vincennes.

This place has 90,000 square metres of dance floor, 40 industrial sound systems managed by 300 DJs, whophoto: long necked giraffes will attempt to channel their 'works' towards the sub-categories of 'House,' 'Techno,' 'Transe' and 'Hardcore.'

One of the few carnival elements in the parade.

Arrival at the Reuilly field is supposed to be 18:00. For those unused to outdoor exposure, there is the 'Futuria 99' show at the Zenith and the 'Magic Garden' show at the Bercy arena. Plus - there is always 'plus' with Techno - five other events in city clubs or somewhere have more - there is always 'more' to Techno.

Basically, the Techno Parade starts today at 14:00 at République. Last night four clubs had 'Befores' - and with the 'Afters,' the parade continues until Sunday.

Like carnival, which goes on for a long time, this Techno Parade is just another word for wretched excess. To get a small slice of it, I post myself on the edge of the Boulevard Beaumarchais, just north of Bastille.

At 14:15 the boulevard has been mostly cleared of traffic and a small gaggle of older citizens have grabbed themselves a city bench across the street with a ringside view.

Ten minutes later cops on motorcycles are cruising around; looking things over. People are walking up the street towards République while hotshot businessmen set up snack stands along the sidewalks.

One put his van and parasols between me and the view, so I have to give up my high point and take what I can get on the other side. By now a lot of people are sitting on the curbs.

It seems suddenly - it is five minutes later - and the entire boulevard is full of people heading up from Bastille towards République. The moto cops can't do much about this.

But it is another half-hour before the firstphoto: total lunacy float is a block away. It seems as if the street is solid with people in front of its path. As the float nears, I see that the Friday night 'Rando' staff are running interference, by linking elbows in a sweep-line 35 metres wide.

One of the floats stages a pre-Halloween show. What does it all mean?

The first float, which looks like it is a junkyard painted yellow, goes by after stopping right in front and blasting me with steel-mill anvil sounds, at - what? - 120 beats per minute, for what seems like an hour.

Behind the float and filling the boulevard from edge to edge, and all of the space to the following float, there are a horde of crazed twenty-somethings. They are all jiggling and then they shoot their arms in the air and wiggle them like snakes. They look like a bucket full of eels.

Some of the floats have dancers on them and they wiggle a lot too. The music goes pound, pound, pound, pound - somewhat like all the flak batteries in WWII going off at once. You can 'dance' to this or stand in one place and jiggle. Cringing might be taken for dancing too.

The boulevard is full of young people surrounding the floats - these junkpiles on wheels - flatdecks loaded with dancers and huge, giant speakers. The first float was towing a generator for power for the amps.

As the floats pass towards Bastille, two other hordes are following them on the sidewalks on either side. The older citizens sitting on the bench have long since disappeared behind other people standing right on the edge of the sidewalk.

The floats have sponsors: radio and TV stations, music outlets, magazines, techno clubs - but it is easy to overlook these as junk for the eyes and ears overwhelms everything.

It is sort of perfect. Our funky modern civilization has discovered the ultimate capitalist dream - peddle junk and trash and prosper. Thirty-five years ago Ronnie said that all junkmen are millionaires and now I believe it.

There are supposed to be 40 of these heavy-industrial factories on wheels, making noise instead of products, and I don't know how many have passed. I start not to care how many more are coming.

I realize I may miss seeing something even more astounding if I leave, but I know I'm not going to hear anything new. No two steel works sound exactly the same; no two sound that much different either. Audio trash.

What gets me is the enthusiasm of the parade of people and the dancers on the floats. They are genuinely moved by the lowest common denominator - pure loud noise.

Recycled, resampled, reassembled, reformed, twisted, distorted - it is like a celebration of nonsense. I think of the thousands, millions maybe, of musiciansphoto: float and crowd in the world - and here I find sound generators trying to mimic steel factories, and 'it' moves people. What comes next - sport-war?

A typical techno-junk float, carries 10,000 watts of total insanity.

I haven't seen anybody here who doesn't look like they are having a good time. A very cool-looking lady in a suit near me is looking on with some amusement and general tolerance.

Well, despite the noise, there are a couple of hundred thousand people here who appear to be having a good time, being amused, in the middle of an unusual Saturday parade through eastern Paris.

After I cut away from the boulevard, I see the first float's balloon in the air over Bastille, so it hasn't gotten far. It'll take the parade hours to go through there.

Until now, this is the biggest parade I've seen in Paris. The Friday night roller 'Rando' will be getting bigger again now that everybody is back from holidays. Next year's Techno Parade is now being touted for the Champs-Elysées.

By then, all Paris may be on parade, all the time. All that is needed for it is a lot of sheer noise.

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