Our booking agents – the indomitable Amande Diantre of Julie Tippex and Pierre Templé of La Route du Rock– are hard taskmasters, and have had Civil Civc on the road for what feels (to the band) like decades, but has in fact only been since 6th October in Dublin. I joined them for a short time in Scandinavia just the other week, then got the hell out when things turned violent / depraved in a no-star hotel room in Gothenberg. There’s only so much fisting a man can bear witness to before his stomach begins to churn. And as the band moved south into the mainland, and with Aaron crying on the phone every night, begging me to take over some of the mammoth drives, I relented, taking the TGV from Brussels to Paris.
A city that I have no love for, whatsoever.
I arrive into Gare du Nord and walk to the apartment of the good Clémence Godard of Bird on The Wire, who is kindly putting us up for the evening while she heads off to visit family in the countryside. We say our saluts then our À bientôts and I take the Metro to tonight’s venue, La Flèche d’Or, and am greeted by the smiling face of Amande Diantre, and another couple of smiling faces from the venue staff.
Parisians are smiling at me. Something is wrong here.
Ben is asleep on a sofa, Aaron is looking tired.
“We are tired” he says. “Touring is a young man’s game, and a summer pursuit.”
We soundcheck, we go backstage, the drinking begins in earnest. Alcohol is free on tour it seems churlish to resist. I eat a banana, a clementine, and drink a can of beer. It is cold and tastes good. La Flèche d’Or is one of Paris’ most acclaimed venues and we are pleased to be here. The show is being promoted by Mowno, one of the most respected music magazines in France, who like Civil Civic very much.
We have a couple of guests arriving tonight: our friend Flavie, whom we met at the last Paris show in the summer, and the loveable headcase Julien Dodinet, our promoter in Limoges, who has travelled four hours to be here tonight, drink more than everyone else in the room, go more nuts than everyone else in the room, and kiss whoever he can get his hands on, male or female. Dude loves Civil Civic so much it’s almost illegal.
As ever (outside of the UK) the food is hot, hearty and plentiful and we eat well in the staff kitchen – beef stew for the carnivores, vegetable casserole for the non-carnivores – and there is plenty time to walk it off in the streets of the 20th arrondissement.
The room fills up. A lot. And as our stagetime approaches it’s packed. Backstage, Ben and Aaron are weighed down with food, and the toils of the road, of being away from home and its comforts for many weeks, of night after night of unfamiliar hotel beds or promoters’ floors. I don’t know that I have seen them this tired. I go out front, stand by the mixing desk, so I can advise the engineer of any sonic adjustments that he needs to make as the set unfolds, wait, and hope.
They open with ‘It’s Krill’. It’s subtle. The engineer mixes it like he’s in a studio and this, coupled with France’s 105db limit for venues, has me listening to the song in a whole new way. The crowd like it. By the time ‘Streetrap’ arrives, third song, the first two rows are jumping around, led by Julien no doubt.
The crowd – all the way to the back of the room – bobs their heads appreciatively and after each track a loud cheer goes up. By the end of the set we actually have much of the audience in La Flèche d’Or going wild. I can’t quite believe it. France is our strongest market, sure, but Paris? Going nuts?
Backstage, the band can’t believe it either.
Beers in hand we repair to the merch stall which Amande Diantre has been (wo)manning all night and find a line of fans waiting to get their shit signed. Ben and Aaron duly sign their shit. Everyone is real nice to us. The next couple of hours are spent hanging around with new friends and old, avoiding Julien’s lecherous groping, packing up, avoiding death on the road outside as we move our gear into the car and finally driving to secure parking, before walking back to our accommodation.
It’s 03.00, we just had Paris going nuts, and everyone was friendly and courteous.
I might need to reconsider my opinion of La Ville-Lumière.