Egon is on tour in Europe with Madlib & J.Rocc and will be updating us through the end of May. J.Rocc was not able to attend this, the last date of the tour, in Marseille, France.
As we waited at the hotel for our driver, who never appeared, I wondered if Madlib would rally for the final show. After calling a cab for a grumpy J.Rocc and getting him on the way to Gare Du Nord for his Eurostar with a salute, I found a text from Denis who said we would have to make our way to the station ourselves. Fair dues, homey had been quite ill the last couple days. As we packed all of our luggage, I received a call from J, who’d missed his train. See, THIS is why we need folks who speak the language around us. I can’t even order a croissant au buerre without getting stared at like I said “your mother is a worthless whore.” Parisians, especially when you’re an American, can be real assholes.
Madlib and I lucked into a taxi driver who spoke English, and we went by the Montemartre to drop off our luggage at the hotel we’d check into on Monday. It was then I realized I’d forgotten all of my clean shirts in Athens. Smelling like the smoke of the previous night, we jumped back into our cab with day bags to make it to Gare De Lyon for our train to Provence.
The French countryside opens up about a hundred kilometers outside of Paris and reminds me of Connecticut. If it weren’t for the small villages dotting the hillsides and the worn stone steeples of the ancient churches, it could just as easily be Litchfield County. We arrived in Marseilles an hour late, at 7.30. A real problem as the show started at 9. No Provencal food for us – after a quick stop at the hotel, and with the same music we played in Paris, we made our way to the venue. An old warehouse converted into a restaurant and performance space, it seemed cavernous. I was sure that we’d have a problem filling the hall, as it seemed like the one hundred and fifty people milling around outside could fit into a corner.
This being our first time in Marseilles, and given the fact that no one had taken a look at our hospitality rider (here’s a hint to promoters – the reason there’s broccoli on the rider is to see if you’re paying attention. If you aren’t, we know we need to watch out for some other funny business), we asked for payment in full prior to going on stage. “But we’ve paid your booking agency” was the refrain. Well, I’m just going to have to see about that. “But go on, the public is waiting for you. No, no thank you. I’ll wait right here until we work things out.
A half hour, quite a few phone calls back to London, and the venue’s accountant showing us their online banking verifying something – I don’t read French so I couldn’t be sure – I took the stage. The place looked decent, not packed, but not empty. I said a couple things on the mic, and it became readily apparent no one understood a word. Some grizzled dudes bobbed their heads and some asian chick looked bored enough to sleep, even though she stood in the front-most row, as I played Lebanese and Egyptian joints. Ok, that’s not working. West African? No go. Ah! New Supreme Team. Even though the audience knew Karriem’s name, that one went over like a lead balloon. Oh man, Madlib, come out here and save me. Please.
Luckily, by the end of the set – and a couple rants about how great France was and how much I enjoy Bandol roses (all true) – they seemed to be into the tunes. Colombian cumbia works in Marseilles, for some reason. Madlib walked on stage and the energy level raised. “But I ain’t getting on unless they’re hype though.” The test! As I edited the funkiest (and that’s really stretching it) offering on Ethiopian saxophonist Getachew Mekuria’s album, the crowd got loud enough for Madlib to jump on and embellish Girma Beyene’s organ line with well placed cuts.
Madlib played for two hours. By the time he was done the crowd – sparse now – called him back on stage for a half hour encore. A successful end to the tour!
The next morning, I awoke to find that the area in front of our hotel had been converted to an open air market. As I rambled along, eventually buying a second hand bag (all respect to the late Weldon Irvine, but I just can’t be carrying around my things in a plastic bag), I stumbled upon what looked like a decent café. Fresh orange juice. A decent capppucino. Let me see if I can order a tartine…
The waitress came out, and I gave it a shot. “Oh, yes, I am nineteen.”
Check, please. Get me back to Paris. There are record dealers waiting for us. And oysters to eat.