And Then I Joined The Avantgarde
{i}_ bad, bold & boisterous

july 22, 2010.


The morning after I felt like a princess.


I woke up between soft pink sheets in a large bed, to a golden sunshine, green grass, trees and the pastoral sound of real birds. It took a while before I realized where I was: this was not a palace, but I had just come to my conscious self in the front room of a small cottage in Labenz, a village some 6 kilometers to the east of Schiphorst.

I slipped out of the bed and into the kitchen.

A little later I sat down for a solitary early breakfast in the cottage's front garden, where I watched a lama and a camel grazing in the meadow just across the street.


It had been only after hours of detours [ * ], of asking of sighing and of cursing, that on friday evening at last we had come close enough to hit upon a road sign showing the way to Schiphorst and - finally! - could bring the gaffered back together again car to a full stop near the entrance to Jean-Hervé Péron and Carina Varain's home & farm on the Steinhorsterweg.

There we joined the avantgarde.


The now yearly festival in Schiphorst started out as an informal summerfest for friends, family and neighbors in 1996. It developed into what Jean-Hervé sometimes describes as a sort of a monster that every summer after the event goes back to sleep, but then, when winter comes, wakes up again and jumps on his and Carina's backs. It is evident, though, that both are extremely fond of their 'creature', which, if anything of the monstery kind, is a very gentle giant that they continue to nourish and nurture. The 'Avantgarde Festival' is a labor of love, fed by a passion that has its roots in the utopian ideals of artistic and social revolution that surged in the late 1960s. I suppose that to some viewers a such statement of fact will s(p)(m)ell 'hippie'. Together with the enormous brightly colored flower power curtain at the entrance to the farm for a moment they might even suspect the Avantgarde Festival to be a cover-up. Is this an assembly of the last of the hippies? Or maybe even worse: is it another attempt at nostalgia based revival?


Let me reassure them: it is neither the one, nor is it the other. The Schiphorst Festival however does come with a strong sense of history, that - of course - is intimately linked to and part of the personal history of, in particular, Jean-Hervé Péron. That is: a certain history of anarchic and radical experimentation within the context of rock music and pop culture, which is exemplified by the work of (amongst others) the early Faust, saw a second coming in the already far more widespread and divers manifestations of DIY and post-punk in the late 1970s/early 1980s, and then continued to ever further branch out and inspire next generations as a viable means and legitimate attitude for creation and investigation in the margins of mainstream and academic culture. At the end of this first decade of the 21st century there's a big and richly blooming tree whose many fruits and leaves are all being fed through that one stem, rooted in the counter cultural movements of the 1950s and 1960s.

The line-ups of the festival over the years are remarkably different: there are many ways to climb a tree. And even though this certainly is not due to some sort of a curatorial master-plan, each edition of the Schiphol Avantgarde Festival can be seen tracing a possible path up that very tree, from then to now.


How very different successive stops along such a path may be was nicely illustrated by the three successive performances that I attended that Friday night July 2nd in the Schiphorst barn.

Shortly after the sun set the downstairs stage was taken by Lydia Lunch and Big Sexy Noise, her collaboration with UK based darkish blues-rock outfit Gallon Drunk, whose founder and front man James Johnston for several years also was a member of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds. James is married to Geraldine Swayne. He and Geraldine are part of the current line-up of Jean-Hervé and Zappi's Faust (the Schiphorst Faust, as opposed to the Klangbad - Joachim Immler's - one)... So you see, even Octopus Paul would need quite a few more than the many arms God already gave him to unravel the knots formed by the intricate relations that one can trace between the individual artists and the collectives that were hopping around the Schiphorst Avantgarde domain that first weekend of July.

big sexy noise

{the bad}_ Lydia and her Big Sexy Noise were looking good and sounded loud, tight and raunchy. The number of times the grand bad lady of No Wave that evening uttered the adjective 'fucking' on stage was impressive and would most certainly have won her an entrance in the Guinness Book of Records, had someone taken the trouble to count and submit. More relevant, though, was to find that the young Lydia's high pitched shrieking over the years had given way to a mature, deep and coarse voice that was a perfect match for the combo's gloomy big city rock. I particularly enjoyed the band's version of Lou Reed's Kill your Sons.

{the bold}_ To attend Israeli musician and sound artist Maya Danon's politically engaged, subdued and angry/austere/bitter solo performance (laptop electronics, voice and saxophone) in the smaller and more intimate setting of the upstairs stage, right after the decadentish exuberant set of Lydia and the boys below, was going cold turkey; like a close encounter with life on a wholly different planet. There's a short clip of the end of Maya's performance over @uTube: "... don't have any choice but to resist..."


maya danon


The festival's practical and technical sides were impeccably taken care of. With but an occasional exception all three days the full and tight schedule was strictly adhered to. While Maya Danon performed upstairs, downstairs the stage was being prepared for the French/Belgium trio Quattrophage.

{the boisterous}_ Quattrophage are Olivier Hüe, Matthieu Safatly and Nicolas Lelièvre (indeed the same Nicolas that we not so long ago encountered on these very SB-pages, performing at the Parisian La Comète as the batteur in Jean Bordé's electric guitar septet). The francophone threesome played two sets. A longish and relatively dense & loud first one, and a second shorter one, more open and more laid-back.


In both of their sets Quattrophage displayed a great craftsmanship and musicality that enchanted the Avantgarde crowd, which was taken along on an eventful journey through an imaginary landscape built from the trio's rich and varied supply of sounds and rhythms. When I stepped out of the barn for a little air somewhere halfway through their second set the sound of Quattrophage's free and edgy exoticism coming from the barn merged nicely with the intriguing evening projections and illumination in the Schiphorst farm yard outside and the starry German night above.


next: Shake your booty (on the workfloor)

notes __ ::
(*) After having bought the gaffer tape to provisionally repair the car, we hit upon a very bad traffic jam just below Hamburg, where part of the highway was blocked because of an accident. We decided to try and drive around it. Now we knew more or less where Schiphorst had to be, but did not have a map showing precisely where. Was it to the east of the highway to Lübeck, or was it to the west? We saw a lot of German landscape, drove many superfluous miles and lost a lot of time. There is however one anecdote that I cannot resist sharing. When we started our off-highway peregrination in the Hamburg area I said to Maurice: "Bad luck, but hey, now we will find some tape!" It was only a few minutes later, when we had to halt for a red traffic light on the Harburger Strasse near Dibbersen, that I spotted an orange BASF cassette on the refuge to our right. I jumped out of the car and grabbed it. Now that in itself already is remarkable, of course, even though it has occurred quite regularly over these past years of foundtaping that, by premonition, I announced the imminent presence of cast-away tape on our path to someone in my company mere moments before indeed hitting upon it. (And this is not a mere matter of numbers. If one were blabbering continuously about tapes that one is going to find any moment now, sometimes, obviously, one would. But that is not the case. But then when I do...) There was something else quite remarkable about the tape I found there on the Harburger Strasse. Remember that we were on our way to the Avantgarde Festival in Schiphorst? Remember that that event is organized and hosted by Faust's Jean-Hervé PĂ©ron? Remember how in 1973, when at high school, I purchased one of my all time favorite albums, the Faust Tapes? Remember that the album did cost near to nothing, if only you bought it together with another title of the then brand new Virgin record label? Remember the album I bought to get my cheap copy of the Faust Tapes? It was this album that I found recorded onto the old orange BASF cassette I picked up from this refuge on the Harburger Strasse near Dibbersen: Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. [ ^ ]

tags: Schiphorst, Avantgarde festival

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