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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Paris Peasant

posted by on October 18 at 10:00 AM

My friend Jerome and David Ivar-Herman Dune in 2004

Four years ago, I was an American in Paris on the eve of an election that would inflict unprecedented presidential ignorance, armed violence, and corporate corruption upon the world. Bush’s victory, his very existence soiled my sojourn in many ways— but between the deep sense of defeat and geographically appropriate existential despair, I found a French band whose music countered my own ex-patriotic impulses. Singing in slightly accented English the sort of insouciant folk-pop that to me is more reminiscent of the “Indy” aesthetics of my Pacific Northwest, rather than the smoky chill of Paris and continental Europe— Herman Dune was a band that reflected my own hang-ups about travel, indulgence, homesickness, and American ugliness in strange ways. Herman Dune’s singer seemed taken with a particular sort of nostalgia for an imaginary America, and as I consider the band now I feel a nostalgia for an imagined/remembered France and those feelings of being far from home.

I have particularly distinct memories of watching Herman Dune perform on the same bill as Little Wings, the ethereal local-ish group whose best songs are akin to whispered dreams. The bands played a bar/club that was actually a converted Chinese Junk sitting on the Seine near the Bibliotech Nationale. This boat called La Guingette Pirate, slightly swaying on the river Seine seemed a surreal place to see any show, let alone one with an American band I had seen so many times in Seattle.

Now, in anticipation of an election that has the potential to bring the ideological antithesis of the past four years, its an odd coincidence that Herman Dune is playing my home, perhaps to witness the transition to a imagined ideal America? The band plays the Triple Door on this coming Monday night, a tough sell given that fans of folk-influenced Americana are potentially split between a few other high-profile shows. Between the Mountain Goats’ soaring, acerbic story-songs and the o-vah enunciated swagger of the Kings of Leon, Herman Dune may have a hard time attracting folks to the Triple Door for their American-but-not-American French pop (especially with a ticket price of $19! Yeeeesh).

So, chalk this up as just another post of navel-gazing indulgence clogging up the blog-o-webs but Herman Dune is a band that has a strange and varied connection to my personal history, a soundtrack of sorts to a time and place but moreso a lens through which those now blurry early twenties can be recalled and examined. I think most music fans have bands just like this, music that follows them around appearing and disappearing at different times in their lives.

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