May 17, 2014
A silhouette in a sequined jacket timidly approaches a mic stand. Avoiding direct illumination
from a dim spot light, he poses around it. Fidgety and unable to settle on a proper tableau, he instead
shares a fluid duet with it before bringing his focus to us, losing the jacket to reveal his toned torso. This
is normally the part when disembodied braziers are catapulted onstage and screams of ecstasy fill the air,
but we are at the Joyce. Pierre Rigal capitalizes on the silently seated decorum of concert dance audiences
with Micro, a portrait of the rock concert as a rite.
Limbs slither through the equipment onstage – an entanglement of flesh and electronics that
converge as the performers rhythmically prod each other with the cord jacks meant for the amps, creating
a symphonic buzz of feedback. Childish play delves into the psyche of the rock ‘n’ roller – a kid in a
garage whose rebellion depends on a plug and an outlet to be heard.
It is said that, given an infinite time span, a monkey hitting random keys will almost surely type
the complete works of Shakespeare. Rigal makes an analogous suggestion with these barbaric musicians,
who, after using their guitars as canes, masks, and metal detectors, ultimately rest them on the floor,
tapping frets like a gamelan ensemble. Disparate pitches eventually agree on tonality, but the resulting
song passes like a daydream as the lights come up on the hooligans from before vehemently vocalizing
the sounds the instruments they are now beating on might otherwise be making.
Each section is marked by abstractions of classic rock antics. Rigal restages Roger Daltry’s
microphone trapeze acts while Gwenaël Drapeau wears a hysterical smile that, when he drums, is pure
Keith Moon. Malik Djoudi’s chanting connotes Gainsbourg, and a sword fight of guitars allegorizes Marc
Bolan’s transformation into the Electric Warrior. In a whimsical sequence, Drapeau hums faintly in
trance. Rigal leans in as if to kiss him, but, upon removing his mouth, actually absorbs the falsetto
whimper. It is hard not to see George and Paul sharing a mic on Ed Sullivan in the image and, harder still,
not to be awakened to the inherent homoeroticism. Mélanie Chartreux, through a short-circuited
monologue and Rigal’s lewd manipulations of her catatonic form, embodies Joplin among others who
were both pioneers and pawns of the industry.
Rigal is both ring master and court jester. He establishes himself as frontman from the start, but
never sings nor plays a note. Rather, he inserts himself as a continual secondary focus to the musicians,
performing a wide array of activities often in the foreground. This distracting composition harkens to Jim
Morrison, dancing and passing out onstage during Jefferson Airplane’s 1968 European tour. When
engaged, Rigal holds his microphones up to mouths, cymbals, unplugged guitars, and his own skull. He is
a beacon of self-importance who elevates the microphone to a talisman signifying the arbitrary and
fleeting natures of agency, be it decreed by self or other.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Jonathan Matthews