Playin' 4 The City live in Paris

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  • Ever since their first open-air party at La Ferme Du Bonheur in 2012, Parisian collective La Mamie's have risen steadily in profile. As DJs, they've played records at parties like Concrete and Weather Festival, while as festival organizers they'll soon be hosting the third edition of Macki, the much-loved two-day event held on the banks of the Seine. But arguably most impressive of all is their work promoting club nights. Last year, the crew launched a new project called Verveine Production, a booking agency for live acts. They followed with a string of parties, where the focus was on less club-ready genres such as dreamy hip-hop (MNDSGN and Ivan Ave at La Machine Du Moulin Rouge) and jazzy live electronics (Shigeto at New Morning). The diversity of their bookings is one of the main reasons for their success. Throwing a live music event on a Tuesday night is a bold move in itself—it's even more daring when the headline act has barely performed in the last decade. Playin' 4 The City are a mysterious entity, best described, in their own words, as "Olivier Portal and friends." Following a stream of acclaimed deep house releases in the late '90s and early '00s, the band migrated from Paris to Chicago, where they held a residency at the now-defunct Mad Bar. Despite their rapid rise, Portal unexpectedly put the project on hiatus in 2003. Needless to say, French house heads were intrigued when news surfaced that the band were planning a return in June, especially when they announced they'd be playing New Morning. The venue has been a hotspot for jazz-informed music in the capital since it opened in 1981, counting Dizzy Gillespie, Prince and Chet Baker among past guests. When I arrived a little before 9 PM, Betino, owner of the nearby Betino's Record Shop, was spinning lovely, old disco to a sparse crowd. After a short break, D.KO Collective's Flabaire played an hour-long live set featuring heavily distorted guitar solos and wicked house grooves. As a DJ, Flabaire plays a lot of disco and soulful house, but here he focused on the deeper side of house, with numerous Rhodes samples bringing colour to the refined and stripped-back rhythms. By the end, the crowd had grown considerably and the vibe was hot and heavy with anticipation. Playin' 4 The City were met with roars of delight as they took their place onstage. Portal, who handled beats and keys, was joined by virtuoso trumpet, clarinet and saxophone artists, with Slikk Tim (AKA Gary Gritness) on keytar. London singer Her Royal Majesty Queen Marilyn I bellowed out hearty vocals, adding a healthy dose of pizzazz. That they'd spent time in Chicago was clear from the start, as they moved from dusty, soulful numbers ("Jazzy Thang") through to more pumping vocal house ("Show Me Love"). At times, the vocalist and the horn section would pull back, allowing Portal and Slikk Tim to let loose on the keys and bass. The band's tight rapport did not falter once during the performance. When finished, they quickly exited the stage, leaving the crowd dizzy, exhausted and begging for an encore that would never come. Photo credits / Emilie Pria