Patrice Labarchède's account of CHIC's gig at the Nice Jazz Festival July 26th 2003


'Trice is an ardent CHIC fan, France's greatest, by his own account, maybe Europe's greatest? Here is his account of the day he got to see CHIC live for the first time, leading to the ultimate goal, that of meeting Nile Rodgers. You might say the trials and tribulations of a true fan. (pocat)
We had a huge artist strike here. So most of the French summer festivals in July were canceled. So, on July 25th, I called the Nice Jazz Festival's organization to know if it was canceled. They said it was still on. I asked them if CHIC were still coming, and the guy told me, "Yes, and they just arrived to their hotel..."
I tried "Which hotel ?.." He said "Their hotel"
I didn't succeed on this, but when I want something, I do my best and sometimes it works. I already knew that the festival's production resided at the Plaza Hotel in Nice. So I sent a postcard to "Nile Rodgers and CHIC" at the hotel, hoping that they'd forward my letter.
On the postcard, I said that I was a HUGE CHIC fan, and that I fell in love with the CHIC sound 25 years before, when I first listened to "Le Freak", it was in 1978 and I was just 11 y.o. I've been a fan ever since, and I buy everything I can find, if I find CHIC, Nile or 'Nard in the credits. For instance, I said that I got the Will Powers album, The Honeydrippers' one and the album of Mac Gollehon, on which Nile plays. I added that I also got the Bowie-Jagger duet, "Dancing In The Streets" on which Nile was the executive producer and the We Are Family Foundation single.
I also wrote that 'Nard's death has been terrible for me, partly because he died on April 18th, which is also my birthday and also because he was (is) my favorite musician ever, together with Nile (because I love the bass guitar).
I ended by saying that I've loved CHIC for 25 years, but I've never seen them live on stage. So, it may take me 9 hours by train to come, but this time, I'll be there !..
So, even if the guy didn't tell me the name of their hotel, I decided to call the Plaza Hotel for a room. The girl over the phone said that the hotel might be full. By the time she was searching if there was any room left, I said, "Well I'd love to be in your hotel, cos' I know that CHIC is there too, and I love them!.." She said, that she did understand and that they were here indeed!.. She added that sometimes, at the end of the concerts, some musicians used to do a "boeuf" (it means that they sing several songs with other musicians and people who want to sing along with them), it is a non official private show.
I got what I wanted, but no room, so she asked if I was interested to get one bedroom at the Park Hotel (same group), which was 200m far from the Plaza, I said ok.
Well, July 26th arrived and I didn't really sleep the nite b4. I left at 9 am, and took the train from Bordeaux at 11 am. I arrived in Nice at 7:10 pm, over 8 hours later! The trip wasn't too bad, even if a child about 5 y.o. cried for 6 hours... I initially took the wrong bus, but eventually got the right one and arrived at "Les jardins et arènes de Cimiez". There were 3 stages, the biggest one (the one of CHIC) was in a olive tree garden in the open air. When I passed the checkpoint, I was afraid that they would take my big camera, because when I called the festival organization and asked if I could take pictures, they said that it was possible with a small camera, but not with a big camera. So I took both my big camera and a little pocket one.
The girl asked me if I got "cans" with me and asked me to open my bag. My bag got lots of pockets, so I started to open the ones which had nothing of interest. When she was about to open the right one, I just showed her my medicines which were in another one, and she finally said, "well it's ok, go" I thought I was lucky I still didn't know yet, how lucky this nite would be for me, I guess it was MY nite with CHIC! I entered the gardens, took 2 programmes and saw the big crowd there, I thought it was going to be impossible for me to get close to the stage. I remembered on the 'Live In Japan' DVD, that Nile was on the left of the stage, so I tried to get on that side, but it was definitely too crowded I gave up. It was 8 pm, and CHIC was announced for 10:30 pm, so I decided to drink and to eat before doing anything (it was already darned hot by that time, over 35°c and forests were on fire not too far from Nice). While I was eating and drinking, I listened to Robert Plant, whom I liked, especially the final song. When he ended his show, most of the crowd went away, I was amazed and decided to approach the stage. But then, I thought that people who came to listen to Keziah Jones may not stay for CHIC. So I decided to have a rest, and that I'd begin to approach the stage 1 hour before CHIC would come on stage.
The hour came, and I started to approach the stage quite HARD to thread your way among a crowd which was not moving, yelling "KEZIAH, KEZIAH" when you don't care at all !.. But I finally got as far as 6 rows from the stage. Then, Keziah ended his show 20 minutes before the official time. The same thing that happened after Robert Plant stopped playing, happened again: most of the crowd went away. I approached the stage to the first row, I was in the middle of it, but no one was moving on from this row. Then a girl, just in front of me, looked around her and said to 2 other girls, "well, let's go". And they left I jumped, and no one could make me move from there!!!..
We waited over half an hour ; I saw the technicians working, they placed everything, like the songs lists + a paper on which you could see the words of a song which surprised me and then I saw flashes behind the stage, then the same announcer you can hear on the 'Live In Japan' DVD, announced: "Nile Rodgers and CHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIC!!!"

Then, and for 1 hour and a half, I lost my mind and went CRAZY!!! 25 years of passion for my favorite band burst!

I was dancing, singing, acting on the words, yelling (it took me 10 days to recover my voice after the show). I was so excited that Nile saw me, and he was laughing by seeing me. He smiled at me several times. When Sylver (or the other singer) was watching me, as I knew the words, we sometimes did the same gestures, which made us laugh. Once, at the end of a song, I yelled "SYLVER", while she was walking to the bottom of the stage. She turned back, and said smiling, showing me with her finger "YOU, keep singing!" After the 1st 2 or 3 songs, Keziah Jones came back to listen to CHIC, he sat just in front of me, so I got photographers and cameras on me. I've been shot with him, but I didn't care at all, I was still dancing and singing. Then, after a while, Nile didn't smile at all, he seemed to be embarrassed, I wondered why? Then I saw Sylver, she was sitting behind the drums, holding her head in her right hand, and she kept singing the chorus, while the other singer sang the song. She seemed to be ill. At the end of the song, she came back in the front of the stage, and Nile kissed her. I sometimes took pictures with my little camera (around 2 or 3 by song), because I didn't want them to take my big one.
The crowd was not very excited at the beginning of the show, but became more and more excited. And at the end, I wasn't the only CRAZY one!!! Then came the time of "CHIC Cheer", which announced the end of the show. Nile introduced all the musicians and said about Omar that, he was the musician with whom he had played for the longest time in his life, and that they were very young when they first met and played together; about Bill Holloman (saxophone) that "he got the worst haircut in the world". Each musician played at his best, especially Jerry Barnes on his bass. Then they sang "My Forbidden Lover" (the new singer made a mistake and Sylver helped her to get back into the song), and "We Are Family."
They all went off the stage, and I yelled like the rest of the crowd. Then they finally came back for the last song, which was "Good Times."
At the end, it was craziness in the crowd, everyone was yelling! Nile and the rest of the band saluted the crowd, and Keziah (+ Marcus MILLER if I did recognize him) who stayed until the end of the show. Two of the musicians threw their towels to the public, and then Nile stayed alone on the stage. He seemed to be amazed by the crowd. He thanked the people of Nice, and said "See ya next year in Nice" (waow, what news!..). He then added:"There is no party like a disco party". He went off the stage and the technicians started to pack the instruments. But the crowd became WILD!.. The technicians stopped packing the instruments and 5 minutes later, Nile came back on stage and asked if we wanted to hear a last song. We all yelled "YEAH!!!.." He said that they never did that a second recall! He went off the stage and finally came back with all the musicians.
Sylver looked at us with a bad face (but it was for a laugh): "Do you realize that I'd just taken off my shoes!.." Then they sang "Le Freak", and the crowd was incredible, singing along with them. At the end of the song, everyone went off the stage, except Nile. He went to the right of the stage to salute the audience, then to the left. We were so excited that he threw his bandana to the crowd ON THE LEFT SIDE!.. I was in the middle!.. DAMNED!!! Then he went off the stage for good.
I asked a technician, if I could get 2 song lists, which he gave me (but unfortunately, I didn't read it at right away, which I should've done !!!) and I also asked for the paper on which there were the words of a song, but a woman photographer asked for it and got it !.. DAMNED!!! At the same time, on my right I heard a guy saying "Too late !" I turned to him, he was with 5 or 6 persons and they all said that I was incredible PROUD!
Then I decided to go to the Plaza Hotel, to see if they were going to do a "boeuf". I went out of the gardens, it was crowded everywhere. Only 2 buses were there for all the people. One was full, the other was empty. So I went to that one and then stopped, cos I realized that that one would take the place of the full one. This happened. It stopped just in front of me and I got a sitting place. Ten minutes later, we arrived close to the "Promenade des Anglais", so I went to the Plaza Hotel, it was a quarter to 1 am. I waited there, sitting at a table at the "boeuf room", wishing them to come! At a 14 to 2 am, I saw Jerry Barnes the bassist, I went to him and asked him for an autograph (on the "Live In Japan" DVD), which he accepted. I told him he did a great job, and we talked about 'Nard. I said he was my favorite musician ever, and he told me that Bernard was his favorite too. I asked if Nile and the others would come to do a "boeuf", but he said "I don't think so", I asked if Sylver was ill and he said that she was! So I understood that they wouldn't do the "boeuf". We talked a little about the album, he said that they were going to tape it in Sweden in the next days. Then he asked me what was my name, I said "Patrice", and he said "Jo" while he was shaking my hand!
I left him because he was looking for something to eat. One hour later, I saw Omar. I went to him, asked him for an autograph, congratulated him for the show, and asked if they were going to play here tonite, he said "No I don't think" and he also told me that Sylver was ill
Then I waited again at the end I understood that they wouldn't come. So I decided to ask Jo when he'd be back, if he thought he would be able to get me autographs from Sylver and Nile. It was 2:30 am when Jo came back. I followed him, put my hand on his shoulder and said "Jo" At the same time, someone did the same on his other shoulder, so he turned to this person, and then I looked on my right and went PETRIFIED Nile was there so closed I could have touched him. I went back to my table to take my bag, and immediately came back to Nile. I got a pen in my left hand, the 2 programmes and the sleeve of the "Live In Japan" DVD in my right hand and I stayed there, in front of him, watching him, around 3m away from him. He was talking with 2 nice women. After a few seconds, he saw me and came to me with his arms and hands opened. He took the pen and the sleeve out of my hands and I asked him for an autograph! And then I lost my mind!.. I forgot my English and talked to him in an awful English-French language I asked him if he got my card, but didn't wait for the answer. It was so amazing to me, how could I ever think that this moment would ever happen. I wished this moment would never end, and I also knew it would be quite a short one, so I wanted to say everything I got in me! I told him he was a genius, that I've loved CHIC for 25 years, I asked if Sylver was ill, etc
He said that Sylver was ill and that they wouldn't sing because of that while trying to do an autograph In fact, the pen didn't work well on the cover of the DVD, so he did another autograph inside the sleeve. Then I asked him if he could give me another autograph, for another HUGE fan ? He said ok, and he did it on one of the Nice Jazz Festival programmes I took. I said that it was for "pocat" (I had to spell it) and told him that "He is the one who created the site. Then he went: "Oh, he's a friend of yours?, -yeah !.. Well, actually we are going to Sweden tomorrow to tape a new album that we'll arrange in New York, and then we're gonna meet him!" I was soo jealous!
Then I asked if I could hug him (like Americans do) he said while opening his arms "YES of course !.." This was THE GREATEST moment, to hold him in my arms for a few seconds. Then I kissed him on his left cheek (like we do in FRANCE).
The moment was too perfect because Omar just came, so I asked Nile "can I shoot a picture of you with Omar?" Both said "Yeah sure !" I shot the picture with my big camera (this picture is my fav'). Then I asked if I could get a picture shot of Nile with me? He said "Of course!.." Omar shot it, and I asked to do another one, in case it would have not worked well Omar shot a second one, and then Nile said "Another one?.." (I was so happy. The second one wasn't good, cos Nile was talking to me at the moment Omar shot it, so I guess Nile realized that this one was wrong and asked for a 3rd one). Then I thanked him for having given me so much happiness! I left him, but couldn't stop watching him. I've been waiting for this moment for such a long time and it probably won't happen another time in my life! So I stayed not too far (5-6m) from him which I realize now, might have been embarrassing for him But I waited to get the other musicians autographs and I hoped that Sylver would finally come down.
She didn't come down, but I got the autograph of Gerardo Velez. Then Nile went to his bedroom, and I left the Plaza on a cloud! I was so H.A.P.P.Y.! Of course 'Nard wasn't there, but WHAT A NITE! I went to "sleep" at 3:30 am, but didn't sleep well, I was still at the concert!
The next day on the train, I was still at the concert (and the 9 hours weren't too long) !.. So I took all the stuff I'd collected and looked at it. I bought some newspapers. They said that the CHIC nite had been the most crowded nite of all the festival: over 5 000 persons. When I looked at the songs lists I was Shocked! Because in the list, there was a song they didn't sing (maybe cos' of Sylver was ill?), and maybe it was the words of this song which were on the paper next to the new singer, I don't know? The song was "At Last I Am Free." If only I had read the list before I went to the hotel, I could have asked Nile!
When I came back to Paris, I got news by lots of people who saw me on television. But no one taped it!
The Nice concert was shot by M6 television, and I contacted them to know when they will broadcast it. And CANAL+ made an interview with Nile, and they showed some pictures from the concert. Everyone told me that they could see me shouting "FREAK OUT" for 3 seconds (a star is born).