The kempt courtyard of Strand’s neoclassical art gallery- Somerset House- was just a complimentary accessory for French psych-punk rock band La Femme. At 21:00 on a random Thursday night in central London, the superchic quintet performed twenty of their most prominent worldly wardrobe outfits to London’s (and apparently half of Brighton, overheard from a bystander) most fashionable crowd.
The weather was partly cloudy. The sun was MIA. The single beer stand with its overflowing line was overpriced and boring.
But La Femme’s discography makes for one hallucination of a road trip- provided you can keep up. Introducing themselves with their multicultural-synth dream Fugue italienne in their matching white-tie trouser and blazer, the crowd doesn’t need any warming up to dance at this larger-than-life (and importantly Madri-sponsored) party.
Band founders Marlon Magnée and Sacha Got provide polar sensations of chilled and electrifying energy, with Magnée’s sultry vocals curiously complimenting Got’s choice of guitar tone and journey.
Center stage is devoured by our babes of the band practicing the 60s jerk, Ysé Zoula and Fanny Luzignant, our big-haired femme fatales of the show; who aren’t sorry to prove us as the damsel in distress. Their dancing and atmospheric vocals accent most of the alt-dream-pop numbers such as It’s Time to Wake Up, Cool Colorado where lyrics translate to “Outside I feel the wind in my ears/ Like a dream without waking up”, and from their latest album Paris-Hawaï, Aloha Baby, an upbeat number disguised with sensual vocal melodies, guitar whammies and soft synths.
Appropriately, it’s starting to feel like we’re in a heat haze, wearing flower leis whilst soaking in warm sun rays on a sandy beach drinking mimosas. Possibly somewhere in Hawaii.
The mind-bending light show above stage suggests brilliance from the collaborative minds of the Europeans (and the technicians), as the artificial lights flawlessly bop and snap the illusion of whatever completely dissimilar outfit we’re wearing a few minutes in: where you’re left just on the brink of craving more material.
As the sun goes down, the party gets synthetically harder with Tatiana and its unexpected crescendo, before becoming essential with the perfectly-timed surf-rock guitar melodies of Tu t’en lasses.
Excluding the finale, the second highlight of the night had to be a modern hit- Sacatela. Although not accompanied by the tracks’ vintage and abstract postcard-esque music video, the song still signed and delivered appropriately for the crowd’s hype. Personally, I consider it to be their catchiest song (aside from Foutre le bordel- for the kids who get it).
Post-gig, me and my friend crawl to Temple and sardine ourselves, eventually, into a Brighton-bound Gatwick Express train. The eclectic thought on the train home for those who speak minimal French, like me, is the understanding that sometimes switching off and completely listening to high vibes and good melodies instead of lyrics, can be some good food for thought.
Many bands fail at trying to create a successful multi-genre project with an artistic twist. But somewhere around seven albums and a few new members later, the group created music whilst genre-bending-and-blending until they pretty much packed out the Somerset House courtyard. Their flavour has worked in their favour.
La Femme has proven the ability to get every. Single. Soul. Dancing.
Even if you don’t dance.
And in that mysterious and organic way that feels like it strikes central London every odd blue moon. Their combined natural stage charisma and years of time spent improving skill, has led to a sensation of a discography. By applying hypnotic elements from a variety of worldly cultures and eras from the past 60 years, and significant rock icons such as The Velvet Underground- their unique brand refuses to get lost in the live performances.
Slightly straying from their own path became part of their story, providing a refreshing experience for those wanting to let loose and have fun. What lacks live sonically, is made up for by the impressive stage presence of the band; they made certain that it wasn’t just about the music, but the artistic manifesto.