by Irene Lo | photos by Greg Forsberg
La Femme is one of the sincerest ironic bands to come from France. Mixing in equal parts surf and cold wave with a dash of ye-ye pop and Goosebumps spirit, La Femme sound as good live as they do on record.
The band is a reaction against the seriousness with which many bands take themselves and their music. It is also a concept that bleeds into their aesthetic: performing at Vancouver’s Media Club Tuesday night, Marlon Magnée (vocals, keys) wore a bubblegum pink leather jacket, while Clémence Quélennec (vocals, keys) brought out her best Egyptian vogue moves. Without sacrificing that certain je ne sais quois charm, the six members of La Femme played a fun-filled kitsch set.
The opening act, Mesa Luna, affectionately named after the defunct local music hub on West Broadway, was called in last minute as special guests, and it was, as Justice McLellan mused, their first show together as a band. Having formed only six months ago, Mesa Luna is McLellan and Alex Cooper, who are currently signed to Tim Clapp’s DIY label, Kingfisher Bluez. Their first show was an experience similar to watching friends do karaoke in the bedroom, which is to say it was intimate and endearing. Still experimenting with their sound and live line-up, Mesa Luna performed songs off their 7-inch record where the electro synth number “Shutting Down” made for an enchanting closer.
La Femme began their set shortly after and it became clear, if it wasn’t so before, that the French speakers gathered in the room rivaled the English ones. But, like the set La Femme played, though the words were in French, nothing got lost in the translation.
“Sur la planche 2013”, a song appropriately enough about surfing, got the crowd moving with its steady waves of intensity built upon by Quélennec’s soft vocals. “Packshot” and “Amour dans le motu” were just as high-spirited, but with an added Halloween kick. The theremin, the electronic instrument that gave these tracks their haunting bite, was played by Sacha Got, who toyed a little with telekinetic prowess.
Continuing the spooky thrills, “La femme” rang with ye-ye joy brought to life with Quélennec’s chic and chilly voice. Quélennec was riveting to watch, largely due to her dancing. With the poker face of Margot Tenenbaum, Quélennec executed flawless moves like a young Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction.
Magnée, as lead male vocal counterpart, was as magnetic to watch, what with his dyed blonde hair and his jumping into the middle of the crowd midway through the set. Some of La Femme’s catchiest songs involved Magnée and Quélennec sharing a duet of sorts, such as on “Hypsoline” and “Antitaxi”, a powerful anthem about taking the bus.
All things said and considered, La Femme pulled off a show that was as captivatingly eccentric as it was musically eclectic.