I made it over to BAM over the weekend, hoping to catch the free White Rabbits show, but no dice. I didn't actually think I would go 0-for-February in concerts, but it was getting a bit close for comfort. Thankfully, Yelle's wholly unexpected but welcome appearance at the Knitting Factory made a Tuesday night far more exciting than usual. I hadn't been to the venue in a long while, and it'd be fair to say that I've distanced myself from the bands that usually play there. Still, it has a solid main stage, right around my ideal size. Props to DJ Lauren Flax, whom I saw last spring. She spun before and in between sets, pumping up the crowd with very nice house selections. Fluxblog was also at the show.
First up was Susan Ploentz aka Pash(ly), who had more than a passing resemblance to her previous tourmate the Blow. Ploentz assumed a similar, slightly awkward stage presence, but her music wasn't nearly as endearing. There's a strange intersection between the lo-fi singer-songwriter who decides to use a laptop rather than an acoustic guitar, and in this case it didn't really work. She began with a simple bass accompaniment - "just enough to get your hips moving" - eventually incorporating more instrumentation. But her songs were morose, with tales of loneliness and college girls with breakdowns. The lethargic tracks were difficult to get through, and unfortunately even the faster songs didn't really click.
Kap10kurt was sick. There wasn't anything especially innovative about their maximal house, but the execution was perfect. The band's namesake, a Swiss native who's relocated to the city, was joined by Leah Shapiro, who bears a resemblance to the Raveonettes' tour drummer and a laptop. It was interesting how they would take vocals samples, or even record some snippets on the spot, and then layer it over the instruments, but it was primarily a drums and bass affair. Eviscerating synth lines were punctuates by the kap10's swaying frame and Leah's impressive beats, and the crowd dug in. Kap10kurt had a great stage presence, with a European casualness that gave the set some personality. At one point, he accidentally stepped on an electricity cord and cut out a song early, but they band recovered quickly and went back to smashing face. All in all, very impressive.
MP3: Kap10kurt - Dangerseekers
Official Site: Kap10kurt
The lights dimmed, and we were on. The drummer GrandMarnier and keyboardist/general electro-master Tepr jumped on stage first, followed by Yelle, who was clad in a golden jacket. "Tristesee / Joie" kicked things off, giving us a taste of Yelle's versatile voice, which went from snapping off lines to a soaring chorus. It's clear that she's a seasoned tour veteran at this point, and it was incredible how effortless she made it look. Much credit also has to be given to her two friends in the back. The live renditions of songs from Pop Up had all the kick of their studio version, but often the band - and this was very much a band - would stretch out instrumental parts, until they hit a euphoric length.
The crowd was understandably excited, but the full intensity wasn't reached until the a few songs in, at the tail end of "Dans Ta Vrai Vie." As the song entered its (extended) outro, Yelle urged the crowd to start jumping, and in what would be the theme of the night, we obliged with gusto. With barely enough time to catch one's breath, Yelle launched into "Je Veux Te Voir," and the place freaked. Now, I'm sure the show had its share of native speakers, but I'd say everyone was chanting to that absurdly catchy chorus, unless they were too busy leaping. "A Cause des Garçons" followed, generating more excitement, and I have to say this was the most physically impressive show I've ever been to. And aside from a scuffle towards the beginning of the show, people were generally pretty good about not crashing into each other as well, at least where I was.
I think the end of the set really captured the mood of the entire night. After saying goodbye, the house lights went on, a general signal for the end of a show. I turned to leave with the rest of the crowd, but I saw Lauren up in the DJ balcony motioning back towards the stage. The encore has become a bit of a farce, now that everyone expects it, but this was really refreshing. It seems that the band decided on the spot to give us another round of "Je Veux Te Voir," which was given a rockier treatment, complete with Yelle crashing on the additional drum kit in the center of the stage. Someone mentioned after the show that she had only seen a couple of videos before coming, and thinking back, that may very well have been the case for much of the crowd. Pop Up hasn't been released domestically, and it's got to be another victory for the internet, considering how many (enthusiastic!) people showed up. It's amazing that an artist who's been predominantly active overseas can achieve such a following, and lots of credit has to be given to everyone who bothered searching her out.
Yelle's playing again at the Hiro Ballroom on Thursday. You can RSVP here.
MP3: Yelle - A Cause des Garçons
MP3: Yelle - Je Veux Te Voir
Official Site: Yelle