Last week, psychedelic punk rockers La Femme and Jacques Auberger brought a taste of France to Boston when they played Brighton Music Hall. When the doors opened, fans hurriedly pushed their way into the venue and out of the rain, finding opening act Jacques already at work on stage. With his head shaved straight down the middle like a medieval monk, Jacques made an immediate impression on the crowd as he stood grinning between two massive boards loaded with various musical equipment. And rather than simply warming up, he continued straight into his set, playing non-stop for the next hour and a half.
Though there were few clear demarcations between Jacques’ songs, his oddball assortment of musical (and non-musical) instruments and tools served a similar purpose of transitioning between beats. Beginning with synthesizers and bass, Jacques continued to loop and overlay new sounds such as his voice and a tambourine. But these sounds grew wackier throughout the night, ranging from a ringing dinner bell to a snipping pair of scissors to a squawking rubber chicken. And while on paper Jacques may sound gimmicky, in both appearance and sound, his performance was anything but. So although these oddball details helped to draw the crowd’s interest, they also enhanced his music, and creating a fun, wacky, and unique show.
In addition to himself, Jacques was joined on stage by various members of La Femme. Seemingly oblivious to the show, members of La Femme hopped on and off stage throughout Jacques’ set, treating it like a friendly jam session. As guitars and microphones were passed around, Jacques continued to adapt his music in an incredibly improvisational, even involving the crowd by passing down a tambourine. One of many standout moments from this collaborative set was when La Femme vocalist and keyboard player Marlon Magnée walked off stage with his guitar and stood amidst the crowd as he continued to play. Later in the night, vocalist Clémence Quélennec made a similarly inspired move, playing her guitar from the steps of the stage.
When it approached time for Jacques to leave the stage, he was given a five-minute warning by an employee (visibly giving concerned glances at the mess of instruments to break down), which Jacques promptly ignored. Well past the warning, Jacques showed no sign of slowing down, as the employee desperately attempted to gain his attention. When he finally did, Jacques just smiled and asked for more time, continuing to play for another several minutes, much to the delight of the crowd. At 9:35pm, Jacques finally acquiesced, speaking to the crowd for the first and only time of his set, saying, “okay, see you guys!” as he began lugging away his gear.
With Jacques gone, roadies hungrily attacked the tangled rat-king of a mess of wires, cords, and various instruments. As the floor began to clear, members of La Femme delicately checked their instruments, and then joined the fringe of the crowd, sipping Coronas and cocktails, and bobbing their heads to French music as they waited to go on. By 10:00 pm, La Femme was finally ready to play, starting the set with trippy track, “Sphynx.” And while their songs were more defined than Jacques’ had been, La Femme sustained his raw energy with a similarly spontaneous performance, with the six musicians extending and improvising upon many of their songs. In addition to encompassing Jacques’ free-spirited vibe, La Femme also had a certain mystique, perfectly suited to the cold and dreary Fall night. Many of their songs, such as “Septembre,” “Paris 2012,” and “Sur La Planche” encompass eerie sounds, lyrics, and themes, transforming the venue into a lively haunted house.
Throughout the show, Magnée and Quélennec fluidly switched lead vocals, both using what free space they could to work the crowd, pushing the crowded stage to its limit as they teetered over the edge. The other members were equally flexible in their playing, as bassist Sam Lefèvre occasionally took charge of the mic, and keyboard player Sacha Got joined drummer Noé Delmas on a snare. But after Jacques peeked his head out from the balcony, goofily swinging his arms along to the music, the crowd roared for him to join the band. Back on stage, Jacques immediately stole the show, hopping on guitar and dancing maniacally as he jammed along, stripping down to his slacks after an eccentric strip dance.
After finishing the final track of their set, “Wake Up,” the band took a brief rest before jumping back on for a two-song encore. Following, “Vagues,” La Femme ended the night with a wild and thrilling performance of “Antitaxi.” Both the stage and floor became pure chaos, as the band turned up their amplifiers and went all out. Quélennec lay flat on her keyboard as she continued to sing, Magnée stalked along the edge of the crowd, and the rest of the band (plus Jacques) rocked madly around the stage. At the end of their nearly two-hour set, both La Femme and listeners collapsed in exhaustion as the final “Antitaxi” reverberated through amplifiers, and the band said headed to the door for a well-earned smoke.