Full Gallery: Dark Dark Dark at La Maroquinerie
The past weekend was beautiful in Paris with the streets and Seine basking in much deserved, all-too-rare sunlight cast on tourists, students, workers and through stained glassed churches. Whenever that happens, every Parisian becomes a sort of tourist with their Galaxies and iPhones capturing the moment as a fleeting reminder once the winter workweek starts in earnest force. Even as the sun set below the blocked horizon of greniers and their chimneys, at least a lucky few had a chance to prolong the beauty at La Maroquinerie-a venue holding about 500 underground in Belleville-to a duo of gorgeous voices by the likes of Nona Marie and Elke De Mey.
Elke took to the stage by herself with a demeanor and shy confidence towards the French language that made me a bit stunned she wasn’t American. It came through, especially when she commented in French, “There’s a lot of people here!” It normally may cause people to freeze a bit, especially in putting on display one’s often solitary acoustic songs, but she held up well. Often accompanied by a string bassist and multi-instrumentalist, her songs were gentle and sullen, such as “Manic” and the memorable “Heavy Heart.” Her Vashti Bunyan cover of “Train Song” and song “Cowboy George” were highlights in and of themselves, not counting when Nona Marie came out to accompany Elke on one song, raising the song above and beyond any expectations. Give a listen to her EP over at bandcamp.
Dark Dark Dark and France have a long history, you could say, that goes beyond the obvious mutual attraction for all things accordion. In 2010, they did well over a dozen dates, criss-crossing the Hexagon to cities Americans don’t know about unless they went past those obligatory foreign language years. So a sold-out Paris date at a lovely venue that is well-known for quality is quite the achievement, one that I’d almost call anticipated given how much France has taken to the Minneapolis folk band (Le Hiboo caught on early). “Robert” opened up the evening, bathing the attentive, anticipatory audience in Nona’s piano. Her voice was spot on, one of the many attractive elements of their live show, in a sense it spreads the seconds to slow time. As the band members came in, ever so slowly as with the second morceau of the night “The Great Mistake,” they did it rather naturally.
Granted we’re enchanted by accordions in the city of lights, but honestly for once in a long while, it didn’t sound cliché or forced as with “Bright Bright Bright” and “Trouble No More.” The two older discography pieces that showed up reminded us the beauty of the accordion. The newer songs held up just as well, honestly better than the last time I had a chance to see Dark Dark Dark at der Rathskeller in Madison (Photos). Who Needs Who is a lovely extension of their wonderful music, sounding more full and developed. “How It Went Down” and “Love Lies” cemented the new songs. The latter, a bonus track, was gorgeous, sentimental perhaps in its solitude on the stage as a perfect closer, especially after the never-the-more lovely than live “Celebrate” and “Daydreaming.” If the room wasn’t sold out, you likely would have seen a couple or two dancing lightly in each other’s arms.
The first encore closed out with “Last Time I Saw Joe” before giving into “Who Needs Who.” Despite the obvious necessity to close up the night through hilarity (“There’s a strict curfew here. 10:30! We gotta go!” / “I’m not happy about this interaction on stage.” ‘…do you wanna talk about it?’ ), “Who Needs Who” reinforced the fact no one wanted to part the comforting folk wafting underground to the dreary, cloudy outdoors. The second encore, “In Your Dreams,” made the ending just bitter sweet that the curfew clock struck, reality set back in, and the audience awoke from the mesmerizing chamber folk that prolonged a beautiful weekend just a fleeting moment longer.