Imagine the biggest buzzing group of the moment in America posting on Facebook at noon, announcing a show down the street from you-not in a venue, but a concert bar. A 200 capacity max, maybe, concert bar (obviously smaller in the venue part itself, though that’s what Now Playing says). That concert would take place 9 hours from that moment. That’s what happened today in Paris when cold wave, “bipolar French variety” artist Lescop took to the slightly raised platform of a stage to perform at Pop In Sunday evening.
Cold wave arose back in the late 70s and 80s, predominately in France, essentially a duality between unemotional coldness (synths) with passion roiling underneath, subtly. It’s been seeing a resurgence, at least in certain derivatives with Team Ghost, who’s effectively leadening the sound with guitars, and Lescop, who’s striking a balance between restraint and unfurled dancing. Mathieu Peudupin has been working on the project since 2009, teaming up with then and now London-based Nicolas Congé of John & Jehn to work on production. What came soon after was a stunningly fresh single, “La Forêt”, first appearing on the Kitsuné Parisien II compilation. A simplistic, muted bass line over an unassuming drum gave into a slowly building strummed guitar that reared up just after the chorus, hooking the listener and dragging them into the dark before they had a chance to know what hit them. Not overbearing at all, it was quickly impossible to escape here in Paris, and still is. It sticks, and whether or not you understand French means nothing to the dancing multitudes it’s pushed into swaggered shuffling.
An EP came soon thereafter, cementing Lescop in the minds of the public and earning acclaim as “the emerging artist of the fall” by Les Inrocks (the biggest music media in France). Then soon thereafter, the self-titled debut with comparisons to Joy Division, inspired in part by Manchester, came out on Pop Noire.
Pop In is small. It’s one of those testing grounds for new artists, or those international artists that want to give Paris a shot in hopes of returning to play larger venues. It’s basic-a concert bar. Bare bones, little lighting…stuff we expect back in America when you’re starting off. It’s one of the few venues in Paris where you’re forced to actually perform because there’s no massive, expensive lighting system to distract your retinas. I dig it, a lot, mostly because it brings me back to being a teenager, crammed into rented sweaty excuses for “concert venues” aka home.
Half expecting a crowd out the door, people soon discovered a jam packed second floor with people crowded down the stairs. The stage itself is back up the stairs, then down another into the basement behind and slightly lower than the bar in front. The place filled quick, allowing only those who managed to get up the stairs an opportunity to catch the rare performance. Little room was left as people rather calmly shifted into place, leaving little room even for scooter helmets. People didn’t know what really to expect, leaving the air heavy with a feeling of being one of the lucky few to experience this free moment.
Befitting as the night fell, “Paris s’endort” started the set. Its keys, bright 80s uptempo pop, confirmed Mathieu’s presence. The crowd didn’t bouge, which was weird, as if a bit stunned-but likely because you didn’t have much space at all. “Ljubljana” finally dislodged the audience, encouraged by Cédric Leroux lunging rhythmically and intensely to coax the crowd on. Purely poppy with bobbing beats provoked by Cédric’s guitar, it served its job so early in the set to establish the mood prior to “Los Angeles.”
Every song was amplified despite what some would consider a less than stellar sound system. That didn’t matter. Lescop sounded much better live than on the disc, which is impressive actually. The songs have more contrast to them, especially “Los Angeles.” Sure, its sunlight radiates as the early 70s, bright Fender sound highlights Mathieu’s urgent, yet soothing singing. At Pop In, you could’ve closed your eyes and imagined yourself in a convertible-ignoring the fact the perspiration was probably not your own but belonging to the person next to you. But hey, that’s what an intimate show is, eh?
“Le Mal Mon Ange” followed soon after, minus the female vocals of Dorothée de Koon, but it worked just fine. Dark, with a slightly sultry roundness, it would sound befitting between an early scene in Drive and those lingered overhead driving scenes of The Place Beyond the Pines. Though “Slow Disco,” and its heavily funky bass line easily became one of the more memorable moments of the set. If you would’ve tossed in tropical percussion, the group would’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to dancey indie rock du jour.
The end of the night progressively built upwards with “La forêt” initiating the beginning of the end. People finally dislodged entirely, dancing however much they could, while Mathieu stared off into the crowd with his calculated dancing. You couldn’t say cold, or even neutral, but precise. It was better than you’d expect when seeing YouTube live videos. You’d wait for the bursts, when the hand would go up to the ceiling or towards the crowd, as if cheering on something trying to break out of its shell (for lack of better metaphor).
As all good things must come to an end, “Le Vent” and its raised, heavily memorable bass line built and urged the packed public into one final dance. Cheers broke out from under the air conditioner kicking to life, giving people a newfound sense to the exceptionalness the moment. And obviously when the set ended, there was no true backstage to escape to, and thus…the group shortly thereafter dove headfirst into “Tokyo, la nuit.” The final song was heady, a slow-going trudge of grungy guitar that enveloped and drew people finally into a dimly lit flurry.
Swampy yes, cramped yes, memorable bien sûr. For the lucky few at Pop In, Sunday night gave a welcome gift to those Parisian who have been camped out through this prolonged, dragging winter weather not only through the first truly spring-like day, but an unexpected darkened dip into an intimate performance. The band remained as people filtered out, with rumors that a second set would begin in twenty minutes for those patient enough to have waited, proving that Lescop may stick around longer than many of those much a-buzzed groups that grace the covers of magazines and hyped blogs.
Le Mal Mon Ange
La Nuit Américaine
Tokyo, la nuit