The Empty Bottle is the launching ground of artists now in Chicago. The Metro before Metro. The obligatory rite of passage into the venue circuit begins on Western Avenue. While nostalgia begs Fireside Bowl or the former pre-CTA Bottom Lounge to stand on that pedestal, the Empty Bottle has weathered the years holding down the neighborhood winter after winter. The city is catching on it seems with new restaurants popping up all around this little stretch. A sold-out crowd wrapped around the Bottle, more so for one of the intimate Trail of Dead concerts, though originally I went to see how La Femme would hold up on their first Chicago concert.
Last time catching La Femme, it was at Pan Piper in their hometown of Paris. The icing on the cake after a 2012 jammed with accolades and debut album anticipation, the psychedelic surf rock meets New Wave group so effortlessly swept to the top two concerts of mine of 2013-next only to Django Django. Why exactly? A pure ability to mesmerize that even Whizzo would envy.
The on-stage Burlesque dancer helped too.
Tuesday night though was relatively stripped down in the music sense. The most distracting element was more so the magical choice of the American flag guitar strap paired with the vintage California t-shirt of bassist Sam Lefèvre. Hesitant to see if La Femme would live up Stateside to what they are capable of back in France, they kicked off the concert with “Amour dans le motu,” the sonic equivalent of a frenetic, warped hypnotic wheel off its axis. Drummer Noé Delmas swiftly became the pillar of the group, keeping them centered into “Si un jour.”
The next day, friends and coworkers all gushed their adoration over Clémence Quélennec. Strangely enough, it’s not so much her singing that catches the attention, but the way she moves. While “Si un jour” left the front of the packed Bottle bobbing, still warming up to the concert, their hit single “Sur la planche 2013” gave evidence as to why. Clémence has that stare. The one that was burned into the minds of movie-goers of yesteryear fawning over Anouk Aimée and Jeanne Moreau in the French Nouvelle Vague. Her dancing, even though La Femme formed in 2010, becomes an instant classic, and did so once again in the Windy City.
“Nous étions deux” followed up “Sur la planche,” a dreamy uptempo piece led by singer Sacha Got, punctuated by a keyboard solo that should, eventually, hopefully, peut-être, take over the organ at Wrigley Field. Another lengthened breather followed up before La Femme seared into “Packshot.” Each song notably longer than on the album, but it really didn’t matter much to the guy who stepped on stage, was handed a tambourine, and rocked his heart out. Or when Trail of Dead’s tour manager ended up on stage dancing throughout “Packshot.”
“Antitaxi” got the localization treatment going “Take the bus, take the bus!” instead of “Prends le bus, prends le bus.” Handclaps, cheers, dancing all punctuated the last song of the set-a devotional manifesto to public transit. Although La Femme was the openers for the night, they received a surprisingly strong response towards the end from the sold-out Chicago crowd, nearly tricking a few into the encore that never was.
La Femme continues their long, long US tour through April.
Amour dans le motu
Si un jour
Sur la planche 2013
Nous étions deux
It’s Time to Wake Up 2013