Review of the OohLaLA! Festival (Tomorrow’s World, Lescop, Housse de Racket, and Citizens!) at the Rickshaw Stop (10/12/12)


The fourth year of the OohLaLA! Festival concluded this past Thursday in New York City after stopping in Montreal, Los Angeles and San Francisco over the past two weeks. Featuring the exciting lineup of Tomorrow’s World, Lescop, Housse de Racket, and Citizens! fans of upbeat European electro-pop were treated to a memorable experience.

Jean-Benoit Dunckel (from Air) just recently started his new project, Tomorrow’s World, with London-based musician Lou Hayter (from New Young Pony Club and The New Sins). Despite their musical pedigree, the duo’s preliminary show did not energize fans the way that other bands did that night. The two will need to release more studio material before their talents can truly be appreciated. Their subtly moving first single, “So Long My Love,” will be formally released on December 3 via The Vinyl Factory/Naïve, and a debut album is expected follow sometime next March.

Lescop, another London-based project from Pop Noire Records, seeks to reinvent the French new wave with sounds similar to Taxi Girl or Joy Division: dramatic, dance-able and full of tension. Their performance was typified by the lead singer’s thick European accent and odd on-stage presence. His dance moves throughout most of the set resembled Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as his rail-thin body covered by a plain white tee swayed rigidly side-to-side with his arms spread out wide. He introduced the song “Tokyo” by informing everyone that he has never visited the city before and he frequently questioned the crowd with peculiar requests that most were unable to understand.

Then came Housse de Racket’s specific and genuine song-writing enveloped in exquisite pop-electro tunes. Their impressive sound is generated from only two band members: a guitarist (Pierre Leroux) and a drummer (Victor LeMasn). After their U.S. tour last spring that included SXSW and Coachella, the 21st century French pop band came to San Francisco with a similar set list, playing a number of songs from their superb second album, Alesia. Most of their tracks contain heavy hooks, such as the one in “Chateau,” that blend nicely with their complex harmonies that range from futuristic chaos to the timeless pop anthems. The duo’s intense stage presence was dominated by the ferocious drumming for a consistent dance beat.

The star of the show was clearly London’s five-piece band, Citizens!, who recorded their 11-track-debut album in Scotland last year with Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. After touring Europe and playing at major festivals, the band eagerly released their first disc on October 9th via Kitsuné / Cooperative Music and followed with their first American tour shortly after. Each band member of the electro-tinged Parisian pop group stood confidently on stage wearing their own pair of fancy dress shoes that were probably purchased during their acoustic tour in Italy, where they performed a scintillating version of their song, “Caroline” in Torino.

Tom Burke lends his friendly vocals, with Thom Rhoades on guitar, Martyn Richmond plucking the bass, Lawrence Diamond playing both keyboard and guitar, while Mike Evans keeps the beat steady on drums. Their innocent lyrics combine effectively with an austere piano and synthesized bass-lines. Their top track, “True Romance,” really got the audience bouncing with blaring guitars blare and swooning synths, as everyone in the venue passionately partied to the emotive single.

The band strangely revealed that the imagery for the song’s music video came from the famous couple kissing at the Vancouver riots: the triumph of an intense personal moment over the doom and chaos of the world at large. As an aside, Gigamesh’s remix of “True Romance” adds even more energy to easily my favorite song (which you can read more about it in the album review of Kitsuné Maison – Compilation 14). All of Citizens!’s music is addictive and exciting, without studio trickery such as auto tune, leading to a pure and pleasurable experience.

Hopefully, there will be more acts and shows coming to San Francisco to spread the words and sounds of Kitsuné. The record label has a knack for identifying young, independent talent primarily from the electro-pop genre. By consistently searching for this distinct style, it becomes easier to promote multiple musicians simultaneously, whether through the release of album compilations or traveling mini festivals.