Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Les Sans Coulottes at Irving Plaza

Clermont Ferrand
In late 18th century France, the original sans-culottes (French: "without culottes") were the common people of the lower classes who wore "pantalons" (long trousers) instead of "culottes" (the fashionable silk knee-breeches of the nobility and bourgeoisie); many of the sans-culottes became radical and militant citizen soldiers of the French Revolution. Today, the phrase more commonly translates literally as "those  without underwear." Les Sans Culottes is also a French language rock band formed in 1998 in Brooklyn, New York. Led by Michigan-born legal aid attorney William Carney (renamed Clermont Ferrand) and New Jersey-born graphic designer Audrey Kellar (renamed Kit Kat Le Noir), les San Culottes performs original compositions, covers of French rock songs and French-language reworkings of classic American pop rock hits. After more than 25 line-up changes, les San Culottes presently consists of vocalists Ferrand and Le Noir, who are the only remaining original members, plus vocalist Brigitte Bourdeaux, guitarist Geddy Liaison, keyboardist Benoit Bals, bassist M. Pomme Frite, and drummer Jacques Strappe. Les Sans Culottes released The Gods Have Thirst, its eighth and most recent album, on November 11, 2014.

Opening for L7 at Irving Plaza tonight, les San Culottes sounded like a modern band performing 1980s new wave versions of 1960s French pop and yé-yé girl pop music. This was what would have happened if saucy '60s French pop stars like Serge Gainsbourg, Jacques Dutronc, and Jacques Brel had joined the B-52's. It was double retro music, both a campy send-up of and a tribute to these vintage sounds, sung in French, and it was uniquely captivating. On songs like "Faux Pas" and "Gendarme, Gendarme," Ferrand, Le Noir and Bourdeaux alternated lead vocals, to bashing garage rock behind them. A punky French version of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" was a highlight. Ferrand, wearing sunglasses and a pink sports jacket, stayed in character, affecting a French accent while speaking to the audience between songs. As if this was an inventive Saturday Night Live skit, les Sans Culottes took the faux-French facade to an absurd level and made it fun for all.

Visit les Sans Culottes at www.lessansculottes.com.