When Clémence Quélennec took the stage with her psychedelic pop group La Femme on Friday night, it was impossible to miss the raw energy and emotion she carried in her eyes. Joined by her French bandmates, who are currently on a North American tour to promote their second LP, Mystère, which came out a year ago, the musicians hailing from France entertained Turf Club in Midway, which was packed with Francophiles.
Opening with “Sphynx,” which is the first track on Mystère, the six-piece featuring three keyboards, drums, bass, guitar and the vocal talents of Quélennec in particular, La Femme got the house dancing with relative ease by the time they got to their second song, “Telegraphe.” Blending psychedelic rock with elements of pop, surf punk, and new wave, the group embodied a fresh mixture of their musical influences, which include the Velvet Underground, the 1960s French underground, and 1970s synthwave. About midway through, with “Paris 2012,” the crowd had reached its climax.
Running 90 minutes, Friday’s set progressed with grace, but just when things seemed to plateau as the crowd began to tire near the end, external factors added a bit of adversity to the evening. Starting with a patron collapsing into the side of the stage while trying to make it to the nearby restroom, audio issues ensued. During the fall—with two band members trying to help the patron up—the momentary chaos led to equipment being disconnected on stage. A couple of songs later, Quélennec was having feedback issues to the point it looked like she was in literal pain while trying to sing. Though her eyes betrayed her slick aesthetic and energetic presentation, she continued on, constantly smiling and engaging with the audience that had found a second wind.
Sporting berets, dynamic wardrobes, and lots of alcohol, La Femme showed off their grit, wasting no time, making an hour and a half feel more like two hours. There were points when some of the musicians exited the stage for a quick break during songs, but there was never a lull or a period when anything was slowed down or explained. Several songs had no transitions, and minimal English was spoken, with most coming from guitarist Sacha Got, who seemed to enjoy dropping f-bombs.
Based in Paris but originally from Biarritz, La Femme’s headlining show was supported by Jacques. With his bizarre friar’s haircut, the EDM artist lulled the crowd with a lengthy set that captured the emotional spectrum before saying goodbye with a Vulcan hand salute. Widely popular with the crowd, Jacques was later brought back to play guitar with La Femme for a brief period, when he, once again, left giving another popular Vulcan hand salute.
The show concluded with an encore culminating in “Antitaxi,” one of the group’s hit songs from their first LP, Psycho Tropical Berlin. Both albums were prominently featured at Turf Club, giving the audience plenty to draw and sample from, though many of the live songs sounded quite a bit different from the recorded tracks, given La Femme’s nomadic culture of different vocalists and musicians contributing to their music outside of the six-piece that performed in St. Paul. The band’s North American tour concludes at the end of the month in New Orleans.