Synthesizer, reverb and electronic pop rocked the Ooh La L.A. festival’s first ever Montreal appearance on Oct. 16. The audience at La Société des arts technologiques was treated to the newest up-and-coming French label pop bands in a fun-filled evening. A unique aspect of Montreal’s first Ooh La L.A. was the relative lack of notoriety amongst the bands. Only Housse de Racket, the closing band, had released an album before October, while Tomorrow’s Child has yet to release their first album. It was certainly an unusual vibe with the audience never quite certain what they might hear next.
French artist LESCOP opened the night with tracks from his newly released debut album Lescop. The best word to describe this young Frenchman would be ‘smooth.’ Everything from his voice to his seamless beats and stage presence set the tone for the evening. That said, he had heads bobbing from the get-go with tracks like “La Forêt” and “Tokyo, La Nuit.”
Following LESCOP was the newly formed band Citizens! Members Tom Burke, Lawrence Diamond, Mike Evans, Martyn Richmond and Thom Rhoades hail from London and were arguably the most fun to watch that evening. Signed to the French label Kitsuné, the five-piece band provided an upbeat, captivating and danceable performance.
Burke, the frontman, has a falsetto that was offset nicely by heavy reverb guitar and cracking baselines. There wasn’t a single person in the room who wasn’t dancing by the end of their set. Formed in 2011, Citizens! released their debut album ‘Here We Are’ on Oct. 3.
Tomorrow’s Child were third on the line up. Although the duo haven’t yet released an album, they were easily the most well-renowned band of the evening because of member Jean-Benoit Dunckel. Dunckel is also a member of the hit French pop band Air. While Dunckel took over the beats, keyboard and backup vocals, a glitter-adorned Lou Hayter took charge of the lead vocals. Hayter’s ethereal voice paired with Dunckel’s synthesizer produced a dark but beautiful sound. Smoke machines and a constantly changing colourful light display aided in developing the trance-like feel that descended over SAT throughout their set.
If Tomorrow’s Child put the audience into a trance, Housse de Racket woke everyone up. Lead singer Pierre Leroux opened up their set by hailing the Montreal crowd: “We’re very tired because we’ve been on tour for two years but we’re happy to be here!” Drummer Victor Le Manse then set about pounding his extensive drum kit while Leroux hopped around the stage bringing a whole new level of energy to the packed venue.
Although each of the bands had their own distinct sound, the predominant vibe of Ooh La L.A. was an electronic one. Each artist brought energy in the form of synth or electronic beats, but tempo and style varied from band to band. In between artists a masked DJ laid down house beats as the stage was reset for the next performer.
In essence, the festival devoted a night to French labels. Founded in 2009 by Sylvain Taillet, artistic director of French label Barclay/Universal Music France, the festival aims to bring French bands and bands signed to French labels to North American audiences. Originally, Ooh La L.A. was held exclusively in Los Angeles, but it has since expanded. After a three-day stint in Los Angeles this October, Ooh La L.A. moved to San Francisco, Montreal and finally New York City. Ooh La L.A.’s coordinator, Marion Chapdelaine, was pleased with the first Montreal version of the festival: “It was a big success given that it is the first time we have come to Montreal,” she said. “We’re definitely coming back next year!”
To echo Ms. Chapdelaine’s words, Ooh La L.A. was an eventful and well-planned evening. It is well worth a look when the festival revisits Montreal next year.