When I caught them in Austin during SXSW 2014, La Femme were exceptionally stylish and fresh-faced, rocking a 1:00am slot at The Iron Bear, a gay bar for bears. That particular set was almost entirely comprised of their most energetic tracks — perhaps due to time restraints — and the crowd ate it all up, shucking and jiving in a most insane manner. It was one of the best shows I saw of SXSW’s official showcases, easily.
One month later, with the hazards of touring life no doubt weighing upon their minds and bodies, it took a bit of time for La Femme to warm up, and certain members looked especially haggard. Likewise, showgoing folk in the Pacific Northwest aren’t exactly reknowned for their ability to let loose at dance parties, and this evening at Doug Fir was no different. It wasn’t until halfway into La Femme’s set that the crowd finally transitioned from just nodding to actually dancing.
The band’s latest music video for “Amour Dans Le Mot” is a sprawling cinematic epic that flows in and out of rooms in a cloudy manner both psychedelic and dancey, and it’s a good summary of La Femme’s on-stage universe. Bathed in neon lights this particular evening, La Femme brought intensity, dynamism, and an unrivaled combination of sultry sexiness mixed with plain ol’ adorable fun.
La Femme — “Amour Dans Le Mot” Music Video
Hopping between punk oohs and ahs, bluesy surf guitars, psychedelic synth repetition, and constantly outbursts of “Fuck yeah!” is the name of the La Femme game. At the forefront of their greatness lies their personalities, which shine through most of all in their willingness to channel punk energies into dance, like go-go girls on fire. It’s easy to find things to love about their antics. In Austin, I became fixated on their synchronized dance moves to “La Femme”, a track that pumps with the energy of Tom Cruise barreling down some kinda hall in some vaguely futuristic action film like Mission Impossible. In Portland, I found great amusement in the guitarist, who transitioned from doling out exquisite surf guitar lines in his best rockstar pose into taking on theremin duty like a background wallflower. They are simply loveable characters.
Most of the set was upbeat and energetic, but when the pace slowed on occasion, La Femme used it to their advantage. During “La Femme Resort”, they meandered in and out of one another like Tetris pieces arranging and rearranging, until finally descending into madness with noisy surf guitars and a most powerful display of tambourining, where both hands and heads were employed.
Towards the end of their set, La Femme pulled out a bizarre ragtime piano solo that recalled the silent slapstick of Buster Keaton; one imagined a black and white character falling out of a window and rolling into a river. This vision changed as the tempo of the song increased, with La Femme’s Borat-mustached member spitting and making guttural sounds into the microphone and the main keyboardist showing off his best manic wind-up doll moves. They closed out their set like a toy running out of batteries — La Femme from fast-motion to flatline in a manner of minutes.
To be honest, this evening at Portland was no evening in Austin. The unstoppable dancing fans were few in number, but that’s just the Portland way, I guess. Nonetheless, the dance party was at least partially underway by the end of the night, because even the most stoic cannot resist La Femme’s collective charms. My advice to anyone who plans on seeing them live is to bring it yourself. A La Femme show is great no matter what, but when the crowd matches the band in energy is when it’s a next-level dance party.