Death by Audio, one of Williamsburg’s longest running DIY spaces, is probably the perfect place to catch a couple French garage rock bands. It’s one of the few clubs in New York where you still leave smelling like an ashtray. I know it’s a stereotype but smoking and the French do pretty much go hand-in-hand. A lot more so than rock music and the French, though both The Limiñanas and Gaz Gaz proved that not all clichés hold true.
Mind you, both bands’ brand of rock n’ roll was as influenced by Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Dutronc as it was the Velvet Underground and The Seeds. It’s when French bands try to sound American that it falls flat like a bad soufflé. Here we got lyrics spoken in cigarette-scarred baritone, melodicas, and a new wave cool that cannot be faked.
This was a two car garage, different makes and models from the same manufacturer. Gaz Gaz were of the caveman beat / party rock variety, not afraid to have fun, even braking out kazoos for “Iodine Summer Dream.”
When their set ended, the band changed into all-black clothing and there was some instrument switching, and a minimal drumkit (kick, snare, tom) was brought to the front of the stage. Lio and Marie Limiñana joined the rest of them and morphed into The Limiñanas. I was a little worried they wouldn’t be able to follow Gaz Gaz’s high-energy set, but once everyone settled into The Limiñanas’ motorik groove, it all hypnotic effortless cool from there.
Both The Limiñanas and Gaz Gaz play again tonight in NYC at Cake Shop with fellow Trouble in Mind artist The Wrong Words. Go see this show! They also play Columbus, OH tomorrow (8/19) and Lafayette, MO on Saturday (8/20).
There were American bands on the bill too. The Gytters are have only played a handful of shows but have figured out their sound, a twangy take on ’90s indie rock. Southern-fried Sebadoh? Maybe. They’re pretty good. (And, full disclosure, they’re friends of mine.) In addition to their own very catchy songs, we got a slightly shambolic take on Squeeze’s “Up the Junction.”
It was around that point in The Gytters’ set when I couldn’t help but notice a woman behind me dancing up a storm. I turned around briefly and immediately did a double-take: it was Frances McDormand who had, apparently, wandered in off the street. Randomest celebrity sighting ever. (Popjew, who booked the show, has more on her blog.) Maybe she’d come from seeing Buck at nearby Indiescreen or maybe dinner at uberhip new restaurant Isa? Who can say, but she didn’t stick around for the French portion of the evening. Her loss.