When French rockers Little Rabbits traveled from their native Nantes, France, to Tucson to record at Jim Waters' Waterworks studio in 1995, little did they know they were stepping into a cross-continental relationship that would stretch into the next decade.
While recording, Rabbits' drummer Eric Pifeteau forged many friendships within the Tucson music scene, later extending touring invitations and booking shows for Tucsonans, such as the wildly successful "We Got Cactus" European tour in 2005. In turn, Pifeteau and his Tucson friends organized the multimedia, multi-venue Some French Friends fest here this month, featuring more than a dozen performers, artists and filmmakers, a few of whom converged at Club Congress last Friday night.
Friday's post-hardcore opening trio Papier Tigre are obviously influenced by Fugazi, but their jittery rock has more contemporary comparisons, such as DFA-produced acts like Bloc Party and The Rapture--minus the dance beats, i.e., Gang of Four. One of Tigre's smoldering, dramatic opuses prompted me to ask the band if they were fans of Tool or System of a Down. No, they firmly replied; though those bands were popular with French youth, they preferred Dinosaur Jr. or Sebadoh.
Dominique A. followed with a mostly solo performance, occasionally joined by his longtime right-hand-man Mellano. On more aggressive numbers such as "Le Courage des Oiseaux," Dominique sounded like a French version of Franz Ferdinand; elsewhere, he crooned like Jens Lekman or Morrissey covering the Velvet Underground.
From the ashes of Little Rabbits emerged French Cowboy, and on Friday night, the polyester-three-piece-suit-wearing foursome got help from some locals to recreate their spaghetti-Western-inspired Euro-rock. Jon Villa and Michael J. Carbajal of The Jons added a horn section (and when's the Jons' first European tour?) while Mr. Tidypaws provided saxophone jabs throughout the set.
Closing the night was Tucson's Al Foul and the Shakes, augmented by Nantes DJ French Tourist on turntables (and theremin!), plus Naim Amor, a French expat, on guitar. Though it wasn't quite Public Enemy meets Johnny Cash, I'm dying to hear the collaboration on disc--Amor interjecting the "Tequila" riff throughout the night hints at the possibilities of a delicious mash-up.
You've got one more chance to catch Some French Friends this Friday, Aug. 29, at Plush; more details at the Friends Web site.