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Culture Reviews
Vive la Fete
By Dena May Fisher
Being the young and tender age that I am, I can honestly say that I managed to escape the embarrassing haircuts and unfortunate fashion escapades of the 80’s. By the latter half of the so-called ‘decade with no style,’ my musical appreciation had developed only to the extent that I owned a full collection of Kylie records (this was before she herself ‘grew up’!!) My only excuses for such uninformed purchases lie within the then widespread addiction to Australian soaps, and my own personal crush on Jason Donovan. Real musical talent and non-mainstream artists were still outwith my spheres of musical consciousness…that is, if one were to exclude the exploits of my older brother – whose near run-in with glam-rock fame has left me (and no doubt a few others!) scarred for life…

In effect, those two all-important decades ago, as I was battling with burgeoning hormones and somewhat questionable fringe levels, my aforementioned elder sibling was fighting his own unfair and losing confrontations with the Inner city record labels of that time. Curious and slightly concerned, I could only watch on in disbelief as the hordes of punks and Goths trailed up and down our stairs, making their music in his bedroom and bleaching their hair in our shower!

All this has long seemed to be a thing of the past …or so I thought until a night at Apelsin served to entertain a few ghosts of the past…

It seemed like a pretty average Moscow evening – lots of obviously well-to-do, well dressed youths at an event where both organizers and invitees were out to impress. A fashion show, a DJ, a drinks promotion and a raffle of a weeks’ test drive in an Austin Astra …yawn, yawn, yawn…until… Vive la Fete appeared on stage and provided a memorable climax to an otherwise unremarkable evening.

Vive La Fete at the E-life trading network

The event was co-hosted by the trading network E-life and JaLouse magazine. A Belgian kitsch pop band who prides itself on being alternative and non-commercial would seem an unlikely choice of accompaniment to an evening which promoted modern-day fashion and retailing, yet Vive la Fete and their unabashed allegiance to the outrageous tendencies of the 80’s have become the darlings of the fashion world. Their self-proclaimed ‘biggest fan’ is none other than Karl Lagerfeld himself!

Yet as Danny Mommens and Els Pynoo stepped on stage, the suave and sophisticated world of Chanel couldn’t have been further removed. Danny and the other musicians wore black tops and leather trousers and a quantity of black eye make-up that made even Cleopatra’s attempts look conservative in comparison. In stark contrast, Danny’s busty, long-legged girlfriend and main singer Els dazzled in a dress which made her look like a gyrating glitter ball on legs. As for her make up…well, if she was wearing any, it was impossible to spot under the huge head of bleached blonde hair which constantly covered her face. As the music started, her flailing head and limbs jerked into action, providing one of the most un-ladylike dances ever to be seen with such a body in a dress so short!

Els’ physical appearance could have been distracting if it weren’t for the power of the music. The guitars and synthesizers were cranked up loud and played with attitude. The electro sounds and keyboard melodies were varied, fun and convincingly 80’s except for one thing: The rhythm. Maybe this is techno music snobbery on my behalf, but I don’t remember the 80’s ever having such beats and basslines! And the vocals? Els’ voice has frequently been referred to as ‘seductive’, and it’s true that at times her emissions sounded close to orgasmic screams, but at others, well… imagine Lisa Simpson after a good inhalation on a helium balloon! OK, so she sang in French. That’s pretty sexy. And her performance was certainly passionate. But seductive? I have my doubts!! In any case, it was original, it took a lot of nerve to do, and involved more than a smattering of talent.

Vive La Fete at the E-life trading network The chemistry between Els and Danny was obviously very strong. And it was clear that they were both enjoying themselves. In a particularly cheeky antic, Danny removed his guitar and leapt from the stage onto the roof of the Austin which was on display, much to the despair of the security guards. His only words of explanation were: “Sorry guys. But that’s a f***ing ugly car!!” Later, towards the end of the show, he grabbed some members of the audience onto the catwalk, danced with them, then handed over the guitar and the mic for them to have a little fun with! Vive la Fete performed songs from several albums, including the first ever single the pair wrote together (‘Je ne veux pas’) then finished on a winner, inducing more smiles and cheers with a cover of the 80’s classic ‘fade to grey.’ Nice one!

So maybe my brother and his weird and wonderful friends didn’t traumatize me as much as I thought. Or maybe Vive la Fete’s ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude towards having fun and making good music has reconciled me with my past. In any case, it now seems clear that some things are worth repeating no matter what decade we’re in. So may the words Vive la Fete be among them. Long live the party!

26.07.04
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