I have always contended that the French are the best electronic musicians in the world. Go on and repeat that tired joke about how they haven’t won a war in ages or how they eat way too much butter. When your country gives rise to Daft Punk, submarines don’t matter anymore—the subwoofers can speak for themselves. So of course, it came as no surprise to me to find that the crowd gathered for electro-pop trio Yelle’s set at Webster Hall was massive (incidentally, the band’s gig tonight, at Music Hall Of Williamsburg, has been sold out for weeks). Aside from its size, the most striking thing about the audience was how American it was; in between songs, frontwoman Julie Budet’s sprightly calls of “Ça va bien?” were answered with drunken murmurs and enthusiastic waves of signs written in Franglais. Yet even if this crowd were only as French as that orange salad dressing at the local deli, it was passionate. Every song’s implicit hugeness ballooned further with the voices of thousands of giddy twenty-somethings.
And this was a show to be giddy about: True to the title of its most recent album, Safari Disco Club, Yelle’s set was a wild, raucous romp, complete with jungle-inspired costumes (safari uniforms, a cat dress and what can only be described as Oscar The Grouch’s bath towel), frequent and extensive dance breaks and repeated urges to “shake eeet.” Punchy disco-funk took on a feral component, practically bursting from the speakers and preventing anyone within a 500-foot radius from standing still for at least two hours. “Ce Jeu” was especially vibrant and showed off Budet’s amazing ability to multitask: Over the course of three minutes, she was singing, dancing, whistling, teaching the crowd to whistle and hitting a drum.
“Comme Un Enfant” and “Unillusion” supplied heavy doses of rave candy, but the biggest hit was, of course, “A Cause Des Garçons,” that ebullient closer, so catchy and with a hook so golden that an entire room of Yankees could be swayed to shout out every word. With songs as fresh and youthful as Yelle’s chansons françaises, who needs English, anyway?