Webster Hall, NYC
French Pop Rock In A Hair Gel Crowd
Webster Hall in New York is not a rock show kind of venue. That explains why popped-collar bridge and tunnelers (New Yorkers’ word for the fine visiting residents of New Jersey) were confused by the 45-minute sound check commencing on the main stage while a faux-hawked DJ delivered beats to appease them. Though their cohorts Daft Punk and Justice might fit with a club set, Jamaica’s rock permutation of the French pop sound is one more suitable for instruments.
As their preparation wore on, guitarist/vocalist Antoine waved his arms at the sound booth over a meager but growing crowd of pumping fists. Florent Lyonnet, the bass-playing half of Jamaica, was absent and a Music Man-wielding Asian kid replaced him. The band finished setting up and disappeared long enough for Dominique Young Unique to booty-fy the room for 20 minutes. Upon returning, Jamaica looked more like a rock band than I had expected, based on the electro-pop grooves on their debut No Problem.
After a few seconds of pacing air guitar, the band launched into their set with a vocal and instrument track playing in the background throughout. The drummer kept the band on pace with the prerecorded track via headphone monitoring. Though they were tight as hell, having the drummer on an acoustic kit sacrificed the dance pop production of the drums on their recordings. On stage, cymbals turned songs from No Problem into rock renditions of themselves. The stage antics echoed this sentiment.
Front and center, Antoine showcased every stage move that became last year’s news in 1996; foot-on-monitor guitar solo, overconfident pacing, and even a heavily accented exclamation of, “That was for you, ladies!” The band followed suit with a four-to-the-floor crowd hype beat reminiscent of U2 when they played their hit single “I Think I Like U2.”
French bands often embrace the cheesier aspects of American rock and repackage it as lighthearted dance rock. It’s a sound that, while simple in its nature, plays great with dancing crowds. As foreign as Jamaica’s sound was to this Saturday night crowd, they started to get into it. Hands went up with Antoine as he mounted the monitor one last time with a sustained wail. In the end, the crowd got it, but it would have been an easier sell if it had more of that synth feel of their studio work, the one that’s present despite their professed “no synth” methodology.
Seconds later, it was back to business as usual Webster Hall. The stage went dark, the beats came back on, bass turned up, boys dancing with girls dancing with boys. I waded through hair gel toward the exit.
Photo Credit:Gulshan Kirat