January 17, 2003
40 Watt Club - Athens, GA



Je Suis France began by welcoming the half-full 40 Watt to “The France in full effect on a Friday night.” Then they promised they would play better than last time. Hmmm…that statement scared me a bit. Having never seen the band before, but being a veteran of hundreds of shows, I’ve learned that when a band starts with an apology, it’s not usually a good sign.

I have to say, though, that over the course of their short set, Je Suis France appeared to be having fun as they wallowed in the ragged glory only afforded to the indie acts of the world. The show was littered with false starts, dead air and technical problems which the band managed to combat with a self aware sense of humor that clearly engaged the audience to their side.

I have to say that while the band has its intoxicated, post-alt-irony/Dinosaur, Jr. shtick down pat, I’d like to see them just let go and rock. I often felt as if they were about to, but they never quite did. From a personal perspective and a performance perspective they were loose, but something in their music itself felt contrived and like they were trying really hard to be cool. Most of the audience seemed to agree, but while I enjoyed the projected ‘70s porn penises as much as anyone else, I would’ve also liked to have heard a song that I could take home with me in my head. As it was, Je Suis France’s sound didn’t reverberate in me any longer than their final ragged splash.



I Am The World Trade Center:

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I Am The World Trade Center, on the other hand, was exactly the opposite kind of indie act and therefore much more successful in my opinion. The duo was borderline karaoke what with one man band Dan Geller mostly pushing buttons or adding percussion rather than actually playing live.  Sure, “the band” was canned, but the canner had the sense to fill the can with infectiously catchy, uptempo, danceable music and spacey noises. I Am The World Trade Center was like an updated 80s pop group with one foot in New York City and one foot in the South. In other words, they seemed like exactly what they are. And while singer Amy Dykes was rarely right on key, it never mattered. It was fun.

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I felt like I was at a party in an old teen movie (the kind of party with a DJ, not some hairy guitar band).  To add to the time warp effect, Dan and Amy gave us covers of Berlin, Blondie, and Human League. I guess this was just in case the audience didn’t hear the obvious influence of those bands (as well as more ambient acts such as Yaz) in their sound. It was nice for them to do those tunes (and be able to pull them off) with no sense of dramatic irony whatsoever (see previous paragraph). It was clear that these were just songs that the duo loved and thought they could put their spin on…which they did nicely. Besides the music, the pair had an amusing onstage chemistry and they danced together and alone in an utterly charming and disarming manner.

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When Dan wasn’t manipulating the sonic technology, he leaped around Amy with a smile that she would return. This only enhanced the festive atmosphere. At one point Dan even busted a few very impressive break dance moves. However, my favorite “choreography” was taken straight out of Grease during a singing duet. Dan and Amy faced each other while trading vocals (his through a vocoder). They punched the air with simultaneous fingers to the sky after cattily chasing each other around the stage. They could’ve just as easily been singing “You’re The One That I Want.” Sure, it was dorky, but I Am The World Trade Center was refreshingly comfortable in their dorkiness. This is no small part of the reason why it’s so easy to drop your inhibitions and join them.

(Amanda Stahl/concertshots.com)


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