OohLaL.A. showcases the diversity of Franco-friendly sounds

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The Gallic festival, which starts Thursday at the El Rey, will feature Tinariwen, DJ Etienne de Crecy and Nouvelle Vague.

Some invasions are hostile, but some others come shrouded in Gitanes smoke, Godard references and new wave pop retrofitted for the international cocktail lounge.

The breathlessly named OohLaL.A. Festival will take over the El Rey for three nights starting Thursday, bringing with it a friendly army of French or French-speaking musicians, including Nouvelle Vague, the Tuareg ensemble Tinariwen and house DJ Etienne de Crecy.

Now in its third year, the festival was conceived by Sylvain Taillet, an A&R executive at the French record label Barclay, as a way to ease the passage of Franco-friendly music into American ears, a luxury long ago gifted to the British but seemingly no one else.


“I wanted to introduce L.A. audiences,” Taillet wrote in an email, “to what I consider to be our most exciting acts and showcase the diversity of French music, from electro… to the more eclectic sounds that emerge from our cultural melting pot.”

But he wanted to play ambassador with a twist. Starting with Sebastien Tellier’s acoustic set last year, OohLaL.A. features productions exclusive to the festival. This year, that includes “Nouvelle Vague Performs Dawn of Innocence,” a musical that flirts with cabaret and fashion, with costumed singers, dancers and video, directed by the fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

Marc Collin, one of the leaders of the Nouvelle Vague collective, along with Olivier Libaux, was inspired to work with De Castelbajac after touring for seven years with what he calls “the same simple show,” based on their covers of new wave classics such as Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.”

“We had an opportunity to create a whole new show directed by Castelbajac for a festival in France [that will happen] early next year,” Collin wrote in an email. “It was a great experience and it gave us a new creativity. That’s why we decided with Jean-Charles to keep on working together and to imagine this new mise-en-scène.”

Nouvelle Vague won’t be the only old hands breathing new life into their creations by teaming up with other artists. TV on the Radio, which played at the Hollywood Bowl earlier this week, will join the globe-trotting act Tinariwen for some onstage culture-jamming. West African melodies, meet Brooklyn art rock — all in the space of a Los Angeles club.


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-- Margaret Wappler

Image: Nouvelle Vague Credit: Tim Knox