From around the corner where Bleecker Street gives Sullivan a French kiss, that very lull drawls heavy in the setting sun. Unkempt hair somehow falling into an otherwise artistic coiffure, cropped denim, polished loafers, red lipstick extravaganza. French paraphernalia. I invade the crowd, kindred devotee amongst their groovy procession. Under the neon silver-lining spelling “Le Poisson Rouge,” its inked reflection is stamped onto each wrist. I catch threadbare sleeves of conversations, make crooked semblance of their French. The colloquial exchanges in undulating tones keep my mind occupied. Finally, the doors open at half past six, revealing the point of rendezvous.
Immediately people languidly drape on the settee, line the walls and ring the bar. I make a move on the front row, and so, a few others hastily reserve their places by the stage. We observe, with eyes funnily like metronomes, the reoccurring back and forth hasty dance of stage crew. Overtime, their silhouettes lose contrast to the suspense of smoke. To sabotage the wait, Arum Rae, elegant nightshade in a prairie dress, hums about love and loss to her own guitar. For a cataclysmic moment I contemplate crying, in the wake of my proximity to the stage (knobs of the knees pressed into its front,) and inadvertently resuscitated memories. She, stoically revealing, bows and thanks and joins the crowd.
Everyone must appreciate concert anonymity, under-saturated faces in the dark, absorbed by the tunneling spotlights of the stage. On an inaudible cue, the tune thrumming through the speakers simmers into nothing, the gear changes, and specks of lights peppering the walls around the hall flicker out. Blue floodlight shines onto the stage, as if marking the spot. Five figures, like apparitions in a mysticism film, take their places in front of us.
Light floods the awaited features, streaks golden the brown tussle of hair. Lou Doillon offers the crowd a clandestine smile. She wears a black vest and shirt and jeans, gold-leather-Saint Laurent ankle boots. Her band consists of a guitarist, a bass guitarist, a drummer, and a keyboard player.
Her voice travels somewhere between a muted rhapsody and a husky hum, enticed by what she says is the “happiness that comes with seeing more than two people here.” She is quietly hilarious, the way you would assume a lovely British girl is. She is also absentmindedly alluring, free and effortlessly beautiful as one would expect a French woman to be. Doillon tells miniature stories before each song, lucid dreams of inspirations. She unravels that tightly pressed crowd, asks of us to be unkempt in our joy. She smiles sanguinely, says she “likes the girl who is dancing in her own world” at her concerts, and the “guy who tries to awkwardly do the same.” Any semblance of the New Yorker usual disinterested face is unsalvageable, everyone is absorbed, enamored. She trades of one guitar for another for the tambourine for the synthesizer.
Her band is immeasurably talented. They hum along, as musicians often do, look proud and content. At some intense point, the guitarist singes a string off his guitar, which in itself is the sign of rad-ness, if you will. “Places,” the title track, is a disarming, cultish experience, rather than a performance. The guitarist, dropping to his knees, tampers exquisitely with the guitar’s effects pedal, which produces syncopated noises. Doillon, also on her knees, evokes the image Patti Smith. The song is as poem, invariably captivating. They return for an encore, and Doillon, armed with an acoustic guitar, requested the crowd to sing along to “Weekender Baby.”
The tryst of music and the New York night is inebriating. The post-concert euphoria is as real as taxi-traffic on Houston. I walk to the metro station, disjointed thoughts and vivid images filing themselves away into memory. A lethargic grin, lulled by the audacious hum and rattle of the metro car and the recession of the fleeting present, plasters stupidly on my face. I am in an interminable limbo, floating. Deceiving physics by reciting to its authority half-annunciated lyrics.
There is a hollow, I believe, that exists somewhere in the narrow crevice between the clavicles and the tendons of the chest, which is only ever filled by music. You can feel its sacrilegious resonation (not to be confused with an asthma attack or tachycardia) when a particular tune plays. Lou Doillon and her music emanate an immaculate ease, songs like vertebrae of a fascinating life, words like an intelligent pattern of emotion. Evenings like those embody New York to me, illusions of a decadent, beatnik life, coming true under the neon signs.
– Alice Pylypenko