The Performant: Storming the Bastille


How fortunate for lovers of patriotic display, that just as the last of the illegal Fourth of July fireworks have been shot off, the 14th should roll around, giving us all another excuse to celebrate liberty, equality and fraternity en français. Of course Bastille Day, France’s Fête Nationale, is much less the spectacle in Californi-ay than along the Champs Elysees, but you’ll still find the Francophones of (don’t-call-it) Frisco decked out in their own brand of red-white-and-blue sipping Bordeaux and nibbling on quiche, if not rioting in the streets.

A special Friday the 13th edition of French pop dance party Bardot A Go Go kicked off the Francophilic festivities at the Rickshaw Stop Friday night. Though the awkwardly laid-out venue, with its crowded entryway and underutilized upper level, is a far cry from a smoke-filled 1960s era Parisian boîte de nuit, a modish, mostly French soundtrack, heavy on the Gainsbourg, pulsated through the room. Psychedelic minis, tall boots, sleek bouffants, and frantic fruggers crowded the dance floor, gyrating to playful hits such as the growly “Roller Girl” (which sounds suspiciously similar to “Get off of My Cloud,” but cute ... and French).

As with Paris-Dakar at the Little Baobab, opportunities abounded to brush up on one’s conversational French skills, no matter how rudimentary, and for the time-pressed coquette, free mod hairstyling was being offered at the door, which lent many a mane bobbing on the dance floor a certain glamorous je ne sais quoi.

It was good for me to get my French fantasy on early, as Sat/14 I landed smack dab right back in America, the Great American Music Hall to be exact, for a locals-only double header CD release party: officially for Joe Rut, and unofficially for opening band the Low Rollers. Shades of Santa Cruz color the laid-back Caliphorisms of both bands, a bit of the old Camper Van, manifesting itself in the wryly nostalgic, conversational lyrics penned by Joel Murach of the Low Rollers, and multi-instrumental jam magic orchestrated by Joe Rut.

One aspect of Joe Rut’s oeuvre that speaks more directly of San Francisco than Santa Cruz is his fondness for silly props, including an imposing, 12-foot flyswatter, giant inflatable Koi floating around the room, and a tiny, foul-mouthed robot named “Chatbot” who threw around some abuse before being literally thrown himself. But though Rut’s props and lyrics are mostly of the overtly humorous kind, think Mojo Nixon with a bigger vocal range, they don’t detract a bit from the sheer energy and passion underlying the composition, from the down-home exasperated twang of “Turn Signal” and the breakneck blues of his foot-fetish anthem “Barbie Feet.”

His new album, Joe Rut Live, recorded during his last show at the Great American Music Hall in 2010, is a comprehensive overview of his obsessions past and present (copyright law, myspace, hippie chicks) performed by a stellar guest lineup, many of who were in attendance for this triumphal reprise. Now that they’re practically regulars, hopefully it won’t take another two years for Rut and friends to grace the GAMH stage a third time.

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