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all words: Jeb Gavin
all photos: Joy Asico

Sunday night, Housse de Racket showed up at the 9:30 Club to kick off their first U.S. tour.  I had seen them previously when they opened for Yelle in Baltimore, and found them pleasant, energetic showmen making fun, poppy, electro-tinged rock and roll.

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Tonight, expectations were raised.  They were headlining this time around, and I had left a wedding to come see this show.  A Russian wedding specifically, full of vodka, and someone else’s wisecracking relatives.  I wanted to be knocked on my ass by this show, giving me a decent excuse as to why I abandoned being drunk at a dear friend’s wedding before I had a chance to dance with the few single girls in attendance (damn you, valley of the first relationships!)

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Opening was the local act Black Hills, the latest from DC’s own Aaron Estes.  Black Hills is a departure from Estes’ usual work, decidedly more synths and loops, but still with a pop sensibility.  The sound was sort of like The Postal Service, toned down electronic pop music: a little droning, with a chorus of ooohs thrown in for good measure.  It was a decent set, but it felt as though they were holding something back.

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Housse de Racket on the other hand did not disappoint.  In a mostly empty 9:30 Club, Pierre Leroux and Victor Le Manse constructed crazy echo choruses and oddly poppy rock with their charming French accents and larger than life antics.  For two men who rarely move around while performing, they put on a downright anthemic show, reminiscent of fellow Parisians Phoenix.  Unlike Phoenix, all the energy rushes forth in the music, pounding drums and cheerful riffs and a temperamental loop and sample machine (by the by, if you’ve never heard exasperated Frenchmen trying to apologize for equipment failure, you haven’t truly experienced charming befuddlement.)

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The danceable tunes were not lost on the small but appreciative crowd.  Most of whom, by the by, seemed Parisian.  Even when the boys cracked out an encore which brought to mind old Scorpions concerts (It’s the final countdown!), the French crowd was more than content, despite my own expectations and skewed views.  I’d love to see Housse de Racket play to a bigger audience, but not everyone gets what they want… especially if you leave the party early.

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Black Hills:

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