Babylon Circus – another reason to secretly love the French

There’s no room in Milwaukee that surpasses Alverno’s Pitman Theater for live music. The sound is great, there are no bad seats and David Ravel of Alverno Presents brings some of the city’s most eclectic and exciting musical offerings to the south side ten times a year. But it’s the “je ne sais quoi” factor that put me over the top last night for Babylon Circus.

If you weren’t there you should say you were, and next time they come to the states you’ll harbor regrets to the end of your days if you miss it. Ten crazy, sexy (Euro-style) Frenchmen from Lyon are the band (though last night’s stage mysteriously sported only nine – no explanation given even to the AP staff), and their blend of ska, funk, punk, chansons d’amour and circus antics blew the room wide open.

Thanks to Alliance Francaise, word got out fairly well within Milwaukee’s curious francophile community and between their attendance, the musically adventurous and AP’s regular ticket holders, the crowd was a charming mix of hipsters, seniors, couples and co-eds. Weird, sure, but it didn’t keep the band from plucking the nerve that trips the booty-shake mechanism in nearly everyone present.

Myself, I’ve never seen the like. Grandmas and hot chicks pogo-ing (true story!) and couples dancing in the aisles to the afore-mentioned chansons d’amour (complete with cabaret accordian!). The band commanded the stage and the audience, trading instruments, vocals and dance moves with equal ease and charming the pants off all of us.

The “je ne sais quois” factor I mentioned earlier is this: At the Pitman, you’re family. You can get up and head to the front or dance in the aisles – you can even occasionally join the band on stage (as one young lady did for an impromptu dance lesson) – all without reprisal from ugly, stone-faced security thugs pushing you to the ground. Babylon Circus worked that like a day job and it paid off in a long line at the CD table after the show. Tonight they’re on to Minneapolis and then head south before closing their tour back home in late June.

To help you better fake your attendance, or to recall fond memories of an amazing evening of music, I’ve posted a couple of videos. The first one starts with an interview in French of David, BC’s lead singer, but the song kicks in at about 2 minutes. Click ’em and indulge in some well-deserved joie de vive.

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