French pop and nu disco act L’Imperatrice are one of those quintessential word-of-mouth acts that have built a rabid following off the success and excitement of their live show, and it was no surprise to find them selling out back-to-back nights at The Roxy with a quickness, with secondary market tickets going for more than a hundred bucks.
Wednesday night was the first of those two sold-out gigs before they make thousands of new fans this weekend at Outside Lands 2023 (we tabbed them as one of our Can’t Miss Undercard Acts at this year’s SF-based festival) on Saturday. That’s been their M.O. — play festivals — usually early in the day — and become that act that people can’t stop talking about that they may not have known much about going in. Every festival they play the crowds get bigger and bigger. There’s no doubt every city they play a festival in is a new vibrant market for them to attack on their next tour.
For me personally, my journey into L’Imperatrice fandom came courtesy of the algorithm. Spotify Discover Weekly knows me better than any human person ever could, and one day several years ago it put the song “AGITATIONS TROPICALES” onto my playlist. Perhaps because I had just seen Charlotte Gainsbourg a couple weeks earlier and was in a French pop nu disco kind of world. From there it was instant love.
I finally got to see them live last year at Coachella 2022 in one of the tents. It was peak desert heat and those tents make you feel like an ant under a magnifying glass, but because of how good this band is, NOBODY was exiting the tent and it just got more and more packed. It was unquestionably one of the best dance parties of the entire weekend.
The Roxy brought a lot of that same energy — and mustiness (wear deodorant when at a concert, peeps!) because The Roxy was packed like sardines. The vibes were immaculate as L’Imperatrice ran through their set, leaning mostly on 2021’s full-length effort Tako Tsubo.
Singer Flore Benguigui’s vocals mesh so perfectly with the synths and funky bass lines of the extremely talented band that was started by keyboardist Charles de Boisseguin. It’s impossible to watch them perform and not want to move to the beat.
This is one of those bands that you actually can judge a book by its cover. You can take one look at how they dress and just know they have swagger and grooves in spades.
Those that were holding out hope they’d play their recently released Cuco collaboration “Heartquake” were a little disappointed. But other than that, it was a perfect night out during the middle of the week and the kind of show that will send a bunch of people scrambling to try and buy tickets to tonight’s repeat at The Roxy.
The two Roxy shows are part of a brief jaunt in the States that was bookended by their festival appearances at Lollapalooza last weekend and Outside Lands this coming weekend. Hopefully they return to the west coast sooner rather than later, and with some new tunes in tow!
Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Eric Han