Petite Noir makes a big impression at Rickshaw Stop

Petite NoirPhotos by Diana Cordero // Written by Rachel Goodman //

Petite Noir with The Seshen //
Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco
March 23rd, 2016 //

Yannick Ilunga, the South African singer-songwriter, was in SF with his band for another Bay Area show. He plays under the moniker Petite Noir and is someone not to be missed. I wasn’t familiar with his music, but it was clear the crowd knew some of his songs. His debut EP King of Anxiety, which was released in 2015, was all the buzz at South by Southwest last March.

And now, he’s back again with his first studio album La Vie Est Belle (Life Is Beautiful). It’s clear that he has influences from all genres and blends it all together to create his own sound. Upon the band’s entrance to “Intro Noirwave”, it reminded me of the genius of New York City experimental-rock band Battles (read our review of one of their shows here). If you stripped out Ilunga’s vocals and just had instrumentation, you might have a band that sounds all too similar to Battles, which is not a bad thing in any way, but when Ilunga joins his bandmates, the dynamic changes.

Petite Noir

Ilunga has a stage presence that is awesome to witness. Born in Brussels, Belgium, he owns the stage and is a charismatic frontman, working the crowd throughout the show. His vocals are reminiscent of a cross between George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow and Kele Okereke of Bloc Party. The group has a similar sonic approach to Bloc Party with its indie/post-punk revival sound; songs like “Seventeen (Stay)” could be a new Bloc Party track. Ilunga’s music really intrigues me when he starts to blend African beats into his songs; it differentiates him from the bands like Bloc Party that are already making that kind of music.

After listening to Ilunga’s work online, it’s clear that his band needs to be seen live. “La Vie Est Belle” is just a beautiful song when it’s performed. The images that are displayed on the backdrop of him falling just add to its sound. Add the African beats and the R&B influences, and you get an amazing song that incorporates it all. In songs like these, you can hear all the music that Ilunga has listened to – from Kanye West to Mos Def to Prince – and it’s a beautiful blend. “Just Breathe” shows off Ilunga’s 80’s influences and had the crowd dancing. Mix in positive lyrics like “be the change you want to see” with some synthpop beats, and it makes for a good dance party. Then, dive right into “Freedom” — you can feel Ilunga’s emotion in all the songs, from discontentment to frustration to exhilaration.

Petite Noir

As Ilunga neared the ending of his set, there was a crowd sing-along on “Down”, which went on and on and made sure to include the entire audience at some point. Ilunga seemed like he was having a great time, repeatedly saying how SF was such an awesome crowd and so loud. The crowd danced, sang and clearly showed Ilunga and the band a really great time. I can’t wait to see what happens when he comes back to play a bigger venue.

What made this show even more awesome were the openers from the other side of the bay: The Seshen. The two bands occupying the stage at Rickshaw Stop on this night were paired perfectly, and both executed flawless shows. The Seshen clearly had a big following, as it appeared that many audience members were out just to see them. The group’s two vocalists Akasha Orr and Lalin St. Juste put on a strong performance, and both were also impressive dancers. They just take you away with their lush voices.

Plus, The Seshen have one hell of a percussion section. With a set of congas and bongos along with a whole drum set (and a drummer with a contagious smile), it elevated the band’s music. The afro-caribbean beats mixed in with a fusion of R&B/hip-hop/electronic/indie music made for some scintillating songs.

The Seshen

The Seshen

Shortly after stepping onstage, The Seshen had the crowd dancing in no time. It’s so easy to get swept up into their music. Their song “The Fall” is absolutely infectious, and its swirling melody reminds me of Beach House. It transports you, and you get lost in the music as you dance and move along to it. “Unravel” is pure catchiness over an electronic dance beat that will keep you moving.

The Seshen’s performance was brilliant, and the only bad thing was that it felt like it was over before it even began. Between its catchy, danceable music and talented vocalists, the septet’s set felt like it was way too short. We definitely hope to see The Seshen playing in the Bay Area again soon.

Intro Noirwave
Seventeen (Stay)
La Vie Est Belle
Just Breathe

Till We Ghosts

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