March 23, 2016
Yannick Ilunga, the singer/songwriter/producer out of Cape Town, South Africa, was here in town with his band for his first show. He plays under the name of 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 first EP, released in 2015 ‘King of Anxiety‘, was all the buzz at SXSW that year.And now he’s back again, with the album La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful. It’s clear that he has influences from all genres and blends it all together making his own sound. Upon the band’s entrance to “Intro Noirwave“, I was reminded me of the genius of Battles (pre-Yannick’s appearance). If you stripped out 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 the minute that Yannick joins with his bandmates – and the dynamic changes.
Yannick has a stage presence that is all to awesome to see. He owns the stage and is a charismatic frontman. He works the stage engaging the audience. His vocals reminds me of a cross between Twin Shadows and Kele of Bloc Party. The band has a similar sound to Bloc Party with the indie/post-punk sound. Songs like “Seventeen (Stay)” could be a new Bloc Party track. I’m a fan of the music when he starts to blend African beats into the music. It then differentiates him from the Bloc Party(s) and bands who are already doing that music.
After listening to his work online, it’s totally clear that this is a band that needs to be seen live. “La Vie Est Belle” is just beautiful when it’s performed. The images that are shown on the backdrop of him falling just add to the sound. Add the African beats to 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 he listened to – from Kanye to Mos Def to Prince – its a beautiful blend. “Just Breathe” shows off the 80’s influences and had the crowd dancing. Add some positive lyrics with “be the change you want to see” over synth-pop beats – it makes for a good dance party – and then to dive right into “Freedom“. You can feel his emotion in all the songs, from discontentment to frustration to exhilaration.
As he neared the ending of the set, there was a crowd sing-along with “Down” which went on and on and made sure to include all of the audience at some point. Yannick seemed like he was having a great time and said over and over how SF was such an awesome crowd and so loud. The crowd danced along and sang along and clearly showed him and the band a really great time. 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. Two bands that were paired perfectly and both had amazing shows. The Seshen clearly had a big following and many people were out just to see them. The two lead singers, Lalin St. Juste and Akasha Orr, both had amazing/strong vocals – and both were awesome dancers. They just take you away with their lush voices.
Plus – The Seshen has one hell of a percussion section. A set of congas and bongos along with a whole drum set, and a drummer with a contagious smile, and it elevated the music. The afro-caribbean beats mixed in with a fusion of R&B/hip-hop/electronic music and indie and it made for some awesome songs.
The band had the crowd dancing in no time. It’s so easy to get swept up into their music. “The Fall” is just infectious and its swirling melody reminds me of Beach House. It just transports you and you get lost in the music as you dance and move along to it. “Unravel” is pure catchiness over the electronic dance beats that will keep you moving. Their set is just brilliant and the only bad thing is that it felt like it was over before it even began. Between the catchy/dance-y music and the amazing singers and their dancing – the set just felt like it was way too short. We definitely need to be seeing more of the Seshen in the Bay Area sometime soon!
Set List Petite Noir:
La Vie Est Belle
Till We Ghosts
Set List The Seshen: