It was a really beautiful Monday, one of those rare days where the terraces at Jaurès are packed. We wore sunglasses, tshirts, and light summer dresses, whilst lying down on the banks of the Canal St Martin. It was very hot. We were more than happy to celebrate with Elysian Fields, the ten-year anniversary of their album Queen of the Meadow - one of those albums that we never really stopped listening to, and one that resurfaced this evening for our Soirée de Poche (Pocket Party).
The arrival of the pair from New York was less than smooth. Oren Bloedow (who had his iPhone stolen on the way to the venue) is nervous and tired; tired due to jet lag and a concert the previous night, and generally rather skeptic about the plans for the evening. When we bump into Jennifer a few streets away, we find her hidden behind dark sunglasses, seemingly mute, only speaking to ask for a time schedule, enquire as to whether she could use a microphone, and inform us that she wants to leave as early as possible. We leave the two of them to discuss things. Jennifer disappears.
Back at the venue, Oren puts down his guitars and inspects Olivier’s upright piano. He sits down and plays a few chords, then improvises a little tune before referencing recognizable parts of several of their songs in a satisfying medley. He meticulously prepares himself. We quietly rejoice in watching him do so.
It’s another Jennifer Charles who reappears later. We notice her red patent high-heeled shoes. She has become animated, moving around the space whilst distractedly sipping a glass of wine. She leans against the piano with a casual stance and a stubborn pout. She smiles at the team working around her, and strokes the hair of Victor, our host’s seven-year-old son. Things are beginning to take shape. We move the piano again and arrange a few lamps. Chryde says some shit. We drink. The guests arrive. We know that the pair are capable of anything. We know that the magic between the two of them is something rare, something fragile, something that can create beautiful moments of intensity. The Take-Away Show that Vincent Moon and Gaspar Claus did with them at their home in New York really was something else. But we also know that nothing happens twice with them. Nothing is guaranteed either, because their music is never as beautiful as when it rubs up against the breaking-points of life; beautiful moments of suspended eternity when we lose our footing and don’t quite know where we’re going to end up: significant encounters, moments of pure happiness, even grief.
The duo know each other very well. When performing they hold a communicative coolness: languorous, loving looks – very powerful stuff that seems to abolish distance and plunges them into a disturbing intimacy. Teasing remarks are lightheartedly launched across the stage, their spontaneity not at all sacrificed by the situation. When Oren abandons Jennifer half way through one of the most beautiful songs from their latest album (The Afterlife) because he’s not completely content with the sound, she responds, cheekily ‘You see, that’s the story of my life – you’re in the middle of doing it, and then POOF, all of a sudden you’re not doing it anymore’.
During the set we are, surprisingly, taken very high – the sweetness and tenderness of Mermaid and Church of The Holy Family floats on to the playfulness of Hearts are Open Graves before moving on to a more serious theme. After an incident that nearly puts an end to the evening, Jennifer Charles, taking a break, consents to abandon the apple she just bit into to offer us Never Mind That Now. An old, angry song from the album, it is delivered now in almost complete obscurity, with the organic combination of guitar and voice appearing there, raw, erratic and moving, with the lyrics: ‘I could float here for years/And you still wouldn’t know me/So many dreams I used to dream/ Never mind that now/And all the days that could have been/Never mind that now.’
After they leave, we are left watching the glass of wine and the apple resting on the piano. They promised us they would come back and play for us to the point of exhaustion. We must remind them.