The summer's French rock invasion continues this week when two hot Parisian bands descend on Washington within 48 hours.
Tonight, the scorchingly sensual Guesch Patti will writhe and cavort and screech onstage at the Bayou with her quartet Encore -- guitarist Jam'Ba, percussionist Yvo Abadi, bassist Misko and keyboardist Lucien Athanase.
Patti is sort of an X-rated version of Pat Benatar -- harsh rock with a pop kick. She calls it "realist rock." Some censors, even in France, have called it a bit much and banned the broadcast of the video of her hit single "Etienne" -- for a while at least. (It has since won awards at three international festivals.)
She likes this kind of drama, to shock the audience and make people squirm. It's her nature to try and draw a response. She began as a ballerina with the Paris Opera Company and has performed with La Scala Ballet in Milan as an etoile. Her first role as a vocalist was in Robert Hossein's French staging of "Les Miserables."
In the mid-'80s, she formed an all-girl band, Da Capo, which, although critically acclaimed, fizzled out. Three years ago Patti hooked up with Encore and started making seething music and steamy videos. "It's French," she says. "We have this culture. I think I am very French. So we make a very physical music."
Tomorrow night, also at the Bayou, the raucous, multicultural octet Mano Negra will present its version of contemporary French rock -- a spastic, thundering sound that's a cross between go-go and the Clash.
"We wanted to form a band where all the music was welcome," says founder and guitarist Manu Chao. "I like punk. I like ska. I like hip-hop. So Mano Negra is like that."
Chao started the band two years ago with his brother, trumpeter Tonio, and his cousin, drummer Santi Casareigo. They added guitarist Daniel Jamet, bassist Jo Dahan, percussionist Philippe Teboul, keyboardist Thomas Darnal and trombone player Phillippe Gauthe. Chao found the band name, which means "Black Hand," in a comic book. "Mano Negra was a band of bad guys with pistols," he says. "But we don't use pistols. We only use guitars."
They first played on the Metro in Paris -- literally. "The Place d'Italie-Gard l'Est. That was our line. We were on the train while it was moving, because there was no place else to play."
Eventually, though, they started to perform in small clubs in Pigalle, and they recorded "Puta's Fever" (Virgin), an 18-cut album that features just about every type of music in existence played at the most extreme levels possible. One song may sound like it belongs in a go-go club in Washington. The next at a rally in Soweto. The third in a bistro in Madrid. The fourth in a sweaty punk club in London.
"One day I decided to mix everything," says Chao. "My Latin culture, my French upbringing. I've been listening to salsa and flamenco since I was a little kid. But I like the music of Africa too."
To sum it up: "The music is a mess! A mess of everything."
Guesch Patti is performing tonight and Mano Negra tomorrow night. Shows begin at 9. Tickets are $10.50 and available at the box office and all TicketCenter outlets. For information, call 333-2897.