Teenage rock wannabes set Paris on fire
PARIS, March 2 (Reuters) They wear velvet jackets and drainpipe trousers, sport trendy haircuts and spend their days at school. But at night, these teenagers electrify packed clubs across the French capital in Paris' very own punk explosion.
They are part of a nascent French rock scene that has bands like Second Sex, The Naast, The Brats and The Shades quickly building a following with the sheer energy of their punk and power pop acts.
Most of these wannabe bands formed only a year ago, inspired by the Strokes-Libertines-White Stripes ''holy trinity'' that has revitalised guitar rock.
They sing in French or in English about the age-old topics of girls, drugs, and fights, but their freshness and vibrancy make Oasis or Franz Ferdinand look positively pedestrian.
Many industry watchers compare what is happening in Paris to Britain's mid-1970s punk explosion.
But for Philippe Maneuvre, editor of France's influential ''Rock&Folk'' music magazine, it's pointless to draw comparisons with the past.
''It's Paris 2006. These new groups have a real sense of urgency.
They are on a mission. They came to save rock.'' ROCK IS NOT DEAD ''Rock is not dead,'' says Vincent, 16, bass player for Second Sex, a band whose punky vibes are heavily influenced by New York Dolls, the Stooges and the Ramones.
''Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be in a band. Then all these groups started playing and we decided to go for it,'' said the teenager, who like the other band members did not want to give his last name.
A year ago, Vincent formed Second Sex, a name chosen for its androgynous and catchy image and inspired by Simone de Beauvoir's novel of the same name. The band includes Tim, 16, guitarist and lead singer, Arthur, 16, guitarist, and his brother Sacha, the drummer and only member over 18.
Going to one of their gigs is an intense experience. Most people in the audience are so young they make anyone over 20 feel past it.
These rockers and their fans all have trendy haircuts, pointed shoes, drainpipe trousers, tight shirts and velvet jackets purchased in thrift shops around town.
''A mix of mod, punk and dandy influences,'' said Tim.
When they jump on stage, the budding musicians create mayhem.
They shout and scream as if possessed, and the youngsters in the audience jump up and down, crowd-surf and fall over each other in a surging, sweating mass.
''What's touching to me is that they play a pure rock'n'roll rather well,'' said Maneuvre, for whom one striking characteristic of the new scene is its solidarity.
''These new groups are all brothers and friends. They help each other instead of taking shots at each other,'' he added.
Second Sex got its first gig thanks to The Brats, another punk band, who invited them to play in the tiny and now defunct Bar3 in the Paris Latin Quarter near the Sorbonne university.
And their parents? They grew up with rock'n'roll and most are supportive, as long as the gigs and the rehearsals take place on weekends.
''Let's say we do not have to hide from them,'' says Vincent, whose mother took him to Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen concerts when he was a child.
Tim's father is also one of the band's staunchest fans, going to most gigs and jumping and screaming in the front row.
RECORD DEALS Despite the media attention and excitement generated in Internet chat rooms, these bands have yet to release a record.
But that could change soon. A year ago, Second Sex was playing in front of a dozen school friends and they now draw crowds of 400 people in Parisian clubs.
In May, Second Sex and The Brats will open for seasoned stars such as The Stooges and The Wampas, playing to audiences of several thousand people at Paris' Zenith.
But they keep cool heads, knowing the road to fame will be long and full of obstacles.
''Ideally, we would like to make a living with our music. We want to go as far as possible,'' says Tim.
Vincent says he is not one to make big plans but when pressed he admits: ''I wouldn't mind being a rock star''.
In February, during the school holidays, The Naast, a band with a distinctive 1960s garage pop sound and a 12-year-old drummer, began recording its debut album with the Source Etc label. Second Sex is talking with several labels and could clinch a deal soon.
Reuters KD GC1025