the frenchmen, pipas, the cut-outs - the betsey trotwood, farringdon, 21 july 2004

on an overcast but warm london night, indie kids of a certain age, armed to the teeth with hairslides and stripey fashions, collide, ready to descend upon the betsey's crowded basement as they attempt to recapture the elixir of their youth. everyone is here - gregory, amelia, rob, dj downfall, harvey, rachel fosca and even a brace of city lawyers in suits. an extortionate-seeming £6 secured our place in the grip of summer indie-pop fever: we can exclusively report that a good time was had by all.

first up, the cut-outs shamateured their way with endearing tunelessness thru a clutch of numbers to grip close to yr heart, an ex-fat tulip leading the way as keyboards, maracas and spangly old-skool sha-la-la chords ricocheted around the sweaty room. they didn't do that tune that reminded us of the rosehips though. compact popsters pipas followed, and were marginally less disorganised than on their last outing here - lupe and mark coralling the drum machine and sequencer nicely with the live guitars and keyboard to produce a half-karaoke compilation of short, sweet and sudden delights. the thing that strikes us immediately is that they have the songs - "rock and / or roll", "bitter club" and the super-winsome "jean c" all stand out - and tonight the normal aching void between pipas on record (louche, classy, cute) and pipas live (nervous, collapsing, cute) is ever so slightly less pronounced than usual. and then with the third set of the evening come headliners the frenchmen, still riding the crest of the wave produced by their "powdered blue" 7" but now promoting a new album: turning up the guitar noise and introducing welcome hints of feedback, they ransack the fat tulips / talulah gosh songbook with some aplomb - indeed, they are the only band of the evening whose skillz could really wear the epithet "tight" - before dissolving in a haze of banter.

and suddenly, a few pints in, £2 per band really doesn't seem extortionate after all.