Très Famélique for Tres Femmes

The trio of twentysomething female singer-songwriters called Tres Femmes returns to St. Louis this Friday, August 20, to perform at Dressel’s at 419 North Euclid—and that should come as glad tidings indeed for more than one reason.

First, let’s dispense with the frat-rat reason for visiting 419 North Euclid at the end of the week: Tres Femmes could turn Jack Frost as tropical as a moonlit dinner à deux on Montego Bay. Translation for budding Dubyas in Playback St. Louis’s hypothetical Tappa Lotta Kegs readership: these ladies sizzle.

That fact I mention initially, in all honesty, in hopes of luring a phalanx of frothing Greek geeks to Dressel’s. Based on my own interaction with the trio, I suspect Kellie Lin Knott, Stolie, and Victoria (the last two of whom reputedly lost their surnames in amatory misadventures regarding which the courts have sealed the records, so please don’t even ask) could dispatch in a nanosecond anyone foolish enough to treat them as eye candy. All three hold academic degrees, for instance—Knott and Victoria from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and Stolie from Illinois Wesleyan. Moreover, in person, by e-mail, and, most of all, in their music, Knott and Victoria suggest considerable intelligence and drive, and Stolie…well, in all likelihood, Stolie’s Illinois driver license boasts the legendary restriction “FF” for femme fatale. Babes though they be, bubbleheads they’re not—not by a long shot, not a one of ’em.

For the purposes of this dispatch, of course, the trio’s collective comeliness matters not one whit. What matters is this: Tres Femmes plays a delicious mix of pop, rock, jazz, folk, and blues featuring heavenly three-part harmonies, as demonstrated by their eponymous debut, issued all of two months ago and briefly described later in this dispatch. Canny St. Louisans, of course, enjoyed a preview of Tres Femmes the trio and Tres Femmes the disc last November, when the three women graced Frederick’s Music Lounge.

That visit to Chippewa, which impressed me enough to make a mental note to stay current with the trio’s activities, marked just their second public performance together. Before Tres Femmes formed, though, Knott, Stolie, and Victoria pursued solo careers in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Green Bay and each issued a number of indie CDs. (The three continue to perform and record independent of one another, in fact, and information on their solo work appears at www.kellielinknott.com, www.stolie.com, and www.victoriavox.com.) It chagrins me to confess I haven’t yet heard any of Victoria’s discs or Stolie’s latest, but Knott’s 12-track 2003 release, Comfortable, pleased me so much I felt no discomfort whatsoever in blurbing it.

That bit of background, as promised, brings us to Tres Femmes’ ten-track self-titled CD from Obus Music/Screaming Galaxy Records. (For ordering details, direct your browser to www.tresfemmes.com—or better yet, hit the merch table at Dressel’s this Friday.) To Tres Femmes, Knott, Stolie, and Victoria each contribute three songs and provide the lead vocals thereon; on the remaining track, Victoria leads on Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne’s “Free Fallin’.” Instrumentally, all three women also play guitar here, while Stolie and (predominantly) Victoria play bass; when Stolie isn’t handling the conga, meanwhile, honorary femme Joe Chellman provides all drum tracks.

All told, I found it a charming and memorable premiere. Tres Femmes opens with Victoria’s touching “Friends for Life,” continues with Knott’s soaring “Bring on the Rain,” and ends with Stolie’s “Maybe I Might,” an a cappella number of transcendent loveliness, and the CD’s seven other tracks similarly charm in various ways. As Tres Femmes, in short, Knott, Stolie, and Victoria in general perform with skill and in specific harmonize angelically enough to inspire envy in the highest of celestial choirs.

If the preceding makes the trio sound cherubic, incidentally, or the earlier reference to their academic credentials makes them sound bookish, dispense with such misconceptions—these women have wicked, wicked wits. By way of example, consider the following anecdote from the liner notes to Tres Femmes:

After inviting standing fans to sit in the empty chairs in front of her, Stolie said, “Just because I’m wearing black doesn’t mean I’m the mean one.” Then Kel chimed in: “Just because my hair is blonde doesn’t mean I’m the dumb one.” To finish it off, Vic said, “Just because there are lips on my shirt doesn’t mean I’m easy.” We eventually concurred that Mean, Dumb & Easy might not be the right name for our new CD.

Accompanying Tres Femmes to Dressel’s will be Miles of Wire and the Hibernauts. The cover’s five lousy bucks, and the 21-plus show starts at 9 p.m. (No, really—Scout’s honor. Nine sharp. Yeah. Absolutely. As God is my witness…oh, hell, okay, you and I both know musicians never hit the stage on time, but nine’s the listed time, so what do you want me to report, for Christ’s sake, beyond, perhaps, that whatever a band’s listed onstage time, it’ll almost always be nein?) In any event, whenever the show does start, Knott, Stolie, and Victoria should treat attendees to a fine time indeed, comprenez-vous?

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