Having got the mannequin shtick down to a tee, when RiRi and LuLa of FEMM (Far East Mention Mannequins) perform, they are largely devoid of any expression (though having RiRi stare at you brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘If looks could kill’). They let their songs and their latex fashion do all the talking, and this is where FEMM excel.
FEMM’s RiRi and LuLa are two real-life mannequins, having described themselves as “dolls with minds.” When they launched in 2013, fighting for the “Freedom of Mannequins”, they encouraged fans to become agents of FEMM on their agency syndicate website and share content. This helped boost their popularity (particularly outside of Japan) as word of mouth spread online, with fans sharing music videos featuring RiRi and LuLa wearing latex while twerking and tutting.
FEMM had previously talked about hoping to perform in the UK. Yet as the days passed it didn’t look like it was going to happen. But then, April saw their UK label JPU Records announce that FEMM would be performing a pre-Hyper Japan party at the O2 Academy Islington on 23 April 2017. The announcement came a little under two weeks before the show. Comments appeared on social media citing the short notice, but according to JPU Records, it was either this, or not at all.
FEMM made the most of it having performed in Camden Town’s Cyberdog earlier that day. But at the O2 Academy Islington, they performed two sets. Being mannequins, RiRi and LuLa were both carried on to the stage. A flurry of mobile phones were raised into the air to capture the action as the duo were wearing the latex outfits featured in the video to their latest track, Do It Again; RiRi in a pink bow and skirt, LuLa in a blue bow and skirt. And those bows were bigger than their heads.
With an electro-pop vibe, they performed popular tracks from their album Femm-Isation, with their videos playing on the screen behind them. Fans got to hear White Noise, Kiss The Rain, Wannabe and We Flood The Night. Interestingly, both sets began with We Flood The Night. Controlled and flawless, RiRi and LuLa are both perfectly in sync with their robotic choreography and didn’t put a foot wrong here.
Following FEMM’s first set, support act Shirobon kept the crowd entertained with energetic electronic chiptunes while the mannequins went to recharge. They returned with a second set that included the Invaderous remixes of the tracks Astroboy and Kill the DJ. They also performed their latest track Do It Again, one of the few songs in which they sing in Japanese.
The biggest cheer of the night came as soon as the Invaderous remix of Fxxk Boyz Get Money started. The original track is the one that has defined the duo, described by FEMM themselves as “every girl’s anthem.” It is also their most popular, with over a million views on YouTube. The Invaderous remix improves upon perfection and had everyone in the venue singing along. Plus, it’s not often you hear around a hundred people scream out, “FUCK BOYZ GET MONEY ALL DAY LONG.”
At one point towards the end of the show, LuLa reached out to the audience, holding the hands of fans at the front of the stage. It was a moment that could have shattered the illusion of FEMM, but such is their perfection that LuLa performed as if she had never done this before. What played out was a touching scene of a mannequin connecting to humanity.
The show concluded with a meet and greet, as fans queued for a photo with RiRi and LuLa, as well the opportunity to have merchandise signed.
Given the short notice, one can’t help but think about what this could have been. And yet, given the short notice, FEMM were Unbreakable with a show where they and their fans managed to Party All Night.
By Shalimar Sahota