Rock en Seine festival review: Faith No More, Calvin Harris & The Prodigy entertain gay Paree
Having travelled first-class on the Eurostar (only two and a half hours from King’s Cross St. Pancras, clock-watchers!), with breakfast and champagne provided, the merry bunch of bloggers (the London-based ones, anyway) arrived confused and bewildered at having been on a train without spending any time nestled in someone’s armpit.
Hotel check-in completed – none of this camping bollocks, thankyouverymuch – it was down to the festival site to, er, mull about the VIP area for a bit drinking beer. I waited just long enough to ensure we’d missed Keane, before heaing off to catch Yeah Yeah Yeahs with Marcus from Stereokill.net, Niall from Nialler9 and Boaz from Cougar Microbes.
Karen O was reliably exuberant, wearing a dress apparently constructed of mirrors. The French bloody loved them (the band, not the mirrors), and although I was disappointed with an acoustic version of “Maps”, I have to say I did too.
Everything that happened on Friday was, for me, but a prelude to Oasis – including Vampire Weekend. Having *wankeralert* seen them in a small venue before they blew up, it was very strange to see them entertaining a crowd of thousands on an open-air stage. They were good, but it wasn’t really anything I hadn’t heard before (apart from the songs I hadn’t heard before).
And so to Oasis, who I was about to see for the first time. Or not. Despite their brotherly bust-up apparently occurring earlier that afternoon, this information was not relayed to us punters – indeed while I waited in the crowd for their set roadies appeared to be fixing up equipment on stage.
The longer the wait went on, the more the tension increased; until, eventually, an announcement was put up on the large screens either side of the stage. In French. However even I, having forgotten the majority of my A-Level French, could tell it wasn’t the best of news. The jeering of the crowd certainly helped with that calculation.
Even at this point I was certain it was all just a way of ratcheting up the suspense – there was no way they were going to cancel two festivals one after the other (they’d pulled out of V the previous week due to Liam’s “laryngitis”).
Even when a guy came on stage – after their allotted start time had elapsed – to announce that they were cancelling, I refused to believe it. It was all just pantomime tension-building. But then the roadies started dismantling the equipment they had just, er, mantled; and it became clear that, yup, Oasis had done it again.
I spent the rest of the night apologising to every French person I met on behalf of Britain and its shonky rock stars; Amy Winehouse had cancelled the same event the previous year. I also got quite drunk.
For some reason I didn’t bother seeing Vitalic, which, given that the next day everyone else said he was amazing, now feels like a pretty stupid decision.
I’m not quite sure what came over me, but it seems that I felt Saturday morning was the perfect time to take a leaf out of DJ A-Trak’s book and shoot a video review of my hotel room:
YES I KNOW THE QUALITY’S SHIT. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.
The day’s music began at 3pm with youthful swing siblings Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. I felt like I would have appreciated them far more in a dark, intimate club rather than in the middle of a bright, blazing hot afternoon in France.
However there was a bit of splendid beatboxing thrown in amongst the retro stylings, and Niall picked their set as one of the highlights of the weekend – and he’s won awards and stuff, so I dunno.
Next came The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, whose lead singer reminded me a tad of every spliffed-up hippy starchild dreamgazer I’ve ever met – but whose mid-tempo spaced-out glam-pop worked rather well for me. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard several of their songs on adverts, but I know not which.
Having burnt myself shitless in the sun, I repaired to the hospitality area to gather energy reserves for Calvin Harris‘s set later on. That’s right, I got drunk.
Calvin’s set was hamstrung slightly by the fact that he did pretty much what I saw him do in the TV coverage of V Festival the previous week: i.e. he replaced “V I WANT TO SEE YOU JUMP UP AND DOWN” with “ROCK EN SEINE I WANT TO SEE YOU JUMP UP AND DOWN”.
It soon became apparent that this was a mere quibble, however, as everyone did indeed proceed to jump up and down. And take their clothes off. This is music tailor-made for hot summer nights in fields, and whether he’s churning out the exact same set week after week or not, Calvin’s was one of my favourites of the weekend.
After that it was down the other end of the site for Faith No More, who opened with a typically LOL-worthy, white suit-clad lounge version of Peaches & Herb’s “Reunited”.
There were many vintage Patton moments – asking everyone to raise their arms so he could “smell some of that fuckin’ French musk”; singing one tune in Italian because his French is lousy – but I was disappointed with their set overall.
Not the performances, which were blistering, but the omission of tracks I’d love to have heard them play – but if I was a more attentive fan I’d have realised that they apparently never play “Everything’s Ruined” these days. They do, however, do a lovely version of the Eastenders theme tune – asking a French crowd “Do you guys watch any English soap operas?” was one of the funniest moments of the weekend (see them doing their Walford snippet at Reading here).
For some reason I didn’t bother seeing Birdy Nam Nam, which, given that the next day everyone else said they were amazing, now feels like a pretty stupid decision.
Not going to lie – by Sunday my body was about to give up on me. Although I managed to get it together enough to catch Metric‘s opening set in the afternoon (they were very good), I spent much of the rest of the day wondering if I’d be able to handle The Prodigy‘s festival-closing performance.
A pleasant surprise came in the shape of an acoustic set by a guy called Sliimy, who we had spotted vamping it up in the hospitality area earlier – he looks like an even skinnier, camper version of Prince. His music is closer in style to Mika’s, but he seems a bit less likely to run about in his pants begging to be stabbed in the face. Apparently he’s fascinated with all things English, which would explain why, despite growing up in Saint Etienne, he was singing lyrics even I could understand.
I couldn’t face Eagles Of Death Metal, and sat in a secluded grassy area while listening to “Les Petits Pois” – aka Them Crooked Vultures, the new supergroup comprising Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin’s John-Paul Jones. A festival isn’t the best setting to hear new material, especially of the desert-rock variety, and I didn’t feel I’d missed much by not being part of the crowd to witness their set.
Then, after some grub and a few beers, I felt revived. I ignored the worrying implications of only managing to feel normal through pouring alcohol into my system, and set out to rejoin the blog crew.
MGMT drew a huge crowd, and we all managed to get spots by the wings of the stage, which entailed going behind the actual performance area. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who briefly entertained the thought of sprinting up the ramp to the stage and appearing suddenly in front of umpteen thousand people.
MGMT were OK, but seemed to confirm my previously-held suspicion that, if I’m honest, I only really like about three or four songs on their album. Of course as I’ve written previously I *really* like “Electric Feel”, so I took a bit of footage of it:
Sometimes I wonder how much harder it is to engage a crowd at a festival when it’s light outside. I thought the same thing during MGMT.
Next up were Klaxons, who I think played at least one new song, which sounded like a decent sign of things to come from their new album, whenever they choose to release it. While many people’s main memories of the band are them being hammered after winning the Mercury Music Prize (and wouldn’t you be?), it’s easy to forget that they are a pretty – oh yes – “tight unit”.
With generous French folk handing out bottles of rum and excitable teenagers climbing trees (above right), it was all warming up nicely for The Prodigy‘s headline set, which, like MGMT’s performance, was viewed from VERY NOISY close-up:
I could have done with a spot of “Everybody In The Place”, but you can’t really fault the Prodge apart from to say that if you’ve seen them once you know pretty much what you’re going to get. They’re not going to break into the Eastenders theme tune, thats for sure. But they do what they do very well and everyone goes bonkers.
Although the carefully-cultivated image does tend to crumble a little when you spot Keith and Liam on the Eurostar back to Blighty carrying their own bags, as we did the next day.
My little break did indeed make a big differance, in that I felt like I was going to die by Monday; but at least I learned I am almost certainly Too Old For This Shit. That discovery notwithstanding, it was a splendid weekend and the French make very good hosts.
Shout-outingtons to my fellow blog bredrins:
Mark and Paul from friedmylittlebrain, Niall from Nialler9, Terry and Nicki Buzzin Music and Buzzin Pop Music, Boaz from Cougar Microbes (who took a load of great photos which can be seen here and here), Marcus from Stereokill.net, Sam and Joe from The Hush House and last but not least Gareth and Paul from Vice - who went along because Paul’s daughter couldn’t be arsed.