Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Les Eurockeennes

Another country, another festival...French, this time. It was the twentieth anniversary of Les Eurockeennes, which is held on the shores of the Lake Malsaucy near the town of Belfort in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. It was originally set up by the local council to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the French revolution, but has proved to be such an economic and publicity winner for the area, they've kept it going ever since.

You couldn't fault the location - very pretty indeed, with the Alsace Ballons framing the tree-fringed lake. The organisation was all but impeccable and although the campsite was a good twenty minutes walk (or free shuttle-bus ride) from the festival site, it had its own food and drink outlets, freely available internet access, showers, plenty of water and regularly cleaned loos.

The weather could have been better - rainy for the Thursday early arrivals and rainy all day on Sunday - but Friday and Saturday had enough sunshine to prevent a washout. Mind you, Theo and I were still pleased we had our wellies with us, although what mud we did encounter was a mere smear compared with the quagmire conditions we'd experienced at Glastonbury or WOMAD.

Ordinarily, I find press access a useful thing, aside from my radio needs, for the generally better toilets and shorter bar queues. Otherwise, I prefer to be in the festival site proper where the atmosphere is less cynical and more lively. On this occasion, there were some extra cool things about the press wristbands, including use of a shuttle boat across the lake and occasionally free glasses of wine and Champagne. And for once, I really needed somewhere to escape from the crowds.

The main problem with Eurockeennes is it doesn't have enough space on its site for the numbers. It often felt rammed and the French way of dealing with this seemed to be to form long trains and simply barge through(often smiling sweetly). By the end of Day One, I'd had enough of being buffetted by drunk twenty-somethings and was seriously considering calling it a day. However, we HAD managed to finally see Massive Attack live, something both Theo and I had shamefully never managed while in Bristol. And we met up with their current singer, Yolanda, with whom we're acquainted through her own band, Phantom Limb. She was fun and Massive Attack were excellent (apart from the lass who sang Teardrops and managed to forget the words...). What we caught of The Gossip was good, too - until the moshing got too much.

The next day was the reason we'd been attracted to Les Eurockeennes in the first place - Camille was playing. We both love her album Le Fil and were very keen to see her live. She didn't disappoint, either. We were right at the front (to avoid buffeting and thankfully, Camille's brand of chansons doesn't tend to attract the moshers) and got a commanding view of a tremendously lively performance with the only conventional instrument a grand piano and the rest of the music provided by beatboxers, harmony singers, body percussion and an all-round use of the human voice. Virtuoso stuff. They got three encores and it still didn't feel like enough.

Afterwards, I interviewed Camille and she was charming - we both sat on a little wooden jetty by the lake and did girly things like complimenting each other on our clothes, as well as the serious business of recording some soundbites.

The last day was rainy, but as we were prepared with wellies, waterproofs and buckets, we didn't mind. We both enjoyed Seasick Steve doing his doghouse blues AND rather unexpectedly, The Offspring, whom we were watching for the lack of anything else on the other stages. We caught a bit of Battles doing their post rock clever-clever thing (not really my cup of tea, but I did appreciate the musicianship involved) then headed back.

Overall, we had a fun time. Lots of people we'd never met before were willing to chat with us in a mixture of French and English and the audiences were refreshingly enthusiastic, compared with some of the more jaded crowds you find at UK shows. The music wasn't as high quality overall as at Primavera and the ambience wasn't a patch on the Rocket, but I'm glad we went. And because we were able to smuggle in our own beer, cook our own food in the van and take advantage of the free tickets with camping included, it turned out to be an exceedingly cheap weekend. You can't argue with that.

(Theo's review, by the way, is HERE)

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