Bitches be trippin’: Rock en Seine 2016

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en SeineIn my grimy, grunger, never-quite-sober days, there wasn’t a Reading Festival I’d have missed for the world. For a brief period in my teens, I was an avid festival goer; making bad decision after bad decision to the backdrop of heavy guitars and teen angst. When my own teen angst subsided, I stopped going to festivals – not by conscious decision, but due to an alleged lack of funds and appreciation for the almost constant time off one is awarded for deciding to study Art History (nice choice, A).

In a glorious blaze of joie de vivre, I booked tickets to four festivals this summer (one was booked at 4am, drunkenly at a random house party in north London where I’d bumped into an old colleague whom I’d never hung out with outside of work. Checking my emails and seeing the receipt the following afternoon gave me a bit of a shock). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that there are a lot of UK festival teams in my office space, or perhaps it’s a result of my heightened hedonism since retrieving my independence sometime last year.

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

Rock en Seine: nous sommes arrivés!

I’m writing this on my merry way back from Rock en Seine, an oddball mix of genres that met in a park somewhere just outside Paris. It’s a peculiar festival, with a distinct shortage of stumbling, pissed Brits (for that, I ought to be thankful but admittedly, the reining sobriety in a festival atmosphere felt bizarre…). There were two exceptions: one pilled-up Frenchman sweating buckets and rocking out to Damian Marley, and a group of French lads lads lads* we danced with/exchanged accessories with to Sum 41.

*garcons garcons garcons

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

I’m not such a boozehound that the mere absence of alcohol abuse can make me call a festival peculiar (or at least that’s what I want you to think, mes amis. No, I will not put down the wine). The Rock en Seine schedule was intriguing: who surmised that people want to listen to Sigur Ros at 9:45 on a Saturday night? My companions and I agreed: the tone was very up-and-down. We’d go from the intense party vibes of Logic to the relative chill (and yet captivating stage presence) of Anderson .Paak, to the typically varied vibes of Damian Marley and then slammed into rave mode for Birdy Nam Nam (which I regrettably sat out for; this crowd-shy country bumpkin needed a wee moment to herself).

A little extra:  The black & white street photography of Raymond Cauchetier's New Wave

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

Photo credit: Anni Bould/That Girl’s Got

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

The payment system wasn’t one I’ve encountered before, but it was fantastic – an NFC-enabled festival wristband! Perhaps that kind of tech has been doing the festival rounds for years and I’m revealing myself to be a crusty old hag. Oh, how I hope not. But this, coupled with the sober French (did I mention everyone wasn’t wasted?!) made for no queues at the bars. Tres bien.

I can’t speak for the camping experience because you know what? Maybe I am a crusty old hag, and maybe I’m too old for that shit. Maybe I like to be able to put on a lunchtime spread on an Airbnb terrace, and maybe I like to be able to shower twice a day when it’s 36 degrees. After utilising daddio’s camper van at Tunes in the Dunes back in May, I’d hazard a guess that there’s a 0% chance I will ever be sleeping in a tent at a festival again. My former grunger self is rolling in her grave (and I don’t mean a big, fat joint; much to Marley’s dismay, I am sure).

But onto la musique de Rock en Seine!

A non-conformist line-up

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

Look at Damian Marley’s dreads! Just look at them!

As someone who naturally eschews pressure in all its many forms, I took great solace in a line-up that didn’t make me feel like my weekend would be ruined if I missed a certain act. Rock en Seine had a smorgasbord of musical styles, making me equally keen to see Damian Marley, Bring Me The Horizon, Massive Attack, Sum 41 and Foals. That’s reggae, hip hop, screamo, metal, trip-hop, pop-punk and alt-rock, and a damn good spectrum of aural fireworks. Unfortunately, I had to make a swift exit on Sunday before Foals (well, it was asking a lot of my generally under-control anxious nature to put in a full three days at a 110,000-strong festival). Thank God for one particularly wonderful friend for arming me with her phone, her 4G and her Uber account so I could hotfoot it back to the flat. Tanni Gold, I know you’re reading this: you’re a beglittered superstar and a true pal.

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

My Rock en Seine festival find was certainly Caravan Palace. I’d never heard of them before but just as I always describe the aforementioned beglittered superstar, they are a walking party. They’re so Parisian it hurts; officially, their genres cross from electro swing to new wave and one of their albums is called <|’_’|>. The vibe reminded me of Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby. With clarinets, double basses, trombones and (what in God’s name is) a vibraphone, this seven-piece will be a staple on every party playlist I’m making from here on out. I’d suggest checking out Lone Digger, their biggest song, or my personal favourite Brotherswing.

A little extra:  Espresso yourself: Coffee tasting around the world

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

The whole Rock en Seine line-up was eclectic and yet one particularly anomalous band stood out like cray: bastions of straightened fringes and guyliner, Bring Me The Horizon. In my party of five, only two of us go in for the metal genres, so Gemma and I went off to indulge the inner emo kids that are still very much on the surface (we’re fresh from a Funeral For a Friend gig in June and have tickets to In Flames and Bullet for my Valentine… Not to mention my current, unapologetically 2005, blue-and-black hairstyle). I won’t lie, they were awesome. I’m definitely getting back into them, even if their most impassioned performance at the festival, True Friends, sports some pretty cringe-inducing lyrical content.

The most interesting and surprisingly involving performance at Rock en Seine came from Saturday’s headliner, Massive Attack. Not your typical arena act, their heavenly, quiet, consuming vibes left a crowd of thousands silent. Making the controversial decision to not play Teardrop, Paradise Circus or The Spoils, they instead focused on the political message of their being there. Safe From Harm concluded their set with a crescendo of politically-charged phrases. I didn’t know what they said, but recognised several celebrity names and asked Twitter to help me out a bit. Massive Attack super fan and blogger Melissa Chemam let me know they were various vacuous media snippets from this year (you should check out her write up – click here). They were offset by references to political scandal and messages of support for victims of terror in recent years: Je suis Charlie, je suis Paris, je suis Nice, je suis Baghdad, je suis ici. It was damn affecting. They encored to Unfinished Sympathy, a perfectly chosen song title to accompany the message on the stage: nous sommes tous dans le meme bateau. We are all in the same boat.

Couldn’t have come up with a better final message myself.

Arts End of Nowhere Rock en Seine

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One response to “Bitches be trippin’: Rock en Seine 2016”

  1. John S says:

    Great blog. Festivals are so enjoyable. Went to two myself this year: Latitude and End of The Road. There are blogs of both on my site. There’s a sense of liberation, as well as the love of all the music that makes them so special.

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