Last weekend I went to my first ever French music festival, Les Eurockéenes, in the east of France. I managed to score a press pass with a magazine I’ve been writing for, and interviewed some of the new and upcoming acts on the French rock scene. It was 3 days of sunshine, Desperados and some of the world’s greatest rock bands. Here’s a look at one of my articles…
The UK has Glastonbury, Spain has Benicassim and Les Eurockéenes is full proof that France is up there with the best of the international rock festivals. 2011 marked the 23rd edition of the 3-day event, which saw 95,000 vibrant festival-goers travel to Belfort to see such legendary bands as Motorhead and Queens of the Stone Age.
The sun shone from start to finish as pulsating beats and electric riffs coursed through the Eurocks site. The location is perhaps one of the festival’s finest attributes: 4 stages are set against a backdrop of the Vosges Mountains, Lake Malsaucy and even a fresh water beach.
Showcasing everything from heavy metal to reggae and independent artists to established headliners, Eurockéenes is really a celebration of eclecticism. The phrase ‘something for everyone’ rings true here, and this diversity ensures a conviviality and collective appreciation throughout the crowds. Head-banging stoners rocked out to Crystal Castles and dread-locked hippies chanted along to Jump Around with House of Pain. With no age restrictions in place, angsty teenagers and vintage rockers alike displayed the sign of the horns from within the mosh pits. Everyone and anyone is invited to the Eurocks party.
Festival fever carries over to the campsite where 15,000 of us enjoyed the daylight hours soaking up the sun, snoozing and reviewing the previous night’s performances. The more hardcore ravers partied through sunrise, ordering pints of Heineken at the breakfast stand – my cup of tea seemed decidedly less rock and roll by comparison.
Besides the first-class line up, Eurockéenes 2011 also had street performers, live karaoke and a silent disco beach party. With France being the gastronomically renowned nation it is, there was no surprise that the festival’s culinary selection exceeded the usual greasy hotdogs and kebabs. Much like Eurock’s international music programme, food stands served up dishes from around the globe, such as Senegalese fritters and Thai curry.
Saturday saw Motorhead conquer the Grande Scène stage at dusk, followed by Eurockéenes regulars, Queens of the Stone Age. With their heavy riffs and guitar solos, the Californian rockers whipped the crowd into a rock frenzy with high-energy performances of No One Knows and Go With The Flow.
One of the most pleasant of surprises was the dramatic and almost gothic sound of British songstress Anna Calvi. Not to be mistaken for a delicate English rose, Calvi stunned and seduced the audience with haunting performances of Desire and a cover of Edith Piaf’s Jezebel, both taken from her self-titled debut album. Other highlights included French one-man rock and roll band King Automatic, and Raphael Saadiq’s soulful rhythm and blues set.
Binary Audio Misfits
The final day of Eurocks kicked off with an invigorating performance by the Binary Audio Misfits. Made up of Texan MCs and French musicians, this band has created a fresh sound combining hip-hop flow and rock. As the sun set, Arcade Fire belted out Keep the Car Running with all 8 band members radiating just as much energy as the crowd.
Along with Motorhead and Beady Eye, the Arctic Monkeys flew the flag for British rock. Their astounding rendition of When the Sun Goes Down was the perfect finale to 3 days and 3 nights of musical rapture.
What’s playing today?
Jezebel by Anna Calvi