Always a pleasure to finish the summer with the Rock en Seine festival in the beautiful Saint-Cloud Park near Paris. Launched in 2003, this festival has grown in stature and variety but has been keeping a reasonable size and enough space for the audience to relax on of the green grass areas. Rock en Seine is to my mind one the best European festivals now, almost British I would say either for the excellence and diversity of the bands and artists but as well for the now standard crap and rainy weather we have at the end of August in Paris. Let’s begin with Day One now, knowing that I did no succeed in seeing the bluesman Seasick Steve, the French band Jamaica or the pure rock duo of the Kills because in his life a man has sometimes decisive choices to make.
3.00 p.m., first note and first band of the festival on the new “Pression Live” fourth stage. And what a shitty one as well! Edward Shape and the Magnetic Zeros are a 10-piece band of post hippie something musicians with awful melodies that reminded me of the traditional and local music we sometimes find when in holidays in French or European regions and that I hate so much. Three songs to watch were more than I should have. Avoid this band if you want to feel alive and if you are looking for emotions in music.
Forward to the main stage to see Smith Westerns, a band from the US led by two brothers. Deeply influenced on a par level by US grunge and UK shoegazing bands of the 90’s, they propose pop songs with sometimes weird guitar arrangements, not dissimilar from what Teenage Fanclub used to do on their first records. Not an amazing stage presence but a band to follow for sure in the future.
Biffy Clyro are a Scottish three-piece band (helped by a second guitarist when on stage) composed of two red-hair twins on drums and bass and Simon Neil on guitar and voice. They always play bare-chested and are full of logos tattooed on their bodies. I had seen them a few years ago in “les Eurockéennes de Belfort” festival and had not been impressed. I therefore was completely amazed by the way this band has improved. Impressive energy, great songs, massive solos, I now understand why they are one of the most popular bands in the UK. This band shows that one can stick to their beliefs without compromising and finally managing to find success.
Odd Future are the new controversial US hip-hop band, a ten-member collective of young men from L.A.. They have been compared to the mighty Wu-Tang Clan and to my mind they are far to get the same level of musical excellence. Very good stage presence though, with the usual hip-hop clichés and words (I should have counted the number of times the word “dick” was pronounced) but with much enthusiasm and energy.
Back to the “Scène de la Cascade” to have a look at the French-Swede band Herman Dune. They also are a family trio and I must say that I always found their folk-rock records nice but a bit boring, missing a certain edge. The band is really different on stage and plays more regular blues and rock songs, which was a nice surprise. Recommended for those of you who like cool Sunday morning music, with the sound of the birds…
CSS (“Cansei de Ser Sexy” in portuguese meaning tired of being sexy) are a Brazilian band from Saõ Paulo which is a first strength as far as your host is concerned! Secondly, their first LP was great and was in our Best of 2006 list. But as their second album was rather so-so to say the least, I did not know what to expect from them now. Well, they are still one of the top live bands and the crowd was really enthusiastic. A very good back-to-form for me and I am expecting with great hopes their new LP to come in a few days. Funny as well to her them play their great song “Let’s make love and listen to Death From Above” when this band has reformed and will play on Day Two.
The tension is rising amongst young Parisian girls as Kid Cudi is a bit late…but here he comes! Kid Cudi is one of the most talented artists to have emerged from the US hip-hop scene in the last five years and I warmly recommend his last two LPs based on the “Man on the Moon” story as they are really over pure hip-hop style mixing soul and psychedelic rock in a great melting pot. The guy is very interesting as well as his vision of the world is not guns and cars and bitches but a self-deprecating and existentialist one, which is always refreshing in hip-hop. Nice catchy tunes as well that he succeeded very strongly in playing on stage on a leaner model (only two musicians on stage with him).
Big Audio Dynamite (B.A.D.) played a tremendous 40-minute set based mainly on theirs first 1985 first LP. Formed by Mick Jones just after he had been fired from the Clash (a bit as if Keith Richards had been fired from the Rolling Stones – pure nonsense!) with the influential Don Letts, their mix of rock, dub and hip-hop was really ahead of their times. They reformed this year for a few shows and that was a real honour to see them amongst many British companeiros in their 40’s as well! As seen recently in Gorillaz, Mick Jones is still an exceptional guitar player and the guys were delighted to be together on stage. As Mick said “we are from the 80’s, influenced by the 60’s and born in the 50’s!”. Dear Mick, you are more than welcome in our 21st century.
And forward to another legend to see Dave Grohl and his mighty Foo Fighters. To tell a story short, Dave was the amazing Nirvana drummer and he went of demoing a few songs that went out under the name Foo Fighters in 1995 after the demise of this formed band. This little project where Dave was singing and playing the guitar has become now one of the most popular bands in the US and I must say one of the best. An amazing two-hour show tonight (very long for a festival) with a band on top form, either the great lead guitar player Chris Shiflett or the amazing drummer Taylor Hawkins (that Dave “loves so much it makes him want to puke”!). A few new songs but mainly all the hits that we all like to sing along on top of our voice (“The Pretender”, “The Best of You”, “Monkey Wrench”, “My Hero”, and so on and on and on…). I had forgotten how these guys were incredible musicians and I think that the Festival format is what suits them best. One of the best show at Rock en Seine ever; thank you guys.
We finished the first day with a couple of tracks from Death in Vegas but I felt their post trip-hop was a bit passé and difficult to get over with after the emotions seen on the main stage. See you tomorrow for Day Two!