Ah, the pleasure in seeing again the Vosges mountains and the delicious Malsaucy lake and being back at “les Eurocks” as the festival attendees call it. That was indeed my 8th edition and probably one of the best thanks in particular to VIP invitations we got through my good friend Gilles. Indeed, no mud and very sunny this year…and many places to actually sit down and give a bit of a rest to our old bodies.
Radiohead, TV on the Radio, Pixies, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Phoenix, Air, Massive Attack, Grinderman, Gnarls Barkley, Kanye West,… the list of great bands or artists I had seen from 2003 to 2009 is endless so how was this 25th edition ?
- Day Two – 5th July 2013
No way for me to go to the first day as indeed the festival was held during four days this year to celebrate its specific anniversary so let’s start with Day Two.
What a better way to start the festival than finally seeing summer arriving for Matthew E. White. This bearded guy from Michigan has recently done his first LP and his music is a mix of americana and soul, which made it a nice and easy enjoyable show.
Change of stage and mood (there are four of them in total, including the great “La Plage” one, where the stage is actually in suspension… above the water!) to see the young US Punk band Fidlar (meaning Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk – a skateboarder expression). Amazing energy and “joie de vivre” and more pogos that I have seen in my last twenty concerts.
The least I can say is that I felt utter disappointment on the contrary with Woodkid, the new French hype guy. Very pretentious and boring music, I may give him a second chance and listen to the record but really I did not enter his world to keep it nicely. The guy directed a couple of videos for Lana del Rey so the apple does not fall far from the tree as one says…
Today’s headliners were the Smashing Pumpkins, one of my favourite bands ever (I know, not in my Top 100, weird…) but I did not have great expectations as the only original member now is their leader Billy Corgan who plays with young musicians. How wrong I was ; they played a fantastic concert and their young drummer is particularly amazing. A very well-balanced set list with old and new songs, ballads and heavy monsters, hits and less famous songs. Go and see them if you can ; that was probably the best show of the week-end for me.
- Day Three – 6th July 2013
Always difficult to get away from our nice and relaxing guest house in the middle of the mountain to get back to the festival in the middle of thousands (127,000 people for the four days) of people, including a large majority of young girls and boys being there mainly to party and not giving a shit about bands playing. On the opposite, the festival brought many great street theatres troupes this year, including the hilarious Stand 2000 actors.
The day started for me with the discovery of the very very young Irish band The Strypes. They are all between 15 and 17-year old and their drummer in particular looks like a young kid but boy, how they rock and withsuch style! A great discovery, let’s hope their 60’s rock influences will allow them to make great records and that they will age gracefully.
Talking about style, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are probably the best example of it. Still a trio but now with a new female drummer, their Jesus and Mary Chain meets psychedelic rock influences have aged beautifully and their set was a constant pleasure. Good to see them back on shape after all the personal dramas they lived in recent years.
I had great hopes for the Dan Auerbach (from the Black Keys)-produced soul singer Valerie June but I must admit that the most interesting thing was her dress…
Back to “la Plage” then, first to hear one of the DJ sets from Pedro Winter (the former Daft Punk manager) mixing great records from The Rapture to LCD Soundsystem and then announcing the arrival of Dinosaur Jr. I saw them last time in the Parisian winter but they were at ease playing under the sun and their set was great, despite Lou Barlow’s technical issues with his bass. They are one of the best bands ever so nothing else to say.
After a few other partially-seen shows (Lou Doillon, nice but a bit dull – Is Tropical, energizing dance rock influenced by the Klaxons – Two Door Cinema Club, enjoyable but not exciting band – Fauve, new annoying French hype band), what I had left of energy was dedicated to Phoenix, the headliners of the third day. The way this band is now famous is quite reassuring as it means we could still find bands having success like R.E.M. had in the past for instance, i.e. keeping on believing in your music and deciding that people will finally come to you through hard work and good songs. I was a bit suspicious on my side as the last concert was not as great at the first ones but they were really good tonight and this tour has an excellent set-list, even if I would have liked to hear more old songs. But the new LP gets better and better with every listen and I hope I will enjoy them as much when I see them again in Rock en Seine in late August.
- Day Four – 7th July 2013
Are festivals tiring when the last day arrives : YES ! Is it ridiculous to still go to festivals when you are closer to 50-year old than 40 : PROBABLY ! Is it rewarding and will I keep going in rock festivals : YOU BET!
Fewer interesting bands to see today which was not a bad thing as quality is much crucial than quantity. The first band I saw were Palma Violets. I had seen them in the very tiny “Boule Noire” theatre last autumn for the festival des Inrocks in Paris and they have survived the hype, made a fine first LP “180” and are getting huge in the UK. They were probably the most energizing bands of the festivals and even if their music is still a bit rough (The Clash meets the Libertines), their attitude and the way they rock are fresh in the current music scene.
The music played by the Austin, Tx band The Black Angels on the “Grande Scène” is probably less energetic but their modern psychedelic rock makes them one of the current very solid bands. Their set was full of subtleties and seeing them under the Belfort sun reminded them probably of their beautiful Texas state.
From Australia, the Kevin Parker-lead band Tame Impala have been probably the hippest one last year, with their LP “Lonerism” elected album of the year by New Musical Express and in every music critics top 10 (including this site!). Not the kind a band you abandon yourself to at first sight, one has to enter their world step by step to truly appreciate their beautiful psychedelic (again!) music.
The last and only time I had seen My Bloody Valentine was in 1989 (with Happy Mondays as opening act!) and it has been quite marketed everywhere that their new excellent LP went out this year after a 22-year hiatus. I had read that their shoegazing music on stage was a torture for the ears but that was not true at all. For sure, better to have earplugs and sure again they are not the most talkative band ever but when things work, their music is a real beauty. The kind of bands totally apart from the rest of the music scene, like, say, The Cure (and not only for Kevin Shields haircut), the fact in having them around is a miracle per se.
And here were at last, our last concert of the week, the reason we came back to “les Eurockéennes de Belfort” : B-L-U-R ! A truly great band amongst the great, they never really disbanded, even if Damon Albarn was working on hundreds of musical projects and Graham Coxon did not really know if he was still part of the band… They more or less reunited through friendship last year and did a fantastic new single “Under the Westway” so I was very excited to see them again after all these years. The guys were fit and showing us pleasure in being here (their only French date) and the show was great…as expected. It is true that it would really be good for them to make another LP but the songs they have are so good that the crowd was enjoying every moment of it. Very smart set list as well, starting with their “disco” hit Girls & Boys and finishing with four perfect songs. Seeing Blur is like feeling like Dorian Gray, especially at 1.30 am throughout the night after three tiring days!
See you soon Belfort for a personal 9th edition.