Festival Rock en Seine 2011, Parc de Saint Cloud, My Day Three, 28th August

Last day of one of our favourite festivals. After two days from one stage to another, thighs and calves are a bit tired but nothing like a nice running to be back on track and fit for the first show of the day!

Sub-Brit pop (part one) I had read lots of interesting articles about The Vaccines and after a first listen the album had sounded quite interesting. Well, I am not saying I will not give it another try but what a boring live band they are. This déjà vu feeling of seeing a competent band playing nicely their verse-chorus-verse song one after another as already heard in may days of festivals in the past was irritating to say the least. What makes young men play such insipid music in the year 2011? Why do these guys not want to play like Joy Division, The Stooges, The Clash, Prefab Sprout, The White Stripes, etc… I don’t know exactly but a kind a music that makes you want to feel alive and not being a pale copy of sub-Oasis. Sorry guys but Radiohead you ain’t.

François and the Atlas Mountains are a French Band from young guys which I had not planned to see but I think I had understood The Vaccines after 25 minutes… I did not stay long but I found their sunny African-rhythm influenced pop quite refreshing and will probably have a few listens to the LP when it goes out soon.

Faris Badwan Part One. Here we are for the first part of the young man on-stage presence, one of my major enthusiasm when I discovered the 2011 program. Cat’s Eyes has been created last year by Faris (The Horrors singer) with a young Canadian opera soprano singer named Rachel Zeffira . They met each other by related friends and soon discovered a shared passion for 60’s girl groups with a Phil Spector influence. Their music is very fresh but bears at the same time a great sense of music history (eg their great cover of Lucifer Sam from Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn). And one can feel the pleasure they have in being on stage. An excellent part one for Faris!

The La’s on stage at Rock en Seine were probably the least expected concert ever. A brief history here: Lee Mavers did a few promising singles before making one of the albums of the 90’s with their first LP in 1990. What happened next has been quite known from rock fans: Lee Mavers went crazily perfectionist and eager to redo this album with a better sound, bassist left to form boring britpop band Cast, Lee got crazier, 2nd LP never went out and the La’s reformed every five years for embarrassing moment on stage. I was therefore quite surprised to see him sun-tanned, apparently in healthy shape and having the good idea in playing these great songs rough with only another young musician on bass. Critics have been quite harsh about the show but what were people expecting? I considered myself quite happy to see what I saw  and I would even say that it went much better vs. what I was expecting. Anyway, the La’s will never do a second proper LP so buy the only one album existing if you do not have it already.

Sub-Brit pop (part two) . Miles Kane was the former leader of the now deceased Rascals and did the excellent Last Shadow Puppets record with Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys in 2008. He went solo this year, has a good band on stage, looks very elegant and has all the usual excellent references from The Kinks to Jacques Dutronc. Just one little detail Miles, your music is quite BO-RING and although legions of British fans were greatly enthusiastic  and gave this show a nice atmosphere, I really waited for the slightest bit of emotion to come and must say I am still waiting…

Faris Badwan Part Two. And when talking about passion and emotion, here are The Horrors! After a weird pyscho-billy Cramps influenced first record, The Horrors went on making two amazing records in 2009 and this year, influenced by Portishead, Can, psychedelic 60’s music but without being passeist, which makes them so great. I already saw them in Rock en Seine 2009 but they really do get better with every new record or show they play and are an amazing band to see on stage. Faris had time to change his shirt and concentrated in singing (funny how he has the same attitude as Joy Ramone when doing so…). And they played of course their two amazing longs songs that I recommend to anyone with fresh ears ( “Sea Within A Sea” and “Moving Further Away”). One of the peaks of the week-end!

I have always quite liked the Deftones on record and found their music quite complex for a Metal Band  and far from the clichés that exist in this genre (well, let’s remember that their leader Chini Moreno is a fan of The Smiths and many other 80’s British post-punk bands…). I was therefore afraid that their subtlety would disappear when on stage but that was not the case at all. Moreno has really a original and fantastic-sounding voice and the band were really in line with was they do on record…with an extra side of head-banging. It made me want to listen again with more attention to their records, which is always a good sign when you see a band live.

Having no interest whatsoever in most boring band ever Archive, my final concert of the festival was Trentemøller. A quite famous Dane DJ, his music is a smart mix of dance-electro stuff with a huge 80’s post-punk influence as well (Cocteau Twins for instance). His show was great to end the festival and I could not stop smiling the whole concert. I highly recommend the last compilation he did for the LateNightTales series.

Great festival as always then and the fourth stage really brings something  and gives extra-choice, which makes the body more exhausted but the mind happier!

My top 5 of the festival: 1. Foo Fighters 2. The Horrors 3. Big Audio Dynamite 4. Death From Above 1979 5. Trentemøller

Next festival: Austin, Tx, USA for Austin City Limits ; see you soon!

Festival Rock en Seine 2011, Parc de Saint Cloud, My Day Two, 27th August

A few hours of sleep, the traditional Saturday morning running track of 11 kilometers, summary of Day One on the blog and here we are back at 2.45 pm sharp for Day Two!

And one of our favorite French bands of the last ten years to begin with. I would even say that describing Hushpuppies as a French band is a bit reductive as their mix of psychedelic, pop and kraut-influenced rock should make them much bigger than they are today. This is a band that took their times to improve with every LP and watching them live brings every time pleasure and excitement as their music is really made to be played on stage. Excellent show to begin the day. As a reminder, the drummer Franck is the owner of the nice Ground Zero records shop in Paris; go there and have a chat with him!

The path from the Main Stage to the new Pression Live stage is quite long (around 10 minutes) but is often a rewarding one. Gruff Rhys has always been one of our favorite artists either as leader of the mighty and creative Welsh band The Super Furry Animals or as a solo artist (cf. our best of lists of 2007 or 2009). He has a more pastoral vibe when he plays solo with a kind of folky-Brazilian sound but always with the lunacy for which he has been famous for. Nice end of the summer set with not one single second of aggressiveness but lots of end of the summer melodies to hum. And thanks for the Welsh song too!

I must admit I have not been listening for Blonde Redhead for many years and just discovered them around 2007 whereas they have been indie rock favorites for many years. They are a New York trio based on Italian twins on drums and bass and a singer with Japanese origins. Their music used to be quite noisy in the past but they have evolved towards a dreamy ethereal pop with which you are more comfortable to listening with headphones on your sofa rather than in the middle of an afternoon during a big festival. Not bad but I was expecting more.

Then came the last huge rain of the festival! Soaked to the skin, we tought it would be a good idea to see Mike Skinner and his band The Streets. Wrong! Let’s make thing clear now: The Streets made a decent album to start (“Original Pirate Material”) describing the life of British lads stuck between video games, fish and chips, fights at the pub and bad sex in night clubs. Interesting for one LP in a Ken Loach way but after that Mike Skinner went on doing four other albums in the same style. Live, their music is really a mix of the worst of both worlds: down to earth and not really talented musicians playing ugly soulless dance music. Mike Skinner wants to stop The Streets after his latest fifth LP and that is probably one of the best moves of his career.

Back to real stuff now with The Jim Jones Revue! An English band made out of former members of different a-bit-famous bands, they decided to revive rock from the late 50’s/early 60’s but with a modern and direct attitude. This gives a weird feeling when seeing them as if we had been fallen in a time machine. Although I would not spend hours at home listening to them, being in the audience when they are on stage was a funny experience. They really put their set on fire and got a well deserved round of applause. And what a nice rock’n’roll look too!

Always a pleasure to meet again Interpol, one of the most consistent band of the last ten years. As a reminder for those thinking about a spying story, Interpol are a NY band deeply influenced by 80’s post punk bands such as Joy Division or The Chameleons but with an undeniable American feeling. Their records are always more or less the same and they do not really have catchy melodies to sing in the shower but they play with such intensity that I always found their music fascinating. Even after the departure of original bass player Carlos Dengler they are still as intense as they were live playing song after song with a purpose…and always with class (always a good point in rock music!).

And now the thrill of the day! Death From Above 1979 were a very singular duo from Toronto with Jesse F. Keeler on bass and Sebastien Grainger on drums and vocals. They made only one LP in 2004 and split in 2006 basically as they were not getting on with each other anymore. They reformed this year for a few shows and I have read that apart from the pleasure of playing together their relationship is still tense to say the least… One can feel this tension in every track they play, in particular in the energy shown by Keeler who plays power chords on his bass like a lunatic (he literally was on fire after one very speed and heavy track) whereas Grainger hits his toms and cymbals like hell while singing. One amazing moment and a certain idea of my definition of music.

There are for sure worst ways to finish the day at a rock festival than seeing the Arctic Monkeys. The Sheffield band, led by Alex Turner (with a new Jim Jones Revue haircut!), internet sensation of a few years ago has aged (not sure this is the right word as the guys are 25!) very nicely, having done this year their 4th LP and not giving any sign of decrease in quality of their material. That was my 4th concert regarding them as well and they still have that punchy guitar sound which makes their audience and especially all those travelling British fans, jumping like crazy. The recent new songs were as good as the old ones live and I had forgotten how Matt Helders was a fantastic drummer. End of Day Two before ending day tomorrow Sunday!

Festival Rock en Seine 2011, Parc de Saint Cloud, My Day One, 26th August

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!

Everyone should own Roxy Music first five records / Roxy Music Rock en Seine Festival, August 2010, Saint Cloud / Bryan Ferry, 13th June 2011, Olympia, Paris.

Ladies and Gents, I envy you. Why? Because you either do not know at all Roxy Music or have a vague idea of tracks such as “More Than This” or “Dance Away” and will now enter a new music world! Early Roxy Music is to rock music what “Lost” or “Twin Peaks” are to series, that is to say a source of constant and never-ending joy.

It all began in the late 60’s/early 70’s where a young art student/music fan formed a band with the ambition of doing something traditional and new at the same time. There have been many different musicians in the band (what about the bass players that made them go away regularly?) but the legendary core members are : Andy Mackay (saxophone), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Paul Thompson (drums), Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, more commonly known as Brian Eno (keyboards) and of course Bryan Ferry as singer and leader.

The history of Roxy Music is quite simple to decipher: five A-MA-ZING records from 1972 to 1975, a three-year break that most fans thought as definite at the time and then three polished but nice to hear adult dance rock records from 1979 to 1982, a definite split in 1983 and a few reunion shows since the start of the 21st century.

Cover (Roxy Music:Roxy Music) Cover (For Your Pleasure:Roxy Music) Cover (Stranded:Roxy Music) Cover (Country Life:Roxy Music) Cover (Siren:Roxy Music) 

What makes these five 1972-1975 records so great?

  • The songs: Re-Make/Re-Model, Ladytron, Sea Breezes from “Roxy Music” (1972), Do The Strand, In Every Dream Home A Heartache, The Bogus Man from “For Your Pleasure” (1973), Just Like You, A Song For Europe, Mother of Pearl from “Stranded” (1973), The Thrill Of It All, All I Want Is You, Out Of The Blue from “Country Life” (1974) and Love Is The Drug, Both Ends Burning, Just Another High from “Siren” (1975). But believe me, it could be all of them as every song is a killer. 10/10 for the first three LP’s and 9.5/10 for the next two ones.
  • The musicians: with Clarence Clemons from Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band, Andy Mackay is for me the only other saxophone player able to integrate the instrument as a real component of a rock band like for instance guitar and the drums and not like an awful Adult Oriented Rock kind of thing. Phil Manzanera is a very inventive guitar player too but the real strength of the band has been the creation and tension between Bryan Ferry on voice and lyrics and Brian Eno on noise and keyboards. Brian Eno has always said that people put too much importance about his period in Roxy Music, that he only stayed for a couple of years (the first two LP’s) and that this was Bryan Ferry’s band overall. Probably but he brought to them and to the world of music in his subsequent role as producer a weirdness with sounds that was really new at the time (and still is…). And what a leader Bryan Ferry was: fantastic lyrics and such a voice, quite different from the crooner’s voice  described later by lazy critics.
  • The clothes, the looks, the glamorous side of the covers! I bought back in vinyls all LP’s to get these great ladies covers (Amanda Lear, Jerry Hall,…). For more about all these clothes, covers stories and the intense Roxy Music story, I strongly recommend the “More than this” DVD.

As all things eventually come for those who wait, I had the immense pleasure of seeing Roxy Music last year in Rock en Seine festival near Paris. Even though I had read good reviews of previous shows, I was of course a bit scary to see how they would play all these great songs live (and would they play them and not concentrate on the more famous late period for the French audience?). I must say that even with a few more wrinkles, Ferry/Manzanera/Mackay were on top form and on stage with younger musicians, therefore giving a great energy to the show.

Bryan Ferry did a very good solo album last year as well with many former Roxy Music partners, “Olympia” (8/10) and played the Olympia in Paris tonight amongst nine other musicians (including his son as one of the two drummers). Excellent show, with a good balance between “Olympia” tracks (You can dance, Alphaville), his elegant and classy late-night music (Slave to love, Boys and Girls, Don’t Stop the Dance), great covers (Like a Hurricane, I put a spell on you, What goes on) and rewarding us with a few Roxy Music songs (If there is a something, Love is the Drug). Here are a few pictures of both shows:

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