This ‘Rock En Seine’ article was written by Joel Gehler, a GIGsoup contributor
Rock En Seine has now become one of the major dates in the European festival season. As its name suggests, the event is situated alongside the River Seine in the city of Paris and provides as a great example of a city-based festival that has been carried off extremely well. Every year Rock En Seine yields an eclectic line up of music, including some of the biggest names in music industry, at a great value for money (£85 for 3 days without camping, around £120 with camping included). It comes as no surprise that masses of Brits are seeing the light and taking off to France for a weekend of good weather (usually) and a strong line up that rivals many of the UK’s big festivals.
I kicked off proceedings on the Friday by catching The John Butler Trio play a blinding set on the main stage. The group managed to fill the large stage with ease with a sound that many bands twice their size would struggle to emulate. However, the real highlight arrived when John Butler treated the Parisian crowds to a stunning 12 minute rendition of his tour-de-force instrumental ‘Ocean’, transfixing the audience from start to finish. Shortly after, it was over to the fourth stage to watch a very impressive set from British newcomers Wolf Alice. The enduring hype surrounding the band becomes instantly appreciated with tracks like ‘Bros’ and ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ already calling to be festival anthems. Catfish and The Bottlemen carry on where Wolf Alice left off ,delivering an energetic set filled with fist pumping and singalong choruses. The set would be sure to convert any non-believers as ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Fallout’ perfectly demonstrate the impressive capabilities and prowess of the band. The only complaint to be had was with them finishing their set 15 minutes early ,leaving the ever growing crowd asking for more.
The Friday ultimately belonged to The Offspring – yeah, really! The godfathers of skater punk rock treated their set as if they were headlining the festival and received one of the best reactions of the weekend in return. The set was a real testament to the longevity and the prevailing relevance of The Offspring as the crowd was noticeably filled with people of all ages singing along to the likes of ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ and ‘Why Don’t You Get A Job’ with the same vigour as they did in the 90’s. Even though the band could easily pass off as a parody to themselves this far on in their career, the show was a triumph in every aspect and they ultimately put a one over on the headliners Kasabian who fell victim to a large drop off in crowd numbers as plenty of Parisians left early beaming after what they had just witnessed.
Saturday brought some of the finest contemporary British acts to the forefront of the festival starting with The Maccabees opening the main stage demark guitarwith their tra-driven indie. For them it proved business as usual and won over the crowd with ease. The set included a few songs from their new record ‘Marks To Prove It’ that fitted seamlessly alongside the rest of their output. The Maccabees are proving to be an ever improving live outfit and are proving consistenly popular along the festival circuit. Ben Howard endeavours to keep the momentum going – a task that ultimately proved to be difficult. After his disappointing Glastonbury set I had high hopes for him to come good here, but alas his set was heavily focussed on new material that just didn’t seem to work on the large stage. Not playing his biggest songs to a crowd this big proved to be a step in the wrong direction for Howard, especially for somebody trying to break the French market.
Later in the day it was up to the ever reliable Stereophonics to breathe some life back into the main stage. What began as a slow start culminated into a perfectly suited set for a festival with the band performing songs like ‘Just Looking’, ‘The Bartender And The Thief’ and ‘Dakota’. Then as the sun started to set, it was the time for heroes. The buzz around the festival site all day had been primarily directed at the upcoming headline set from The Libertines. From opener ‘Horrorshow’ right to the finishing notes of ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ this set contained everything you’d want from The Libertines – high energy, big singalongs and the potential for the whole thing to implode at any moment. The new songs sounded great live and they appear truly rejuvenated as a group.
Sunday was home to scorching temperatures and top class psych-rock. Australian outfit Pond set the tone for the day with a brilliant set of sun-drenched psychedelic rock that was seemingly designed for the 35°C heat. Over on the main stage My Morning Jacket brought a masterclass of a live show that reinforced their reputation as an overall fantastic live band. Later on in the day ‘Jungle’ pulled a much deserved crowd with a well-paced set that had everyone in the audience dancing without fail. The reaction to ‘Busy Earnin’’ proved immense and the band left the stage happy in the knowledge that they had conquered yet another festival stage this summer.
Tame Impala had proved to be the big pull of the day and the atmosphere before their set was electric. The wait was well and truly worth it as Kevin Parker’s group glided seamlessly through a perfect early evening set. New songs like ‘Let It Happen’, ‘Cause I’m A Man and ‘Eventually’ had just as many singing along as classics ‘Elephant’ and ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ – which exemplifies just how well received the new album ‘Currents’ has been. Tame Impala are making a great case to move into big leagues and to take the step up to festival headliner status.
Another band who is making this step themselves is Alt-J who also pulled in a large crowd for their second stage headline set. ‘Mathilda’ was greeted with an almighty singalong whilst ‘Left hand free’ was met with joyful abandon from the masses, showing just why the group are playing to bigger and bigger audiences around on an international scale. It was finally time to make a quick rush back to the main stage for The Chemical Brothers to close out the festival in style. With a combination of 20 years of dance classics and a mind blowing light show they made this rock crowd their own. As the lights went up it was nigh on impossible to spot someone without a big grin on their face after what proved to be easily one of the best sets of the weekend.
After three days of an eclectic line up of music and a great festival atmosphere in the heart of the city, Rock En Seine has shown that you can provide a world class festival experience at a very affordable price. Therefore if you fancy a change of scenery for festivals next year but don’t want to fork out too much for it, I would thoroughly recommend Rock En Seine as a first choice.