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Festival Review: 'Eurockeeness' by Jareh Das

The international rock festival the Eurockeennes has been taking place on the peninsula of Malsaucy near Belfort, France since 1989. It’s one France's most popular festivals due to its diverse range of artists and penchant for showcasing International talent alongside home-grown French artists over the course of the weekend. The festival appeals to music fans of all ages and genres due to its diversity. Headliners for 2009 included Slipknot, Yuksek, Kanye West, Phoenix, Prodigy as well as Nneka, Tinariwen,The Kills, Slimy, Birdy Nam Nam, Rodrigo Y Gabriela to name a few.

Diary of Eurockeeness 2009
Day 1

Eurockeeness 2009 started with a very early morning trip to Basel, Switzerland that interestingly enough has separate Swiss and French exits. Weird huh? Then an hour drive back into France to the town of Belfort located on the Savoureuse, on the strategically important natural route between the Rhine and the Rhône. Belfort is twinned by Stafford (i.e. it's the Stafford of France, just in case you were wondering. Charming). We were driven by a very nice French chap in a very nice Peugeot straight to the festival site where we arranged to meet with festival organiser and hosts for the weekend. Surprisingly all was calm and serene back stage and in the press area, even though the festival was only a few hours away.

We sat down for a bite waiting to be taken to our accommodation Lycee Agricol, whilst listening to Karen O sound checking on stage (sounded much better than her festival set by the way). A few hours later we arrive at our Lycee home for the next few days and decide to power nap (on the smallest single bed imaginable) and hit the festival later on (8pm to be exact). The walk to the festival was pretty scenic, cows, grass, quaint house but alas the closer we get; what can only be described as french drunken chavs(they are universal not just in England) cross our paths screaming in French and drinking their weight in alcohol right up to the entrance. It seemed like these guys had been going mental for days but surely the festival had only been going for four hours? We waltzed into the site standing out like a sore thumb as we were a) very sober and b) can't speak French ( the walk down was spent memorising the phrase "Je ne parle pas Francais").

Next to the entrance was a pumping micro Reggae stage (many a nights were spent here at the end of each day's session but I'll come back tot his), the Plague (beach) stage, Chapteau Stage, Grand Scene (main) Stage and a food (mainly crepes and kebabs) and bourbon extravaganza (pick n mix stalls). Having scoured the schedule we catch the last of a not so great Yeah Yeah Yeah's set (Karen O sounded full of flu) miss Hockey (boo) and Alela Diane as we want to get a great spot for Cypress Hill. They looked good for a bunch of old timers and really got the crowd going with hit after hits like "The Funky Cypress Hill Shit", "The Phuncky Feel One" and "Latin Lingo" to name a few. Cypress had good banter with the crowd during tracks but all good things must come to and so hit The Kills nearby on Chapteau. Prior to the band coming on the crowd is going insane chanting 'LIBERER BOB L'EPONGE' and 'BOB L'EPONGE LIBERE'? Initially I just thought, OK, Sponge Bob is kinda major worldwide right? But then upon closer inspection, I notice three inflatable Bob's on the roof of the marquee. A bunch of strapping lads next to us spot a girl holding an inflatable Bob and start screaming at here to liberate Sponge Bob she resists and they eventually convince her and she lets go...The packed out tent erupts in applaud (all of this excitement before the band come on, darn they better rock this gig). Alison and Jamie finally grace the stage and belt out “Ur A Fever” as well as “Sour Cherry”, “Superstition”, “Fuck the People” (by far the finest Kills song to date) and the resplendent “Fried My Little Brains”. Alison is looking amazing as always and these two have such an electrifying chemistry, it makes them riveting to watch regardless of whether you're an avid fan or not.

Exhaustion kicks in whist watching the beginnings of The Prodigy and debating waiting up for Diplo That's it, matchstick eyes indicate it's time to turn in and retreat to the Lycee. I'm coming back much earlier as bigger 'n' better line up in store for Day 2.

Day 2

After a lie in, a few hours to kill before fest, a spot of lunch and some shopping in Belfort city center seems fair play as there are free trains are running from the town directly to the festival site. We approach the packed out station, manage to get seats and board the fifteen or so minute ride to the site. This must be the scenic route, as I didn't notice how gorgeous the surrounding area and lakes were ( albeit all the boys pissing in it!). Enroute we get into a bit of broken-French banter with fellow festival goers and arrive on site to catch the last of PBJ (Peter, Bjorn & John) set. It was quite but the same old really (seen them once seen it all no offence chaps, I do actually heart you guys!), moving on to the beach stage (which has the best artists on today, in my opinion) to catch the melodic sounding Danish electro-pop group The Asteriods Galaxy Tour. Singer Mette belts out "The Sun Ain't Shining No More" (it was shinning loads though) and "Around the Bend" (of Apple ipod commercial fame) full of energy and keeps asking how the crowd are doing (awwwwh). Next up was Tricky (topless as usual swoon) bringing that fab Trip-Hop feeling back to the fest. He's such a great showman, literally lighting up the stage with his charisma, banter and having recently moved to Paris, he had a lot of love for the French crowd and suffice to say they had a lot of reciprocal feelings for their newly adopted Englishman. Tricky had to be cut short as I fancied checking out La Roux as I've been quite intrigued by the quiffed one for a while. She was on top form skipping about stage (quif firmly in place, it's like a sculpture!) and generally having a great time with it. Her songs were a bit samey, catchy electro-riff pop but mildly inoffensive at the time. I hang around as next up is Nneka. I've been dying to see Nneka live ever since a music supremo recommended I check her out on myspace a few months back.

The crowds are amassing to witness Nigerian born, Germany based songstress as swaggers unto stage to a huge cheer. She greets her audience warmly and launches into "Africans" a soulful ode to Africans resentment of colonialism. Next up is "Heartbeat" which is more of an R n B number reminiscent of Laury Hill's early Fugees melodies. Before she performs catchy single "Kangpe" she makes her views clear about the exploitations by the rich over the poor to the delight of her audience. Her whole set was mind blowing and engaging as well as some typical Nigerian humour and wit thrown in. I had seen my act of the weekend and was so pleased she had one of the biggest audiences at Belfort. I was on a high after Nneka but determined to see more bands so caught the end of Peter Doherty's set (yes he turned up and I was informed played a blinding set) as he performed the beautiful "Last of the English Roses" (is this a song about Moss?), as lovely as he sounded I really wanted to get a great spot for Mr West so off it was to the Grand Scene stage. Mirror balled backdrop, Pugh attired backing singers but Kanye was fairly modestly dressed and kicks off with “Amazing”. It's so weird hearing Mr West sing as oppose to rap, he returns to form on hits "Jesus Walks" & "Gold Digger" but then on "Say You Will" (one of the better ballads from 808s & Heartbreak) as nude girls spray painted in gold kneel and look up at him as he sings (they shimmied around pointlessly as he performed).

The whole performance was pretty average not as amazing as expected so I
tried to run across the stage to catch the end of Passion Pit but failed gutted.
Final acts of the night are a choice of Birdy Nam Nam, Yuksek & Friendly Fires. I catch a bit of Yuksek (he's super cute) which is a wee bit too heavy and mental so head on the Friendly Fires, who had no audience (apparently they offended the crowd earlier on so they left). The sound was pretty flat so after a few songs and a really poor performance of “Jump in the Pool” it was off too bed (via some drum and bass on micro Reggae stage) and ready for the final day.

Day 3

Final day starts off with the delightful Mexican duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela on Grand Scene. I'm not usually into this style of music but having interviewed these guys a few years back, I completely love their fusion of flamenco/rock, free of vocals an literally going insane on traditional Spanish guitars. Rodrigo breaks into MJ's 'Beat It' mid strumming (the crowd go wild) and carries on a rapturous guitar/drum fusion that makes you wanna break into an uncontrollably dance sequence ( a few people around did). There's a bit of Glasvegas (literally one song I didn't know) to kill time before Florence + The Machine but mid set, I decide to go for a boat ride and listen to the rest of the set from the lake and it was off to see Flo. There not really anyone at Loggia and I'm thinking...she really should have a bigger stage? This soon packs out and the ethereal Ms Welch skips onto stage (in the most beautiful dress and gold sequin shorts) has a bit of a banter before she begins her set with “Dog Days Are Over”. I knew she was going to be great but I was a bit blown away by how amazing and powerful her vocal range is (whilst energetically running up and down the stage) as she performs "Cosmic Love" (or the slow one as she calls it) and “Howl”. Hit after Hit and a "Kiss With A Fist", Welch has a tremendous response here and really enjoys performing as she ends with warm hearted thank yous. I'm sold and could not wait to listen to Lungs in full. I get distracted chatting to people post Florence,

I miss Slimmy aka French Mika (guess I didn't miss much) and it's a no brainer seeing Tinariwen over Charlie Winston (sorry, I do know how good he is). Tinariwen play as the sun sets, it's music that so aptly suits this picturesque beach/lake setting. The guys are so appreciateive and keep asking the crowd (in French) if they are having a good time. Tinariwen's influences are of nomadic Saharan origins and they are supposedly the first Tuareg band to use electric guitars. The look thrilled to be here and one of the band has a huge grin whilst cajoling the crowd to dance to tracks of their "Amassakoul" and new album "Imidiwan". The final headliner of the weekend.....wait for it.....Slipknot! All of Eurockeeness descends onto the main stage, it's a sea of 80,000 people brandishing the rock sign in the air, it's magical. Although I care little for this band, earlier in the day they came across rather well at their press conference (as opposed to West who cancelled) and really were ready to tear it up in Belfort tonight. The mosh wasn't as chaotic as expected but you have ot give them credit for playing a two hour energetic set whilst strapped into face muzzles! I had no
time to catch Laurent Garnier as flight leaves in a few hours so it's "Au Revior Eurockennes a bientot"....

Eurockness may not be as big as it's English counterpart Glastonbury, but certainly feels less corporate, is less expensive, guaranteed scorching temperatures and skinny dipping in the numerous lakes surrounding (if you so desire) comes inclusive of your ticket price. The crowd is young, up for a party and boy do the French know how to party. If you, like me are off over priced English festivals, why not up and join me at Eurockeeness 2010.

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