The Parc de St-Cloud, ready to receive the masses for the three-day rock festival.
The Day 1 Line-up (altered slightly from the published schedule):
Rock & Roll
Hey Hey My My
2 Many DJs
The Arcade Fire
The Festival Wine Bar.
And the Mint Tea stand…
New for 2007, the juice bar.
The paths are actually quite "solid"…it’s getting off the paths that gets messy…
So at least above the knees we all stayed dry. Below the knees, if you were smart, you had a pair of mud-encrusted rubber boots. If you were not smart, you had a pair of ruined shoes!
The most-coveted footwear of the weekend…
One of the fancier festival beer tents.
I arrived early enough to pick up my press badge and see one of the first bands, a French group called Rock & Roll (of course) on the smaller stage, Scène de la Cascade. Then I hiked all the way back across the park to the VIP/Media space behind the main stage to catch their interview with France 2 (one of the main French TV stations).
Rock & Roll open the festival at 3pm. Yes, Tambourine Man is wearing a silk dressing gown.
The VIP/Media section is covered in straw to absorb some of the mud, so it feels a bit like walking around in a barnyard, you expect to see pigs and sheep wandering around (yeah, yeah, no pun intended). Mostly it’s press, people who purchased VIP passes, PR people, and the various bands and their crew. Rock & Roll want to do their interview in their "loge", which is the Private Zone for the performers only. You need a different badge to get in there, which neither I nor the crew from France 2 have. "When you’re press, VIP stands for ‘Very Insignificant Person’" jokes the cameraman.
Rock & Roll with the France 2 crew in the VIP/Media barnyard…
But after some negotiations with the festival organizers and the guards, we’re finally ushered in for a quick interview. During which, in their sunglasses and skinny jeans, the musicians strike all the proper rock poses, even drinking directly from a bottle of Jack Daniels. I would laugh, except they can actually play decent music, so I try and maintain my serious, journalistic face.
In the "loge" with Rock & Roll.
After the interview, I try and pass OUT of the Private Zone back into the VIP/Media zone, and the guard, once again, won’t let me through. "You’ve got the wrong badge to be in here. You’ll have to leave." I patiently explain that he had just let me pass ten minutes earlier. "Ah, oui….okay." They take their job very seriously, I suppose to keep the stalkers out.
View from the VIP/Media section behind the main stage…the mini stage you see here is the set for Arté’s TV show about the festival (channel 5).
I then go to a proper press conference for Arcade Fire in the specially designated tent, open to all of the press. We’re herded in by the media organizer Sophie (aka She Who Grants the Badges) and take our seats. Before the band arrives through the back entrance of the tent, she warns all of us that if we try to exit that way and are caught in the Private Zone, she’ll take away our badges for the rest of the festival. We are also told that there’s no filming or photos, only sound can be recorded. Like I said, serious stuff. She leaves and three members of Arcade Fire arrive and sit down. They look a bit surprised by our group of 25-off journalists, as if they’ve never been to a press conference. No one says anything for a moment, and finally one of them asks, "Who’s in charge here?" "You are!" reply a few of us. "Okay…."
Arcade Fire disembarking at Rock-en-Seine. Yes, there are a lot of them!
They’re asked a few questions like, "Do you have any good souvenirs of your last concert at Rock-en-Seine?" (they played at Rock-en-Seine in 2005). They looked confused because the journalist is French and used the French word souvenir, which actually means "to remember" (used here to mean "memories") not souvenir as in the junk you buy at tourist shops. Of course they said they enjoyed it. Why the heck would they return if it was miserable?
The journalist from April77.fr asked a more esoteric question: "If you had a pocket gnome, what job would you have it take over for you, and what would you feed it?" Not strangely, they had a response. "We would have it do all of our press conferences. And feed it something cheap….like paper."
The VIP/Media circus tent. Somewhat appropriate, non?
And in the grand old tradition of Rock-en-Seine press conferences, I asked: "Do you have any favorite French rock bands?" They are the first band I interviewed who actually responded with not only a living band, but one that was at the festival. "We love Les Rita Mitsouko! But they play tomorrow and we’re going to Reading…we keep missing them." They also talked about looking forward to going home (they were almost done touring for the summer), and being sick of "the bass vibrating in your chest all day at these festivals." Indeed, another concert had begun on the main stage and we could barely hear each other anymore, so their PR person ended the conference and the journalists went back to the barnyard to hang out, eat, or listen to the music from the comfort of a reclining beach chair. There’s also a circus tent in the VIP/media section with wooden floors, two bars, and a big screen showing the concerts live on the large stage (in case you don’t feel like actually walking out into the muddy masses to watch it). I suspect some of the press never go into the public area.
Emilie Simon in her cute party dress.
After making sure I use the bathrooms here (which are obviously superior to the port-a-potties everyone else has to use) I wander back out into the mud to see the French singer Emily Simon (one of my favorite, but more alternative than rock) and the Shins. At 9:45pm Arcade Fire start their show. The sun has just set, and the cold sets in. We’re in a forest, after all, and everyone has wet, muddy feet. But the crowd is so dense in front of the stage that we manage to stay warm.
The Hives (as seen from inside the Circus Tent…I was resting my feet!)
There is a huge "moat" between the stage and the railing holding back the crowd, where the photographers set up camp between giant speaker towers. The space is so wide that if someone in the very front threw a water bottle, it has only a 50% chance of even making it to the stage. The crowd surfers get dumped into the moat and then physically escorted by the guards to the side of the crowd. No one makes it up onto the stage this year. The guards also yell at anyone sitting on shoulders, which is actually kinda nice (for the people behind).
Arcade Fire, looking very tiny through the lens of my cheap camera (and sound even worse recorded on it).
Arcade Fire put on a good show, much more polished than the last time they performed here. It ended at about 11:30pm, just in time for the masses to return to Paris by metro (unless you happen to be camping on-site, in which case you got to go see how much mud your tent had absorbed during the day). Back in the VIP/Media tent people were schmoozing and the French group Pravda (a male-female duo) played a live concert for the radio station Le Mouv’, who were broadcasting from a mini-studio on-site throughout the festival.
This year seems to have more public toilets than before (I only say this because it seems that there are fewer men peeing up against the fence), as well as the usual food and drink stands, various sponsors like SFR and Levi’s giving away prizes, and the recycling tent, where you get a free drink token with each bag full of plastic cups/bottles you collect.
An original way to avoid getting shoes wet.
The T-shirt stand.
Just say no…
The barman isn’t the only one at the festival dressed like a Pirate.
I saw at least a dozen military-inspired jackets…this guy had the pants, too.
It’s just a tad too reminiscent of my marching band days…
Coming next: the sun arrives for Day 2!