Rock-en-Seine 2006 was pretty damned cool. Aside from the freak weather (ie sunny), the gorgeous setting at the St-Cloud park, and the awesome bands, I actually got to go! Usually getting a press pass isn’t too hard when you’ve actually written about an event. So I sent in my official request back in June, and watched as, in late July, the two-day passes and Saturday tickets had already sold out with no word about my status. I emailed the PR people and was told I’d know by the middle of August. Now, here’s something all of you should know for next year: you need to have a two-day pass if you want to get into the campsite. And you want to get into the campsite if you don’t want to be faced with one of the other two options:
– cram into the last metro at 12:30am (earlier if you need to change)
– stay sober and try to drive home through the immense traffic jam…the parking area closes at 12:30am, so no hanging around!
I did the camping thing last year, and with ear plugs and a warm blanket (the suburbs get chilly) it was actually okay. But it was already looking bad. About two weeks before the festival I got an email saying there was not enough room for all of the press, so I couldn’t come. Unless of course I wanted to buy a VIP pass for €85. Ha! There’s a reason press get in for free — we make peanuts. I mustered by best French and made my case, asking them to “reconsider”. Just when I had given up and waved my fist at the air cursing French rock, I got an email saying I could come, but without a guest. Woo hoo!
The Seine and the Parc de St-Cloud..the festival is at the base of the hills under the trees.
The all-important press pass…
Of course, I had to figure out how I was going to get home each night. The concerts end around midnight, but then there’s a party in the VIP tent. I must say, for all of you non-press people, that the €85 VIP pass is a pretty good deal. The VIP tent not only has two bars and a BBQ, there are also the VIP toilets, which are ten times better than port-a-potties, even if they still smell funny.
They put down straw to keep the damp ground from getting too muddy.
So of course I don’t want to have to rush back to the metro at midnight, so I decide to take my car and try to find parking outside the festival so I don’t have to leave by 12:30am. I missed most of the early bands on Friday while trawling for a parking space (finally found one at the top of the hill in St-Cloud…this is an easy half hour stroll to the main stage). On Saturday I had an ingenious plan. I actually went at noon and parked the car around the corner at Sèvres (which is on the VIP tent end of the immense Parc de St-Cloud), then went back home by metro and returned by metro later in the evening just as the Rakes were playing.
The Fontaine des Cascades…part of the pretty Parc de St-Cloud setting.
Here’s the main stage, the Grand Scène, just before Beck’s concert.
My favorite band of the festival was the Raconteurs, one of those rare groups who actually sound much better in person than on the radio. Morrissey was one of my favorite singers growing up, both with the Smiths and solo, so I was pretty jazzed to see him up close. Okay, he’s an old man, no way around that. But his voice is still excellent, and he’s actually pretty funny in front of a crowd for someone who’s supposed to be angstful (check out my mini videos below). Richard Ashcroft cancelled at the last minute, so he wasn’t there Friday, a bit of a disappointment, but these things happen at festivals.
Everyone gets a handy program at the door, and what looks like candy. But don’t eat them, they’re ear plugs. Très résponsable, non?
Afterwards I headed over to the VIP tent and spy a table where Jack White and Brendon Benson from the Raconteurs are drawing pictures of KISS bandmembers. It turns out to be part of an art project for Kolkoz, the French artistic duo made up of Benjamin Moreau and Samuel Boutruche, for the Frieze Art Fair in London this October (with the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin).
Not only is Brendan a snazzy dresser, he can also draw (that’s Jack on the left).
New for 2006: pick up a plastic bag at the Point Vert, fill it with used plastic cups, and exchange it for a free drink token. “It’s working a bit too well,” say the organizers. The grass seems a lot cleaner this year, that’s for sure.
On Saturday I watched Beck and his puppet show. By the time Radiohead came on, it was getting chilly and I was getting thirsty. Sick of being squashed next to people blowing their cigarette smoke in my face, I went and hung out on the hillside, sitting on my press kit because the ground was damp (beer or rain?). This year’s Rock-en-Seine wasn’t nearly as crazy as last year’s, when it seemed that every band had a mosh pit going. Not that I like getting trampled, either, but there’s just something wrong about sitting around at a rock concert. So after about five or six songs — Jeremy, I can already hear you screaming — I went back to the VIP tent to have a coffee (hey, I’m working — and driving — remember?) and sit on one of the chaise loungers, listening to Radiohead in the distance.
This being France, there are not only beer tents, but also a wine and Champagne tent.
There’s also mint tea. So civilized…
After Radiohead was finished everyone came flooding into the tent for the after party. I met Bruno from the group Neïmo (who I missed on Friday while driving around), Nicolas Ullmann from Le Paris-Paris, and an old friend Earl from the Shebeen Clandestine Bar up by Place du Contrescarpe (in the 5th). He was hanging out with the people at Le Mouv’, my favorite French radio station. Earl now manages a few local bands, who play live at the Shebeen. Even though I live ten minutes away, the last time I was there it was a sports bar full of rugby players.
Earl of the Shebeen, Lester Bangs (just kidding; it’s the cartoonist Luz from Charlie Hebdo), and Mc Fly from Le Mouv’ wearing the latest fashion.
So I went to check out the bar, and true to form it was packed full of rocker types, even a few well-known ones, at 2am…but my caffeine having worn well off by now, I headed back to my pad, remembering to remove my earplugs before crashing. So who will be at Rock-en-Seine next year????
Behind the scenes…the VIP tent.