Eurockéennes 2014

4th - 6th July 2014

The downpour makes it hard to tell which football-shirt wearing punters are crying, as opposed to those who are just drenched.

Fat White Family kick off proceedings on Friday evening, and it is raucous, messy and incredibly deranged from start to finish. The band appear absolutely smashed out of their minds. Although frontman Lias Saoudi stops short of total nudity, he spends a large majority of the set parading across the stage in his boxers, performing questionable takes on jazz shoulder shimmies while his bandmates lumber around with the focus of small children in forced attendance at a Rococo pottery museum. Fat White Family are disgusting, bewildering, and oddly transfixing, all at the same time. Temples act as a calming antithesis over on the festival’s beach stage, and pounding set stand-out, ‘Shelter Song’ is also an omen for the gigantic grey clouds looming overhead. Soon an electrical storm is in full swing. The French have also just lost their World Cup game, and the downpour makes it hard to tell which football-shirt wearing punters are crying, as opposed to those who are just drenched.

The torrential volumes of water crashing down from the sky don’t dampen Pixies, though. Paz Lenchantin, Kim Deal’s second replacement, is having a whale of a time on stage, and meanwhile Black Francis is his usual self, gravelling his way through the band’s new material with little time reserved for pleasantries or small talk. It’s when Pixies get to their classics, though, that they become legends; the sight of thousands of festival-goers howling ‘Debaser’ and ‘Where Is My Mind’ from beneath umbrellas is something to behold. There is a mass exodus towards Metronomy next, with material from ‘The English Riviera’ being a particularly apt fit for today’s extremely British display of weather. ‘Love Letters’ doesn’t quite dry sopping wet anoraks, but the beautifully melancholy orchestral introduction giving way to a stomping piano riff is the moment of the evening. It’s ‘The Look’, though that really animates Eurockéennes tonight.

Eurockéennes 2014

Saturday brings sunshine, along with JUNGLE; a band so immediately likeable that their greatness smacks in the proverbial gob like a first time tasting halloumi. Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland – aka.’J’ and ‘T’ – are excitable and full with cries of “merci” and “ça va, Belfort?” today. They’re also in awe of their setting on a “fucking beach!” and in response, said beach is absolutely rammed, reaching a peak during ‘Busy Earnin’. Tasked with winding La Plage down from the excitement is Cashmere Cat, who soundtracks a humid dusk and the occasional floundering pedalo on the water behind the jetty-like stage perfectly.

It’s M.I.A who dominates Saturday night, though. With her impressive rig of intricate neon lights in tow, along with several dancers who appear to have the stamina of Duracell bunnies, it is a show that she puts on, indeed. The sheer spectacle of it all works seamlessly alongside the monumental and unbeatable ‘Sunshowers’ and ‘Boyz’, and for the most part Maya Arulpragasam is absolutely electric. Nobody makes music, or does a live show, quite like M.I.A.

Sunday starts up with Biffy Clyro, and it’s immediately apparent that making the step and headlining Reading last year has given the band a huge spoon-full of special essence. Whatever they’ve gobbled down and taken to the stage today, the crowds are monumental, and so are the guitar riffs; not even a spontaneous downpour can drive anybody away from ‘That Golden Rule’. Top Dawg Entertainment’s Schoolboy Q, meanwhile, wins the coveted prize for most excitable crowd – the rabble assembled on the beach for his set are the sort that would probably prompt Dolly Parton to exclaim “oh gee, aren’t you rowdy” and actually mean it. Not only do the audience apparently know every single word to every Schoolboy song, but they’re also up on every bar of label-mate Kendrick Lamar’s ‘m.A.A.d City’ and there’s more surfing going on in the thronging crowd than there is anywhere near the water.

Swedish oddball outfit Goat are totally transfixing, and the two masked singers pounce and leap across the stage wielding percussion with vigour, raising the fairly small crowd gathered into a hypnotic frenzy. The crowd grows in number and energy, along with the layers of psychedelic madness that keep building on-stage, and songs spiral on and on, melting into one another like magnetic space-sorbet.

Robert Plant, meanwhile, lacks any of the sensational space shifting that his backing band's name promises, and spends most of the time telling drawn out stories about obscure World musicians that changed his life, repeatedly pointing out that his backing band are playing “samplers, keys, everything under the sun”. The combination of a language barrier and endless interludes for jazzy noodling are making the crowd very restless. Plant’s set only really picks up for Led Zeppelin classic ‘Whole Lotta Love’.

Over on La Plage, SBTRKT is throwing down jazzy shapes of an entirely different kind. Since transitioning from single decks to a full live band, his music seems to have come alive in a different way. ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Hold On’ pack just as much of a punch, but they sound more nuanced and tangible. Combine this with a huge inflatable baboon-like animal lit up in red and blue, looming over the band like a guardian of electronica, and it’s a complete treat both sonically and visually.

Closing up Eurockéenes is a duty left to The Black Keys, and with a huge assembly of mirrors and a baroque curtain to boot, they’ve certainly taken the idea of a grand finale literally. ‘Gold On The Ceiling’, ‘Howlin’ For You’ and ‘Tighten Up’ prompt mass sing-alongs, and other material…not so much. Dan Auerbach asks the crowd to sing along to words that they quite bluntly don’t know, and it comes across as presumptive and slightly irritating. Big, brash, and good fun, The Black Keys only lack one thing as headliners, and it’s lasting substance that captures attention beyond the big hits.

Tags: Pixies, Eurockéennes, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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