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Festival Review: Rock en Seine

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Last weekend saw the best of our generation’s rock talent come together in the French capital, with a little continental electro thrown in for good measure at the tenth anniversary of Rock en Seine.

Rock en SeineIt was a strange feeling, getting off the metro and walking along the manic main roads of Paris. It would have felt more like going to work than a festival were it not for the fact that the droves were in tour t-shirts, rather than suits with phones glued to ears. We gravitated towards an unassuming bridge, swigged the last of our €2 wine (when in Rome…) and ended up in a music-lovers’ haven in the midst of a metropolitan buzz.

It has to be said, the vibe was slightly different to the ‘bohemian’ way of life favoured at the British three-day parties. For one thing, they were giving out ear plugs. And people were using them. At just €49 for a day ticket (and €109 for the whole shebang), the festival attracted just as many city slickers popping along for one or two acts as it did real rock fans. 

Nevertheless, the festival’s tenth birthday line-up was seriously impressive for what would have otherwise been a low-key four-stage affair. 

We headed down for the Saturday sets, as London-based Toy off their Mary-Chain  influenced, expansive-indie show under the Parisian sun. Even the early evening slots were home to well-established bands, from Maximö Park to Temper Trap. 

For us Brits, though, Rock en Seine’s real selling point has to be its effortless inclusion of continental talent. The likes of Parisian ‘frantic pop’ group Hyphen Hyphen are relatively unknown to our shores, yet here fans abound and they put on a show that made us forget it was five in the afternoon. 

TNS favourites Caravan Palace graced the Cascade stage afterwards, but from eight onwards it was all about the Grand stage. The festival’s international atmosphere was the perfect setting for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, bringing the crowd together as they cracked out some of the old classics alongside Gallagher’s new material. This was closely followed by The Black Keys, who put on a well thought-out set. Original members Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney bulked up their sound with additional musicians, and stripped it back with reworked versions of their most popular tracks. 

It was a shame that the music ended an hour later with French electro DJ Agoria and Mark Lanegan Band’s gravelly tones: we were left wanting more. With a somewhat conservative capital as a venue, there was none of that after-dark magic that really polishes off the festival experience. 

That said, Rock en Seine has only just made it into double figures, and it has already mastered an expertly balanced line-up of rock with all its sub-genres, as well as European exclusives. It is expanding year on year, and it doesn’t look like it will be slowing down anytime soon.




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