Les Eurockeennes de Belfort 2009: Rated!

Site du Malsaucy, Belfort, France - 3-5 July

Les Eurockeennes de Belfort 2009: Rated!

Tom Bentley on 11 July 2009

Overall – 8.5/10

A stunning site, pinpoint organisation and a mix of artists that satisfied even the most musically gluttonous of punters, Les Eurockéennes nailed it this summer. Maybe some of the acts didn't live up to their budding or established reputations, but this was counter-balanced by the surprises that others had in store for an audience that revelled in the heat of the eastern French summer.

Getting there and back – 9/10

The most effective French phrase would be “les doigts dans le nez” or “as easy as sticking your fingers up your nose” to us Anglophones. Driving down from Paris was a sinch, albeit expensive on the heavily tolled French motorways. Road signs were present in abundance a good 15km out from the festival site, facilitating car access to the major car parks and preventing any form of traffic jam. As always the SNCF (national rail network) were spot on with trains running from the French capital and the major cities around the host town of Belfort, including Basel/Mulhouse airport for travelling internationals. Once in Belfort, a special, hourly shuttle train was at hand to ferry punters to and from the site, just to the north of the town.
 
The site – 8/10

Jetting out on a peninsula between two lakes on the grounds of a huge leisure base, the Eurockéennes site was almost surrounded by water. It didn't cover a huge area but still provided plenty of space for all 35,000 daily visitors, avoiding the bottlenecks that occur at bigger gigs like Glastonbury. The main stage at the very top of the site – a perfect vantage point to survey the festival kingdom and hills beyond – shared the majority of big names with the Chapiteau (Big Top) which resided a little closer to water level. Hidden in the trees somewhere behind the main stage market stalls was Loggia, a haven for emerging musical sensations whilst the festival's fourth and most scenic stage could be found on the base's beach.

Music aside, the site offered up a boulevard of merchandise and artisan stalls, a variety of bars and a myriad of French culinary delights from the warming, alpine 'tartiflette' to the easy 2.50 Euro packaged sarnies – plenty of fuel for the campers to brave the 20-minute walk to the campsite if the buses were full.

Atmosphere – 8/10

Les Eurockéennes is a pilgrimage for many French punters, a rite of passage into the festival world. This made for a sun-drenched, beer fuelled weekend of celebrations as the young ushered in a long summer break and the slightly older revelled in a few days of freedom. When the French get the chance to let off steam, they shed the stereotypes for which they are renowned and party up hard with great spirit and camaraderie.

Music – 8/10

Some rockers, some ravers, some rappers and misbehavers. You'll have to excuse the rhyming on that one but the musical mix dished out during the weekend was of the highest standard. An international melange of metal, dance and world music was served up, coated in a French dressing of electro stars, hip-hoppers, pop royalty and lightly seasoned with a sprinkling of flamenco guitars and old-school reggae. Mwah, bootifull!

Uppers

The Prodigy – 9.5/10
The British trio carried on doing what they’ve been doing all summer long – pumping out the classics and the newbies with a force that wouldn’t be far off the top echelons of the Richter scale. At 40, they've still got it - the same frenetic energy that transpires from the stage to the very back of the arena. Drums flew everywhere, Keith soloed through ‘Firestarter’ and Maxim conjured up the circle pits for ‘Warrior Dance’ and ‘Omen’. ‘Outer Space’ capped off a monumental first day for Eurockeennes.

Yuksek – 9/10
The spangly French-man pulled off a monumental gig under the Big Top on the Saturday night, racing through an hour of the heaviest and dirtiest electro imaginable. ‘Tonight’ came down like a sledgehammer with the lyrics beamed out on giant beacons whilst ‘I Like To Play’ and 'Extraball' saw the masses deteriorate into chaos. Humbly asking the crowd who they'd liked best over the weekend, many retorted “you sir!”

Phoenix - 9/10
Phoenix have taken the pop-rock world by storm over the last few months and it’s hard to think they quite believe it themselves. Frontman Thomas Mars' bewildered face said it all as he peered over the waves of fans and crowd-surfers before him. The band deserved the attention though as they delivered an old school start to their set with blistering energy and a good spirited touch. 'Consolation Prizes' and 'Long Distance Call'  were the instigators and the likes of ‘Lisztomania’ and ‘Run Run Run’ made sure no respite was given. Phoenix are on their way to the top.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – 8/10
On the face of things Les Eurockéennes was missing a guitar god – that guy who drives the ladies wild as he contorts his face with the same amplitude as he does his strings. Fortunately, we were treated to two in one go. With originals 'Tamacun' and 'Diablo Rojo' as well as illustrious covers of Metallica and Led Zep, the Mexican duo strummed, shredded and beat the hell out of their guitars for a good hour in six-stringed heaven.

The Temper Trap – 8/10
Went from being the Saturday to a weekend revelation as their pulsating brand of atmospheric rock left a mark in eastern France. Jamming out at Loggia, the perfect venue for their mellow endeavours, the Melbourne four-piece (five on stage) set about capturing the attention of many a punter with stylish numbers 'Down River' and 'Sweet Disposition'. After an enthralling instrumental jam, the vocal heights of current single 'Science Of Fear' were met with rapturous applause as the sun began to set over a sea of satisfied, bobbing heads.

Cypress Hill - 7.5/10
The self-proclaimed ‘masters off marijuana’ were up to their age-old shenanigans as they filled in for the absent French hip-hop royals NTM. Punters were just as excited to see them on the bill and with tunes like ‘Insane In The Membrane’ and ‘How I Could Just Kill A Man’ their success was never in doubt. ‘Dr Greenthumb’ was ushered in with some classic weed fuelled banter whilst ‘Rock Superstar’ reminded us of their ability to dish out heavier things too.
 
Downers
 
Kanye West - 4/10
Yes, the guy has this global persona and yes he throws everything money can buy at his concerts but, I’m afraid, this doesn’t give his gigs any substance. This one was more a show for the O2 than a music festival headline set. It had naked ladies, stunning stage decorations, hits like ‘Touch The Sky’ and his undoubted showmanship. It also had the constant whine of vocoded singing, a lack of musical pedigree and the failure to show any respect for the audience. Say ‘bonjour’ next time Kanye, how hard can it be?

La Roux – 5/10
Tipped for greatness with tracks like ‘In For The Kill’, La Roux’s hotly anticipated set didn’t live up to expectations. The tunes may have been great but they sounded like exact, if not stripped down replicas of her album tracks. There were no variations or intricacies that usually make a live show unique. A bra was thrown on stage at one point, providing laughs and some timely support for a set that was a bit of a boob.

Passion Pit - 6/10
Again, another of the crop of electro-pop bands who were a tad flat live. Despite making their mark on the genre this year with single ‘I’ve Got Your Number’ in particular, the pit didn’t have a huge wow factor in Belfort. It might have been the time of night though, with with many in the audience crashing and burning.
 
Random Events

It was nice to see Glasvegas mixing it up with the crowd throughout Florence and The Machine’s cracking set at Loggia, though they didn’t mimic the African bands who marched their way through the press area, guitars and bongos in hand, to their press conferences.

On the food front, commendations have to be made to the stall with the Sunday discounts. At €3.50 per sandwich, €2.50 less than everywhere else, they deserved the attention they got on the last day. Maybe their manager could solve the recession for us?

Finally the most random and spectacular event was Didier Wampas’ pink trousered excursions into the crowd on top of a chair, whilst threatening to beat all the kids who touched his new shoes. Les Wampas front-man also claimed to have invented rock n roll especially for his loving minions. Brilliantly random.

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