Suddenly aware of how young the audience at the festival is, so spent 20 mins prior to Fleet Foxes taking pictures of anyone who looked vaguely over 50 so I could convince myself that I am not the oldest groover in Arras. Managed 4 photos. To be fair, they could all have been younger than me......
Fleet Foxes were nice, in an inoffensive, hippyish, Crosby Stills and Nash sort of way. We caught the end of Aloe Blacc's set before FF came on and wished we had seen more.
Wandered to the main stage, saw The National who were great but got the biggest cheers when they wheeled out a couple of Arcade Fire members to sing. And then Arcade Fire themselves. Somehow, we managed to get wedged behind the tallest man in the crowd, at least 7 foot, and spent the show peering round theside of him, but at least he was well into the band unlike the geek that barged his way in front of us then smoked non-stop and couldn't even be arsed to clap the band. Ooops, Victor Meldrew moment.....
Arcade Fire were 90 minutes of high-energy, relentless, thunderous assault and
battery, no let-up, spectacular sound and lights, all of which left us reeling and not wanting to see anything more because it could only have looked feeble in its wake. So Moby, it'll have to be another time then.
We tottered back to the hotel, somehow resisting the lure of the friteries along the route, despite the 10 hours since we had last eaten. I think this might catch on as a diet - eat a massive meal per day and then just keep topped up on beer. Wotcha reckon?
The morning chorus of the bloke with the caff in the square outside playing Blue Oyster Cult at 11 on the amp dial begins about 9. We break our fast - 20 hours without solids comes to an end with a plate full of crusty bread and croissants. Oh, yum....
Gorgeous day, wandered down to the park to read and laugh at the kids in the playground. A 2-year-old's tantrum sounds the same in French as in English, we discover. The temperature was steadily rising as we went into the old citadel where the festival is sited. This place intrigues me - what is it
used for? Obviously an old military establishment but no signs of army use now, and no clues what it might be used for. Although to be fair, 60-odd thousand (and here I am guessing) festival goers, 2 massive stages and about 50 beer and food tents do rather overwhelm everything else in the site.
Grabbed some interesting food - chilli made with sausages and served in a sort of thin Yorkshire pudding basket. Caught a bit of Rival Sons - I would put money down on their Dads having record collections dominated by Led Zep and Deep Purple, 'cos that what their kids sound like! Charles Bradley is a 62-year-old (see, at least one person there as old as me!) soul singer who only came on stage after his excellent band had done 3 warm-up numbers, told us all how much he loved us between every song and did an extended walk-about in the audience. He models himself on James Brown. Yeh OK, I think we worked that out.......
We were quite close to the stage and as we were watching him, we were aware of a lot of very miserable young girls in the audience, many of
whom were sitting down. Turns out they were just waiting there for the next act, Bruno Mars, and as Charles Bradley finished, we had to fight our way out against a tidal wave of 16-year-olds. Man, that was tough.......
Bruno was pretty good but was swamped out a lot of the time by the sound from the next stage - that's a problem with this festival, the 2 stages are too close and if one act is trying to do a quiet number, they can get drowned out by the noise next door.
Elbow were next up and were lovely - absolute total engagement with the audience who sang their hearts out to Guy Garvey's directions, and in return were told "you really are the most attractive nation - did you know that?" Which was met with a collective knowing smirk. Yeh Guy, they're French, they know exactly how attractive they are!
PJ Harvey got an enormous reception - I had no idea she was that big in France. Wrapped in a vast white dress and wearing a head-dress that looked like she had had a collision with a seagull in which the poor seagull had come
off worse, she was the complete opposite to Elbow, managing just a couple of shy smiles and merci beaucoups in her whole set. Despite that, and despite a lengthy change of instrument for virtually every song (she got through 2 autoharps and 3 guitars) which also involved her getting on her knees to fiddle with her foot-pedals, she played a powerful set to an appreciative audience but looked like she would be more at home in the Royal Festival Hall than a dusty square in France.
We had had enough by then really - Elaine sat and read a book in the tiny chill-out area, while I watched about 30 minutes of Portishead. They were even less engaging with the audience than PJ - Beth Gibbons wandering about the stage in a hoodie looking like a Mum about to pick up her kids from school and not a single word between songs. Great, moody atmospheric stuff but we wuz knackered and decided to toddle off. So, Coldplay (who were on last) - another time, another place. Maybe.....
We thought this new diet was going so well - one big meal, loads of beer, what could go wrong? The
friterie, that's what. Bought a massive mound of chips, smuggled them into the hotel and devoured them the moment we got in the room. Bloody lovely they were too.
Tomorrow, we leave the delights of The Hotel Moderne and Arras and head to Grandcamp-Maisy on the Normandy coast where we are doing a working holiday for the rest of the 2 weeks. Arras is great place even without the music festival. I've stopped here a couple of times previously, but only for a coffee as a break from the motorway to/from Calais. Having seen it up close, there's much more to it than the immense Grand Place (market square) and mooching round it on Saturday was good.
As for the next couple of weeks - no idea! We are going to a B&B run by a French lady who takes in helpers on the basis that you work 4-5 hours a day, and get bed and fed in return. Weekends off and the rest of the time is your own. This is part of the "out of the comfort zone" training.
Bet she doesn't get many of her helpers arriving in BMW sports cars!
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