A region famous for delicious cantal cheese, Volvic water and a rather impressive range of (apparently) dormant volcanoes (although one nice old lady I was chatting to told me they’re a bit livelier than people might think), it’s in Clermont-Ferrand that we find ourselves this weekend, heading to the annual celebration of European alternative music culture that is Europavox.
Friday is the first day of Europavox, providing a handful of specially selected acts before some of that famous French electro fills the evening air. It’s also the perfect time to explore the site, which turns out to be a very nice set up indeed. The event is based in and around the Cooperative de Mai, Clermont-Ferrand’s cultural hub and home to four of the festival’s stages, with two more stages placed in the tree lined courtyard and adjoining gardens. After travelling down from Paris, we arrive at night fall when the festival is already underway, so we rush over to catch Woodkid, who will open our musical Europavox experience.
Occupying La Cooperative de Mai is France’s Woodkid, a man who provides a tale of two sets tonight. The first half of his show is set at a slow, dark and dramatic pace, showcasing brass compositions, maudlin lighting and Woodkid himself, standing centre stage, waving his arms as if conducting the crowd. During the second half however, the tone lifts completely. Electronic beats are mingled with powerful thumps from two drummers, providing a sense of rhythmic symmetry and an almighty, booming bass tone. It’s during the latter half of the set that it feels as though Woodkid has managed to really connect with his audience, who are revelling in the dramatic rises and falls of tracks from album Run Boy Run. Woodkid is certainly at his best during this second half of the show, but that’s not to write off the power and intimacy of the slower tracks he chose to open with which, in the right time and setting, could have been equally as stirring as his heavier songs.
French duo The Shoes leave their guitars and indie-pop persuasion behind tonight, as they take to the decks to provide the Friday night party tunes. It’s a night of indie slanted electro that’s fired through the speakers, as the Parisian pair do what they do best – get a crowd going – and have a pretty good time themselves while doing it.
Making sure to arrive early for Saturday’s music, the artist that will commence our evening is Portugal’s We Trust, who entrances from the get-go with what We Trust mainman (and notable film maker, we might add) Andre Tentugal describes as ‘Free Pop’. Sweet and groove laden basslines are combined with tales of space and time, providing a bright and melodious introduction to the festival’s second day.
It’s already been well established that Django Django are an outstanding live band. Signed to French label Because, the band have worked and toured hard in France and have achieved an exceptional reputation as a result. So that’s perhaps how Django Django have come to find themselves on the immense stage of this daunting arena, the Forum, bringing their fusion of tropical melodies, ringing synths and hypnotic rhythms to this crowd of thousands. Rather than feel intimidated, the London based four-piece embrace the energy of their audience to provide one of the most captivating performances we’ve seen from the band yet.
France is traditionally best known (in wider circles) for producing two kinds of music: electro, and rap. We sampled some of the finer points of French electro last night, when dancing about the Palais Des Glaces for the packed out Shoes DJ set, so now it’s time for a bit of the latter. 1995 (pronounced un-neuf-neuf-cinq) are one of France’s most touted rap/hip-hop acts of the moment, hailing from Paris and gaining their reputation through a few key releases, but primarily, from their highly charged live performances. What’s impressive tonight is the use of vocal tone and harmonies within the spoken word, as the collective charge about the stage, stirring the crowd and dancing to their 90s tinged backing tracks. A highly enjoyable performance from the Parisians, who are ensuring that they keep that French rap crown polished and shined.
Next, we return to the Palais des Glaces, or the Spiegeltent as many a British festival goer will know it. A Classic Education from Bologna, Italy are already underway as we arrive in the packed tent, and we quickly see why. The stage is full of band members, spilling from the stage onto the dancefloor and emanating from the speakers is a lush, guitar and vocal led trail of melancholy and musings. The music is truly beautiful, hinting at influences from Arcade Fire and Beirut, with irresistible cadences backing sublime vocal harmonies. We’re just sorry we didn’t arrive on time to hear the whole thing, but from what we did hear, we can safely say that this young band were the unquestionable discovery of the weekend.
A Belgian act is the next to greet us, going by the name of BRNS and conjuring an engrossing blend of rousing beats, vocal repetitions and guitar led build ups and breakdowns. It’s a pretty inspiring mix that gets the crowd well and truly moving, as the four piece fire their way through their repertoire, with single ‘Mexico’ proving to be a particular hit. There’s dancing, jumping, consideration and nodding happening all at once in the Palais des Glaces when BRNS are on the stage, proving themselves to be an appealing live act as well as a rousing one on record.
One of the most highly anticipated acts of the weekend, for The Line of Best Fit anyway, Sun Glitters is charged with closing the club stage tonight. And what a party he provides. Completely entrancing, the Luxembourg-based producer is captivating as he leans over his host of equipment, mixing, producing and triggering his way to a euphoric set climax. It’s not always easy to transfer such ambient electronica to a live setting, but Sun Glitters manages it with ease, completely lost in the music himself, and inviting all spectators and listeners to join him and do the same. So we do, until the dying seconds of his set when we’re forced to come back to earth and get a bit of shut eye for the festival’s final day which is fast approaching.