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We Love Green 2024 Justice credit We Love Green png 2

Justice and Peggy Gou reign at the climate-conscious We Love Green festival

07 June 2024, 12:00

Far from the bacchanalian paean to weed one might suspect it would be, We Love Green is a full-throttle embrace of climate action, where you can see some of the world’s biggest acts – sustainably. Alex Rigotti spends three days in Paris experiencing one of the most eco-concious festivals in the world.

When I last visited Paris in 2007 as a small child, two major cultural events took place: Marjane Sartrapi’s pivotal graphic novel Persepolis was adapted into an award-winning film, and Justice ushered in a gritty, sleazy wave of French electro house with their debut album, Cross.

It’s 2024 now. Films such as The Intouchables and Netflix shows like Lupin, both of which are helmed by actor Omar Sy, have shone a spotlight on Paris’ significant African diaspora (cheers, colonialism). Justice have released their fourth album Hyperdrama. In spite of the rise of the French far-right who try to deny the evolving nature of modern-day Paris, festivals like We Love Green are embracing this renewed identity to create a programme as multifaceted and as vivid as the city today.

The festival is held at the Bois de Vincennes, the largest public park in Paris. It’s roughly the size of London’s Richmond Park, except it’s much more gorgeously manicured thanks to the work of George-Eugène Haussmann, who was responsible for the city’s giant renovation from 1850-70s. Situated next to the Château de Vincennes, the preferred residence of French kings in the 14th-16th century, the taxi driver helpfully informs me it’s now a well-known hub for prostitution.

Stepping into the world of We Love Green, the programming does well to plant both feet in the Francosphere and Anglosphere. Unlike festivals like All Points East, who tend to split days into genres, We Love Green disperses their acts throughout so everyone gets a taste of French and international music, which makes for a very smart choice.

We Love Green 2024 Ninho credit We Love Green

There’s huge staples like Parisian Ninho, who recently sold out his concert at the 80,000-capacity Stade de France within 6 hours. His sound is indebted to the icy Atlanta trap scene, but Ninho puts his own stamp on the sound by incorporating raï, an Algerian folk genre which has since weaved its way into the French mainstream. I also catch a glimpse of Luidji, who hails from Vals-D’Oise just outside of Paris. His version of French hip hop is more melodic and soulful, but that doesn't stop him from serving up a dramatic guitar outro and flamethrowers to close his show.

Two of the three headliners are tailored to the modern French audience, the first of which is Burna Boy. His 2022 album Love, Damini was the highest-charting Afrobeats album in France at number 17. Given the rise of stars like Aya Nakamura, it makes total sense that Burna Boy is warmly received in Paris as well. His energy and charm is infectious, as he jumps madly at songs like "Location" and led crowd singalongs.

The other headliner for French festivalgoers is, of course, Justice, who play a riotous homecoming show which has the entire crowd jumping. Hyperdrama leans more into Justice’s darker, grittier side compared to the carefree cheese of songs like "D.A.N.C.E.", but both combine to create a continuous flow of growling basslines and pounding kicks, much to the joy of the audience.

We Love Green 2024 Burna Boy credit We Love Green
Burna Boy

If there’s one mark against Justice, it’s that it’s TOO SLOW. As someone whose brain has been corrupted by the break-neck speeds of hyperpop and glitchcore, I need something more stimulating. Cut to Anetha, who is waving the flag for French techno. Upon arrival at her set, it's like a breath of fresh air: 140bpm, at last! The Bordeaux DJ serves up the body-shaking, mind-erasing four-to-the-floor rhythms I am desperate for, and by the time her show ends at 1am, I am thoroughly, deliriously exhausted.

The festival makes a clever choice booking acts with crossover appeal like Kaytranada, who is a) Québécois, b) insanely charming, and c) one of the most popular DJs right now. Attending a Kaytranada show is the closest experience to a Michael Jackson show, if he was the King of Deep House instead. A single light switch elicits eruptions of cheers from the crowd, and even the cameraman gets rapturous applause from mistaken concertgoers. When Kaytranada finally appears, his insatiable blend of his own songs like "10%" and "You’re The One" prove to be a mighty success with the crowd.

In fact, that’s one of the great things about a medium-sized festival like We Love Green: you’re able to see some of the world’s biggest popstars up close and personal (if you’re willing to sacrifice a good half-hour of standing time, or if you’re just shameless about pushing). Troye Sivan graces the festival with his unabashedly horned-up celebration of queer joy. By now, he’s amassed an impressive roster of jubilant pop songs with chants engineered for maximum euphoria, and being surrounded by a crowd who know every word to Troye’s big hits is a huge, huge privilege.

We Love Green 2024 Four Tet credit We Love Green
Four Tet

We also catch a glimpse of grime legend Skepta – who turns out to be a fantastic house DJ – and Four Tet, whose selection is disappointingly more on the dull side. The festival also pulls in a heavy hitter in the form of amapiano star Uncle Waffles, whose radiant charisma and dancing skills help sway the crowd to her side.

Meanwhile, Chase and Status effortlessly blend a selection of high-energy jump-up cuts that keep the crowd on their toes all night. I’m personally more of a jungle snob and have always been skeptical of drum and bass, especially huge commercial acts like Chase and Status. But they’re royalty for a reason - there’s no time to think or dissect with the duo, and only time to survive the whirlwind of mosh pits that rage as MCs Irah and Takura rap their surprise comeback hit "Baddadan".

For many people who might have attended the festival for its dance acts, Peggy Gou functions as a headliner herself. The Korean DJ chooses a selection of summery house and techno hits, paired with her über-cute, psychedelic animations, which make for a fantastic close to the festival.

We Love Green 2024 Peggy Gou credit We Love Green
Peggy Gou

We Love Green is not only known for its impressive lineup – the festival is also deeply committed to rethinking how festivals engage in climate action. Remember, this is the place where the Paris Agreement originated: an international treaty signed by over 196 countries promising to pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

The festival took some admirable swings in its effort to be more sustainable. There are over 50 food stalls, curated by a jury led by Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse, all of which are completely vegetarian. The festival apparently made this switch at last year’s edition, where they claim they saw a “6-fold reduction in the carbon footprint associated with catering”. It also smashes the outdated idea that vegetarian food is boring, plain, and tasteless. From pasta to bao buns, ‘Afrocini’ (African arancini) to Tofu Korean ‘chicken’, there’s something for everybody in its food selection.

The other big problem with catering at festivals is, of course, the waste. For this, the festival implemented a deposit system, where you could take a nice sturdy container for your food instead of a flimsy cardboard plate, and receive money back when you returned it to the stall. The festival also has a ban on single-use plastic, meaning all the water bottles were cardboard (and hideously expensive at 4 euros for a small bottle - bring your own bottle to fill up water from the water points). Watching Troye Sivan take a swig from a cardboard bottle also tells me this policy goes for artists and crew as well.

We Love Green 2024 Food credit We Love Green

Not only that, it takes a giant risk with its toileting system, something which takes me aback at first. I have never encountered a female urinal, which I can only describe as a neon-green, V-shaped funnel. You throw out the paper in a separate receptacle afterwards, which creates two benefits: a) the urine is apparently turned into agricultural fertiliser, and b) you can avoid staring into the dreaded Pit Of Despair (if you’ve ever been to Reading Festival… you’ll know). Warning: V-shaped metal funnels are not ergonomically shaped for pretty much any human body, but I also wonder if that’s an incentive to cut long toileting queues.

If you do feel the need to proverbially drop the kids off at the pool, you’re actually more likely to drop them off at a sandpit at We Love Green. Head to the toilets, and you’ll grab a cup of woodchips to cover the children. Not only does it cut down on water use, the woodchips actually transform everything into compost!

The only issue I run into is that most of the festival talks about climate consciousness were are French. Given their lineup, We Love Green presents itself as an international festival, and unfortunately Duolingo French cannot keep up with the heady conversations that are going on at the Think Tank stage. But ultimately, We Love Green really does stand by its name: an impressive leader in the rise of eco-friendly festivals that encourages everyone to shimmy and sway, sustainably.

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