The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

Originally conceived as an AIDS awareness fundraiser, Solidays has evolved into one of the premier music festivals in France. Over 130,000 people poured into the famous Longchamps racecourse at the western edge of Paris during the three-day festival, say the organisers.
SolidaysFor those who arrived at the site entrance on Friday afternoon, it will come as a surprise to learn that the festival had organisers. No matter what time one landed in Longchamps that day, most people spent TWO HOURS in the queue to get in. A few people fainted in the warm sunshine and had to be treated by medics.
Still, those waiting were good-natured about the whole thing. How come there weren’t any quintessentially French protests and riots? Well, queuers were distracted by promotion staff lobbing brownies over the fence and into the crowd. Just like during Roman times, the mob were placated by bread and circuses. Voilà la France de Sarkozy.

Because of all the hold-ups, your blogger didn’t get to see one of our favourite new French bands, The Dodoz (not to be confused with their American near-namesakes The Dodos).

Worse still, another of our beloved Gallic bands, Cocoon, were drawn to play at the same time as Vampire Weekend. (Such scheduling dilemmas only happened to us, of course. Everyone else got to see all their favourite bands.)

Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend onstage at Solidays 2008 in ParisOn the logic that we could probably see the French band soon enough again, we went for the visiting group.

So, Vampire Weekend it was. And they were great. Remembering the dull muso-ness of The Shins live last year compared to their carefree record, we were wary of being disappointed. Fortunately, Vampire Weekend sound just as joyous on stage as on record.

Their world music rhythms were set off by the orange twilight streaming into the marquee. The dumb-fun refrains of ‘A-Punk’ and ‘One (Blake’s Got A New Face)’ added to the summer feeling of chill-out and kick-back. (Meanwhile, the 8 pm arrivals were still queuing up outside.)

And the band looked like they were having just as good a time. Without his guitar, with his wide-eyed enthusiasm and mop of tousled brown hair, singer Ezra Koenig (above left) looked like a young Bono. But with fun, like.
Post-midnight, Solidays would go all dancy. Friday night’s floor/field-filler was, of course, a French superstar DJ – Vitalic. Chassis-shaking bass-bin beats were the order of the night, and everything was going swell for the smooth-headed Dijon DJ.
VitalicThen something happened. Vitalic (right) decided to ease off the big beats, and he dropped a funky little bassline. The thousands gathered there suddenly turned on him. Boos, whistles, cat-calls, thumbs-down: we’ve seen and done it at football matches but it was our first experience of seeing a live performer seriously getting the bird. Perhaps festival audiences, wandering like window-shoppers from field to tent to back-of-lorry, are a more fickle bunch.
For a few moments Vitalic stared them down. The beat stayed funky, the bassline soulful. Then, without taking eye contact from the crowd, he reached for a fader and pulled down the funk. Back came the big beats for the rest of the night and everyone, DJ included, seemed to have a great time.

Your blogger, indie kid, enjoyed it greatly too. Not often at discos or places of dance, we remembered something that had struck us before: it’s so simple to lose yourself in beats and basslines. Rock is self-conscious: you listen to the words and make the world a better place. Pop has you look in the mirror to tart yourself up, and you’ll always catch a glimpse of something you don’t like.

But dance is simply the pleasure of rhythm, of primal jumping-around. With their African and West Indian beats, Vampire Weekend have hit upon the same idea. Sometimes life’s too good to go spoil it all by thinking.

Live at Solidays 2008 in Paris, here's Vampire Weekend rocking the marquee with 'A-Punk'. They even manage a few words en français too. Is there nothing this band can't do?

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Nuggets from our archive

2007 - REM live in the Olympia, by Michael O'Hara. Possibly the definitive review of any of REM's performances during their 2007 Olympia residency. Even the official REM website linked to it.