Belfort is a city wedged into that north-eastern angle of la hexagone where France meets Germany and Switzerland.
Given its crossroads location, historically Belfort has found itself caught up in the Franco-German conflicts through the years. The infamous Maginot Line, supposedly defending the western front against a possible World War I, ran from near Belfort up to the Channel coast.
An earlier conflict, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1, inflicted a six-month siege on the city. Unlike in the siege of Paris, the defenders of Belfort won out. Their sacrifice is commemorated by a famous statue called the Lion Of Belfort made by Frederic Bartholdi, who went on to make the slightly-more-famous Statue Of Liberty. (Paris has scaled down replicas of both works.)
Today, Belfort is renowned for two music festivals. The FIMU (Festival International de Musique Universitaire), takes place in May and features the cream of student musicians from various genres and countries.
The other festival is Eurockeenes, arguably France's top summer event in terms of size and quality. This year's edition takes place on 4-6 July - the same weekend as two other big French jamborees; the Main Square Festival in Arras and Solidays in Paris. (Your blogger will most likely be at Solidays.)
Remember how we said that Belfort was a crossroads city? Well, where in the past that attracted armies, these days the invaders are road-tripping music fans from around Europe. We hear there's usually a fair-sized Irish contingent.
The line-up for this 20th edition of Eurockeennes (left, viewed from above) is fairly impressive. Friday 4 July features Massive Attack, The Gossip, dEUS, Cat Power, Calvin Harris and Biffy Clyro, amongst others.
Saturday 5 July stars CSS, Vampire Weekend, N*E*R*D, Sebastien Tellier, Camille, The Dø (France's big contenders for 2008) and The Wombats, plus loads more.
Finally, Sunday 6 July offers you Band Of Horses, MGMT, Seasick Steve, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Holy Fuck, Battles, Lykke Li, Girl Talk, Babyshambles (!!!) and Gnarls Barkley. In an act of kindness by the promoters, that last night's headliners (The Offspring, Moby) are rotten enough to allow you skip out early for the last train to the next stop on your Eurorail holiday.
A day at Eurockeennes costs you €40.50 and a weekend pass is only €90. To woo would-be Belfort-goers living in Paris, there's a special all-in bus + weekend pass for €166 (the bus leaves from Place Denfort Rochereau, home of the replica of the Lion of Belfort statue). Similar deals are available from most large French cities for much the same price.
You can book your ticket online at this page on the website of French usual outlet FNAC. As for getting there from outside France, Easyjet fly to Basel/Mulhouse Airport, 70km from Belfort (i.e. 30km closer than Beauvais is to Paris).
Full details on the line-up and the getting-there are available in English and French on the Eurockeennes website.
As we mentioned above, The Dø are poised to do well outside France in 2008, building on their Eurosonic appearance earlier this year. Their debut album, 'A Mouthful', is a charming mix of radio-friendly pop and alt-folk oddness. However, singer Olivia B. Merilahti's voice is a self-consciously quirky and whiny weapon of mass irritation. Judge for yourself; here's their big hit, 'On My Shoulders':