4-7 July, Belfort, France
There are a couple of things about Eurockeenes you notice straight off the bat: one of them is the beauty of the site, tucked away in a corner of the French countryside, a narrow green peninsula jutting out onto the picturesque Malsaucy lake. If that wasn’t impressive enough, it has a stage on a beach. You just don’t get (nor, probably, would you want) that at Glastonbury.
The other thing is that, unlike some major European festivals, it’s lineup is tailored more to local audiences than British ones. Which is presumably how Jamiroquai came to be headlining the main stage. The twat in the hat is, somewhat improbably, still enough of a big deal in Europe to play shows like this, and naturally, our interest is piqued: what does a Jamiroquai festival headline set look like? Will Jay Kay come out wearing a Gruffalo on his head? Will he perform the entire gig on a giant moving walkway? Will anyone stick around after he drops ‘Virtual Insanity’ four songs into the set? The answers are no, no and we don’t have a clue, because we don’t stick around to find out. Instead, we hightail it to the Las Plage stage for a Major Lazer beach party, where Diplo is zorbing, everyone is going batshit and they even sneak a few bars of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ into their schizophrenic, but hugely entertaining, set (It’s What Kurt Would Have Wanted, etc).
Matthew E. White’s psychedelic alt-country vibes ease us into a sweltering Friday, where a climactic ‘Brazos’ seems to take up about a third of his set and leaves us in a state of lingering bliss. How long does it linger? About an hour, which is when we head over to FIDLAR at Club Loggia. where Zac Carper’s crew sleaze things up a notch with a cheap beer-enabled set that’s totally electrifying, even if the crowd look a bit bemused.
Woodkid is a baroque-folk project from French director and designer Yoann Lemoine, and frankly, it’s just not our sort of thing at all: sonorous, self-important vocals atop a bed of bombastic, over-orchestrated production, a more-is-more approach which sadly does not extend to the quality of the songs. Instead, we head over to catch some of Danny Brown over on La Plage, which by this point is becoming our favourite festival stage, ever. After that, it’s The Smashing Pumpkins, whose headline set on the Grande Scene might best be described as ‘contractual’. They do, however, play ‘Disarm’ and ’1979’, so you can hardly accuse them of not keeping up their end of the bargain.
Saturday begins with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, looking and sounding as studiedly-cheerless as ever. For all their foibles (and a stubborn determination to stick to songs from the latter, less-impressive half of their career), we wouldn’t change them for the world. The heat must be getting to them, however, because Peter Hayes looks like a slowly-liquefying strawberry Calippo entombed in black denim. Shoulda brought your Bermuda shorts, Pete.
Another lot who don’t seem to be enjoying themselves are Dinosaur Jr, whose set on La Plage comes to an abrupt end halfway through their cover of The Cure’s ‘Just Like Heaven’, when Lou Barlow finally gives up trying to make his bass amp work. Up to that point, however, it’s magical: who knew Dinosaur Jr were so suited to beaches?
As the sun sets, Two Door Cinema Club’s ascent into the big leagues continues apace, despite being dull to the marrow of their bones. The crowd is huge (and hugely up for it), but they pale in comparison to Phoenix, who bring things to a close on the Grande Scene, on home turf and in imperious form, with frontman Thomas Mars surfing so far out into the crowd during ‘1901’, you wonder if they’re ever going to let him return to finish the song.
Sunday arrives and The Vaccines are an hour late to the stage. We assume this has something to do with the small matter of Andy Murray winning Wimbledon, but it turns out the truck carrying all their gear has gone AWOL, and they’ve had to borrow Palma Violets’. It should be a recipe for disaster, but instead, they deliver a loose, rowdy and ramshackle performance of the sort they haven’t since their days on the toilet circuit. Their rudimentary set-up can’t quite do justice to the complexities of new single ‘Melody Calling’, but the reductivist likes of ‘Wreckin’ Bar’ and ‘Blow It Up’ more than make up for that.
My Bloody Valentine’s gear, thankfully, made it here OK: here’s one band who couldn’t wing it on Palma Violets’ backline. Perhaps because we’re out in the open air, the volume doesn’t feel quite so punishing, but their ethereal drone is still utterly mesmerising; a spell only broken when the bugger up the start of ‘New You’, to ironic cheers from the crowd.
And so to Blur. The never-ending will-they-won’t-they surrounding their future may be getting tiresome, but as soon as ‘Girls & Boys’ slopes into life, it’s hard to feel cynical or jaded about it: so long as Blur are around, in whatever form they see fit, things are basically alright with the world. We’ve heard these songs – ‘End Of A Century’, ‘For Tomorrow’, ‘The Universal’, et al – a thousand times before, and frankly we could stand to hear them another hundred thousand times. By the end we’re a giddy, quivering, ecstatic wreck. Which is pretty much the best thing you can hope to be by the end of a festival, right?