“What the fuck is this bullshit?,” snarls IDLES frontman Joe Talbot as he glares and stomps down hard on the gangway plinth that leads out from the Scene Beauregard stage out into the crowd. Clearly not taken with any rock god tropes, he continues: “Fuck the ego. Fuck the phallus. We’re not here for us, we’re here for you.”
They are. It’s just moments into the first song before the band go sailing over the heads of security guards to eyeball their sweaty public as they kick up the dust on this scorching Normandie day. Whether howling for a little peace, love and understanding or handing over their guitars for hardcore fans to play, IDLES truly embody the local spirit of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.
“Merci beaucoup,” yells a humbled Talbot. “Thank you very much for making us feel safe and welcome in your country. Long live France and long live the European Union”. It’s a message that only whips up the fervour. Later, he adds: “This next song is a celebration of the best thing to happen to Britain: immigration – turning Britain, a horrible shithole, into a beautiful place. This song is called ‘Danny Ne-Fucking-Delko’.”
They chuck in a Yates’ late night karaoke medley of Prince’s ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes ‘Up Where We Belong’, before the whole unhinged affair comes to raucous punk full stop. At an IDLES show, there are no barriers, no pedestals, no borders, no rules. Just us.
The free an easy feeling permeates the whole day. France’s own Beach Youth kick off the afternoon a little earlier. Luckily, they have that summer breeze-y abandon to deserve their name. At times they have that jangle-indie freneticism of early Strokes and Arctic Monkeys, others they’re a Phoenix-meets-Friendly-Fires-esque Euro disco, the closer has the short-sharp gut punch of The Rapture. Either way, drench it all in some hazy, hazy, hazy melodies and it makes for something pretty lovely.
Over on the Scene John stage shortly after , Clara Lucianai pulls the first huge crowd of the weekend and makes for one of our favourite discoveries. Her sound meanders between searing desert rock to pure disco bops via some heavy-hearted sultry ballads and a post-rock breakdown or two. Intriguing, eh? We’ll soon be exploring more when we’re back to post-festival reality.
From afar we see the masses gather and lose their minds to French rap collective Columbine and Belgian hip-hop heart-throb Romeo Elvis. We’ve no idea what’s going on, but they both inspire some pretty feral circle pits and the younger elements of the Beauregard crowd go totally nuts for these genre-smashing sermons of rap theatre (both acts bring bikes on stage for some reason. Why not?).
While Ben Harper jams his way into the sunset with all the mères and pères, everyone else in a flowery shirt and backwards cap flocks to get a spot to see their Slacker King Mac DeMarco. Aside from impressive microphone juggling and an failed attempt to blow-up an inflatable alien, DeMarco relents on the goofy antics and just chills his way through 14 laissez-faire gems. Tonight, he’s as classy as he is daft.
“We don’t need language,” squawks The Hives frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist as the evening winds down. “All we need is ‘YEAH’. Can you say ‘YEAAAH’?” While the Swede indie lord’s French skills prove mighty impressive, he’s right in that nothing else really matters when your band’s one and only mission is to have a good time, all the time.
You may think their sound a little dated some 17 years after a re-release of ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ saw them become an international sensation, but the showman in Almqvist doesn’t seem to have felt the ravages of time, nor has the band’s sharp-but-dumb but energy. “Does my hair look good?” Pelle coyly asks, dragging a comb through his quiff. “It’s hard to look this good and rock this hard”. What a card. At one point, the usual festival chant of the riff from The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ kicks up. “I’ll let Jack you know said ‘Hi’,” he replies, unfazed.
“How do you feel about one more?” Pelle asks. “How do you feel about two more? How do you feel about 100 more? Alright, we are gonna play 100 more songs”. They don’t, but they make the closer ‘Tick Tick Boom’ last for as long as good taste allows. On his call and our response, a long to and fro of ‘YEAH’ rings into the night. We didn’t need language. We just needed to shut off all the horror elsewhere and have a little fun.
Festival Beauregard concludes this evening with performances from Cat Power, Interpol, Tears For Fears, a Disclosure DJ Set and many more.