adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

Live Music in the South of France: Not Too Shabby At All

Seeing live music is important part of life for me and The Hub.  For God’s sake the man’s been to 108 Phish shows, 25 of which were in the last 2 years.  And the very first conversation we ever had was about a 2-day concert we both attended (before knowing each other), in which I walked 8 miles to get to the venue and then literally slept on a tarp in a field of mud.  But that’s a story for another time.

What I’m trying to say is, seeing live music is something we both go to great lengths to do – and doing it together is even more fun.  The first time The Hub and I ever hung out outside of work was at a Stephen Malkmus concert and our first date was a Les Claypool concert.  And we haven’t stopped seeing shows together since.  The Hub and I were lucky enough to live in a place where we could say, “why go on tour when the tour comes to us?”  Don’t get me wrong – we still travel to see shows quite a bit, but practically everyone plays in or around San Francisco so we always had a stellar line up of shows to choose from throughout the year.  So you can imagine our concern moving to a small city in the South of France.  Would that part of our lives be over?  Would bands we liked play near Montpellier?   I am very happy to report that the answers to those questions are “NO” and “YES.”  Within the first few weeks of moving to Montpellier, Cold War Kids and Akron/Family played at small venue in the city called The Rockstore.  Unfortunately we were traveling and moving and unable to make to either show, but it gave us hope that our first concerts in France were bound to happen very soon.

Then we met our next door neighbors:  Aileen and Arnaud.  They are awesome.  They love live music too.  And they have a car.  So not long after meeting them, we made plans to go to a few shows together, the first of which was a music festival near Perpignan called Les Déferlantes.

poster

We went on the last day of the 4-day festival when Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio would be playing.  I’m going to be honest, I kind of forget that it was a music festival and wasn’t really prepared for what I was getting myself into, but the whole experience was awesome.  First of all, the festival was at a vineyard.

the view on our walk up to the festival gates

Inside, past the Chateau, they had set up 2 stages next to each other.  And the way they organized this was genius:  a band would be playing on the first stage while the second stage was being set up for the next act.  When the band on the first stage had finished their set, the second stage was ready for the next band to start immediately.  It provided seamless transitions throughout the night and only a few minutes wait in between bands.  It was the most efficient and well organized event we’ve attended in France.  And trust me, that means something.

There were tons of different food, wine and beer stands set up among the trees.  But in true French fashion, you couldn’t use cash to purchase anything.  No, no, no – that would be too easy.  You had to purchase “déferloos” which were little tokens that you used to buy whatever you needed.

only the French would put a limit on how much money you could spend!

The music was fantastic!  The Vaccines were playing when we arrived and they were….loud.  Like, should have brought my earplugs loud.  Next was the Two Door Cinema Club, which I really enjoyed.  They’ll be playing at Lollapalooza this year and if anyone has the chance, I suggest checking them out.  Finally it was time for TV on the Radio.  I really love these guys and it was my first time seeing them live so I was very excited.  They did not disappoint!  They rocked the house and really got me pumped up for the rest of the festival.

the stage for TVOTR

TVOTR

Next was a AaRON.  A two man band that was a little weird, but kinda good.  Sometimes Bowie-ish, sometimes a little more modern, I didn’t love them, but I sort of like-liked them.  And after AaRON was Cali.  What a trip he was.  Cali is a 40-something year old guy from Perpignan who had a bunch of hits about 10 years ago and is still hanging on.  He was crazy.  During the first song he brought a girl up on stage with him and then crowd surfed.  I mean, where do you go from there?  He reminded us of Rex Manning from Empire Records or even Russell Brand’s character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall/Get Him to the Greek.  Totally eccentric and a little bizarre.  To me, he’s Bono in 5-10 years, but I guess that’s debatable if you like U2, which I don’t.

It was during Cali’s performance that it started to sprinkle.  The forecast had called for a 20% chance of rain but the storm had held out so far.  It had been so sunny and hot during that last week in Montpellier that it was hard to imagine rain or that a little rain would even bother us.  We had brought an umbrella, raincoat and hat with us to the festival and had decided to leave it in the car.  Folks, this proved to be a fatal error which you will soon see.

When Cali finally (and I mean finally) left the stage, the light rain stopped and Foals went on next.  I really liked these guys a lot.  They were sort of a mix of My Morning Jacket meets Sound Tribe Sector 9.  They played a rocking set that I almost didn’t want to end.  But I was very excited for the next act who took the stage at 12:30am:  Arcade Fire.  I’m sure you all know Arcade Fire.  You’ve probably already seen them live – we’d seen them 6 times by the time we got to Les Déferlantes.  But just in case you haven’t, you should know this:  they put on a GREAT show.  Lots of musicians on stage with a great presence, super high energy vibe and beautiful melodies.  I love them.  I knew I’d be seeing a great show.  But I had no idea what we were in store for.

Remember that rain I hinted at?  Well about 20 minutes after Arcade Fire took the stage, it started up again.  In buckets.  This was not the light rain that sprinkled down on us between the trees during Cali’s set.  This was a torrential downpour.  We kicked ourselves for not bringing our umbrella or at least the rain jacket (it was freezing!) At this point it was almost 1:00am and we’d been at the festival for nearly 8 hours.  The band knew how we were all feeling and they did what they could to make the best of the situation.  They played all the hits, taunting and summoning the rain.  They played louder.  Harder.  We all laughed and screamed.  At one point in the set, they broke into an instrumental “Singin’ in the Rain” that made everyone cheer.  Then the storm really started.  Thunder!  Lightening!  They broke into “Neighborhood #3  (Power Out)” and with every beat of the drum the rain seemed to come down harder and harder and harder!  The thunder crashed and the lightening streaked the sky and they just played louder and louder and louder!  We jumped!  We danced!  We laughed and screamed more!  Everyone was going crazy!  I get chills just thinking about it – it was so amazing.  We would not have been more wet if we had jumped in a pool and swam around for 8 hours.  We. Were. Soaked.  At this point we were at least able to realize that bringing the rain gear would have been futile.  It was no match for this storm.  And the storm was no match for this band.

before the storm

They completed their set stopping just before 2am, and I have to tell you, at that point, I was more than ready to start the 2 hour drive home.  As everyone was filing out of the venue, the rain suddenly stopped.  We were still sopping wet and very, very cold but just couldn’t stop laughing about the whole experience.  As we all walked out of the venue and we passed by the large Chateau, we heard yelling coming from the windows.  We looked up and there was the band right next to us, hanging out the windows and on roof waving and cheering at all of us as we left.  We all cheered back to them as Win waved his arms like a conductor and led everyone through the chorus of “Wake Up.”  Régine hung out the window taking pictures of all of us below.  I turned to Michael and said, “I can’t believe they are taking pictures of us.”  It made me so excited to think that this night was as incredible to them as it was to their fans.

a view of the chateau at night during the festival

us at the beginning of the evening…

…and at the end of the night

As if that experience was epic enough, last night we saw Portishead at the Arénes de Nimes, a Roman amphitheater built around 70 A.D.

Arénes de Nimes

Pretty awesome, huh?  The show was just as amazing as the theater.  I’m a little drained from re-living the whole Déferlantes experience, so The Hub is going to be telling you all about Portishead next week!  He requested another guest post and this topic seems the perfect choice for him.

Until next time!

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One Response to “Live Music in the South of France: Not Too Shabby At All”

  1. nate says:

    Sounds so awesome!! LOVE Arcade Fire live.

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