Rock en Seine

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Last week, for the first time ever, I went to Rock en Seine, the music festival that’s been held each of the past 6 years just outside of Paris. It’s so convenient, you can even go by metro, so that was good enough for me. I love the metro. The reason I hadn’t gone other years is that the program hasn’t always been all that great – even this year, it was just barely good enough (to me, personally) for me to get my tickets. Of course one of the deciding factors was the main headliner – Amy Winehouse, (to me, personally) the greatest woman singer since Janis Joplin, and like Janis, from all evidence, (though, I hope not) equally on the road towards – at least in the general direction of – self destruction. So I decided I should go while I had the chance. This was the first time I had been to a French rock festival, and I’ll admit I’m not much of an expert on even the American or British versions. I was too young for Woodstock, and since then I’ve been too far away for anything else, though I did manage to get over to England for the Reading Festival four years ago. Anyway, Rock en Seine was not like Reading. First of all, this year, exceptionally, it was not on three consecutive days. It started out on a Wednesday August 20th — then they gave you a whole week to recover, rest up, dry out, take a shower – even several showers! — change your socks…whatever – and it resumed Thursday the 28th. Now the overall line-up for the Wednesday concerts wasn’t really breathtaking, so I won’t even mention who was there, except the headliners, Rage Against the Machine. Apparently this was the only day they were available to come to Paris, so the organizers, made to solomonaically wise decision to stick on this festival day a week early – and not even on a weekend. Then they found a few acts to fill up the program to make it seem more like a festival, though it really wasn’t. Just an excuse to have a Rage concert under the auspices of Rock en Seine. As I said, a wise decision. You don’t know who Rage Against the Machine is? Very hard, very politically active. And very good. They had 30,000 people jumping, swaying, singing (even if they didn’t understand the words) together. But as I said, this was not so much a part of the festival as a Rage concert. Why wasn’t it the festival? Only one stage, and not enough crappy food. And it only started at 5:00 pm. No, it was just an outdoor concert with three opening acts. But it was definitely worth being there. So the real festival started a week later. We returned prepared, with cereal bars, bottled water and extra bottle caps in my back pack. The reason you have to take extra bottle caps to concerts in France (and maybe all over the world) is that they take the caps off before they let you in, and it’s very inconvenient to carry around a bottle of uncapped water. Why do they do this? They say it’s a question of security – so you won’t swallow the cap by accident when you take a drink. Or maybe it’s to sell wore drinks at the concession stands. I don’t know. So when you arrive, they take the tops off, throwing them in a dumpster (EVERYONE brings water) then you pass on and dig you extra caps out of the bottom of the back pack, and you’re set. And where are you set? In the Parc de Saint Cloud! Where French kings used to hunt deer, where there are lavish fountains and elaborate gardens. But we’re not visiting the park today, and our tickets don’t give us access to everything. You’ll have to visit the whole park and the forest of Saint Cloud another time. (And just so you know, it’s not pronounced “cloud” like those white, fluffy things up in the sky, it’s “clue,” — sort of – like in a Sherlock Holmes story.) Anyway, this was the real festival now. There were three stages. Two main ones and a side stage. The way it worked is there was a performance every 45 minutes on one of the main stages. The band had 40 minutes to play – with no encores – and the crowd had 5 minutes to walk or run or rumba to the other end of the festival grounds to hear the next band. And in between the two stages is where you can buy all the deep fried foods, the Greek sandwiches, the Ethiopian pizza. Or if you’re thirsty, you can have a Heineken. I didn’t count, but there must have been at least ten Heineken stands. Normally at rock festivals, there’s a nearby campground and a fairly large percentage of people who sleep there. Concerts may last till three a.m. at which time people stumble back to their tents and they wake up at one p.m. the next day when the acts start to go on again. But as I said, this is a metro festival. No camping. The last concert finishes around 11:30 so no one’s too rushed to get that last metro, so that everyone…
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