Text and Photos by Camille Malmquist of Croque-Camille
Outdoor music festivals usually make me cranky. It’s hot, there are too many people, pushing, trying to get five inches closer to the stage than you are. Every time I go to one, I swear off them forever, promising myself that the next time I want to see a band, I’ll spend the cash on good seats in a smaller venue.
Under one of the tents at Solidays
I’m happy to report that this was not the case with Solidays. Frankly, it was kind of a recipe for disaster - I was going by myself, it was one of the hottest days so far this year, I’d only really heard of one of the musical acts – and yet, when Heather presented me with the opportunity to have a press pass for a day, I couldn’t say no.
I arrived at the Hippodrome de Longchamp hot and thirsty. After walking halfway around the horse track to go in via the press entrance, I was already starting to get annoyed. At least there was no line at the first bar I found, and a cold beer cost a merciful 3 euros, plus a 1 euro deposit on the cup. Bonus points for eco-consciousness!
Oxmo Puccino, a French rapper with a rocking backup band and a smooth, early Biggie sort of sound, was the main reason I was out there, and I just so happened to arrive about a half an hour before his set. Score! As he took the stage, he gave the audience a gentlemanly bow. After a couple of songs, he announced, “Je suis joyeux, et vous allez en profiter!” before launching into “365 jours,” probably his best-known song, at least among the FIP-listening set. He kept the crowd engaged with lots of call-and-response bits, which made for a fun show. But the sun was blazing, and watching the shoulders of the girls in front of me get redder, I knew I would have to find some shade. Soon.
Fortunately, Heather had given me a mission: check out the booths in the Village Solidarité, which was under a big tent. I was not the only one seeking refuge in the shade, though. When I finally got through the crowd and into the tent, the first thing I saw was the end of an impromptu wedding between two men, being officiated by a man in a garish hot pink nun’s habit. It was the booth for Les Soeurs de la Perpétuelle Indulgence, who were giving a “mass” later that I did not want to miss.
Inside the Village Solidarité
The Village Solidarité is kind of the raison d’être for the Solidays festival. Over 100 organizations, from Amnesty International to the World Wildlife fund, had booths set up with volunteers giving out information and engaging festival-goers with Wheel-of-Fortune and Kiddie Pool Fishing games. The idea is to raise awareness and hopefully incite people to action. The grand majority of the booths were aimed at AIDS awareness, sexual education, and condom promotion. There were several each of aid to Africa (food, medicine, and humanitarian) and anti-hate (racism, sexism, homophobia). Greenpeace had a large section dedicated to the eradication of genetically modified food, but environmental causes were by far a minority. Still, the festival as a whole really makes an effort to reduce its carbon footprint by taking steps to be easily accessible by public transportation, placing recycling bins next to every garbage can, and providing free water on tap to reduce the waste produced by bottles. Remember that cup deposit? Really came in handy.
Greenpeace in the Village Solidarité
Next up was the Soeurs de la Perpétuelle Indulgence. Less of a mass and more of a drag show with a quasi-religious theme, it was campy humor with a message. Skits about preventing the spread of Aids and other diseases, using condoms and dental dams, and homophobia were interspersed with lip-synch routines set to Lily Allen, Lady Gaga, and Queen, to name a few. It was a lively and colorful show, and helped me forget how badly I wanted to shower, or at least wash my feet, although I couldn’t help but feel like it was ever so slightly sacrilegious to call a show involving a giant dildo a “mass.”
I headed over to the Pony Pony Run Run show with low expectations. I’d heard their single, “Hey You,” on the radio, and enjoyed it, but was expecting a workmanlike set with a largely teenybopper audience. While I wasn’t totally wrong about the latter bit, I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong about the former. These guys (French, but sing in English) were full of energy and seemed to be having a great time on stage. Their enthusiasm was infectious – everyone in the crowd was dancing, cheering, and singing along. Obvious influences include the Pet Shop Boys and New Order (are all bands rehashing ‘80’s alterna-pop these days or what?), but I also jotted down The Magic Numbers, Thursday, and Junior Senior when I wasn’t dancing. Towards the end of the show, a couple of fire hoses sprayed those in the crowd who were close enough to the stage. It was much appreciated. I guess there’s something to be said about a band called Pony Pony Run Run playing in the middle of a horse track.
Pony Pony Run Run
Speaking of appropriately-named bands, Delphic were the last band on my to-see list. (I heard the –M- show was supposed to be good, but seeing as he didn’t start until 10pm and I work at 6:30am, I crossed that one off early.) Touted as “electro-rock” and “alternative dance,” I was curious to see what these boys from Manchester were cooking. I missed the first fifteen minutes or so of their set, but when I got there, the atmosphere was distinctly clubby. They were playing at one of the stages under a tent, and the night sky décor on the underside of said tent helped the mood a lot. A small crowd was pressed up close to the stage, dancing their hearts out. The band was rocking, and I’d definitely add “psychedelic” to the growing list of adjectives describing their music. Unfortunately, the crowd was fickle, with lots of people coming and going, and it seemed to have an effect on the band’s performance. They lost some intensity towards the end, which was too bad. I think they got a bum time slot – they would have killed at midnight or 1am on Friday or Saturday, but 8pm on Sunday was a little tough. Puzzling, but then, perhaps it only makes sense given their name.
All in all, it was a day of great music, social activism, and little crowd-fighting. Solidays may just have restored my faith in the big outdoor music festival.