July 5

Yesterday the time came for me to return to the Main Square festival at Arras, France and I have to say that it was INCREDIBLE!  Everything from the music to the atmosphere and weather was just perfect! (just a side note, I only went for Sunday the 4th so will only be discussing the acts from this day).

However, this year the location had been moved from the main square of Arras to the Citadelle. This was most likely due to there being more acts this year and the introduction of the Green Room. When you entered the festival, the Main Square section was HUGE with a massive stage and was filled with people. All around were stands selling food, drink and others were selling t-shirts and cd’s of the artists playing at the festival. It was totally open so it was wise to bring suncream!

As my boyfriend and I preferred the music in the Green Room because it was less mainstream, we didn’t really venture into the Main Stage arena although we did hear a lot of the artists from the Main Stage when we were waiting for the next act to play so I will give you a few briefs points on what we did hear.

Playing on the Main Stage this year were Yeasayer, Stereophonics, Gossip, Pink and Rammstein. I had only heard Yeasayer from the Green Room side as we were trying to find the cd of Skip The Use (which they never had in the end…. fuck sake…) but they sounded pretty good live and I quite enjoyed their songs which I had never bothered to listen to before. With Gossip, my boyfriend and I are NOT a fan so we stayed away in the Green Room waiting for the next act. However, we could hear them and I must admit that they play very well and the lead singer, Beth Ditto, does have an incredible voice. The crowd also seemed really into it. Pink also seemed to sound good live which was something my mother was curious about as she had heard her live before and thought she was terrible, although she appeared to sing just as good as in her records. However, we did find that she sung a few cover songs which we thought would be a bit disappointing if you had come to watch Pink in particular. Last but (not) least was Rammstein. I’m really sorry for any die-hard fans but we did not stay for Rammstein, mostly because we hate it. Sorry to be blunt, but we just don’t really understand it, and not just the lyrics but the style! So I’m afraid we gave that one a miss.

Onto the Green Room!! The Green Room had a smaller stage and was underneath a huge tent which was perfect for me as I have incredibly fair skin and freckles and roast in the heat instead of tan. It was also on grass, so a lot of people were sitting inside on the grass relaxing. Right next to the tent were the toilets which was useful! And even though they were portaloos, they were actually quite clean which was good. I still didn’t sit on the seat though :-/ Anyway, around the tent, just like the main stage were food stands and beer stands so I’m pretty sure that we had a few more pissheads than the other stage! However, the atmosphere was a bit more chilled and you weren’t all so squashed together. Because of the times the acts were playing, people were often swapping between stages to see all the acts if they wanted so there wasn’t often a big clash between the performances.

As we had to travel to Arras (it’s not that far, but still a journey!) we intended to miss the first act who I have never heard of called Karavage. Since being home I decided to look for them which was incredibly difficult and when I did they seemed very odd so I don’t think it was too great a loss! After that was Skip The Use. We had to take an early train to get there for 2pm for Skip the Use and guess what…… THE TRAIN WAS FUCKING DELAYED!!! By the time we got there, it was OVER! I seriously wanted to cry and beat up my boyfriend at the same time! Not because he did anything wrong, just because it would make me feel better. I settled on being a bitch for 30 minutes…… I really feel it wasn’t enough. But yes, I was so disappointed because they were one of the acts I had gone there to see so if anyone saw them then tell me they were shit or I don’t want to know!! :(

Following my tragedy, we saw a French band called The Bewitched Hands, who actually sung in English! They are comprised of around 5 or 6 people with one woman who shares a lead singing role with one of the guys in the band. Their music was quite chilled and relaxing but fun and it got quite a few people dancing. They were also really good singers and their music wasn’t boring or didn’t sound too much the same in every song.

Oh, I should mention now that I will put some videos of each group at the end of the article so you can hear for yourself the acts and their styles of music.

Carrying on, after The Bewitched Hands we saw a group named Patrick Watson. I’m not sure really how to describe them apart from weird……. and it wasn’t just the music that was weird, it was them too. It’s difficult to explain, but they have a strange style of music. It is really chilled, but they use bizarre props and instruments. At one point, one of them was playing a xylophone whilst the other sung through a megaphone and was repeatedly covering and uncovering the end of it with something to create a bizarre noise. Honestly, they really are something to see! And they play their instruments fantastically and even the singer had a great voice. So I have to confess that they really are full of talent. So all I can say is that for me, I didn’t particularly enjoy their style of music as I found it slightly bizarre and if it wasn’t for the fact that they cut between songs I wasn’t sure I would know when one ended and one began as they were all kind of the same. However, my advice is to listen for yourself as I can believe that many could like it!

After that we saw Delphic, an English band from Greater Manchester, England. Their music is of the Alternative Dance genre, and even though I prefer rock music, I actually quite enjoyed their performance. They again played their instruments brilliantly and the lead singer was great and had a lot of stage presence. He was making a lot of effort to speak French, asking the crowd to stand up, dance and clap their hands. Up until this point they had been the only act that had got everyone to dance and the only act to interact with the crowd. The singer even jumped off the stage and jumped up onto the barrier where we were standing to thank everyone. For me, I think they were one of the highlights of the day.

And finally, the last act in the Green Room and the one I had gone to the festival for: Florence and the Machine! First of all, I was determined to be RIGHT AT THE FRONT, AGAINST the barrier! Because I absolutely love them and I wanted to have the best view! So after Delphic finished at 8pm, my boyfriend and I went to one of the stands to get food whereby he decided to push-in the queue which actually seemed to be quite normal for the French. I, however went all ‘English’ on him and got embarrassed and was scared we would be abused by an angry Frenchie :-/ I also spent the entire time annoying him by checking and worrying about getting a good place for Florence as all of maybe 5 people were entering the Green Room! (The rest, after Delphic had gone to the main stage for Pink). Finally, at 8.10pm, we were back in the green room, standing (and then sitting) against the barrier for a full 1 hour and 20 minutes before she was due to arrive!

The set for Florence and the Machine was beautiful. The keyboard and drums were covered in flowers, and in the background there were 2 bird cages with light bulbs in. Finally, near the front was a harp. Right in front of the stage were huge speakers which Florence often stood/danced on during her perfromance, so she was probably less than a meter from us.

When she was due to come on stage, the entire Green Room was full with people trying to see even from outside the back of the tent. She was incredibly popular which surprised me as my boyfriend told me that she had only really been famous in France for about 3-4 months.

First of all, her band came on stage which encouraged the cheers of the crowd and for them all to chant ‘Florence’ in a thick French accent. She entered the stage by dancing, barefoot and in a beautiful, flowing white dress, came straight to a drum at the front of the stage and began singing. In her hand movements and some of her dance moves, she greatly resembled Kate Bush!

Her performance was absolutely amazing and her band are incredibly talented. From the very start she was interacting with the audience, speaking in French and getting us to join in singing some of the lyrics. She was animated; running all over the stage and jumping up and down on the spot and yet she still had the most powerful voice. She was also often jumping onto the speakers and dancing on them, pissing off the security who were scared she could fall! And because of where we were standing she was literally directly in front of us. Her stage presence was electric and the entire crowd went crazy for her. She even threw her drum stick into the audience, and when it was replaced, threw the replacement also.

And aside from her general niceness, her voice was just outstanding. When you see her in person, she looks so petite that it is hard to believe that she can sing like she does! She was perfectly in tune and when she sings you really feel like she feels what she is singing. Her voice is also so powerful that I can imagine she was heard easily, even outside of the tent. She sang 2 of her new songs, Heavy In Your Arms and Strangeness and Charm which were fantastic as well as singing Dog Days Are Over, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), You’ve Got The Love, Drumming Song, Kiss With A Fist, Howl, Cosmic Love and Between Two Lungs and each one was just amazing! Her hour slot seemed way too short and seemed to fly by, leaving us all wanting more.

I think that everyone should visit the Main Square Festival at Arras, but also, everyone should see Florence and the Machine live because it is such an electrifying experience that no one should miss!

Here, I have included some pictures my boyfriend and I took from the festival as well as some youtube links to the artists we saw incase anyone wants to check them out.

We did take our own videos of Florence and the Machine and the picture quality is fantastic as we were so close, especially when she stood on the speakers. However, as we were so close to the speakers the sound is not so good. Because of this, my boyfriend will put the cd version of the song on the video (to save your ears) and when this is done I will update my blog with the videos so you can enjoy watching her live in concert! :)

The Bewitched Hands

Patrick Watson

Delphic!

Stage of Florence and the Machine

Florence 1

Florence 2

Florence on the speaker - look how close we were!