Paléo kicked off with a bang and a squelch on Tuesday, with a variety of incredible bands. The right amount of mud, but thankfully without the rain that had been forecast made for the perfect Paléo atmosphere. People slipped and skidded through the mud, or picked their way carefully across the grounds, trying to stay away from the muck thanks to the large quantities of straw that had been laid down on the ground.
Everyone was able to rediscover the Festival, and some minor changes to the some of the stages, especially the Arches, whose tiered seating has been pushed to one side of the stage at an angle, leaving more room for the people who wanted to come and dance to the light rock of Girls in Hawai, the provocative and explosive Anglo-Tamil hip-hop artist M.I.A, or Gesaffelstein’s dark and compulsive beats.
The first stop in the musical marathon that is a night at Paléo was Doomenfels under the Club Tent. Juggling between light, folky guitar riffs, and heavier pieces creates the perfect dense atmosphere under the tent (one of my favourite stages), as it is small enough to be intimate – the Swiss-German formation gave a musical performance that set the tone for most of the night: a continuous stream of very talented artists.
But such is the fate of the musically curious at Paléo, and it before the concert finished, it was time to make my way through the mud and (increasingly muddy) crowd to catch the first few songs of belgian pop-rock band Girls in Hawaii a regular band at Paléo, before traipsing towards the Village du Monde and it’s stage, le Dôme.
Alcohol prevention can be fun!
Stopping on my way to there at the Blue Cross’ alcohol prevention stall, I got to do a “drunk-simulation” obstacle course wearing blurred googles, the final test being trying to fit the key in your front door’s lock. I managed rather easily – should that worry me? Anyway, their stall, situated to the right of the Ferris wheel, is full of fun facts and puns on alcohol consumption, bringing a message of prevention without being patronising about it, which is definitely much more enjoyable.
La Chiva Gantiva was playing under the Dôme. Created by three Columbian percussionists when they moved to Brussels, the band mixes cumbia rhythms and grooves with more contemporary styles. Destroying stereotypes with every burst of saxophone and ever drum solo, their joyous energy was contagious, and people gradually flocked towards the stage to dance to their warm and crazy music. The musicians danced and bounced across the stage, emulated by the crowd, who quickly found it impossible to stay still in front of such an explosion of sound. The wind section (a sax and a clarinet player) entertained the crowd with their wacky dancing when they weren’t showing off their skills, the guitar player bluffed every one with his high-voltage performance, whether on the electric guitar or on a special Columbian ten-stringed guitar. My drummer friend also made me aware of the impressive skills of the drummer, making for a top-notch musical experience. I suppose the best part of all this is that La Chiva Gantiva will be playing again tonight (ie Wednesday night) at 20:00, for a second serving of musical madness.
As Bastian Baker started playing in the distance on the main stage, we decided it was time to have a bite to eat, before heading down to fetch a bottle of mead from the Ruche (where you can also find some really good honey-flavored beer) and then back up to the Dôme, for round two of Latin American musical discoveries. This time for the psychedelic tunes of Meridian Brothers, a project of Columbian musical virtuoso Eblis Alvarez. Joined on stage by a very talented drummer (kudos my friend, again), a clarinet-cum-keyboard player, and a guy behind a computer, Alvarez displayed his musical genius in a series of complex musical explorations. Relying heavily on modified sounds- the clarinet sounded like a video-game console!- the psychedelic songs were intricate creations. Meridian Brothers will also be playing again on Wednesday, at 17:15 under the Dôme, and in a more intimate setting at 21:15 at L’Escale, a small stage at the far end of the Village du Monde.
It might be starting to look obvious that I have a certain affinity with the line-up of the Dôme, and this where I was for the next band. Karamelo Santo are a ten-piece ska/cumbia/punk band from Mendoza, and got some fame from touring with Manu Chao in the 2000’s. Definitely one of the highlights of the evening, their concert was a cocktail of sun, groovy rhythms and explosive brass sonorities. The area in front of the stage quickly became a dance-floor where the more enthusiastic of the crowd joyfully bounced of each other in a chaos of jumping, dancing and general good mood. Unlike some concerts, where the pushing and shoving can get a bit nasty, everything went on really well, people picking each other up whenever someone slipped, giving them a pat on the shoulder and a grin before getting back to the dancing. The fresh evening air was most welcome after the concert, and we left the Dôme exhausted but happy.
Cult Rock and Electro vibes
Watching cult rock band The Black Keys from the back of the crowd was the perfect way of getting some energy back, the band pleasing the huge crowd massed in front of the main stage with their own strain of rock (even though my friend told me that the drummer wasn’t very good). Half way through the great concert, it was time to go and move our bodies to the trance-inducing rhythms of A Tribe Called Red, a trio of Native American beat makers from Canada, who mix electro with traditional drums and chanting. Accompanied on stage by a traditional dancer, who mesmerized the crowd with his hoola hoop skills, the trio have taken it on themselves to break the stereotypes associated to their culture, and do a hell of a job doing so.
Last but not least, Gesaffelstein finally got to send l’Asse dancing to end this first evening, after his set was cancelled last year due to the huge storm that blasted through Neil Young’s concert. A year later, he was back to do what he couldn’t do last year, and the crowd went crazy in front of Les Arches, finishing an great first night for the festival.
For all of you who don’t have the chance to have a ticket to Paléo, the Festival has organised live streaming for some of the concerts taking place through the week. You can find the schedule here. Some full concerts are also archived on the site, here, alongside highlights of each night.