You can probably define three main types of festival-goers at Paléo. The old faithful, who have been coming to the festival for eons, and care more about drinking wine with their friends somewhere just out of sight of on the stages, for who the festival is a social event during which you get to soak up on the atmosphere, and enjoy a variety of delicious food and drinks. This group will probably end up seeing one or two concerts over the week or evening they spend on the grounds, and don’t really mind.
The second group of people you can find on the plaine de l’Asse are the die-hard fans, those who bought their ticket solely to see their favourite band/singer, who are probably wearing the matching branded t-shirt and who start camping out in front of the stage up to an hour before the concert starts.
You could see a lot of these fans waiting for the Lana Del Rey concert last night, with a surprising amount of fan drawings of her in the crowd – the American pop star didn’t come on stage for at least ten (very long) minutes after the MC had announced the concert, so the cameras filming the concert settled on shooting a rather artsy black and white portrait of the crowd, from some beautiful close-ups to shots of the big crowd gathered on the slope opposite the main stage. In my opinion, observing the reactions of people as they realised they were suddenly on the massive 70 or so square meter screens was much more interesting than the rather bland and uninspiring concert that followed. From shy smiles to delighted squeals, these portraits included a lot of face glitter and some drawings that ranged from pretty good to outright nightmarish (I’m notably bad at drawing, but I’m apparently not the only one!)
I consider myself part of the third type of festival-goers. One of those who know that a hefty chunk of the lineup is made of bands who have never played at the Festival (the numbers are somewhere around 80% of new bands) and who delights in the exciting encounters on the smaller stages such as the Détour and the Club Tent. If I do occasionally go and see a concert on the Main Stage, more often than not I’m dancing to a band I’d probably never heard of before the line-up was released in April. Wednesday night was no different, and the best concert of the Festival (this is an absolute claim- not the best so far, the outright best of the festival, the claim might seem bold but so was the concert) took place under the Dôme, at 20:00.
Hubert Lenoir: glamourous and explosive
Hubert Lenoir is a young pop prodigy, an explosive cocktail of glamour and rage, and his music and identity are both big fuck yous to the normativity of music genres and gender roles. His concert was somewhat akin to an unholy communion of excessive energy, an unconditional gift of his presence to the crowd who reacted accordingly to it (give or take a few people who fled the concert to mutterings of how mad this bloke on stage was). His album, Darlene, which came out a few months ago, is a striking portrait of our generation, and a manifesto for self-love outside the boundaries of gender normativity. His music shifts from glam-rock to pop with some incredibly smooth saxophone phrases which come as welcome counterpoints to his riotous music. Starting off in a bright yellow t-shirt inscribed with a message about consent (“obtain my consent first, please”), he quickly ended up bare-chested, sweating under the heat without faltering. He ended up half-way up one of the pillars on the side of the stage, hanging on to the metal structure five meters above a delirious crowd.
Oriental and groovy rock
Two other bands stood out for the quality of their music and their performance. Dutch band The Mauskovic Dance band, delivered a punchy and oh-so-danceable blend of rock and tropical sonorities. Superbly psychedelic and catchy, their music played with more experimental sounds alongside typical cumbia rhythms, much to the delight of the crowd. It is rare to see an absolutely still crowd at Paléo, and most fast-paced concerts will have some kind of moshpit form at some point (independently of if the music is adapted to moshing, but that’s another question), but an entire tent of people all dancing gleefully, whether simply moving their hips or doing full out dance-offs, is quite a unique sight. It felt as if the band had captured the spirit of the crowd perfectly, and there was something beautiful in this shared moment of music and unchecked physicality.
Later on in the Club Tent, Gaye Su Akyol kept the psychedelic rock vein going, with her exquisite middle-eastern vibes. You might know of the incredible Turkish psychedelic rock culture through Altin Gün, who have popularised the genre across Europe these past few years – and who played last year at Paléo. But whereas Altin Gün are based in Amsterdam, Gaye Su Akyol is the real Istanbulite deal. The lead singer shimmered and shone in a beautiful iridescent mini-skirt and long silver heeled boots, with the magical finishing touch of a dragonfly-esque cape that swirled behind her when she sang and danced. The musicians brought a darker counterpoint to the explosion of light and glitter with a matching costume consisting of a black robe and zorro mask. Watch out for this musical gem that is already on Iggy Pop’s radar!
Who run the world?
Although the proportion of female artists on the lineup sadly still hasn’t reached parity – some festivals have started implementing policies of absolute parity in their lineup!- the number of amazing women artists at the festival is astounding. If they do not make up the majority of acts at the festival, they surely are a majority in the list of the best concerts of the festival. The evening came to a close (well, for me at least) with the explosive performance of Pongo under the Détour (you might see a trend here when it comes to the stages I spend my time at).
Pongo is the new project of Buraka Som Sistema’s frontwoman. Buraka were a pioneering band in the kuduro genre, the fast-paced mix of edm and Angolan music that was born somewhere between Portugal and Angola. Pongo is slightly more pop at times, and features more melodic singing than the trance-inducing chanting of Buraka, but the singer’s energy is just as crazy, dancing and jumping around the stage, high-kicking with incredible flexibility and strength. Wearing a full-on glitter suit, she led the crowd on a frenzied trip to higher realms of reality, where the only thing that counts is dancing and happiness.