Guitare en scène, St-Julien en Genevois, 29th July 2012
This festival is tiny in size but really huge in their programming and professionalism I had read only good things about them so I was very happy when I noticed they had programmed Seasick Steve . They are the first in this part of Europe to do that, and my best bet to see this fantastic artist. To boot he tours with John Paul Jones as his bass player, it doesn't get any better.
I was lucky to find a room in the only hotel in town (the other one have such bad reviews I didn't even consider) so I could stay until the end.
Seasick Steve was scheduled at 5:30pm, so along with a few others I rushed in at 4pm when the doors opened, to get a good place at the fence nearly in front of John Paul Jones. One hour and a half listening to the same three songs playing in a loop... Yeah, sometimes it's really hard being a dedicated music fan. It was some new French band, not really bad but after this I doubt I'll ever want to hear them again. I discovered a new strange rule for a concert venue, plastic bottles were allowed but you needed to give the cap away.... so you had many people with big litre bottles of water, trying not to spill the content and having to hold them until they were empty!
Anyway it was a a pure delight to finally see Seasick Steve. If you've never hear this artist do yourself a favour and look him up on youtube, buy his albums and go see him when he plays near you.
I only had my phone to take photos as cameras were forbidden. And too far away from Steve himself.
If not for the promise of a super jam session at the end of the evening I would almost have left then, How can you beat this? But I stuck around.
To my delight one of the two other stages was a “Magic Mirror” portable mini dance halls that you can rent in Belgium apparently. Known to some of you as two of them feature at the Imaginales each year (a fabulous sci-fi/fantasy festival in Epinal). It was so odd to see the almost familiar place in a different setting, it was about the size of the Magic Mirror 2 in Epinal. But with simpler decorations.
From memory I knew it would be very hot in there but I still peeked in as I love Chris Spedding and Rockabilly was my first love in the rocking world, when I was ten I listened to a lot of it.
Sure enough it was way too hot for me, unless I stayed still as a stick which is impossible for me when there is music. Luckily the organisers had the idea to “broadcast” the concert on the big screens next to both other stages. So I could at least see it there. Sure enough as soon as I got out they launched into “Man Of Mystery” by the Shadows. These songs have a near hypnotic effect on me, it teleports me back to 1970 when I first consciously discovered how much music can mean to me. They also played “Move It” one of my favourites from the time. They also played “Rumble”.
Then it was time for the headliners, ZZ Top. I've seen them twice before, and even not being a fan I do enjoy their stuff. I just found it a bit sad that they were playing various clips including old video clips on the screen, it was distracting. For once I stayed back sort of two thirds back into the tent, which was fairly small but still it meant I couldn't really see much of the stage so my attention was focused on the screens. It didn't help that a guy nearby started to, let's say redecorate the concrete floor with his beer, but not from his glass. Guess the stuff in his joint was slightly to strong for him.
At least he had lots of space around him. On the other hand this “broke the ice” with the people around me and made for some small talk. Which had the effect that I felt less tense than I usually do in a crowd.
Far, far away, two bearded guys and a bloke called Beard
As soon as people started to move out I made my way as close as possible to the stage again. And I was not disappointed at all. It was all a bit of a feat, the technicians started to dismantle ZZ Top's stage and after about 15 min Bernie Marsden showed up with an acoustic guitar and played about four songs while the crew finished the job. Hardly took half an hour which was amazing. Bernie played some Whitesnake tunes, and while I can't say I'm a fan (apologies to my friends who are) I was rather surprised that I knew a lot of the lyrics (thanks Planet Rock Radio?) and that they sounded really fresh as acoustic numbers.
Then there was the jam. Hard to talk about it without resorting to expletives I don't normally use in written word. It was such fun! Three of the five (I think?) songs are on youtube now.
I love this sort of moment where musicians get together at random and play some improvised set, there can be imperfections but it's raw energy and it's what music should always be about.
John Paul Jones is the ultimate bass god, although I am glad there are polytheist religions then as I can think of a couple others or more. But it's impossible not to notice how he blows most of the others off any stage in seconds. He's really incredible and I think most bass players in the world would agree.
It was a nice start to this holiday. No to sketch some, and try to do as much as I can on this new book project.
Brace yourself for another review this week end as Alice Cooper is back in the country this Friday :)