Review – Musilac Festival – Aix-Les-Bains, France – Day One, July 12th, 2018

There is so much to cover with such a Festival. I have never been to such a HUGE event. The local paper in Aix-Les-Bains the following morning reported a crowd of 25,000 people there for day one of the festival. A big old crowd! And I think I can safely say it’s the biggest (and most remote!) festival I have ever been to, and am ever likely to go to.

There were three stages at the festival. A small stage close to the entrance point of the site called “scène le korner”, and then at the far end of the venue, running along the esplanade of the lake, two stages side by side “scène lac” and “scène montagne”.

“Scène Lac”: Albert Hammond Jr

He seemed familiar to me. I said to my companion, Françoise, that I was sure he had been in a band before. Perhaps The Strokes, I thought? Seeing a photo of him in the local paper the next morning with it referencing The Strokes had confirmed my reason for his familiarity to me.

He was very good. I enjoyed his set. He was a very good showman. Had lots of energy. Interacted well with the crowd. His band were tight. I’d definitely seek out his music and give it a listen.

“Scène Montagne”: Feu! Chatterton

A French act, so, lyrically, things were hard for me to grasp. Their frontman, Arthur Teboul, certainly has an unforgettable stage presence. Although I couldn’t appreciate the full context of the expression of the music due to the language barrier, I certainly appreciated the musicality of them, and of Arthur’s way of emoting the poetry within the music. Françoise tried to give me some help in understanding their sound, likening the way Teboul was expressing the music as with poetry. She likened him to Jaques Brel…but, for me, I suppose the only performer I can liken him to, in terms of the poetic romanticism of him, would be to liken him to Jim Morrison. But with the music being more a jazz/electronic twist to it, rather than blues and rock.

I really enjoyed them. And Teboul is one of the more mesmerising frontmen I’ve seen in some time. Very captivating.

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“Scène Lac”: Lomepal

Another French act. This time a rapper/hip hop artist. I can’t really pass judgement on him, as….well, this kind of genre of music does little for me. But he went down very well with the crowd, particularly the younger festival goers. There was a near riot breaking out towards the end of his set. I thought security was going to have to go in and sort the crowd out. But things calmed and it was all good.

“Scène Montagne”: The Stranglers

This was my third time seeing The Stranglers, and I was ssooo ready for them! I can’t recall rightly what they started their setlist with…I think it might have been 5 Minutes, from memory. Certainly 5 Minutes was played early on. We were treated to greats like Grip, Golden Brown, Always The Sun, Peaches, No More Heroes…and as seen by the clip I recorded, a fab version of Nice n’ Sleazy. They did Walk On By as well (that was tough to hear, without a little personal sting to it) – as well as OMG, the most cracking version of All Day And All Of The Night. Wow! I was singing my bloody heart out with that one.

The band were, as always, fabulously tight. JJ and Baz were up for fun. I think JJ even smiled a few times! Lol. Dave is just…Dave – more chilled than a bag of ice in an igloo. No Jet Black…but the fabulous Jim Macaulay was on drums. And I very, very nearly caught one of his sticks that he threw out to the crowd. It was flying towards me…I tried to grab it…but it fell in front of the barrier. The security guy teased me and two blokes to my left with it. He then handed it to the bloke next to me. Thanks dude :-/ I can’t tell you how much I’d have loved that stick.

For the time they were on stage, I forgot things. My woes, how much my body already ached, how tired and thirsty I was, how many more hours I’d be on my feet…how I was going to feel seeing Jim later. It was just me and the music and the boys. They are just too fabulous. Seriously…next time I see them (and there WILL be a next time!), I run the risk of making a stage invasion, just so I can plant a big old kiss on that lovely bald head of Baz’s. Lol. I already told him I love him in Sydney (have never even shouted that out to Jim!)…I just think he’s the best.

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“Scène Lac”: Depeche Mode

Without doubt, the headline act of the night, and the act the vast majority of punters had travelled far and wide to see. I’m not sure what I can say, really. I don’t need to sell them. Everyone who has ever experienced a Depeche Mode concert knows what a spectacle it is. I am not overly familiar with modern DM tracks…but there were certainly older “crowd pleasers” on offer like Personal Jesus (had a bit of a sting to it…after the old “messiah” comment…”someone to hear your prayers / someone who cares” well, I deluded myself they did, for sure), Everything Counts, Enjoy The Silence (the song was hard to digest…it had a very personal ring to it on Thursday night…and it just stung…and the tears stung my eyes when singing along silently “words are very unnecessary / they can only do harm”). Martin Gore’s vocal on his composition “Somebody” was just breathtaking, and heartbreaking. If I say any more on it, I won’t able to finish this review.

An encore of Just Can’t Get Enough. As if Dave didn’t already have all 25,000 revellers eating out of the palm of this hand. It was a fabulous song to end on. Ending on a high…as much as I was enjoying it…it was the signal to remind me what was coming next. I didn’t feel ready!

Depeche Mode definitely live up to the reputation that precedes them. If you, like me before Thursday, have never seen them live before…it is an experience you need to have, at least just once.

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“Scène Montagne”: Simple Minds

The last thing I needed was a countdown clock. But between sets and the swapping of stages, the next act on would have a five minute countdown. The countdown to Simple Minds was giving me such mixed emotions. Françoise and I had taken up that position at the front of the barrier at around 4pm. Except for one brief loo trip (myself only), we had kept our position for over 7 hours.

I was hoping for a little breathing space. When Depeche Mode started, things got a little crammed at the barrier. I thought after their set was done, that there would be some dispersion of the crowd, that some revellers would start to leave. If that happened, I didn’t sense it or feel it. We remained jammed in.

I decided to record their entrance to the stage, although I knew press photographers would make things difficult, as there were plenty there for every act for the first few songs.

Opened with The Signal And The Noise followed by Waterfront. It remains a dramatic and fantastic set opener, having the two songs play back to back. A curious thing this “stage grouping” of the band as the final strains of The Signal And The Noise plays out. I preferred the way it ended at the Feb dates, and at Wentworth, with Cherisse giving it full welly for the song to just…cease. Abruptly. Severance. There’s a relevant word.

I can’t remember the strict running order of the setlist but we had Let There Be Love, Mandela Day, Once Upon A Time, Summer, She’s A River, See The Lights, Dolphins, Let The Day Begin, Don’t You, Alive And Kicking, Sanctify Yourself. There might be one I’ve missed, but I think that was pretty much it. And…the order may not be strictly correct.

Let There Be Love was hard to digest on a personal level. It was performed wonderfully, of course. Likewise…See The Lights was…painful. And I think Jim slightly altered the line “forgive me, love – I’m too proud to cry” – as highlighted on my Minds Music Monday post.

Dolphins…I couldn’t even watch Catherine perform it.

This is a personal blog from a Simple Minds fan. I’ve never pushed it as a professionally run, unofficial fan page – just…a fan page. One fan, and my own slant on things. My love for the band, the music…him.

I couldn’t watch Catherine perform Dolphins…the subject matter of the lyrics…how I was feeling. It was all I could do to hold it together.

I went to the front because I still wanted to show just how wholly supportive of the band I am. My love for the band dynamic and the live performance was never in doubt or in question. The irony of it all is…to be feeling ostracised for expressing something, for speaking out about something you felt could be making other fans excluded…I can’t even describe it.

I have never felt so…far removed from all that I cherish being at a Simple Minds concert. The sheer joy I have always experienced. The adrenalin rush. The love. The positivity. It was disappearing. Slipping through my hands.

I had hoped I would feel able to look at Jim. Somehow gesture to him that I was sorry and that I loved him and…

But…I just couldn’t. I couldn’t look at him. Not as an act of defiance…and I fear it might be how he interpreted it…but it was more…I felt unwelcome…truly unwelcome at a gig for the first time, ever…and a look to him…it may have just compounded things. So, better not to look. Avoid eye contact. Pretend it was still okay for me to be there. Try to pretend I was still welcome.

And so when I say that “the feeling was gone”….it was THAT particular feeling. The feeling that I was there to show support and love the music…and watch an amazing man that can hold an audience quite unlike anyone else can. And feel…welcomed. Feel that love in return. Mutual appreciation. Something I had nearly always felt from him.

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When the set ended, Françoise asked me if I was okay…and I broke down in tears.

I sobbed openly on Françoise’s shoulder. This beautiful lady who I have known on Facebook only a couple years and only got to meet for the first time very briefly at the Paris gig in February, was an angel to me.

To be made to feel welcomed when I first started interacting on SMO. To have your feedback in the form of comments left and questions read and replied to esp. by the man whose music it is, is everything. To have your art appreciated…REQUESTED, even, by that same man…It transcends it from making it mere musical experience to an emotional investment that is all encompassing. That interactivity is priceless. And I never tried to take it for granted. But perhaps in the end I did. And I regret that.

All there is now is…a void.

Simple Minds were amazing. They always will be. They truly are one of the best live bands in the world.

And that is another thing Jim Kerr gave me…that thirst for the live music experience. Had he not…I’d have never travelled hundreds of miles to experience a festival like this one.

There was one final act on the Scène Lac stage, Zeal and Ardor, but by the time Simple Minds finished, it was 12.35am. Sadly for poor Zeal and Ardor, this is when the mass exodus happened, once Simple Minds finished. Françoise and I were amongst the crowd leaving. I needed to (try to) pull myself together.

I can’t ever regret going. Despite the other things hindering it…what happened with Jim, family health issues, money woes, etc, etc…Musilac Festival, for positives and negatives will be an experience I am unlikely to forget.

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Most photos are of acts appearing on the Scène Montagne stage as it was just too difficult to take pics or film anything going on on the Scène Lac stage.

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