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The Cabaret Vert Is Back For A Wild Wild Fest! August 25th, 26th, 27th 2016, Reviewed



Looking like a neon sign in the desert, the Cabaret Vert is a unique French festival, completely different from the others, admired since 2005 for its values, boldness and investment in the sustainable development. Exemplar in its environmental approach, the Cabaret Vert makes efforts to offer to the festival-goers a surprising and varied programing, within a warm territory : the Ardennes (close to the Belgian border). A territory where music rhymes with solidarity and poetry, because it is also the birthplace of the famous poet Arthur Rimbaud…

Besides being a green and eco-friendly event, the festival is always faithful to its principles and to its desire to mix the disciplines. Artists of the international scene who cannot be ignored, and the newest musical revelations skillfully crossed with street performances, burlesque shows, cinema and comics, under the federative flag of the Cabaret Vert. The Cabaret Vert is moreover named after the title of a poem written by Arthur Rimbaud in 1870. Here the poet is never far away when singers and songwriters thank the audience at the end of their shows!

For this 12th edition, the line-up was a mix between heavy rock and dance, such as monsters of the US East Coast rap (Nas), French song oldies (Indochine, Louise Attaque), French touch DJs (Cassius, Breakbot, M83), howling guitarists (Sum 41, Mass Hysteria, Fat White Family), farmer rockers (Inspector Cluzo), golden nuggets of French hip hop (Nekfeu, MHD), folk pop singers (Jake Bugg) or indie melancholic rockers (Grandaddy). This year the set also welcomed confirmed artists, newcomers and young talents, a simple way to gather a multiple crowd in a human-sized festival.

Sideways the Cabaret Vert offered as usual the possibility to taste several good local dishes (made of cheese or boar!), handmade beverages, locally brewed craft beers and organic products in the nice atmosphere of the Bayard Square and a former factory site, located on the banks of the Meuse river in the city center of Charleville Mézières.

During 4 nights and days, the Zanzibar Stage was filled with people of all ages to listen to good music, celebrate and have fun. Two big stages, many bars and festive attractions, here was the landscape of the event. As far as I am concerned, I have attended 3 consecutive sunny days and the experience was so amazing! Meeting friends, drinking cool beers, chillin’ and listening to loud music was my only schedule from Thursday to Saturday, like 95.000 other people!!!

The first day opened with Damian “Jr Gong” Marley (Bob Marley’s son) on the biggest stage and after The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Anton Newcombe and his band gave a quite good and long performance at sunset without fighting on stage!

But most of the festival-goers were there for Indochine. Formed in the early 1980’s, Indochine is in fact the French version of new wave bands at that time, such as Depeche Mode or The Cure. Every French teenager has been raised with Indochine’s music, their industrial keyboard sound and their goth fashion look. Nowadays, the band seems more like an eighties revival with several has-been followers! When I saw the leader Nikola Sirkis (born in 1959), I thought of a kind of weird batman, dressed in a black cape, or a punk witch on stage! Nevertheless the show was very professional and the band gave a fascinating performance. A nice dream for the fans who had been waiting for 2 days long before the festival opening, and just a nightmare for me… Because nobody can be Robert Smith!

To end the Thursday night we enjoyed M83’s show at midnight. M83 is a French electronic music band led by Anthony Gonzalez and currently based in Los Angeles. Formed in 2001 in the south of France, it was initially a duo who used to remix tunes for others. The band is named after a galaxy in the sky and has released 7 albums and 2 soundtracks, including the Grammy Award-nominated Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. During a too short but elegant show for a fan like me, the band fired up the audience by playing their breakthrough single “Midnight City”,  also “Steve McQueen”,”Reunion”, and parts of their seventh studio album Junk such as “Do It, Try It” released on April 2016. Special mention for the saxophonist who performed a brilliant solo on stage!

For the second day, my friends and I wanted to start with a cool and smooth music, so we chose Grandaddy’s set. Grandaddy is a Californian indie space rock band formed in 1992. Around the time that their 2nd album The Sophtware Slump was released (2000), Grandaddy was invited to open for Elliott Smith on his tour for Figure 8. The band was also compared to Radiohead in the early 2000s, Weezer or The Flaming Lips. Nowadays they are more like Tame Impala or Sebastien Schuller. The band’s melancholic, neo-psychedelic and casual lo-fi sound fitted well for that sunny afternoon in Charleville Mézières, playing tunes including Jed’s Other Poem and Hewlett’s Daughter for my own pleasure. After a huge heat wave in the late afternoon, we attended the last concert of the night with Louise Attaque, a French folk rock band formed in 1994. Their old songs reminded me my teenage years, when I was studying in college! But what a great atmosphere when the crowd was singing Léa and J’t’emmène au vent all together! Awesome!

On the third day, I have to say that I have been very impressed by Jake Bugg. The young lad from Nottingham (he’s 22 years old) seemed like a young Bob Dylan with his black jean, his black sunglasses and his black guitar. Closing his eyes during all the concert, he reminded me alternately of Alex Turner, Noel Gallagher, Miles Kane and Ian Brown when I was closing my own eyes. He played a pretty good britpoppers “Lightning Bold”, “Taste It” and “Gimme the Love” off his current album On My One. Saturday night ended with Sum 41 for a joyful teenage punk rock performance among the crowd, and finally Bloc Party. I really enjoyed Bloc Party’s new “new wave” set and especially Kele Okereke’s character during the show, acting like a great performer (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, sampler). Introducing Bloc Party’s new drummer, Louise Bartle, they mostly played the band’s fifth studio album, Hymns and obviously Banquet, a typical tune of their early indie rock style. Once again, after the show I attended at the FYF Fest in Los Angeles on August 2015, Bloc Party rocked the party!

After three intense days, I spent a lot of money buying beers, snacks and sunglasses, I slept very little, I got sunburned, however I had lots of fun being front row (and VIP backstage) and taking part in this beautiful festival!

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