While I was in Paris, welcoming my brand new grandson Tybalt into the world, I thought I might as well catch one or two of the free Fnac Festival days, which featured 6 bands today.It is a little like the iTunes Festival, except you don’t have to win tickets, you just turn up, but all in the name of advertising . My frontrow buddie Isabelle told me about it and we thought that would be a great way to catch up as she lives in France and just pops over to London for gigs.
First time we met was at iTunes Festival 2010, watching the epic Foreigner, sweet sweet memories!
We arranged to meet at 12:30 at Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, in front of the Town Hall, there were barriers up all around the place, no chance to claim frontrow spot yet.
We settled down at the outer barriers, chatted and ate our lunch. We watched people coming and going, intently watching to see if we could sight today’s star Charlie Winston. I did spot a blacked out mini bus arriving while Isabelle went over the road to use the loo at the department store, but it could have been anybody.. 😦
We did manage to see Irma’s sound check though, she sounds amazing, can’t wait for the gig.
A couple more girls that Isabelle knew joined us, Vivian and Aurore, finally the outer barriers were taken away and all 4 of us managed to get frontrow space. I was glad to be a little to the right, as the stage was very high and right at centre front it would have be more or less impossible to see much more than the heads of the artists.
Only another hour to go until kick off, but we are quite used to this. Loads of people have arrived now, sitting on the floor patiently waiting, some youngsters to our right take it in turns to go to the toilet and a bunch of older, supposedly grown up people are actually trying to push into their space, how rude…lol!

The first band on stage is LESCOP, a very eighties sound, I like it. the photographers are struggling with the high stage, some have brought along stools to stand on and others climb up on the steps of the barriers….not an easy job for these guys. Looking back I see that the area has now filled up, people wherever you look, again a moment where I’m pleased to have put in the effort to come early and get to the front. I see that the camera people on either side of the stage are female, you don’t often see that!  A couple of people are coming along the barriers giving out free earplugs, like it, and one of them is dancing to the music while she walks along, it all adds to the great vibe that is in the air, chilled and relaxed! LESCOP play for about half an hour and it has been a really good performance!

FRANÇOIS AND THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS is up next, I’m looking forward to them, I enjoyed their performance at the Applecart Festival in London a couple of months back. I can’t remember seeing as many band members in London, 5 guys, including an electric fiddle, which produces an awesome sound. You can feel the energy coming from the stage, these guys love being on stage and performing, they may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but today they manage to engage the crowd. People are dancing, clapping and shouting their appreciation which of course the band feeds off and gets better and better. I did enjoy the performance; it was good to see them on home turf with obviously quite a few fans attending.

Next artist is DISIZ, I have no idea what to expect from him, but you never know, he may surprise me.
Well, this artist is not to my taste but he is definitely a crowd pleaser , most young people seem to be really into him. The high energy that emerges from the stage results into frantic jumping head nodding and arm raising. Awesome atmosphere, I even find myself going along with him, shame I don’t understand anything he sings or says.
Having the ability to get people involved in your set who really aren’t into rap music is quite an achievement, well done Disiz.

Next is 1995, my guess is that it is a similar genre as Disiz, the youngsters behind and next to me are getting very excited  you can literally feel the anticipation .
First a DJ appears on stage, I was just hoping that that wasn’t it, I can’t quite see the attraction of a DJ playing someone else’s tunes and making a fortune with it. Age I guess! 😉
Suddenly the DJ comes to the front of the stage, waving a t-shirt in his hand, I’m guessing it’s 1995 merch, wow, he then sets fire to it and chucks it into the crowd (British Health and Safety would have a field day), one of the camera men in the front catches it but throws it further back into the crowd. In a weird sort of way it’s quite entertaining.
More action, a couple of young men come running onto the stage, all dressed up with hoodies pulled down over their faces, yeah, we are gangsters…NOT! Then another two appear until finally six young men are running and jumping on the stage, singing and getting the crowd involved. The young people around me know every single world and seem to worship these guys.  I must say, it was fun for a while, and then I got bored :-(.
The earplug people come round again, I think I need the earplugs for the screaming youngsters rather than the band … lol!  I know loads of the young people can’t get enough ;-), the crowd is really hyped up, they doing this song where you have to kneel down and  jump up when they say, causing havoc to my knees :-(. Bottles of water get sprayed into the audience and finally they are off, the things we do for the main act!  The screaming is deafening, and here they are, back for an encore……one of the guys came down from the stage, crowd surfed, the people pushed so much they actually moved the barriers, poor security guards, they have their hands full!! They may not be to my taste, but they certainly caused a mini riot here, bit like a tornado sweeping through!!

IRMA, was on next, this should be a little calmer, and it looks like she is well liked, about 20 photographers are gathering in front of the stage. I’m amazed how quickly the stage gets changed between bands, other venues seem to take ages doing it or milk it a lot, who knows, here it is all well rehearsed and smooth. The audience seems to have changed too, people obviously just coming to see their chosen artist and then moving away.
Irma is on stage, I can hardly see her as she is sitting down; there are about 4 band members, all sitting down. This girl has a beautiful voice and there are many fans in the crowd who sing along to her songs. One funny incident was when something must have gone wrong with  guitar and a technician came on stage trying to fix it mid-play 🙂 After a couple of songs she changes over to an acoustic set, this girl rose to fame after posting a video of herself on youtube, see, if you want something bad enough you can get it! Her cover of the Jackson 5 song “I want you back” is brilliant, I love her performance, she is one awesome singer.

The crowd is getting a lot pushier now, people have arrived for CHARLIE WINSTON who is up next, Isabelle and I are glad now we stood our ground. I have seen Charlie Winston before  in 2009 when he was supporting Amado & Miriam at the iTunes festival in London, I have to admit though that I don’t remember too much of his performance, maybe seeing him will jog my memory. There is one rather rude and unfriendly person behind me, she pushes up right close to my backside pressing her big handbag right into my bag. I give her a while to settle and possibly move a little away, but no, she won’t, I turn around to ask her to just give me a tiny bit more space or maybe to put her bag down. She looks blankly at me, so Isabelle tells her in French, she launches into a torrent of what sounds like verbal abuse about us not being friendly and should give her more room, hang on Love, what time did you arrive?? She says something else but Isabelle didn’t tell me what it was until the next day: “She thought I should give her room as I’m “old and fat”.  NICE!!!
At last, Charlie Winston arrives on the stage, loud clapping and appreciative shouts welcoming him, he is looking good with his tousled hair and bright red jacket. He is starting with the song “Hello” from his latest album ‘Running Still’. His performance flows straight away, it only takes a couple of songs for the audience to fully participate. Charlie is surrounded by four musicians with different instruments including a harmonica and flute. His music styles are a mix of pop, rock and folk, added are some experimental sound like beat-boxing  blues and funk, what a performer! I cannot remember him being that electric back in 2009, Charlie Winston has definitely evolved into a skilled and confident performer. I’m curious to know why there isn’t more hype about him in the UK. As the light fades and the stage lighting comes into its own, the atmosphere turns from the frantic jumping to chilled and friendly (even the women behind backed off 🙂 ) Charlie alternates between acoustic and full band, has little treats for the fans up his sleeve, like a huge pile of his trademark hat that gets thrown into the hungry crowd, sadly Isabelle and I didn’t manage to catch one. The song “Speak to me” involved beat boxing and a brilliant show with everyone holding up mirrors, very cleverly done, is there no end to his talent? The song “Want” bathed us in colourful lights, loads of dancing and singing. ” Show me your love” he demands from the Parisian public and they are more than willing to give it!
Charlie extends his thanks to the crowd exclaiming “without you I’d still be a Hobo”, he sheds his jacket and starts whistling his last song, people know what is coming and start singing “Ah Ahahahaha Ahahaaaaaaaa“, brilliant finish to a lovely day of music, helped by the balmy weather and mostly friendly people.
And yes, I do get my hand on a set list! 🙂
Thank you Paris, thank you Isabelle for sharing it with me!

PS: The people with the earplugs came along the barriers about 3 times, by the third time not only earplugs were given away but condoms too! 😉

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About FrontRowStef

Following months of putting in the necessary hours of research, I have been bullied into writing a blog about my gig experiences! I can’t claim in-depth technical musical knowledge, or a massive CD collection, but, I know what I like and what doesn’t sound good in a live setting. I’m not intending to write great reviews about bands, but more of stuff that happen to me while out and about. Like when a dear friend of mine pointed out that it looks like I’m putting my towel down when I hit the barriers at the front and claim my spot with my jacket draped over the railings. What does he mean? Is it because I’m German? Enough introductions, you will get to know me sooner or later! Oh and apparently I’m going to be referred to as Front Row Stef, simply because that is my rightful place!

One response »

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yeah! Free music in Paris! Jxx

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