We drooled for months in front of the promised bill, however we were wondering how the charming little festival a bit rural of Charmont, famous for its noteworthy programmings as much as for its friendly atmosphere, would be able to bear its transfer to La Chapelle Saint Luc, a very close suburb of Troyes, in a much more urban area. At the fateful date, the long travel ended when we drove out the ring road from Troyes, and we first noticed that the place is quiet easy to find. Not very well signposted, however, but as we just have to take the main direction to the center of this little town...
Behind the Cultural Center, new meeting point for the Festival, a quiet large parking is waiting for the first people arrived. Phew! At least it's easy to park ! Main dread of the spectators coming from far away to the urban areas, the problem of parking is easily solved. The latecomers will be off with searching places somewhere else in the area, but, advantage not to be in a big urban center, it won't turn to a chore. And just as we arrive at the ticket office, we realize that some regulars are already there, an hour before the beginning of the affairs !
Once we celebrate the reunion and do some formalities (an occasion to thank here Alan for his delicacy), we have to explore this new place. The main stage, large and modern, sets in a much more wide but less deep hall than in Charmont : we will have more place in front of the stage. However the bands will perhaps less feel that the audience throngs with affluence because the people will be more spread on the width. A big curtain hides the access on the wings on one side, while on the other side of the great hall, a door leads to a smaller hall where the second stage is set. This smaller hall adjoins with the outside via a great door, towards a green area that is a little small but sufficient and really nice, and also very practical to talk. Moreover all what we need for the food is set in this green area, whether the little shelter below to get some food and drinks, or the large tent where we can find tables and benches to plant ourselves, quietly eat and talk about a lot of things, and particularly about music,
as it should !
About music, precisely, it falls to Ratsinger to open this new style of the Festival. We could be surprised to see a band made of young people to appear on the bill of an event dedicated to the 70's, but when we talk with them, the members both quickly admit strong influences from the second part of the 70's and from the beginning of the 80’s (the parents' records ?) and claim clearly for a 21st century sound and to be in their own times. When listening to them, we can well understand their approach : they have chosen to sing in french, like most of the great representatives of the french rock at that time (Trust, Téléphone, Stocks…), and their influences become apparent here and there in their enthusiastic compositions, and particularly Téléphone (to my opinion). The impression is then
moreover strengthened in the visual domain by the female presence of Anne Godefert playing bass, and by the SG of the lead guitar Antonin Lespagnol. But don't make the mistake : if we can notice some common points or some musical reminiscences here or there, we don't deal neither with a copying, nor with a concealed tribute band, but really with an original entity.
Anyway, the band takes advantage of the change of format in comparison to Charmont to present an electric repertoire quiet well in place (in Charmont the guest bands livening up the stage changes stick to a semi acoustic format), played to the full with a youthful energy, very pleasant to see. Then, the appreciation depends on each one's tastes, some will prefer the more « cool » side of the electroacoustic guitars seen during the former years, other people will be turned on by a music and a sound more anchored in the 70's, but anyway, and for what I could see (see below), Ratsinger perfectly fulfilled its contract and we can also praise the organizers to have given a chance to young musicians.
Precisely, as we talk about the organizers, Plug’n Play takes over the biggest stage as soon as the first set of Ratsinger is finished, and despite the tiredness and the tension linked with the organization of the Festival in a new place, the band gives us a pleasant performance where the people knowing a little the band find again with satisfaction tunes about to become classics of the band like « I forgot the map », « Intro blues » or other « Time to break away », as well as the great solo of Eric Varache on drums, never bouring or to demonstrative, our drummer's goal being clearly not to hit everywhere and all over the place with the risk to weary his audience, but to bring progressively the listener in a little trip in the percussions' kingdom.
By dint of listening to it here and there for some years, we can only praise the very positive evolution of this band. Leaning on sure values, substancial and original songwriting abilities and a perpetual pursuit of sound, Plug’n Play succeeded to pull itself up to a very substancial level, as Southern John who knows them well would say, despite a changeable line-up. This time, the band performs with Julien Boisseau on bass. Visibly, our bassist belongs each time better to the world of the band and builds with Eric, whose qualities are to few highlighted, a very solid rythm section on which come to base on the complementary guitars of Alan (continuous poursuit of the best sound wrap) and Christophe (fluency and feeling) and Fred's singing. About Fred incidentally, the wink to Jesus Volt, the other
Julien's band, via a Kiss cover, shows that his voice can show some assets not only in the heavy and low boogie : in the rasping option glass paper rock’n roll style, a bit more in the treble than the usual band's repertoire, it also can be extremely successful ! Another way to explore for the band, that will take it, we can hope so, and that also took the opportunity to release its new CD « Dead Line » half-live, half-acoustic, reviewed a short time ago in our columns. Shortly, mission accomplished hands down on stage for Plug’n Play, hoping in the hall CD sales at the same level.
After a Ratsinger interlude, turn to the friendly Medicine Hat to take possession of the great stage ! Particularly happy to be there, because of solid friendly links with the audience and the organizers of this festival, but also because of their difficulty to gather and to give gigs, the Medicine Hat will drag the audience in their incredible merry-go-round. As true on stage than in the real life where we can also find their incredible generosity and their perpetual liveliness, the musicians convinced the audience once again giving it up to let live in a faultless setting up despite some technically tricky passages, a festive and full of feeling repertoire, at the point that Laurie Dalziel, their remarkable « crazy bassist », by dint of moving like a damned soul, worked up to… unplug himself ! A new way to consider the « unplugged » sound that appealed to a laughing and won over audience. However, Medicine Hat on stage, it's a pleasure of every moment, especially when they make an inexpected promotion of RTJ !
What more can I say, except to emphasize once again the extreme quality of their performance, the charisma of their frontman Mark Jackson, the joie de vivre that emerges from their presence on stage and the synergy of the improbable association between the incredible hand-knitting of the country Strat’ with a clear sound only played in finger picking by Mark Wright and the overdriven flights of the Les Paul heavy-blues with lyrical overtones of Steve ? A success, really, that those who saw them last year in Charmont rejoiced in advance to get a lot out, and about that the band didn't disappoint us !
Then, emotional moment for those among us who didn't saw them on stage for more than thirty years as the first (and loud !) chords of Shakin’ Street rang in the hall. Shakin’ Street, for those who don't know it, that was something in the late 70’s and in the early 80’s, even it's no more Southern rock at all ! We were many believing that it would be not possible to see the band on stage anymore, and remembering among other things this insipid program of frenchy popular music around 1978 abruptly electrified by a supercharged « Vampire Rock » mimed on improbable scaffoldings, saving a soporific evening from boredom. Precious memories also, the gigs broadcasted in the evening on France Inter by Bernard Lenoir in his cult program Feedback, or the great tour « Solid as a rock » with, if you please, the former member of the Dictators Ross the Boss on lead guitar. Shakin’ Streeet, the only band with that calibre at that time that was led by a frontwoman, and what a frontwoman, in the person of Fabienne. The main band in the french rock, pioneer of the Heavy Metal in France, supporter of the big sound, origin of the future Téléphone, first band really spoted by the Americans via the Blue Öyster Cult ladder, shortly, the legendary monster was here in 2012 in the hall of La Chapelle Saint-Luc ! What a pleasure to hear again live tunes like « No Compromise » or « No Time To Lose » ! Knowing both the remarkable qualities of Jean-Lou Kalinowski, the band's historic drummer, and those of Fred Guillemet, with the band for some years, but also bassist in the GL Band and sometimes in Plug’N Play, that I therefore listened several times in Charmont, I have to confess that I was impatient to listen to their association. This side, no problem ! Mamma mia, it boosts seriously ! The guitarists make the job, but Fabienne gets less in the front than in the past, retiring often until the place beside the drums to let a lot of free space to the other musicians. Knowing that this performance was the first with the band for some musicians, some members of the band admit the lack of a couple of rehearsals in order to let the new line-up of the band glow the repertoire in the most dazzling way. And in fact, the band didn't yet get perfectly into its stride. A question of adjustements and faith in those adjustements, but let's suppose that the good adjustement won't be late. Anyway, difficult to really appreciate, because hardly in the middle of the set, Alan comes and pulls us discreetly by the sleeve : Dan Baird is ready to receive us backstage and even to grant us an interview !
We can't refuse that kind of opportunity when we work for RTJ !
I won't describe here this interview in head to head with Dan Baird in an empty dressing room. For a Georgia Satellites fan since its first début, it forms a part of the moments that matter in a rocker's life ! But you surely understand that I haven't got a lot to say neither about the end of the set of Shakin’ Street, so it seems ceased by Dan Baird's « Service Service » management, the eye on the clock, nor about the last performance of Ratsinger (sorry…). Dan Baird broke up this magic moment only a few minutes before taking over the stage, crucial but very short moments to gather his thoughts on his performance. The time for us to gather our things, to put all properly and to go in the hall, and the first chords already sounded !
And what a performance ! Really impressive, the Dan, just like his band ! We wonder where all those guys, and especially the incredible Mauro Magellan, draw the energy, nearly 60, to give such a show… I think that only two words are enough to describe what they flung to us : mind-blowing ! Musicians who give it up, playing selflessly on stage to pass their love of the music, and who are up to the mark, without forgetting some rock’n roll clownings and hoops (isn't it M. Warner Hodges ?), the whole thing at a high musical level, mixing sometimes in a medley tunes that someone pretending to be sane won't never dare to put together, that really gives a total blast. Better than professionnalism, it's simply top notch, major rock'n roll. Incidentally, below the stage, we were watching us among musicians, the same touch of amazement and admiration in the eyes, including Mark Jackson who is not the last to give it up ! It shows you to what extent that evening Dan Baird and his gang made a deep impression. Speaking about this edition of the Festival, we can use the words of grand finale, although we lost the tradition of the final jam.
This first Festival 70's in La Chapelle Saint Luc will go down in history, as a good memory ! Of course, we can find pros and cons, but for me the pros overcome in the current state of the things, especially if we consider the musical quality reached. The facilities (halls, backstage rooms, green), more modern, more convenient (I didn't repair any toilet this year, and that's an event !) and larger than in Charmont, is worth our effort to come while losing the little rural side that had its charm (no more camping possible in the small green...), and for sure I couldn't take any pic of American nice set of wheels or Harley this year ! But the atmosphere is still very friendly, almost family, at least for the regulars who get together henceforth faithfully year after year and who finished to know and appreciate each other. A real plus.
It seems that the change became necessary, so let's praise les organizers for having been able to find such a pleasant and convenient place to crash within keeping a great artistic quality. Admittedly, the visit of « references » very strict about the organization limits the pleasant moments of improvisation or pooling, like a jam, that we knew before : now you have to take care of the clock, but in the same time it constitutes a recognition of all that colossal work made to organize such an event. And in the name of RTJ, I have to praise the easinesses offered by the organization to allow us to describe as good as possible the event, and to meet the artists, stretching to mediate to get a private interview with Dan Baird. Ladies and gentlemen, classy ! In front of a such a satisfying picture, I would just wish one thing to speak in the name of some people I know : the food offered was probably excellent, but its « exotic » side don't go down well in relation with some allergies, so M. Plugburry, no need to make them very long, but could we just see the French fries come back ?
Pics : Y. Philippot-Degand
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