Rock en Seine Festival Review

This year was the 15th anniversary of the French music festival Rock en Seine with a 110 000 people attending the 3-day festival, with headliners including The XX, PJ Harvey and Flume among others. Having attended this festival for 3 years running, I have realised how popular it has become with a more international audience, due to it being so affordable compared to festivals in the UK (119 euros for 3 days).  Travel also has to be factored in but with Eurostar having plenty of cheap deals, it doesn’t add up to much more than travel to a UK festival with prices for food and drink being fairly reasonable on the site too.

The festival is extremely well organised; since the terrorist attacks, security measures have been reinforced all the way to the festival site and important checks have been made. There weren’t any queues that lasted more than 5 minutes to get in, as access was separated in many different sections. This year’s theme was ‘Graphics’, so there were also activities such as an outdoor exhibition of artists’ photo portraits taken in the previous years of the festival, graffiti artists showing off their work on big canvases, customising of tote bags and pins, and recycling of old t-shirts with spray painting artists working on them to give them a new style.

Unlike the name of the festival indicates, it isn’t only a rock festival but music of all kinds: rap, electronic, pop, soul etc; with pretty much every popular genre of music being played at some point.

Image: The Lemon Twigs by Sarah Ashford-Brown
Image: Mac Demarco by Sarah Ashford-Brown

Music wise, this year’s top 3 favourites were the Allah-las, The Lemon Twigs and Mac Demarco.

The Allah-las didn’t seem to be affected by the press coverage and higher security put in place because of the cancelled event in Rotterdam due to a terrorist tip off. Their chilled and relaxed sound had everyone under their spell, supportive and vibing during the hour long set.

Image: Mac Demarco by Sarah Ashford-Brown

Mac Demarco’s set was one of the best gigs I have ever attended. The crowd of fans attending it was endless, Mac and his band took over the main stage with their cool attitude, numerous drinks and packs of cigarettes, behaving like they were at a barbecue with friends. A VIP table was installed on stage (Car Seat Headrest who performed earlier was present at the table), of course, because it is Mac Demarco’s concert we are talking about! He introduced his bandmates with random names, sang Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles for three minutes, not knowing the lyrics apart from “making my way downtown” which he repeated over and over again. ‘Happy Birthday’ was sang, he crowd surfed losing his socks and (one of) his cap(s), invited fans on stage who he danced with, carried them and invited them at the VIP table to enjoy the show, fidget spinned and of course, sang some of his own songs such as On the Level, This Old Dog and Salad Days. MAGICAL.

After this great moment, I wasn’t expecting much of any other artists performing to be anywhere as good as Mac, but The Lemon Twigs completely changed my mind. This odd group of young adults from a different style are living the rock star dream. Bright pink skinny jeans with makeup, double denim and flares with red shirt reminded me of Mick Jagger, Lennon and a seventies disco dancer. Jumping all over the stage giving them a real workout alongside the photographers running after them.  The band is completely in the style of classic rock bands of the 60s such as the The Beatles and The Beach Boys with some 70s power pop thrown in for good measure. The two brothers swapped between vocals, drums guitar and various other combinations. I believe that there is a lot to come from these two talented brothers, especially as they develop their own style.


Sarah Ashford-Brown