Wasn’t it just a bloody boiling weekend? That’s right, Rock en Seine has once again been and gone in what was perhaps its biggest and most exciting (and hot) edition to date. Over the course of the weekend, we kept you up to date on some of the Parisian bash’s best performances, and so today we present you with a definitive list of Rock en Seine’s top fifteen shows.
15 MATHILDA HOMER
You may not have heard of Mathilda Homer before, but that’s exactly the charm of Rock en Seine. The French festival likes to throw some more underground-slash-newer artists into the mix on its more prominent stages, with London-based Homer taking up an early evening slot on the intimate Firestone Stage. It was the best stage for her and her sultry, jazzy music, turning the field into one big mass of swaying bodies. You didn’t necessarily have to be acquainted with Homer and her music for you to realise that you were watching one of the best performances of the evening.
14 WE HATE YOU PLEASE DIE
We Hate You Please Die do exactly what their name suggests: rock the fuck out. The French punks – from Rouen – are a perfect example of France’s buzzing underground scene, blending cataclysmic rhythms and pummelling riffs with manic Raphael Balzary’s boundless energy. He commands the stage like a lion on the hunt for its prey, occasionally ditching his bandmates and jumping head first into the 4 Vents stage’s crowd. They may have been playing in the absolute searing heat (and with the sun shining right onto the stage), but that didn’t stop the garage rockers from tearing the field a new one.
13 LOUIS COLE BIG BAND
When you listen to Louis Cole‘s music on a standard streaming service like Spotify (yeah, we know), you’d expect his Big Band live show to just be a straightforward, jazzed-up jam session. Wrong. Cole rode on to Rock en Seine’s stage on a tiny children’s bike whilst wearing a skeletal bodysuit and Cheetos leggings. His band (brass section et al) all wore similar attire, the two lead vocalists engaging in some dance moves whilst Cole switched between a drum kit and his laptop to sync up each track. He found plenty of time to intersperse some sarcastic comments into his crowd chats, his deadpan delivery adding some comedic elements to what was an overall fun way to start the evening.
12 MINI MANSIONS
Supergroups can be a funny thing, right? On the one hand you have the combined skill of some wonderfully talented artists from different backgrounds (who come together to create magic), and on the other hand you just have a collection of semi-known musicians trying to create something their own projects wouldn’t warrant. This much could not be said for Los Angeles’ Mini Mansions, though. The trio combine slick rhythms and tight grooves to form a whole which borders on both indie rock as well as soulful funk rock. The result is nothing short of special (Vertigo is a banger), and even the searing heat didn’t faze a dedicated throng of French fans who braved the sun to catch the band.
MNNQNS were a late addition to Rock en Seine’s line-up, having been announced as the replacement for King Princess just a day prior. No pressure, right? The French indie rockers – who are a solid mix of raw Arctic Monkeys and Foals – didn’t seem too fazed by their last minute job of entertaining a packed Cascade Stage field, delivering the goods and doing it as best as they possibly could. Sometimes the replacement is better than the cancellation, and for MNNQNS this was most certainly the case.
10 LET’S EAT GRANDMA
There’s no-one out there quite like Let’s Eat Grandma. The teenage duo create a multi-layered brand of art pop that’s both unapologetically positive and refreshingly original. After a drum-led intro, the pair took to the stage to launch straight into their incredible new track Hot Pink. With SOPHIE on production duties, there’s a lot of buzz around the second album due from this pair, with their styles so complimentary. Live (on the Firestone Stage), the tracks sound massive, and the pair know how to put on a great show. Switching instruments with ease and interjecting the music with moments of mutual handclaps, choreographed moves, or Jenny Hollingworth running across the audience for a dance. There’s a barely contained excitement in everything they do that’s contagious when you watch them on stage. This is music without pretence, and with their full control over the entire instrumentation of their output, they have created a distinct sound which became clear on their 2016 debut I, Gemini. On the strength of this performance, don’t be surprised if follow-up I’m All Ears (2018) is the one that breaks them through.
9 JORJA SMITH
Let’s get one thing straight: Jorja Smith has the voice of an angel. It should thus come as no surprise that her popularity in France has gone by leaps and bounds, with her billing as co-headliner a surprise to, well, nobody. During a solid hour on the festival’s main stage, Smith and her band introduced Paris to cuts from acclaimed album Lost & Found. Opening on the title track, Smith had the crowd in the palms of her hands and didn’t let go until the final note echoed out through the PA and over the full field. A field which was still full come the finale, because that’s exactly the response Smith warrants.
8 GIRL IN RED
Sure, we get it. There are plenty of bedroom pop singer songwriters; in fact, legend has it that there’s at least one on every street corner in Scandinavia. But Norwegian Girl in Red is different; she and her band evoke this fresh feeling of youthfulness which can often get lost in and amongst jangly chord progressions and sad lyrics. During her show on the Cascade Stage in the relative heat, Marie Ulven and co. took the crowd on a nostalgic, brazen journey through the trouble and strife of teenage youth. And guess what? It worked.
7 ROYAL BLOOD
Royal Blood stepped up to the task of entertaining a melting main stage crowd as sub-headliners for Aphex Twin. Although the band are definitely at a level which would warrant a full headline slot, it seems like they’re quite content with playing lower down the bill while album number three is still in the works. A handful of new songs crept into the duo’s Lowlands set, the highlight being a sprawling Boilermaker (complete with backing singers). When you see Royal Blood live, you know exactly what to expect. And despite the obvious predictability of some of their music, there’s absolutely nothing to criticise.
6 BRING ME THE HORIZON
Bring Me the Horizon marked their biggest French festival show to date in the middle of the intense Sunday heat. New album amo is a big departure from their previous output, serving as the perfect sonic progression for a band who have never been afraid to switch things up in the studio. This time round, they’ve also switched things up live, upping the production value with tons of TV screens, walkways, creepy dancers and the like. Frontman Oli Sykes wears a red suit emblazoned with newspaper cuttings off mass murder verdicts (including the Manson cult), his vocals a mix of snarling growls and serene cleans. People have given him shit in the past for not delivering live, but it seems to be the case that he’s cleaned up his vocal act for the better. Set opener MANTRA (complete with the aforementioned dancers) set the tone instantly, hitting hard as co2 blew across the stage like a mushroom cloud. A frenetic House of Wolves followed early on, turning the intensity up by a few notches before the restrained medicine turned it down a touch too many. The sixty minute long set served as a perfect time capsule, focussing on everything the band has done so well in the past whilst also providing doubters with a glimpse of the future. Shadow Moses and wonderful life produced the pits, with a poignant mother tongue setting hearts afire under the Parisian sun. It wasn’t until set closer Throne that everything came together, though, with the Sheffield quintet absolutely tearing the house down in what should serve as their best festival summer to date. It’s been a busy summer for the band, but also a hell of a strong one.
God is a woman and her name is Clairo. This is all you need to know.
Balthazar are the pride and joy of Belgium’s indie rock scene, and so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that masses of French fans descended upon a hot and sweaty main stage in the middle of the afternoon to check them out. New album Fever is the outfit’s most polished collection of music to date, ditching their witty absurdities for slick grooves and worldly rhythms. The songs sound just as good live as they do on the record, in part down to co-frontmen Maarten (aka Warhaus) and Jinte’s (J Bernardt) vocal duelling and intricate musicianship. Set closer Entertainment rounded off a wonderful fifty minutes for the Belgians, who definitely won over a Cure fan or dozen.
Funk collective Jungle are so solid that every single show they play is all sorts of magical for all the right reasons. New album For Ever – their second – is a wonderful exercise in soul and funk, featuring ultimate highlight Heavy, California as well as classic FIFA track Beat 54 (All Good Now). Jungle are an incendiary live band, returning to bigger and bigger stages every time they come back around. Their show on Rock en Seine’s Cascade Stage ultimately proved to be the standout show of the entire day, packing out an entire field with sultry jams, slick harmonies and enough groove to feed an entire village.
2 THE CURE
Some nostalgia trips are worth reliving, just ask The Cure. They topped the bill on Rock en Seine’s opening day with a career-spanning main stage set that never failed to disappointed. Over the course of 150 minutes and 27 songs, Robert Smith and co. had the crowd in the palm of their hands as they closed out their European tour. Opening on a twinkling rendition of Plainsong, they slowly built up the intensity song by song. An early presentation of Pictures of You set the tone for the career-spanning set, one which found an early highlight in the magistral A Forest before peaking – of course – on the legendary Friday I’m In Love and finale Boys Don’t Cry; Rock en Seine has never felt so euphoric. The band’s songs will forever stand the test of time, and for a band as Chameleon-esque as The Cure are in no danger of falling out of relevance any time soon. With a new album expected soon, it looks like a new era is about to unravel itself for the Crawley icons.
Foals had the tough task of taking on the Cascade stage right before dream headliner Aphex Twin appeared on the main stage, and this begged one main question: could they have been a better headliner? Well, of course, the answer is a resounding yes. Without discrediting Aphex Twin, it was safe to say that nearly everyone in Paris was packed into the field for Foals. Frontman Yannis Philippakis is a seasoned veteran, commandeering the crowd at the click of a finer. New album Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Pt. 1 served as the focal point of the show (Pt. 2 is due in October), with popular singles Black Bull and In Degrees both proving to be highlights during the show. They’re a lot more refined and raucous than Foals’ earlier output, ditching youthful intensity for a sense of wonderful dance and mosh-ability which earlier cuts either lacked or just fell short of. The show’s peak came on finale Two Steps, Twice, which marked one of Philippakis’ many trips over the barrier and into the crowd. He also did this during earlier tracks Inhaler and What Went Down (preceded by a “fuck Boris” speech), ending the absolutely mental night in and amongst a happy crowd.