Day three of Europavox 2010 and the sun keeps on shining. And with the first band not taking to the stage until 7.30pm there’s no better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon around these parts than to go for a drive through the countryside surrounding Clermont-Ferrand. Which is pretty impressive: mountainous scenery, castles perched atop steep cliffs and picturesque villages nestled down in the valleys. Then, when the belly starts to rumble, the opportunity is also taken to sample local delicacies. This is, most definitely, the life.
Arriving back on site, State is invited to a secret gig hosted by local label, Kutu Folk Records. After being lead through corridors and up staircases, we climb through a window and onto a rooftop where the show is to take place. The music comes courtesy of the combined efforts of Leopold Skin and Pastry Case; their distinctive brand of Gallic indie folk sounding wonderful in the evening sunshine, even if State is kept slightly preoccupied worrying about the onset of sunburn.
Thank goodness for the shade of the Spiegeltent, then, where the brilliantly-named Mary’s Flower Superhead are taking to the stage. With a name like that we’re expecting blissed-out psychedelic rock and kaleidoscope visuals but what the Greek trio offer up is actually a set of incredibly catchy indie pop. After travelling non-stop in a van for 15 hours, it’s perhaps understandable that there’s a few bum notes during their opening song but they quickly find their rhythm. Songs like ‘The Boy U Can’t Destroy’ and ‘Tokyo’ get the crowd moving and mark out Mary’s Flower Superhead as a band who warrant closer inspection.
Next up on State’s list of ‘ones to see’ is Les Plastiscines. The last time we witnessed the four madamoiselles was at a poorly-attended gig in Andrew’s Lane Theatre a couple of years ago, where they strutted defiantly about on stage and lashed out an impressive set brimming with short, sharp blasts of punk-tinged indie tunes. Tonight, in front of a much larger audience, they’re still strutting and still doling out spikey pop numbers but it’s just not the same. They seem jaded; going through the motions to keep up appearances and apparently more concerned with their expensive clobber than the effort they’re putting into this performance. Disappointing, really. Although, to be fair, we only get to catch the first few songs before we have to head out the door again.
The reason for that early departure is Funeral Suits, who are taking to the stage in the Spiegeltent on the far side of the park. The only Irish representatives on the bill this weekend, the Suits took it upon themselves to travel over a few days beforehand to work in some promotional activities. It’s obviously paid off as there’s a full house waiting, which takes State – and the band themselves – pleasantly by surprise. The entire room is soon hopping to the sounds of ‘Black Lemonade’, ‘Florida’ and ‘Now We’re Moving, Now We’re Free’, with frontman Brian James plying the front row with whiskey between songs. There are shouts for an encore as they depart the stage – the first we’ve witnessed for a non-headline act all weekend – and Funeral Suits willingly comply, causing all sorts of dancing-related mayhem to break out.
And so onto tonight’s headline act. These days, Peter Doherty’s personal life fills more column inches than his music does, but there’s no denying he has an all-too-rare talent as a songwriter. His work with The Libertines and Babyshambles has been well documented but he’s now focusing on solo material, culminating with the release last year of the quite excellent Grace/Wastelands LP. That album’s material is the focus of tonight’s performance and it’s done without embellishment; Doherty takes to the stage alone, with nothing more than his trusty old acoustic guitar. As he Strums and croons his way through ‘This Is For Lovers’, however, there is a little something extra – two ballet dancers appear and provide graceful interpretations of the lyrics. And they appear again and again throughout the set to provide further emphasis for Doherty’s words. Ever the cheeky cockney, he tells an audience member that “your English is as bad as my French” when they try to engage him in coversation, before blowing his nose in a Union Jack. Highlights include ‘The Ballad of Grimaldi’ and ‘SalomÃ©’ but in truth the whole journey is intoxicating, with Doherty’s voice so clear and full of sincerity that you can’t help but be drawn into the story behind each song. He signs off with a jawdopping rendition of ‘Last Of the English Roses’ – an excellent finish to an excellent set, and the perfect ending to a bloody brilliant weekend of music.
Photos: Melanie Bodolec, Florent Giffard & Olivier Tralongo