After the success of their inaugural event last year, the Weather Festival in Paris returned to the city last weekend for its second installment with a grander ‘plan de campagne’ that entailed new festival sites, a larger capacity and a mind blowing line-up, spread over four days.
With such a line-up how could anything go wrong? Industry’s ‘crème de la crème’ (you pick up French really quick if you’re in Paris for a few days) was invited and the whole circus was playing over the weekend.
Paris always feels like coming home to me. My first experience with the city was when I was a youngster and went on a camping holiday with my parents to the Dordogne; Paris was our first stop. All that I can recall from that first encounter, not due to extensive alcohol or any other less than legal substances – was eating ‘escargots’ (snails in garlic/parsley butter) and the beauty in which the whole city is draped. During the festival I asked someone why it’s so difficult to buy cigarettes in the city center and she replied saying: “Paris is like an open-air museum and you are not allowed to buy cigarettes in a museum either, right?”
Anyways, the festival lasted four days. Apart from the main event, that started on Saturday at noon and finished at 10 the next morning (yes that is 22hours), there were Weather OFF events all over the city. As the OFF *any festival* parties are always better than the official opening events, I chose to miss the Weather openings ceremony with Mount Kimbie (live), Moritz von Oswald trio and Underground Resistance. Firstly, I wanted to pay a visit to Sonotown, the promoter that hosted the Weather official openings party last year – because XDB, DMX Crew, Jane Fitz and DJ Stingray were topping the bill. I’ve seen the latter play about two months ago at the Phonica ‘Record store Day’ Basement party and DJ Stingray (6.5 feet and wearing a balaclava) really impressed me. I’ve never in my life seen somebody mix that swiftly, he was playing his 12” electro funk and house records for not even a minute before mixing the next one. But when I was told that Apollonia, consisting of French DJs Shonky, Dyed Soundorom and Dan Ghenacia, were playing all night long at Concrete. Sold.
I’m glad that I managed to go to Concrete because it was the best way to begin this weekend. I can understand why Concrete is seen as one of the best clubs in Paris and why it even belongs to the top clubs of Europe. The line-up, the sound system, the bar, the people and basically everything about the venue is just spot on. When the sun came up around 5 in the morning I had a ‘déjà vu’ that reminded me of the Watergate in Berlin, it was magical. Apollonia was playing a great energetic set and they kept the crowd entertained all night. This seems easy if you play with three people but its actually quite hard, unless you have great chemistry.
On a festival that lasts for 22hours, people survive happily on three basic things: music, sun and some inhabitation removers (if you know what I mean).
Surprisingly, immediately after entering the festival site I was already baring witness to people who seemed completely rat-arsed, and this was at a meager 4PM, with a whole day plus a whole night ahead. I guess Parisians just really like to party. This comes as no surprise, as the Weather Festival is one of the few festivals that is around the city during the whole summer, heck even the whole year. Despite the fact that this was the second edition and the fact that the French have little experience with festivals, the Weather Festival was extremely well organised.
The site where the main event was being held was historical and unique. Le Bourget was Paris’s first airport and started operations back in 1919. Nowadays the site is being used as a museum and a place for conferences and events. Normally airports are annoying places that many of us hate to spend time at, but if you have the chance to party on an airfield; Inside the hangers and on the ramps, that is a lifetime opportunity. They made this surreal experience even more realistic by placing (or leaving) several airplanes on the site (unfortunately not accessible) and even a space rocket that had quite a lot resemblance with the historical Apollo 11.
The site covered four stages, both inside and outside, named after the four seasons. The main stage (or Spring stage), hosted the bigger names such as Ricardo Villalobos, RPR, Onur Ozür, Sonja Moonear, Seth Troxler and Derrick May. Although I’ve seen Villalobos playing many times before, I couldn’t resist taking a peek and seeing this legend work the decks. He seldom disappoints and always knows how to enjoy and please both the crowd and himself. Seth Troxler, or as they in Paris refer to him as “Le Seth”, has grown into a respected artist and DJ of cult status. Making a name for himself by his charismatic personality and by enjoying life in its fullest sense. Apparently ‘Le Seth’ is extremely big in France, because I heard many people talk about him hours before he had to play and when he did, the main stage was full with spectators. Le Seth delivered and gave me goose bumps when he played ‘
by DA Rebels. Not because the track is anything new, but because it’s legendary, especially when you hear it on a massive sound system.
The two indoor stages (Fall and Winter) were more Techno orientated. I had a small moment when I found refuge inside one of these hangers when it was pouring rain outside. I’m sure that respected artists such as Len Faki, Plannetary Assault Systems, Ben Clock, Marcel Dettmann, Adam Beyer and Chris Liebing were rocking these two stages, as the crowd were really enjoying themselves, but personally this is not my cup of tea. During the day the sun was out and it was a scorching 30 degrees, who wants to stand inside with those circumstances, anyways?
No; Disco, House and Minimal are more my thing. Basically anything that covers a little bit of funk. The Summer stage, which was the smaller stage outside – covered everything that was funky and I barely had to move to see the artists I wanted to see. I only had to move my feet and move back and forth between the bar – it was perfect. Zip, Moodymann, Motor Citty Drum Ensemble, Soundstream (live), Floating Points, Margaret Dygas, S3A and Hold Youth were all on my list. Unfortunately, I had to miss the last two due a small delay I experienced getting to the site, which involved an 1 hour walk through a dodgy banlieue. Moodymann and Zip played by far the most spectacular sets I’ve seen over the weekend. Moodymann is truly extraordinary and a one of a kind DJ. He always surprises you during his set, keeping you anxious to hear the next record. He is one of those DJs who can play anything he likes, whether its hiphop, disco, jazz or house. This keeps his set exciting, diverse and very danceable. When he opened with “
t” by Oliver Cheatham, my night couldn’t get any better.
Well it did, Perlon label owned Zip played two of the finest hours of house music I’ve heard in a long time. Darting effortlessly between the vastly different elements of the Perlon arsenal, Zip’s set was frankly an exemplary exhibition of how the very best minimal is light years away from the repetitive clicks and vocal glitchers that have come to give the genre a bad name. When Zip was finished, it took me nearly 10 minutes to realise that Margaret Dygas took over the decks. She started strong, powerful and continued on the path that Zip carved. However due to a technical failure and a very sudden and intense Mediterranean shower – that made everybody run inside the hangers – Margaret lost the momentum and her grip on the crowd. She had to restart her set twice to get back in her flow. This was a shame as she was killing it in the beginning.
Sunday is a day of rest and I took that opportunity to rediscover the beauty Paris has to offer. I could have decided to pay a visit to more OFF Weather events. There was enough to do in the city with parties being held in the infamous Rex Club, Le Batofar and La Machine du Moulin Rouge. However, I’m very keen on my health and physical being and decided to hit the sack early, so I’d be fresh for the closing party on Monday.
The closing party was miles away from Le Bourget and a huge trek. The festival site was located on Île Seguin, a small peninsula in the river Seine. There were three stages, two tents and one outside stage. Unlike the first-rate sound system I examined at the main event, the sound systems on all the three stages at the closing party were horrible. Maybe they did not test it properly or the technicians missed their sound check, but I couldn’t enjoy the music as I like to: flawless and without distortion. Anyways, Ben UFO played a really good set, but all my eyes and those of many more were focused on Three Chairs – the collective comprised of Detroit house luminaries Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite, Marcellus Pittmann and Kenny Dixon Jr. The latter better known as Moodymann. They were spinning for 6 hours, an education in all things from the Motor City.
Maybe it was because of these high expectations; Maybe it was because of the quality of the sound system; Maybe it was because our Mo’ Town legends were all pretty smashed, or maybe it was because of the fact that Three Chairs is a new project that is still trying to find their balance, but in any case it was disappointing. They couldn’t keep it stirring for 6 hours and there was no structure or balance among the four of them. They were just throwing on records randomly and over-using the filter effect that honestly added nothing to their set. At least they had fun on stage and showed a great chemistry, as they’ve known each other for over 30 years. Rick and Kenny kept the crowd entertained with a lot of MC’ing and there is no doubt that they are individually all extraordinary good DJs. For these reasons they deserved the booming applause that they received at the end of their set… or maybe it was because the festival was closing and everybody was still dying to hear one more track.
From a punter’s perspective, festivals can sometimes be arduous: 50-minute treks across the festival terrain, long queues for bars and lockers, constant battling for dancing space and a view of the artist and a lot more other annoyances. Weather Festival exceeded expectations and did not lack in any of these things. This is quite exceptional as the French are not experienced with organizing festivals. Despite the fact that the Weather Festival is one of the only festivals held during the summer, it creates an amazing atmosphere. Everybody is excited and looking forward to it for weeks, hell maybe even for months. It’s a Parisian festival ‘pur sang’, so no shirtless Italians, muscled Croatians or wasted Germans. This fact together with the countless musical highlights outweighed some of Weather’s operational shortcomings, such as the poor sound system at the closing party and the fact that they hadn’t sufficiently prepared for rain during the main event. The Weather Festival was a resounding success and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a multiple day festival for its community spirit, the setting, interesting musical showcases, the people and… the weather 🙂