A Sunday morning stroll down the supermarket. God might give us this day our daily bread, but he doesn’t guarantee home delivery so I’ve got to pull on some clothing and head out – ah, my clothing, that crumpled beer and cigarette stinking ball cast into a far corner of the bedroom. What do you expect ? I did a gig last night and came home in that state and at that time where the last thing you do is carfully fold your clothing. So, out on the bread run. There is that unmistakable tang of spring in the air, a zest of life on the breeze, sweet and envigorating, it hits your nostrils like lemon washing-up liquid. Blosom on the trees and the first real rays of sun, defrosting the heart and soul afte motnhs of gray chryogenic torpor. I feel happy, a good gig lastb night and (wow) freshly baked bread at the baker’s . It is almost warm enough for a BBQ, and in the supermarket they are queuing ten deep at the chckout, trolleys laden with steak, burgers, sausages and bottles of rosé wine. So it is spring, it is Sunady, the air thick with the smell of grilling meat and freshly-cut grass. In my town, Spring is marked by a strange ritual – the Printemps de Bourges – France’s longest-running and largest rock festival – the first festival of the never ending summer festival season – so, here is a post that tells it all – a homsepun blog release on the festival followed by a few thoughts on the subject of bands. This is a long mispelt missive, so good luck.
BOURGES WELCOMES THE WORLD
Looking for a spring break? Why not spend a few days in Bourges? This sedate, historic, provincial backwater, nestling at the heart of France has all the prerequisite charms for the perfect spring sojourn: a medieval town centre with half timbered houses, cobbled streets and a thirteenth century cathedral classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site; chic boutiques, excellent hotels and Michelin starred restaurants, Bourges has it all, and, if you are in town from the 12th to 17th of April, you can also enjoy the delights of the spring music festival; Le Printemps de Bourges.
Now in its fortieth year, what started in the late seventies as a small, Franco-French affair, with the likes of Renaud and Higelin has now become a major international festival: Le Printeps de Bourges 2016 is six days of near, non-stop music, featuring 200 groups and artists playing in 80 concerts in venues as diverse as a circus big top, a renaissance palace (le Palais Jacques Cœur) and a medieval Church. This year, as every year, over 100,000 festival-goers are expected.
Unlike other major festivals, held on single site, outdoor locations, often far removed from civilisation, the Printemps de Bourges happens right in the historic heart of town with all concerts taking place in covered, heated and seated venues, so, no rolling around in a sea of mud, hundreds of metres from a stage, watching the concert on a video screen. For this festival, you can leave the wellies and binoculars at home.
Headlining this year’s festival is, Anglo-Lebanese popster, Mika, performing on Tuesday 12th April. Mika is familiar to millions as one of the judges on the French version of the TV talent show « The Voice»,
Other star attractions in town include the dubiously named pop duo, Lilly Wood and the Prick; electro folk rockers Louise Attaque; the enigmatic Emily Loizeau and the eccentric Dionysos. The festival closes on Sunday 17 April with a performance by French rap star, Maitre Gims. Festival organisers have also promised a 40th anniversary concert with a special guest appearance from Bernard Lavilliers. If all this is not quite your tasse de thé, Bourges is still worth a Printemps visit, if only for the unique festival atmosphere and the many free musical and cultural happenings around town
The Printemps de Bourges is France’s largest and longest-running rock festival. It kicks off the seemingly endless summer festival season. The groups and singers you see here will be performing across France throughout the summer, so, instead of rolling around in a muddy field, come and see them all first in the comfort of a covered venue in France’s historic heartland.
Programme and ticket sales
Accommodation (Office de Tourisme) from 4 star hotels to cosy chambres d’hôtes
By car – a two and a half hour motorway drive from Paris A10 to Orleans then A71 to Bourges. The A85 from Tours via Vierzon or the A20 from Toulouse via Chatearoux.
By train – direct daily services from Paris Austerlitz. 70€ return fare. Also direct rail links to Lyons, Tours and Toulouse.
THOUGHTS ON BANDS
So, it is that time of year, that my corner of small town France welcomes the world for six days of almost non-stop music. There will be plenty of bands in town, hence, I would like to take this opportunity to address the subject of BANDS.
The Essential element for a successful band
There are BANDS and there are “bands” and there those people who make music with their mates once a week in garages or cellars or any place with a reliable electricity supply, and space large enough to set up a drum kit and accessible to musicians lugging round large amps. I suppose whatever the band, longevity and success all depend on one simple and crucial factor – having somewhere half decent to rehearse on a regular basis.
No matter what your band, at some point you all have to get together and knock out a few songs – a band ain’t a band if it ain’t got songs.
Banding and Bonding
Real BANDS, rehearse all the time. “Bands” try and rehearse as much as possible, as for friends making music, well that is what they do. A few hours here and there, idly jamming away with no particular purpose, other than being together, having a chat, sharing a few beers and “bonding” because “banding” is a form of “bonding.” Tell the wife that you’re off down the local bar for a few beers with your mates and she’ll raise her eyebrows and stare at you long and hard with that piercing, “Don’t come home drunk” look. However if you tell your nearest and dearest that it is “band night” – she knows full well that you are going to have a few beers, but you won’t be getting totally off your face because in-between beers, you are actually trying to make music.
I’ve been singing in various bands for the last twenty five years. I’ve sung in real BANDS, small “bands” and I’ve done the banding/bonding thing
In my neck of the woods; real BANDS are those groups made up of professional musicians, (mostly local music teachers) and motivated amateurs. Real BANDS have somewhere decent to rehearse and everyone turns up to reahearsal on time, and in rehearsal, rehearse is all you do – there is no beer, no chat, just music, and it can get very technical. (Ouch). Real BANDS don’t do banding/bonding, they just play because playing is all they do and those pros who play in the band will also be playing with at least three or four other bands. They will remain “loyal” as long as there is work. Real BANDS are not out to get famous, they work – Clubs, Dance halls, discos, private parties – you don’t get many of these bands in pubs because pubs don’t pay enough. For amateurs (such as myself) playing in a real BAND is technically speaking, good experience, but the motivated amateur (if invited to do so) should never join such an outfit on the strength that he is going to make new friends. These guys aren’t your friends, they are musicians rehearsing for the next gig. Gigs are work, gigs are money, playing a gig is simply going to work. Rehearsals though are not paid, so it’s in and out and don’t hang about.
Saturday Night Rockers
“Bands” are those groups of motivated amateurs (would-be rock stars) who want to achieve something. From the first day they ever took up music as kids (or fully grown adults in some cases), the dream has always been to play in a band (providing of course as a band you can find somewhere to play). Rather than use the term “bands” I prefer “Saturday night rockers” – the teachers, plumbers, policemen, insurance clerks, truck drivers, dentists, social workers … who will never give up the day job and will never give up the dream.
I’ve always looked on the Saturday Night Rockers as the Poor Bloody Infantry – go anywhere and play at any price all in the name of rock and roll, that vague but federating causewe all serve. Of course we also go anywhere at any price because it is a gig, a chance to play and a chance to play at being a Rock and Roll star. We all dream of being a héro, weilding a guitar, weilding a gun – rocker stars or war héros. I think the next passage sums it up
The P.B.I (Expressed in a UK English venacular)
“The poor bloody infantry, that’s us . The heavy- smoking, hard-drinking, under-paid, under-rated and over- abused Saturday night rockers and rollers . Lugging our gear from pub to club through the wind and rain, freezing our bollocks off, up the street and down again .
Go anywhere, play anything . All those Saturday nights when you could be home all curled up round your missus and a warm beer in front of the telly and instead, your out gigging. Sliding around in beer and broken glass on the grey linoleum floor of some draughty pub that feels like it’s a million miles from home . There you are, sandwiched in-between the fruit machine and the gents, the stink of persperation, piss, fag smoke and the sickening smell of those dodgey lavender blocks they throw into the bottom of the bogs ‘cos some stupid cunt couldn’t hold his beer.
There you are, the all-singing, all-dancing, musical side show, used by the landlord, abused by the punters, playing all night for a pittance to a bar full of wall-to-wall drunks, and loud-mouthed know-it-alls who wouldn’t know what a guitar was even if you hit them across the face with one, and believe me, you could often quite happily bludgeon someone with your Fender, and feel really good about it .
We’re just the poor bloody infantry . We’re not superstars, and never will be . We’re the guys in the corner you never listen to . The name on the posters that you’ve never heard of . We’re the ones you tell to “fuck off” when the music gets too loud, too fast, too slow, too much . We’re the ones who you want to play when the music stops, and to stop as soon as we start playing . We’re the guys that all the punters refer to in sneering tones as “the band” , as if they were talking about the scum of the earth . I’m the shit on your shoe, or your bad day at work, or the bloke who cut you up at the lights , but I’m not going to go away, ‘cos this is my pleasure, my fifteen minutes of fame . This is what I do to stop myself going crazy . You might annoy me, but I get twice as much pleasure knowing that I’m annoying you .
Hate us you might . But, I get the sneaking suspicion that all those of you out there, who spend the night propping up the bar and slagging us off . . . I get the feeling that you’d like to be up here where I am . In the spotlight, behind the micropohne, showing off to your mates . I think that deep down, you respect us, but you’ll never admit it, so your respect turns to jealousy and your jealousy to hostility and then, just like the big tough man that you’d like to be, you go outside and piss on our cars, or puncture our tyres or pour your beer on our amps, and that makes you “big” with your mates, it makes your girlfriend laugh, it means you might get a bit when she dishes out the rations after closing time, but will you still be able to get it up ?
Amateurs we may be, plying our tired tunes around every bar in town . Churning out mediocre cover versions of Sixties and Seventies “classics”, but, every so often, you get one of those gigs that makes all the hassle worth it . The gig where you don’t get slagged off, where the landlord slips you a bit extra for a job well done . The gig where you’ve given your all and you still want to give more, the gig where you’ve played guitar like tugging at someone’s heart strings and managed to make even the hardest bastard cry into his beer . The gig where you’ve had the punters up, flailing around like double jointed drunken dervishes .
Don’t ask too much of us though, you might be disappointed . Just ask us to do the impossible, because we’re the poor bloody infantry . Over-worked, under-paid and always under-rated . Humping our gear around in all weathers . We’ll go anywhere and do anything at any price . The foot soldiers of the music business . Tommy Atkins did it for King and Country , We’re doing it for kicks .