Beauregard festival - Herouville Saint Clair - France - 5/6/7 July 2013

Review and photograph by Aline Giordano

Beauregard festivalIt was another festival on my list of summer festivals but I knew this one would be very special. For me it was about coming back ‘home’ after I left Normandy twenty years ago. Nothing much happened in Caen in terms of music when I was a student there. We had to travel miles to go to any decent concert - and we did - and when we organised a concert we were lucky to get fifty people to attend. But this weekend we were only ten minutes away from Caen in Le Chateau of Beauregard (cheekily renamed Le Chateau des Hives by The Hives’ front man himself) in Herouville Saint Clair, and it would appear that 55,000 people had travelled to the castle for the occasion.

A very special festival indeed: Herouville Saint Clair the very town that sponsored our music fanzine Uzine back in the 1990s; the very town I made my radio debut in. My weekly programme, co-hosted with my friend, was every Tuesday. I would leave my Russian seminar early, hop into my friend’s car and we would make it just in time to get behind the desk, having previously put CDs, cassettes and vinyls into a bag, sometimes carefully selected according to a thematic but most of the time at random. The first song I ever played on air was the extended version of Love Will Tear Us Apart, a request by a good friend of ours. He was a h.u.g.e. fan of Joy Division, and so were we. We used to play Cantara by Dead Can Dance many times, and Disarm by Smashing Pumpkins, and The Carny by Nick Cave and Every Little Counts by New Order among the many songs we played; but we used to play those a lot. No advertisement, no record of the week, total freedom to play what we wanted to play, to invite friends to talk about why we were demonstrating in the streets against government proposals to change the way universities were funded. Very special days and I can only remember them with the intoxicating sweet melancholy of past times.

Back to ‘Le festival de Beauregard’ and imagine my joy when I saw the headline: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, New Order, Smashing Pumpkins and Dead Can Dance. I could hardly believe my eyes: a trip down memory lane? I approached the organisers of the festival and asked for a photo-pass but my request remains ignored to this day – so no photo-pass. The melancholy was turning sour but I was determined not to let it dampen the mood.

Thrown in among those ‘valeurs sures’ of popular music were The Vaccines, Lumineers, Alt-J, Bloc Party, Bat For Lashes, The Hives, Miles Kane and French artist M to name but a few.

Of course, like in any festivals, there were highs and lows, but let’s skip the lows (New Order butchering Temptation and Billy Corgan doing even worse to Space Oddity are not worth bitchin’ about). On the other hand, New Order’s cover of Joy Division’s Ceremony was a crowd pleaser, the Smashing Pumpkins set was a dream come true for me (apart from the cover!), Alt-J were fantastic, Bloc Party energetic, The Hives superbly entertaining, and Dead Can Dance absorbing.

As for Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, this is another dream (a twenty year long dream!) come true. I have seen Nick Cave live before but either as the Dirty Three or singing the songs of Leonard Cohen – never with The Bad Seeds. What a show it was! It may have been a one hour set only but one hour of absolute bliss. Surrounded by like-minded fans, we watched in awe, mesmerised by the raw, majestic and charismatic performance of Nick Cave. We were only metres away. The persona was reaching every single one of us at the front row, and we were fortunate to be the ones he chose to hold his hand when he was perched on the barrier. He put so much trust in us, we were there for him, holding his legs and hand to make sure he would not fall: a true communion! He took my hand and sang to me during ‘Higgs Boson Blues’ for a few seconds; ephemeral seconds that will remain forever in my memory.

To view the photos taken during the festival.

Photograph © Aline Giordano 2013