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The third outing of Weather Festival transcended a spectrum of expertly curated techno and house, scattered with a number of eclectic musical surprises along the way. Highlights included an awe-inspiring cinematic opener from Derrick May ft. Francesco Tristano and the Lamoureux Orchestra, stellar Chicago dance music from Lil Louis and a deep and meditative, modular performance from In Aeternam Vale on the last night.

Following on from the festival’s previous location at Parisian airfield, Le Bourget, the three-night event took place between 4 and 7 June in a vast grassy plane in the park of Bois de Vicennes, East Paris. As its name suggests, the festival operates loosely around the theme of atmospheric conditions, with four stages representing each season of the year and a semi-concealed fifth stage that transmuted between ambient and modular compositions.

The main arenas, Autumn and Winter, were embodied by two imposing, cubic structures jutting into the sky at around 5 stories high. The stages were layered with monumental walls of speakers, lights and screens reaching from the ground up to the pinnacle of the construction. By contrast, the Spring and Summer stages were placed in enclaves around the edge of the site and subsequently had a much greater sense of intimacy. These stages maintained a tropical beach party vibe and aesthetic, with jungle foliage on the stage and the crowd dancing in the dusty ground.

The festival burst into life on the first day the moment turbo-charged Middle Eastern synths sounded from the Autumn stage, prompting throngs of young Parisians to dash to watch Omar Souleyman. At first glance the inclusion of the Keffiyeh wearing former wedding singer from the Syrian city of Ra –al Ayn could appear juxtaposed against the crowd of French hipsters at the techno-orientated music festival. Souleyman, however, has received accolades from the likes of Gilles Peterson and notably Four Tet who produced many of his tracks including the frenetic Warni Warni that had the French crowd transcending their reputation of being somewhat surly and hard-to-please and instead joyously cheering and clapping as if part of a Middle Eastern wedding.

We experienced the first real jaw-drop of the weekend during the final performance of the opening night when Derrick May, a third of the acclaimed ‘Belleville Three’ was accompanied on stage by the Luxembourgian classical and experimental pianist and composer, Francesco Tristano, and the prestigious Parisian Orchestra Lamaureux, founded in 1881.

The musicians delivered a transitional performance through multiple genres whilst maintaining underlying Detroit characteristics. As dusk turned the sky from peach to a steely blue, the crowd was taken on a seamless sonic journey through classical fused techno, into house dashed with percussive jazz and even touches of calypso at certain points. May and Tristano were on keyboard and grand piano respectively, which together exemplified the perfect synthesis of live dance music and classical compositions. The fluid performance was accompanied by aquatic visuals that morphed into celestial images aptly reflecting the truly cosmic experience at hand. The night reached a crescendo with the anthemic bubbling keys of May’s Strings of Life that was built-up until the crowd erupted to a full orchestral rendition of the Detroit techno classic.

Matthew Herbert’s unique approach to sound production positioned him as one of the most anticipated acts at the event. Gracing the stage with a fleet of supporting instrumentalists, clad in tuxedos, the hour long performance moved along a soulful drift from mellow, haunting tones to melodic jazz-influenced, house renditions.  Herbert performed live on a drum machine and synthesizer, whilst his band drove the symphonies, leaving space for two immensely talented soul singers to lead the concerto.

Crowds grew in size each successive night, reaching an apex of 20,000 on Saturday. The event was certainly a Parisian affair, other than press we only encountered one other native English speaker – a self-professed techno geek from Detroit who said she had flown eight hours for the experience.

The festival truly found its identity after sunset on the second and third nights when darkness had cloaked Paris. The booming Berghain-friendly techno from the likes of Vatican Shadow, Len Faki, Marcel Dettman and Ben Klock on the monolithic stage structures helped to morph the ambiance into a truly dystopian experience. The Orwellian yet tribalistic atmosphere was particularly acute when Xosar was at the helm, lost in torpor with her long dark hair covering her face, expertly delivering hypnotic and amplified heavy techno to the masses, who were rendered slavishly in a trance-like state to every loop and bass thump.

Chilean powerhouse Ricardo Villalobos headed the Autumn stage for a two and a half hour set of percussion orientated, minimalistic techno, accompanied by fellow DJ Josh Wink. His retinue filled the stage behind him, willing him on with booze, cheers, dancing and smiles. The same can be said for the 10,000 strong crowd in front of him. This energy had a clear effect on Ricardo, as he floated amongst his peers draping hands over shoulders, hugging and kissing, and embodying everything that can be said for these large-scale affairs.

The atmosphere oscillated between weighty techno brilliance to buoyant, medleys of disco, house and funk-orientated bliss. The oasis-like Summer stage provided some light respite from the techno, including a carnivalesque performance from Four Tet and Floating Points who spun vinyl from amidst an array of leafy flora and palm trees that covered the stage. Other highlights include a rapturous performance from Floor Plan AKA Robert Hood who provided the crowd with an abundance of soul-affirming, uplifting, gospel-inflected techno.

Lil Louis mixed a mesmerising selection of big-room Chicago house, which kept the crowd moving in a state of flux. Dancing through the performance, the ‘Founding Father’ of House worked through a range of classic cuts. The performance was particularly inspiring following the news that the DJ had suffered a ‘career threatening’ hearing loss injury earlier in the year.

A Balearic essence was present on the Spring stage as the sun rose with the veteran Apollonia Trio taking turns to spin Ibiza classics accompanied by a large entourage who were all partaking energetically in the communal revelry.

The fifth and final stage was unveiled on the second night with ambient music from Voiron and Yvews de may. This was followed on Saturday by a remarkable assortment of modular synth explorations. In Aeternam Vale provided analogue electronic bliss in the form of soul-cleansing progressive minimal resonance that left one feeling rejuvenated by the close of the set. Blawan put on a great effort as he delivered one of his debut live performances as Ternescan Chambers. The stage later died down but retained a beautiful afterglow through the somewhat touching performance of Steevio and Suzybee who earned extra kudos after hearing that the couple had driven their custom built modular machine all the way to Paris from the remote mountains of North Wales.

The festival closed with Nina Kravitz, who had arrived on the site as dawn broke on the last day, reportedly flown straight from another gig by private jet. The crowd remained strong and lively and showed no signs of lassitude in the savannah-like environment. The Moscow native played a slick set of her trademark techno that suitably matched the impeccable organisation and delivery of this year’s Weather Festival.

Words by Edward Maddocks & Peter Malla

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