Dress-up, hardly mandatory…

As Facebook feeds prepped for the UK’s new favourite holiday™ (who knew shoddy photos of half-arsed devils could still be such a big deal?), Clash boarded the Eurostar, safe in the knowledge our weekend would conclude with more than a hangover and some strange red stains.

Kindly, the Parisian leg of Pitchfork Music Festival obliged, save for perhaps a slight feeling of the bad fuzzy variety on the train back home...

Held in the slaughterhouse turned cultural centre of Grande Halle de la Villette since its 2011 inception, the festival this year boasted performances from former Clash cover stars James Blake and Jungle, as well as platters of (stereotypical by association) bread and cheese, a bowling alley (one of the better commercial avenues), and a casual hall-to-hotel-long queue at 1am on the final night.

Oh, the magic of a European city festival with a late night license.

Openers Ought excelled at the task, performing songs from their debut LP ‘More Than Any Other Day’ (review) with the type of controlled emotion that defines tracks like ‘The Weather Song’ and ‘Habit’.

As centrepiece Tim Beeler accentuated each jolting movement (of which there were plenty; he would later quote Canadian outfit Men Without Hats’ stating: “You can dance if you want to, you can leave your friends behind”), the rest of the band remained politely composed.

Missing (sadly) was ‘New Calm Pt. 2’ from the fantastic ‘Once More With Feeling’ EP, but then you can’t have it all, and what we did get went down nicely.

On Friday, Future Islands tapped the holiday spirit, emerging on stage in full Halloween getup (shout out to drummer Michael Lowry, whose wolf mask stayed put longer than most would dare).

Anyone watching based on a single Letterman performance soon came to the conclusion that this is a band with so much more to offer. A strong pelvis is one thing, but backed by upbeat interpretations of typically sad situations, the heightened moves are justified.

Either Clash was stood too far back or the space was simply too large, but ’s (pictured, main) performance lacked the richness afforded on record. The Dane hinted at FKA twigs, Lykke Li and Lady Gaga, but presented something sparse. The audience, though, were apparently enthralled, offering a leg up when she left the stage to pursue a stint of crowdsurfing.

Come Saturday the line-up had reached its 13-piece finale, the aforementioned license rendering any after-parties presumably redundant.

Aided by the two stages and no overlapping set up (which like a slow game of tennis saw the audience trundle from one end of the hall to the other at 50 minute intervals throughout the weekend), at 8pm all eyes were on the Pink stage for Foxygen (pictured above).

Three backing singers-cum-dancers posed at the side of the stage, all black sequin frocks and energetic dance moves, while lead singer Sam France threw himself about, microphone in hand.

Catchy single ‘How Can You Really’ from last month’s ‘…And Star Power’ LP opened the set, the lyrics barely audible such was France’s physical vigour. Three songs in, the Mick Jagger swagger had extended to a bare chest.

While France and company produced a messy but fun tribute to their back catalogue, tUnE-yArDs (pictured below) co-ordinated a controlled explosion of sound, hence Merrill Garbus’s ability to embark on softer moments within her chaotic tales.

Jungle, hands down winning at the merch game, brought the heat (sorry), literally filling the place with dancing bodies.

Playing the anonymous card a year ago (going so far as to send a session musician to a Clash photo shoot), one Mercury nomination, several (probably) sold-out tours and a gig atop a Peckham car park later, Josh and Tom are finally embracing the attention. And it suits them; their set was loud, lively and inclusive.

At Pitchfork Music Festival Paris, the predominant mother tongue is English, from the smoking area to the backstage area, the toilet queue to the huddle at the bar. Really, you could be anywhere.

But like Clash, most audience members have dodged a fancy dress invitation back home to soak up performances from musicians who have also dodged a fancy dress invitation back home. And long may the fancy dress phobic have this option.

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Words: Zoe Whitfield
Photos: Vincent Arbelet

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