Festival Season 2013: Les Ardentes, Liège (BE)

© D. Prahl

BY BELLE BRUMMELL AND REDHEADESS

Les Ardentes Festival has been taking place in the city of Liège, Belgium since 2006. Although it’s a four-day event running from Thursday to Sunday, we only dropped by for the Saturday. This year’s edition was headlined by Nas, Mika and dEUS, which was clearly a step down from the previous year (50 Cent, Marilyn Manson and Morrissey), but the big names are not really what Les Ardentes are all about. Most acts seemed to be local or at least French-speaking and belonged mostly to the rock or electro genre. The small festival boasts with being family-friendly (children under 12 get in for free) and lies next to an idyllic river, but the two electro stages located inside the exhibition halls make sure you can party hard and wild all night.

© S. Prahl

Sadly the festival’s atmosphere suffered a bit from the lack of decoration and the exaggerated amount of sponsor stalls and mobile promoters chatting you up in French, the festival’s identity being drowned by the gigantic façades of the “Casa Barcadi” or Coca-Cola’s larger-than-life vending machine. The food trail was highlight though, offering a welcome deviation from the usual festival catering of pizza and bad Asian food with lots of international stalls as well as local specialities. Sadly the sale of drinks was regulated by a weird ticketing system, which led us to live on free tap water all day – one of us still had to drive after all, as we would be leaving the same night to save hostel costs or the pain of camping.

Belgium's pirate party: Folk-rockers Yew opened the Saturday at main stage
Belgium’s pirate party: Folk-rockers Yew opened the Saturday at main stage (© S. Prahl)

The first band of the day were Yew. Made up of seven or so musicians, some of which were dressed up as pirates or something, these locals played a mix of indie and folk which was okay to listen to but didn’t really catch on at only 1PM with as little sleep as we’d had.

Not exactly the new black: Elvis Black Stars playing the HF6 stage
Not exactly the new black: Elvis Black Stars playing the HF6 stage (© D. Prahl)

Afterwards we moved from the main stage to the indoor HF6 stage, where another Belgian act called Elvis Black Stars played. Sounding like a rip-off of Oasis or a less original Kasabian, they had one okay song which they seemed to repeat over and over throughout the whole set, getting really dull after about three songs, combined with pretentious rockstar poses. We only stayed because there was nothing better to do, unless you wanted to try out Volkswagen’s surfboard version of a mechanical bull while being commented on in French over the speakers.

Despite the name, a bright spot: Pale Grey lit up the mood
Despite the name, a bright spot: Pale Grey lit up the mood (© D. Prahl)

The next band were a level up, luckily: Pale Grey played light-hearted indie pop with really good tunes, sounding a bit like Jukebox the Ghost in matching outfits à la Metronomy. This was, however, the only real discovery for us at this festival.

Matching outfits seemed a must have at this festival: London's The Maccabees
Matching outfits seemed a must have at this festival: London’s The Maccabees (© D. Prahl)
Singer, actress, model: Frenchwoman Lou Doillon is a veritable multi-talent
Singer, actress, model: Frenchwoman Lou Doillon is a veritable multi-talent (© D. Prahl)

What had brought us here once more were The Maccabees, who played a slightly quieter set than usual, containing slower, melancholic tracks like “Child” and “Heave” off their latest album “Given to the Wild”, but also some songs that allowed jumping around to, like “Can You Give It” or early single “X-Ray” and of course their 2012 hit “Pelican”. To break the language barrier, drummer Sam Doyle was spontaneously employed to translate, as he is capable of speaking French rather well, but in the end this wasn’t necessary for the band and crowd to connect and enjoy a fun set together.

The next act who took the main stage was Lou Doillon, daughter of Jane Birkin, playing charming adult pop (and a cover of The Clash’s “Should I stay or should I go”) and winning everyone over with endearing shyness. It was a nice soundtrack to strolling over the small festival area in the afternoon sun.

Shaking hands with the (not so) Angry Mob: Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson
Shaking hands with the (not so) Angry Mob: Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson (© D. Prahl)

So obviously it was quite a change of mood when the Kaiser Chiefs took over with a string of well-known singles from “Never Miss a Beat” to “Everyday I Love You Less and Less” to “Oh My God” and of course “Ruby”, as the Brits were there to promote their new best-of album “Souvenir”. They did play one or two new songs as well, which of course sounded like everything else, as they have creatively stagnated since 2005. Singer Ricky Wilson was energetic as ever, jumping into the crowd and attempting to speak French (introducing bandmate Peanut as “Cacahouette”). Generally everyone seemed to be having a brilliant time.

Cult in Belgium, just not our thing: Middle-aged rockers dEUS
Cult in Belgium, just not our thing: Middle-aged rockers dEUS (© D. Prahl)

Unfortunately, the headliner that day, dEUS, really wasn’t our thing, though they were apparently huge in their home country Belgium. Their set was pretty uninteresting old men’s rock, which for some reason even the young and hip attendants seemed to enjoy, but we went over to the HF6 stage instead to catch Soldout. The Belgian duo started out with an extremely quiet song, and though the next one was catchier, we were already too tired and still needed to drive over an hour, so we left (and missed our fellow Hamburgers Digitalism).

All in all, we had a pleasant and relaxed day and it was nice to see a new festival for a change. Even with our broken French we somehow got through this adventure. The line-up was really quite weak though, if you’re not into electro that much (they had a whole stage dedicated to hard techno, which we completely avoided). But it seemed like a nice and well-organised festival, so we can absolutely recommend going there if the line-up suits your taste.

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