Diverse offerings, from country to classical
There is such an eclectic range of festivals and concerts to enjoy that music lovers are spoilt for choice in France
The Fête de la Musique on June 21 is only one reason to celebrate this month. The summer music festival season kicks off in style with the massive hard rock Hellfest in Clisson (22-24 June), and Jazz à Vienne (28 June-July 13) amongst the biggest offerings – and very fine both these events will be.
Some local festivals are just one-day events, others have grown into weekend jamborees, and yet others stretch over several weeks. Some are free, some are paying. Many consist of a series of concerts in venues all over town, and others are full-on events where you go and camp out for the duration.
If sleeping under canvas doesn’t appeal however, and you do it far enough in advance, you can always book a room in the area. To avoid parking woes, either book somewhere within walking distance or ensure that you can get a lift. The other option is to take a camper van (or hire one) as most festivals have dedicated parking areas for them.
If you have never been camping at a festival, however, why not try it this June? It is an experience not to be missed and who knows – you might just like it. Take plenty of mosquito repellent, sunscreen, loo roll, clothes for whatever the weather might do, wellies as well as flip-flops, and prepare to relax and get dusty!
The Festival Solidays (June 22-24) at Paris-Longchamp features 80 concerts packed into one weekend. The music on offer ranges from David Guetta to Daddy Reggae Sound Truck – and the whole thing is in support of AIDS charities, making it virtuous and feel-good as well as a whole lot of fun.
On the same weekend, the Country Festival at Thomas Ranch (22-24 June) near Angers is as quirky as they get. There will be a second-hand Western saddle sale, a mechanical bucking bull, line dancing, country music concerts, motorbike rides, riding displays, and a homage to Johnny. (Hallyday of course! Who else?) Dress code = a cowboy hat and chaps.
Trad en Fête (June 8-10) in La Chapelle-Naude (Saône-et-Loire) has been running for 36 years offering traditional French folk music and dancing. It is small, the crowd is only around 1,000 people and most of them are musicians and dancers, so you will not be swamped by crowds. There will be concerts and dances, of course, but also workshops where you can see how traditional instruments are made, dance classes, open mic sessions until late into the night, as well as food stalls and a bar. The festival aims to shun single-use plastics in favour of more green alternatives.
The Festival de Jazz Manouche (June 15-17) offers free concerts in the Salle Polyvalente in Zillisheim (Alsace, inset) along with a bar, food stalls and stands in the village square. You can buy a Spanish guitar from the person who made it, practice your playing, join in with the impromptu sessions, dance and go to the free concerts held throughout the weekend.
This is not a ticketed event so accommodation is up to you. Find a room locally or book into a campsite. Whichever way it goes, this is the place to discover the musical gypsy in your soul.
If camping is not your style and you prefer to cherry-pick your favourite artists, try the festival in Nîmes (June 17-July 22). It is in fact a series of massive concerts by headline acts, staged in the 3,000 year-old Roman arena which graces the centre of the city. (Take a cushion because the seats are the very same stone benches used by Roman spectators.)
This year the lineup includes Simple Minds, Texas, Marilyn Manson, Julien Clerc, I AM, Lenny Kravitz, Jamiroquai, Indochine, Sting, and Norah Jones, amongst others.
For something less exalted and altogether more quirky, try the Europavox Festival in Clermont-Ferrand (June 28-July 1st) which features all kinds of different music – 50 different bands from 20 European countries, as a way of highlighting music from all over Europe.
The largest venue holds 6,000 people which means the scale remains human and some events are free. 80% of the acts come from outside France, and for many of them, it’s their first performance in France, which makes the atmosphere redolent of Eurovision but without the glitz. Who knows what you might end up listening to? Whatever happens, it will be a blast.