Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Fete de la Musique

Saturday was the summer solstice over here in the Northern Hemisphere, ie the longest day of the year, and they have a pretty cool way of celebrating it here in Paris, with a day and night of free music throughout the city. On this day any group can come out and perform anywhere, and it seems without any permit or permission or anything. They obviously have more organised events as well, though they are generally classical music as that needs a bit more organisation than a thrash-metal band. The main stuff seems to kick off in the afternoon and then carry on through the evening well into the night, the metro runs much later than normal, in fact it may even go all night, so you don't have to worry about getting home. It is just a really awesome idea and just wandering the streets I got to see so many different bands out. There was first the choral music in the French senate, which is the big building in the Luxembourg gardens, then brass bands, barber shop quartets, heavy metal, 40-year old's pub music and just general cover bands.

I spent most of the evening listening to one band in the Latin quarter and it was a slightly strange experience, they spent most of the night playing cover songs of American/English music and it really felt like you were in an Aussie pub, except that they spoke French after every song. So they were playing things like Hotel California, Stairway to Heaven, Yellow, etc and the French people were all sitting there listening to it, seemed to be getting into it, but then later in the night they started playing French songs and then the audience just went off, they all got up and started dancing away and singing along and it makes me wonder why they played all the English songs first, especially as they didn't seem to know them nearly as well as the French stuff.

All in all it was a really good night, it's just a shame that they could never do this same thing in Australia. Over here it was a real family event and while there was alcohol being sold on the streets, most people weren't drinking and those that were just seemed to get to the happy dancing stage rather than the aggressive punch-you-in-the-face stage. I'm sure there must have been a few fights later in the night though but it just didn't seem to have the same violent vibe that you can sometimes get at these sort of events in Australia. I have the feeling that if they opened the whole of Sydney up to an all-out drinking and music festival it would fairly quickly degenerate into a city-wide riot. Just look what happens on New Year's Eve and that's in the controlled sections, in Paris I don't think I even saw one policeman out on the streets. I don't know why we anglophones have such a strange relationship with alcohol, why is that we aren't capable (as a society) of just having a few friendly drinks without it turning messy? But I suppose if the Australian government knew the answer to that they would be implementing those policies rather than just raising the tax on pre-mixed drinks.

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