The Main Square Festival is held each year in Arras, France. A town in the lovely region of northern France. The festival overall is a 4 day event feature numerous mainstream bands mixed in with a nice selection of indie-bands. We however only had time for two days of the event, and went choosing Friday and Saturday.

Day 1

We arrived at the event grounds just as Triggerfinger was finishing up. Not really my style of music so the first order of business was getting a typically overpriced even burger and fries to quench my hunger. From there it was time to walk around the grounds to see what else they had to offer. The main stage is at the end of the main square where the dirt covered ground was being packed down by the thousands of audience members in attendance. To the right was a nice tree surrounded area with some benches and food vendors, with lines that were remarkably not long. And further beyond that was the Greenroom stage. This was a smaller stage with a nice vast grassy lawn for people to sit on and enjoy the event.

We sat down on a nice patch of grass, surrounded by people speaking to one another in the French language for Twenty One Pilots. Based on the description it didn’t sound like my kind of music. From what we could make of translating the pamphlet into English, they were two guys with a electronic, hip-hop, indescribable sound. Which they turned out to be. But not in a bad way, in a entertaining lively kind-of put on a good show way. The main singer who also did keyboards and piano would regularly get out from behind his keyboard, run back-and-forth on the stage, and even at one point climbed the scaffolding above the stage, and putting on a really good show. Now, I know that Twenty One Pilots is a well known band, and I have added them to my list of likes and consider myself a fan as well. One of the joys of a music festival is finding new music. 

Twenty One Pilots

The venue as a whole was nicely laid out, with a small path that lead up a small hill to another vender area with a beer tent at the top and more seating for event goers.

From there it was back to the main stage for Imagine Dragons. Another new band for me and I intend to (legally) download some of their music. The best way to describe them is as good old fashioned rock music. Drums, keyboard, guitar, bass, and a lead vocalist all on stage rocking to the music and playing for the fans who were loving the show. I’d have to say they were the surprise hit of the even for me. With all the crap that gets played these days on the radio, it was nice to hear a rock band just playing rock music. The dark clouds were moving in during their show, but the rain was managing to hold off.

 

rain clouds
Rain clouds rolling in

 

Mud
Mud

It wasn’t until just before Bombay Bicycle Club took the Green Stage that the skies opened up releasing a torrential downpour on the crowds below, forcing me to take refuge in one of the beer tents, crammed shoulder to shoulder with beer swelling Frenchies breaking out into some patriotic French son. I can only assume the singing was in consolation to the French team losing to the Germans in the World Cup game that was going on at the same time.

the rain starts

 

main square festival experience
crammed into a beer tent with the crowds, hiding from the heavy rains

The rain lightened up so I worked my way from the tent back over to the main stage for Franz Ferdinand. I’ve been a fan of them for years and they were the second band of the even I was looking forward to hearing. The ground in the square had turned to mud and puddles, but the weather was warm and the water didn’t prevent many of the attendees from jumping around and kicking mud up to those around them, with a couple even getting into a full on mud fight which we luckily managed to avoid.

Main Square
Once Franz Ferdinand finished their set we used it as an opportunity for piss break and to get something to drink. This was challenging as the event goers were continuing to pack into the event grounds and dealing with pushing rude French people cutting in line. After the break we began to work our way closer to the stage for the main reason I wanted to attend the concert – The Black Keys, a bluesy rick band that makes you want to jump and shout, and did just that. We were shoulder to shoulder, front to back, so tightly packed that it was hard to raise my hands to applaud but to music made it worth it, and the rain stayed away, not that it would have prevented any of us from seeing the show.

The Black Keys

Not the best pic for The Black Keys but I was using my phone, so that’s all I have

The night was getting late after The Black Keys, and the crowds had reached a mass capacity as we worked our way to the green stage to end the night with Woodkid, a dark gothic sounding band. They put on a good show, even though not my kind of band.

Day 2

Day 2 of the festival for us started with touring some of the local sites in town, before heading over to the festival grounds where we arrived at MGMT on the main stage. The event seemed much fuller than the previous day, with the rains sporadically wetting the thick crowds. From the back where we were we could hear the band fine, and occasionally see a glimpse of the singer. From MGMT we relied on a system to move through the crowds to the food venders and other stage that involved finding other people moving in the same direction, then just let them break through the bundles of people and follow behind them. On my first trip to France I have found one thing to be true about the stereotypes and that is pushy French people, with no respect for others personal space of place in line when waiting at a food vendor.

Over at the Greenroom stage we were lucky to find plenty of open space for Allen Stone someone neither of us has ever heard of before. The keyboard player described him as a soul musician during the introduction, but I found him to be more of a funk-R&B sound. Which didn’t work with looking at the guy and his long curly blond hair. Personally I really enjoyed the Seattle native all the way over from my hometown, but my travel companion wasn’t impressed.

Allen Stone at main square
Allen Stone in the rain

 

raining at the main square festival
The wet masses at the Greenroom Stage
 it was during this show that the skies opened up from the light drizzle we were experiencing to another torrential downpour. We started off just hiding under the one raincoat but finding that wasn’t enough we had to move to the beer tend I took refuge in the previous day.
Jack Johnson had already started his set on the main stage as the rains lightened up and we moved over in his direction. I had seen him years before in the George in Washington State, but it was still nice to hear him again. I don’t know if I could say we saw much of him on the actual stage, as most of our views were blocked. We out at the back of the crowd and as someone moved we used each opening as an opportunity to move closer.
Crowds