Bon Temps Rouler
On Saturday 27th Feb Lille set my heart ablaze. I
ended my DJ set by saying “Vous etes belles Lille! I am from London but my
heart is from New Orleans” as it pounded to the pulse of hundreds of people getting
down to the rhythms of New Orleans.
Straight off, I saw from the ticket price of a few euros, that this was a festival for everyone and 800 people from all walks of life packed into the Salle Des Fetes in the hip Fives area of Lille.
No boundaries really existed, a small local lady in her 50’s led the dancefloor proceedings, stepping and damn well doing as she pleased as my Professor Longhair strolling numbers and Clifton Chenier bayou blues warmed the crowd on a bitingly cold, Northern night. There were families on a night out with children who later clambered onto the stage to get a better view of the dancers.
Not really knowing what to expect, other than hearing from the organisers that at some point a Mardi Gras Indian, resplendent in feathers and sequins would appear, the local 10-piece Opus 2 Brass Band were a fireball of energy. Mixing up their own hip-hop inflected French originals with New Orleans brass band staples ‘I Feel like Funkin’ it Up’ along with crowd pleasers like ‘Thriller’, all executed superbly, they had the crowd jumping and screaming for more. During sound check, band leader and all round good egg, Manu chatted to me, “We bring out the Big Chief. Not many young, white, French men have been to New Orleans and learnt how to make a Mardi Gras Indian costume”, as he dangled a dazzling sequinned chest piece over the DJ booth. Inspired by the flamboyance of Dr John proudly displaying New Orleans roots and culture in his Mardi Gras Indian feathered suit, Manu, far from wishing to create a spectacle wanted to highlight important parts of French and US history; escaped slaves (and in some cases the first French settlers in New Orleans) being sheltered by native Indians. Shown how to sew it piece, by beautiful piece at the Backstreet Cultural Museum, the hub of the Treme neighbourhood in New Orleans, he then recalled playing snaredrum on Jesus on the Mainline at the Candlelight Lounge and Benny Jones of the Treme Brass Band saying “You’re not a stranger no more, you from the neighbourhood”.
Boasting two charismatic front men, sax player Pierre-Yves leapt and bounced on the spot never missing a beat and James, a blues-shouter turned Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief used his deep, bluesy vocals to rile the crowd to fever pitch. Karine, the tall young, female sousaphone player was holding up the rear pumping out superb bass notes and quietly breaking down a few stereotypes too.
As I DJ-ed I caught footage of a Second Line out of the corner of my eye as the VJs ‘Machine Sauvage’ bought to life street scenes of New Orleans; the feet of steppers on a second line and bits of the gig with kaleidoscopic effects and colours were projected onto white diamonds behind me as I spun. The crowd bounced and roared to the high energy 50’s RnB, deep n dirty funk. A man held up his arm and kept shouting “DJ, DJ” until I made eye contact and he had the chance to say what I’m sure was something lovely in French.
Thanks to ATTACAFA for organising and Lille.fr for investing in this great event. Vive les bon temps!
Opus 2 brass: www.opus2brassband.com
Machine Sauvage: www.machinesauvage.com