We Love Green Festival: Tears at sundown, acres of forest, and eco-friendly cosmopolitanism in Paris

Commisioned for Gigwise: http://www.gigwise.com/reviews/107365/we-love-green-festival-2016-review-lcd-soundsystem-paris

I can’t say I’ve ever got on with Paris. I find it a difficult city, unmanageable by all standards, but I imagine people get the same feeling when they come to London. It’s a wild place, a fantastic place – full of culture and innovation – but it’s also home to one of the most eco-forward festivals in the world, We Love Green, where bands and eco-tribes mix together to create a perfect verge for a festival.

Hidden in the green vestiges of Paris’s suburbs – previously at Bois de Boulogne now to the east of the city in the Bois de Vincennes – arriving at the festival leads you on a wonderful walk up a plush green pathway, and towards the festival site. Passing castles and forests of flowers blooming in the early Summer sunshine, it’s quite a parallel to a night in Victoria Park, where tower blocks cloud the skyline. Instead here, there’s a radiance of trees and forest to explore, carefully built into parts of the site.

For all its quaintness – it’s also got a line-up to rival any London festival. There are home-comers Air, who return after years of little to no touring, and New York legends LCD Soundsystem. There’s hip-hop and dub, house and techno – and a tease of punk thrown in if you feel like you’re missing the sound of guitars at any point.

Match that with talks from prominent speakers and thinkers across Paris, the first post-sell-by-date food stall I’ve ever seen at a festival, and tree hugging stations just in case lonely festivalgoers were in need of a touch of intimacy.

Things here feel happy, alive, jovial – a sense of freshness that fills the site, even despite the quagmire of mud that leaves any unorganised festivalgoers with thick hoards of brown sludge to clean off once they get back home. It’s distinctly French too, unlike many European festivals, as we here little to no English voices during our time there.

I get talking to one such French festival-goer, who says it’s a pleasure to be able to flex his English voice. Previously Paris-born, he tells me he moved to Canada with his girlfriend.

‘This isn’t like other festivals,’ he says, ‘you know Weather; it’s on the same weekend – that brings the really strange crowds out. This is more calm, in a way it’s a little like the show-off festival we have in Paris.’

He tells me it’s a place where people are worried about what outfit they’re going to wear – where fashion is as high on the cards as the music is. Perhaps then, that’s why it’s so outwardly trying to prove it’s green credentials. Not that that matters.

The first night leaves us all spun out and in tears after an emotional set by LCD Soundsystem brings out something that’s impossible to explain about seeing incredible live music. It’s probably one part energy, one part the early bottles of whisky we drank while walking through the park on the way in – but it’s like nothing I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing before. I might be alone, having lost our group earlier in the evening, but I’m in the protection of four wildly manic LCD fans for the duration of their set. We share cigarettes, dance together, kick mud around each other, and cry words into the sky.

The aftermath, though, leaves a stampede of people trying to exit this green wonderland. By day, this place is beautiful – by night at nightmare trap of woodland footfall that means tracing a path back home becomes near impossible. We find ourselves bunched in amongst another 1000 festival fans eagerly trying to escape. At one point it becomes quite scary, as people manically run and jump over fences in an attempt to find a way out. Once outside, the steaming smell of hot dogs and frying onions fills the air, and things begin to cool off a little.

 Sunday, the second and last evening of the festival, is as blissful as the previous. Things relax a little – there are sleepy breakfasts and walks down the canal, and a visit to a little market where are people selling unwanted wares outside their apartments before we make our way to the festival site. When we do, it’s already booming. Plastic bags are the order of the day, as we tie our feet up in Carrefort’s finest before properly descending into the fields of mud that have now churned over.

Our evening begins with a touch of James Blake – something familiar, yet from a far a nice distant hum that grazes over the festival site with a gentle aura. Whilst home-comers, Air, come after. Starting slowly, they quickly find their feet as they start storming through a classic set of tracks from ‘Moon Safari’. Amongst an adoring Parisian audience, surrounded by trees, and the setting sun behind us, it’s all very touching.

We beat down to an area called La La Land for afters, where you can lap up a little house-party techno before heading home. We bob along to for a little while before leaving early to avoid the crush of last night. We make it home in time for the last train, before branching onward towards final drinks and goodbye before we all part ways.

We Love Green festival is a touching place. It’s not unlike festivals like Field Day over here, and there’s nothing really that explicitly different about it other than the surroundings, and the eco-pronged focus of the festival. But the chance to experience a foreign city, for just a weekend to feel and ache in its hotspots is a pursuit always worth making. European festivals tend to be cheaper when it comes to tickets, add to that a cheap hostel, and you’ve got a city break and entertainment for the evening for perhaps a little less than you can do a UK festival on.

A worthwhile and wholesome break from the reality of city life, We Love Green is worth a look for anyone looking for something subtly challenging the status quo, without being overly pretentious or outlandish.

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