Let’s say it quickly: the prog of this 2022 edition of Rock en Seine was quite simply one of the best in France. A prog that hadn’t been so rock for a very, very long time: Nick Cave, Arctic Monkeys, Idles, Tame Impala, Fontaine DC, Parcels, DIIV, Inhaler… The few less rock artists of the 2022 edition were also particularly well received : the timeless Kraftwerk for a retro futuristic concert with 3D glasses, the party genius Jamie xx (with a rather crazy live video scene) or even Trentemøgo. To tell the truth, if there hadn’t been a Stromae or an Izïa in the prog, we could have thought of a poster of a Route du Rock which would have won the lottery! Inevitably, with such a prog, the public did not burst by its diversity: very white and rather thirty or even forty. And as usual at Saint-Cloud, a very (too) wise audience.
Arctic Monkeys © Olivier Hoffschir
Nevertheless, on a prog level, Rock en Seine enjoyed it. And we had a good time. The only big artistic downside was the long-awaited return concert of the Arctic Monkeys, eight years after their first Rock en Seine. Not that the performance of the British was bad, far from it. Surely more mature and less exuberant than when they started, Alex Turner’s band remains a live prodigy. No, the problem was the catastrophic sound of the main stage for this concert. Terribly frustrating.
But if there had only been frustration on this 2022 edition, it would have been almost reassuring. Because, very quickly, the experience was tinged with annoyance, even anger.
Annoyance in front of an oversized site where everything became complicated: entering the site, going from one scene to another. But above all: go to the toilet, buy food or drink.
Anger at the sad spectacle of the now famous Golden Pit installed by the festival on the main stage: a partitioned space covering the right half of the front of the pit, which can accommodate several thousand people… having all paid more to access this front of the pit. stage. The result ? Concerts where this huge space is sometimes semi-empty while the rest of the crowd crowds in to try to approach the stage. And even when this Golden Pit was well filled, it presented a sad sight of a pen for the rich. We had never seen that in a festival. And we hope never to see him again.
The festival justified itself by explaining that it had an audience with very varied profiles, as well as their requirements. And that he was trying to meet those demands with this VIP paddock. Except that offering this space to those who can afford it comes at the expense of the experience of others. Funny way to look at public welfare. Except to consider that it is the richest public who is the privileged target?
In the same delirium, Rock en Seine offered to pay an additional cost to its ticket to enter the festival by a dedicated and anticipated entry so as not to queue like the rest of the festival-goers.
However, Rock en Seine proclaims it everywhere, it is a committed festival: on ecological issues as much as against all forms of discrimination. Let’s leave the doubt on the fact that we can have these commitments without being too concerned with economic and social issues, and this, in the midst of a purchasing power crisis. Of which act.
Kraftwerk 3D © Olivier Hoffschir
However, even on ecology or discrimination, the festival found itself faced with contradictions that were difficult to maintain, in particular because of the stands of its private partners: a stand of a travel company offered to win flights in airplane while a VTC brand sprayed the public with jets of water, while the whole country suffered a dramatic drought. A few meters from the “We All” stand, a perfume brand offered to pose behind a huge LED screen where Johnny Depp appeared.
Still looking for the little beast, we also notice the absence of female artists on the most important spots of the weekend. On the eight most exposed passages of the main stage (the last two of the day), all were occupied by men, except one: London Grammar.
London Grammar © Olivier Hoffschir
So we come out of this weekend a little more lost than the previous times. As if the faults of the uncle had become a little too present in his personality. We say to ourselves that it is reversible, that it is not necessarily doomed to be worse and worse. But is it the reason that speaks or love? The love of a memory.
Having good taste is not enough. Having great artists doesn’t excuse everything. The choices made this year by Rock en Seine were to the detriment of other choices, other priorities. Both artistically and otherwise. Because the danger is obvious: that Rock en Seine becomes a sort of Coachella of rock, targeting a city audience, rather old and well-to-do.
If he follows this path, there will come a time when Rock en Seine will no longer look like the idea we have of a festival. If that happens, in a year or five, we will then decide not to visit the rich uncle anymore, preferring to go see the niece who is a little punk but who has managed to keep her soul and her sense of hospitality.
Front cover photo © Olivier Hoffschir