Radiohead & Mark Lanegan Savage Rock Arras Festival In France


The 13th edition of the Main Square Festival at Arras in Northern France took place at the beginning of this month and Alternative Nation was there to cover the Sunday edition.

All photos: David Bronstein

It’s quite a sight to see the brooding figure of Mark Lanegan in the daylight as his show kicks off just after 3pm local time. Lanegan who commands the respect of the crowd has never been one to ignite a party. His shows have always been about reflection and admiration for a singer who purely turns up for his art. No one is saying it but you can tell each time you go and see him that fans would want to hear more classics or at least a few covers from his former band Screaming Trees. However Lanegan has always been content on promoting his latest work and this show is clearly no different. For example we get just one song from his acclaimed album Bubblegum.

However there is no denying just how infectious Lanegan is and credit should also go to his back up band, who are super tight. Apart from the odd “thank you”, Lanegan remains quiet, and the biggest cheer of his set is when the band launch into Joy Division’s classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart” which is the set closer.

Seasick Steve is polar opposite to Lanegan and the 77 year old who bizarrely looks half his age despite his ZZ Top beard really creates a typical festival atmosphere with his blend of blues, rock n’ roll with a touch of country music. At one point during his set he invites a young fan onto the stage to sing a duet. Though he mostly stays seated he gets up frequently and knew how to work the crowd, one thing is for sure he left giving a lot of love and received plenty back.

The Lemon Twigs are being touted as the next big act to break through. Here at Arras they are playing on the smaller Green Room stage and give a terrific energetic set. Belting out songs such as “I Wanna Prove it to You”, “These Words” and “How Lucky Am I?”. One thing is for sure if you haven’t seen the band before you may be taken back as they have a very late 50’s early 60’s sound to them. Your parents will love them, and by the end of the show here at Arras it’s quite possible you will too.

It’s only normal that a few French bands make it onto a festival in France and La Femme breathe life into the festival over at the main stage with a one hour show. The band who are evidently well known to the thousands of fans kick off their show with “Sphynx” a slow build up that explodes into life. With their mix of techno pop and electronica they head into “Packshot” and the crowd really get going. The set ends in thrilling fashion with “Antitaxi”.

British band Savages have been making a lot of noise lately. The quartet who formed six years ago in London are arguably the most energized band of the day, even relentless as front woman Jehnny Beth covers the massive main stage, runs into the photo pit and engages with fans at the barrier- it works as the band get a fantastic reception. Their mix of post punk tunes mixed in with alternative beats and riffs is just perfect for this festival. The band open up with the hypnotizing “I Am Here”. Other songs that make a definitive mark are “I Need Something New” and set closer “Fuckers” is sung with performed with such passion that when the band leave the stage fans are visibly ecstatic by the show that they have just witnessed.

By the time Radiohead take to the stage to close out the festival the Main Square probably does not have one square inch to fill, it is super packed and the legendary British band take to the stage. Radiohead’s shows seem to take the same path in that it is a slow build throughout the show until the moment you realize late on that you are indeed watching one of the best bands on the planet in the last 25 years. Singer Thom Yorke’s instant recognizable voice reverberates around the famous square as the band kick off their set with “Daydreaming”.

Eleven songs are played from In Rainbows and latest release A Moon Shaped Pool. Like earlier act Mark Lanegan, Radiohead historically do not play their older songs, which fans are screaming out for. Just one track from the classic Bends makes it tonight. But their are massive cheers when the band dip into OK Computer unearthing “Let Down” and “No Surprises”, the band finish the show with “Paranoid Android”, which arguably contains some of the best guitar riffs in modern music.

As musicians it could be argued that Radiohead simply cannot get any better, they are at a stage in their careers where they can go and fill up any festival, bowl or stadium that they so please. Tonight is highly memorable and a fitting end to the festival and Yorke is evidently in a cheery mood. The thousands of fans that have spent 3 days here in Arras, leave with a huge spring in their step. For them and everyone else, Arras 2018 can’t come quick enough.

For all the latest news on Main Square Festival you can check out the site.