Arriving in Sète, a small fishing town in the South of France, about a 30 minute drive from Montpellier, we headed to the Amerik Club for the Vendredi soir happenings of the inaugural Worldwide Festival. Taking place over two days at two different venues — both idyllic
During an evening of DJs on rotation, we saw the local lads Garfld & Sundae, Simbad, Alex Barck from Jazzanova and the festival’s host/co-organiser Gilles Peterson, at times Earl Zinger aka Rob Gallagher vocally flexed in his enigmatic style. The venue was truly amazing, blue skies and sunshine over a club that’s also a bar/restaurant, with a dance floor framed by rocks, rock pools and the Mediterranean sea.
The stage had a little waterfall behind it that merged into the natural rocks, the blue sky above, the shimmering Rosé mirroring the colours in the Rickenbacker, and Tellier’s lean frame topped with tangled hair
Plenty of summer anthems popularised by radio shows such as Gilles Peterson’s own Radio 1 show, Worldwide, featured on this first night. Simbad impressed with his DJ technique and inevitably dropped his own ‘Fever’, Alex Jazzanova played some old and modern disco gems. Gilles Peterson DJed in his trademark eclectic switches, though also impressively beatmatching some house tracks for a while, he also commenced a period of about 30 minutes of drum & bass with DJ Hype’s ‘Super Sharp Shooter’, complete with full slow-intro and half paced drop. Simbad also contributed to this section of the night and played A Tribe of Issachar’s original 1996 version of ‘I’m a Junglist’. Digging this the crowd expressed their delight with Braps, Boos and two-finger salutes. When the night came to a close at about 6:30am, I had been entertained a great deal by the DJs and also by observing the sky change colour as the sun rose. The enclosed surroundings of an inner-city club cannot compare with this treat.
So to the Samedi and a long day, scheduled times from 14:30 – 06:00. We arrived back at the Amerik Club at about half 3 and missed Double U’s (Sonar Kollektiv) performance, but we had plenty of time to chill down on the rock pools. This was a highlight of the weekend, hot weather and plenty of people lying or sitting in the sun or swimming in the clear water. Only a hundred or so people were in the club at this time, so it felt very intimate with DJs, organisers and bands walking around doing the same as the punters. Ben Westbeech & band were the first act we saw. Their show was good but I was particularly impressed with the rhythm section, UVRay’s crisp drum sounds and when they raised the bpm to drum & bass tempo.
After more lounging in the heat and some DIY arranging of seats we settled. Sébastien Tellier along with Simon Dalmais took to the stage complete with bottle of Rosé, two full glasses. Simon played grand piano while Monsieur Tellier sung and played his red Rickenbacker guitar or micro Koog, then whilst Sébastien played piano for tracks such as the epic ‘La Ritourelle’, Simon would play on the Koog. The setting was beautiful, sweet music and a stunning visual composition.
The stage had a little waterfall behind it that merged into the natural rocks, the blue sky above, the shimmering Rosé mirroring the colours in the Rickenbacker, and Tellier’s lean frame topped with tangled hair.
For both performance style and appearance Monsieur Tellier’s was somewhere between Serge Gainsbourg and Kenny Everett. Whether in the opening song with a cigarette up his nose, gently stroking and kissing the monitors or when straddling the rope between stage and audience, he entertained immensely. Both Tellier and Simon Dalmais played the piano exquisitely and also generated some firing electro-synthed-sounds on the Micro Koog. The resonance of the grand piano and the renditions of ‘La Ritournelle’ and ‘Black Douleur’ were fantastic. Tellier’s mannerisms, facial expressions and timing had plenty of the audience laughing a lot (myself included). Perfect for the occasion, this was a real 10 out 10 show, and if the opportunity to watch Sébastien Tellier arises again I will grab it.
That concluded the Apres Midi fun and events continued at the other venue, Theatre de la Mer. Another phenomenal space, an old Amphitheatre surrounded with the Sea (similar to Minack in Cornwall). Having had an extended dinner, we missed DJ Vadim’s One Self project and half of Canadian piano-supremo Gonzales’ show. Initially we sat near the very top of the Amphitheatre, watching Gonzales play amusing and technically strong instrumental piano renditions of popular tunes, many of which the audience would sing. Including: ‘She’s A Maniac’ from Flashdance; BeeGees – ‘Night Fever’ and ‘How Deep is your Love’; Queen’s ‘Another one bites the Dust’; Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’; and concluding with the “Irish Gospel”, U2′s ‘Where the Streets have no Name’. Gonzales rose from his hunched position over the keys and left the stage to massive applause.
Next up, Gilles Peterson came on and introduced (in French), “From Tokyo, Japan, Soil and Pimp Sessions”. On they came, dressed as enigmatically as always, ‘Worldwide’ and ‘Waltz for Goddess’ had me bopping about in my seat, but they didn’t seem to have the energy that’s been in abundance the previous two times I’ve seen them. Not all the crowd seemed to be feeling the show at this stage, was “Death Jazz” too much for folks whose jazz tastes are usually smoother? After ‘Waltz for Goddess’ we decided to head closer to the action we then became part of an extraordinary moment of ensemble spontaneity. 30 or so people fled their seats and positioned themselves on the dance floor area between the row of monitors and the front row of seating. We then spent the rest of the show dancing a couple of metres from the band and were treated to some amazing moments. The sax player Motoharu’s facial expressions were as rubbery and brilliant as usual, Akita’s double basslines were thumbing out and Josei was going wild on the keyboard. Shacho the ‘President’ and bandleader’s presence was essential too, conducting members through their own superb solos and mutual exchanges. A terrific moment occurred when, aided by the vocal crowd, Shacho perfected his pronunciation of Sète (sounds like set), “Seter? Seté? Sète!
When the show closed to a rapturous response, we walked the short distance round the corner back to Amerik Club for the night’s events. On rotation: Garfld & Sundae, Daz-i-Que, Alex Jazzanova. Real thumping club business went on all night; Studio 54 meets Plastic People in a luscious outdoor environment, a proper dance feast under the night sky. Sundae played tracks that sounding like Mr Fingers with a contemporary Paris/Berlin edge. Alex Jazzanova dropped more Disco/jazz-funk tracks and also some Sonar Kollectiv goodies, including ‘Boom Clicky Boom Klack’ and Eva B & Joe Dukie’s – ‘No Memory of Time’ (Reggae version). Daz-i-Que played a blinder firing out Bugz hits from their new album and also snuck in some Dancehall sounds as well as Omar’s ‘It’s So’ and Nina Sky’s ‘Move your Body’. Motet mc-ed and was joined by Ben Westbeech who sang a live version of ‘So Good Today’. The Samedi soir was really pumping with around 1000 people inside the small venue. When it all came to an abrupt end around 5:45, the inaugural Worldwide Festival had been a success with an excellent friendly international vibe. I plan to return next year.
–Photos by Ben Verghese–