Honor Virden skewers the social stereotypes in the Meltdown Crowd
credit: Victor Frankowski
THE CASUAL INTELLECTUAL
You are between 50-70 years old, taking a break from your addiction to BBC Four documentaries and constant visits to London’s largest art exhibitions to attend Meltdown to see something different. If female, you have a cropped haircut, probably bleached blonde or naturally grey, matched with a bold print blouse and oversized glasses. If male, you’ll be found with wild and wiry grey hair, a shirt and the most comfortable pair of shoes you own.
Most likely to be found at: Estrella Morente; Young Jean Lee’s ‘We’re Gonna Die’; Gaby Moreno
FRIENDS WITH CULTURAL BENEFITS
You’re two women in your mid- to late-20s, most likely found drinking wine-based concoctions until the self-conscious seat-shuffle dance progresses to standing and dancing excitedly to a band you’ve been assured is very underground – until you notice it’s just you and return to your seat. Wearing semi-office-appropriate clothing, e.g. a polyester pastel tank top, jeans, the summer ‘essential’ metallic flats and a blazer. You will be mildly hungover at work the next day but this will not stop you talking about how amazing the band that no one in the office has heard of is, and feeling quietly superior for being in the know.
Most likely to be found at: Matthew Herbert, Benjamin Clementine, Sinkane, Sam Green’s ‘the measure of all things’
You’re in your early to mid-20s, you’re a man with scruffy hair, a beard and horn-rimmed glasses, wearing a band or striped Uniqlo tee your partner probably bought for you, matched with chinos, suede shoes and a Herschel backpack. You will also get slightly drunk but on vodka and coke with someone you haven’t been dating long enough to feel completely comfortable with. Unlike the Friends with Cultural Benefits, the evening will only get a brief mention on one of your many social media accounts, most likely Twitter or Instagram, so people know you’re doing cool stuff but it’s totally no big deal.
Most likely to be found at: Anna Calvi, François and the Atlas Mountains, Young Marble Giants
FRIENDS OF THE BAND
You are in your early- to mid-20s and can be found in a massive group of your supercool friends all dressed in a mix of faded denim, Urban Outfitters, vintage, regulation trendy trainers and with unisex topknots. You know you are the coolest person there, not only because you’re young and you’ll never get old like everyone else but also because you knew the underground band before they even existed. You will talk loudly to others in your group about the performers so everyone in the audience knows you’re not just the same as the classic hipster sitting behind you.
Most likely to be found at: François and the Atlas Mountains, Bianca Cassady
THE MELTDOWN MEDIA JOURNALIST
You are 16 to 21 years old and can be found viciously trying to absorb every moment of Meltdown trying to come up with an original piece for the blog and over-analysing those around you. Or you’re attempting to look natural at the after-show party, while wearing a Meltdown Media tee-shirt mostly covered with some kind of hoodie or jacket in an attempt to make you seem like one of the professionals and not just an inexperienced adolescent with too much responsibility.
Most likely found at: Any gig you could get tickets to
Interview: Francesca Nunn meets François and the Atlas Mountains
François & The Atlas Mountains 2014
I arrive in the Queen Elizabeth Hall with fellow Meltdown Media journalist Max to speak to François Marry, lead singer of François and the Atlas Mountains, ahead of his Meltdown performance yesterday evening (Tuesday 25).
François is atop a lighting rig, surveying his kingdom. “This is big, yeah! We’ve done some huge festivals in France, which were not as prestigious-looking as here, but very busy. I’m probably more comfortable in smaller places.” Nonetheless this avid Talking Heads fan is excited to be here, and effervesces about David Byrne’s dance moves – “He’s sensational, it’s just so spontaneous and at the same time very tight – you think, how did they get that together?” He neglects to mention his own moves, or indeed the fleeting choreographed interlude we were treated to in the performance I attended that evening.
Marry is emphatically French. His English is perfect – a Scottish bandmate and seven years in Bristol made sure of that – but he pronounces every syllable, charmingly trips over diphthongs, and before the finale of his concert, apologised to the audience for singing in French too much: “If you stay, I can translate all my songs word-for-word into English right now!”
The band’s newest project marries François and the Atlas Mountain’s romantic electro-pop with African rhythms and instrumentation – the xylophone-like balafon, the ngoni and the thianhoun, played by Djiga Boubacar and Sanou Darra who flew from Burkina Faso especially for Meltdown. So how exactly did this come about? “We were so inspired by African music, and we wanted to see what it was like on location, so we ended up recording songs with them.” Two days in Ouagadougou that resulted in three songs, and 10 days overall in African Francophonie exploring rhythms and traditions resulted in L’Homme tranquille. “It still sounds very exciting, but they’re also songs that are very old, over 200 years old. It feels like very natural music, very instinctive music.” Hearing them perform the anthemic earworm melodies of “Soyons les plus beaux”, “Ayan filé” and “Danser sur un volcan”, it does indeed seems a fitting musical and cultural partnership.
“I prefer playing in the UK, generally. In France, it feels like there’s a real theatrical side to music which I don’t really like – I don’t feel connected to it. It feels like bands need to build a persona, some kind of comic strip character. I haven’t really played that game very well.”
No need for a persona here – Marry is already Peter Pan incarnate, with a sprite-like energy, adventuring in foreign lands with his Lost Boys, and imbuing these ancient African songs with his own youthful artistry. Their performance was diverse, compelling, and fun – a true gift from François and la Francophonie.
David Byrne’s Meltdown Festival continues until Sunday 30 August.