Solomun

Lyon, best known for being the gastronomic capital of France and a UNESCO World Heritage site, gets taken over by electronic music festival Nuits Sonores each summer. This year, between the 1st and 5th of June, 250 performers and over 100,000 attendees meandered between the City Hall, the Marché Gare,(a complex with four large arenas that was purpose-built two years ago in a formerly downtrodden area), the Piscine du Rhone swimming pool,  the Museum of Contemporary Art and a number of the city’s nightclubs and open spaces. When the punters tired of dancing there were installations, movie screenings, workshops and pool parties (not to mention the special shuttle buses in place for the duration of the event, making it easier to get around, and an endless array of mouthwatering bakeries). Here is the best and the rest of Nuits Sonores 2011.

Wednesday

Main events: The first event this year is Mini Sonores, an afternoon kid-friendly session with the festival’s quasi-resident Laurent Garnier taking place in front of the City Hall. “Do you prefer dancing to electronic music or eating McDonalds?” the kids are asked by a reporter. “Dancing to electronic music!” they mostly reply. The main bash begins at Marché Gare at 9 pm, but doesn’t get going till past 11 pm – a pity as it means the crowd is sparse for Ghostpoet’s lively set. It’s a bit of a mixed bag on stage 1 with Shit Robot, Battles and Black Rose, but things pick up when punters flood in to catch DJ Shadow, who has filled the stage with an enormous revolving globe and kicks off with jumpy drum and bass. Stage 3 is more techno-oriented with Kyle Hall, Levon Vincent and Onur Ozer, while the Red Bull Music Academy stage features dubstep and hip hop courtesy of Scuba and Lorn.

Highlights: Kyle Hall is quite the revelation with his tech-heavy set and the tent gets packed within minutes of him taking to the decks; Henrik Schwarz is sublime as always in his guise as Black Rose alongside Jesse Rose.

Low points: Battles’ rock and electronica fusion sounds more MOR than experimental sandwiched in between DJ Shadow and Black Rose; Tokimonsta chooses to play commercial hip hop hits rather than display any of the glitchy psychedelic brilliance of her recent Creature Dreams EP. It’s also about 10 degrees colder than it should be in Lyon at this time of year.

Thursday

Main events: Dozens of things are on today, including the first instalment of Carte Blanche a Tokyo, showcasing Japanese music, art and film. Brodinski and Erol Alkan play eclectic sets at Piscine Du Rhone in the afternoon, several boat parties are taking place and Maceo Plex, Plaid, Kid606 and Robert Owens perform at various venues around town. We’re headed to Sonnenstrasse, the free outdoor event in trendy Croix-Rousse featuring a host of up-and-coming French DJs headlined by Croatian Solomun. There is no event at Marché Gare tonight, however Josh Wink is in town for an Infiné vs Ovum label night at popular club Sound Factory, while DJ Sneak plays at the teeniest venue in the vicinity, L’Ambassade, a bar that thinks it’s a nightclub.

Highlights: Solomun dropping Steffi’s ‘Yours’ at 6pm as the sun winks through the clouds and local residents watch the goings-on bemused from their balcony windows; dancing to DJ Sneak’s uplifting house tracks in a super intimate space.

Low points: Wandering around lost when a last minute change means Sonnenstrasse has been moved to the top of a hill; the bad attitude of the staff at Sound Factory; paying €10 for a heavily watered down G&T at L’Ambassade.

Friday

Main events: Not many DJs can glide seamlessly between commercial success and critical acclaim like Dennis Ferrer can, and the man behind ‘Hey Hey’ performs at Piscine du Rhone this afternoon; alternatively there are lengthy queues for the various free roof top or pool parties with lesser known names.  In the evening the main stage at Marché Gare focuses on bridging the gap between DJ and band, with Nicolas Jaar, Matthew Dear and Caribou; elsewhere, Ben UFO, Nina Kraviz and Craig Richards offer dubstep, acid and deep house and tech-house respectively. Beloved French hip hop group Assassin are on too.

Highlights: Matthew Dear strutting on stage in a white suit as he performs tracks from Black City.

Low points: Ninjasonik’s set on stage 3 which might as well be a Kiss Presents Hip Hop Classics compilation circa 2002.

Matthew Dear

Saturday

Main events: The Piscine du Rhone has an afternoon of French hip hop courtesy of Busy P and friends, which include Joey Starr and DJ Mehdi, however they have been struck by the bass-heavy bug and each track turns into a messy, overly boomy mash-up. The night time event features the Cadenza label all night long on stage 1 with Frivolous, Reboot and Luciano; stage 2 is given over to experimentalists Tortoise, Gaslamp Killer and Can’s Jaki Liebezit, while M.A.N.D.Y, Mount Kimbie and rising star Joy Orbison play on stage 4.

Highlights: Jaki Liebezit; dancing all night long.

Low points: The lack of any sort of musical vibe at Piscine du Rhone. The cranked-up bass leads to a hell of a lot of boisterous bouncing around to a stage filled with guys posturing with their T-shirts off.

Sunday

Main events: Sadly it’s the last day, and it’s back to Piscine du Rhone for Rexperience, a tribute to the Parisian club Rex. The current crème de la crème of French house – Chateau Flight, Chloe, Dyed Soundorom and band du jour DoP – appear at the riverside location where people take it in turns to dance or lie in the sun recovering from the past four days. In the evening, the eccentric Chilly Gonzales performs at Le Transbordeur concert hall with a chamber orchestra.

Highlights: DoP arriving on stage at 7 pm to perform their now ritualistic opening number ‘Prostitute’.

Low points: None, there is little to bemoan as the festival draws to a close. We’re looking forward to next year’s 10th anniversary, which will take place from the 16th to the 20th of May.

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