There’s something fairly prophetic to We Love Green 2017 taking place in Paris’ Bois de Vincennes no more than a mere few weeks on from The Donald’s ecologically irresponsible, and morally reprehensible decision for the US to withdraw from l’Accord de Paris. For with a soi-disant ‘Think Tank’ standing in for a fourth stage, composting toilets as standard, recycling spots more or less omnipresent, and all lighting for the festival’s main arena (alias La Prairie) being exclusively solar-powered, there are rather more climate-changing initiatives to this one than paperless ticketing, the simple implementation of Ecocups, or the impassioned encouragement of transports publics. But for all the legions of Trump’s compatriotic Yanks that stereotypically yak on ad nauseam about just how, “like, old” this city is, the festival itself – sat atop the Marne in the 12e arrondissement – is mercifully free of boozed-up Brits (perhaps fearful of €7.50 pints [of Heineken, no less]) and the like, and feels infinitely more enjoyable for it.
Indeed, a decidedly palpable joie de vivre diffuses throughout the festival’s sun-blanched Sunday afternoon, as restaurateurs fervently serving up everything from Michelin-starred chish and fips (a culinary nod to absent neighbours, maybe) to Francophilic, bao-confined handfuls of goat’s cheese, caramelised onion, and so on ensure no bouche is left unamused. The food, therefore – another of We Love Green’s five fulcral elements, alongside ‘art’, ‘talks’, ‘nature’ and lastly, but by no means least, ‘music’ – proves rather more palatable, or rather provides more grist for the appraisive mill, than the gristly discs than continue to plague many a mainstay of the British festival circuit. But it is the music that, both predictably and reassuringly, takes centre stage; and whereas that which saw the likes of Flying Lotus, Richie Hawtin and Jessy Lanza descend upon the Bois de Vincennes the preceding day brought with it a more electronic lilt, that of this is no less ecstatic in spite of its considerably lower tempo.
For although Seu Jorge’s linguistically twisted renditions of David Bowie classics may well have made for a more pertinent tribute a little over a year ago, the Brazilian’s supple takes on Rebel Rebel, Suffragette City, etc. sparkle, his lissom acoustic guitar lines twinkling atop that unmistakably burnt Marlboro baritone. But, for reasons never rendered eminently clear, his set is as much an homage to The Life Aquatic as it is The Thin White Duke, Jorge sat amidst Wes Anderson-esque mise en scène as red beanies prove very much du jour, despite the searing 30º heat. Adidas, meanwhile – oh, so quick to kick up a promotional malaise at any, if not every opportunity – have inevitably tied up an admittedly nifty tie-in, handing out hand-painted Zissou shoes to a guestlisted some in a backstage enclave, and it’s here that, as is so often the case, a sense of site-wide solidarity diminishes.
Nevertheless, this is very much alive and well towards the barrier before which Perfume Genius – né Mike Hadreas – showcases last month’s stylistically protean No Shape, the likes of the faintly Enya-n Just Like Love and the gloriously discombobulating Slip Away beguiling effortlessly. Wreath picks up where much of the excessively vibrant Too Bright left off, but having gone off Grid in the meantime, from it, it’s Longpig’s Olof Dreijer-indebted arpeggi that stand beside a striding Queen as abiding standouts. Though both are totally eclipsed, of course, by the most powerful of ballads in Die 4 You; an exhalation-hefty, carefully whispered pièce de resistance that’s equal parts Dummy and a dumbfounding throwback to downtempo turn-of-the-century records. And, following on from so perfervid a performance, it’s over to the ecologically questionable water mister to cool off for a few moments…
Improbably ramping proceedings up once more, if following on from a four-night, sold-out stint at La Cigale, Camille – enrobed in noble, emboldening blue – is every bit the hometown heroine that I, being the ignorant Brit that I pretty apparently am, was in no way anticipating, as somersaulting vocal assaults tumble back and forth over propulsive rhythmic components. By contrast, Anderson .Paak’s show may well peak when he’s behind his trusted drum kit, although the impression that he’s simply a session musician-done-good – i.e. the fortuitous dupe of some unscrupulous, opportunistic A&R sort – persists, Anderson trying, yet definitely failing to impress with his humdrum hip hop.
As darkness subsequently falls, no more drums sound, machines instead driving the likes of Nicolas Jaar and, later, Moderat deep into the darkest musical caverns of the day. The former, before a thronging ensemble (some members of which intermittently clamber up otherwise unmanned fire towers, and all of which clamours for more after his ninety minutes are up), perfectly heightens the excitement for Gernot Bronsert, Sascha Ring, and Sebastian Szary’s brand of moody, brooding electronica. Having stormed The Barn at London’s Field Day the preceding weekend, predictably, the Germans remain in masterful form, nimbly commingling the Ibiza-blitzing zing of, for instance, Running with pacier offerings (such as the pneumatic, almost tectonic Rusty Nails, or the nominally congruous Les Grandes Marches) from their eponymous début. In neglecting their interim record (II) but for a killer rendition of Bad Kingdom, you could argue that Moderat leave themselves open to criticism when it comes to just how many ‘big steps’ have been made in seven-or-so years. However, with the festival itself now entering into its seventh year, and with the introduction of ever more green initiatives this edition, it increasingly looks a key European player; and one I would strongly recommend you – irrespective of nationality, unless ‘you’ just so happen to be the current White House incumbent – go play with yourself next summer.