Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review of the RIO Festval 2009 - Part 1

The Rock In Opposition Festival took place in a “nature camping site” called Cap Decouverte in the small town Carmaux, France on September 18-20, 2009. Since I quit my job at the end of August, and I have a mandatory 50 days of “gardening leave” before I start my new job, I decided at the last minute to fly to Carmaux and attend a festival where several of my favorite bands in the world were playing. And, I am so glad that I went.

Carmaux is a small town that is a suburb of a slightly larger town named Albi, which is a one hour train ride away from the city of Toulouse in southwest France. Instead of flying from Newark (New Jersey) to Paris, and then taking a train ride to Toulouse, I flew to London to meet my friend, Steve Davis, and then we flew to Toulouse. I chose the London stopover because my son is studying in London this semester, and I wanted to make sure that he was well settled in his new situation (especially after he was detained at Immigration in Heathrow for 5 hours!).

I took a 9:00 flight on Thursday morning into Heathrow, and Steve met me at the airport. It was about 10:00 in the evening London time, and my body was still on New York time, but we decided that we were going to stay up the entire night, since our flight to Toulouse was at 6:30 the next morning from Gatwick airport (about 30 miles away from Heathrow). We went out to dinner in London, and then made our way to Gatwick, where we found an all-night pub that was open inside the terminal.

At that point, I saw the first little glimpse of Steve’s celebrity. When we went through the Security at Gatwick, the female security guard recognized Steve, and thoroughly gushed over his presence. Steve was the 6-time World Snooker Champion, and in the 1980’s in England, he was as well known as someone like Zidane or Derek Jeter. Steve is a color commentator on television for snooker matches, and is constantly flying all over Europe to give exhibitions, so he is still well known and widely regarded. (Snooker is a game that is close to Pool, and is popular in the UK and Germany.)

We spend a quiet 4 hours at the pub drinking “real ale”, and as the terminal grew a bit more crowded, people started to recognize Steve, so I was the victim of spate of “Can you take a photo with me and Steve” requests. But, it was all good-natured fun, and I rather enjoyed my imagined role as Steve’s burly American bodyguard!

The flight to Toulouse was a quick one hour and ten minutes via EasyJet, and then it was a 15 minute bus ride to the Toulouse train station, where we picked up a train to Albi. After wandering the maze of little streets in Albi (a very quaint town that is known for its cathedral), a French woman took pity on what looked like two very confused gentlemen and gave us a car ride to our hotel. This was the first instance of the amazing hospitality that we experienced while we were in France. I find that if you make the slightest effort to speak French while in France, and you don’t try to act like you own the place, the French people will adopt you as one of their own.

We were both completely dead on our feet, so we napped for a few hours in our tiny (by American standards) room, and then we made our way over to the Hotel Etap to meet our friends. As we walked, we got caught in the first of many rain showers. In fact, the entire 3 day festival was plagued by constant rain and cold, and of course, I did not bring a single long-sleeved shirt!

At the Hotel Etap, we met our French Magma buddies Fabrice Journo, Francis Lecointe, Maxence Bilsky (Zwenskaia), and Denis (Maahnt). These are some of the same good people that I hung out with at Le Casino de Paris this past February when I went to see Magma play their 40th anniversary shows. Fabrice is one of the official photographers of Magma, and since he got a press pass for the RIO Festival, he was able to spend the entire festival in the first row and backstage taking pictures.

Cap Decouverte was an interesting place. Steve remarked that it looked like an Al-Qaeda training base. There is a family fun area with a skateboard and bicycle park, and during the festival, there was loud rock music blasting from the skateboard park, perhaps to drown out the sounds coming from the RIO Festival. I would have liked to see if the skateboarders could do their tricks to the music of Magma….

(End of Part 1)

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