Chorus, A Festival for the Suits
A skyline of mirrored high-rises surround the Chorus Festival tent and junkyard circus animals fashioned from recycled Barbie dolls and toy cars greet the white-collar workers. Lunchtime finds them sitting in velvet banquettes, eating sandwiches on French bread and drinking draft beer, assembled for the free afternoon concerts. I kick myself for having to work.
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As Scratch Bandits Crew opens their set awkwardly dancing to the machine generated beats, the bald headed singer’s voice soars through the tent -- one part circus, the other saloon, as cherry-colored wood, bevelled mirrors and stained glass windows meet red and yellow stripes. She moves from trip-hop to jazz between the shakes of her husband’s long dreadlocks. He communicates in raps and in the silence between songs doses of poetry are administered.
At night the round-headed sculptures of African tribeswomen emit cricket chirps, white noise that transforms the sober plaza below the Arch de la Defence into a prairie. Evening concerts in the Magic Mirror bring out better-known French performers like pop-rock darlings B.B. Brunes. With several songs on the radio to their credit they’ve brought out children riding on parents’ shoulders. Packs of adolescent girls who can barely lift their eyes from endless streams of text messaging are chaperoned by cool moms who suffer from the same ailment. Young couples in leather jackets trade wet kisses; they wear their stocking caps indoors. The boys, young dandies in slim jeans, incessantly toss their heads to see out from beneath bangs combed forward.
The band appears in a cloud of smoke with lead singer in Ray bans, a derby hat and a Joy Division t-shirt, all black, looking like a young Pete Doherty before heroin sunk its teeth in. The other band members, guitar, base and drummer wear their shirts skin tight. The songs all make me want to dance so I do, but most remain glued in place stiff as statues. The crowd of girls growl when the guitarist peels off his shirt only to shout, “Dégueulasse!” deeming the flesh colored tank underneath disgusting. They save the radio tubes for near the end.
Everything about the festival is unexpected: the location in the concrete jungle of the Paris business and shopping district, the timing with concerts that begin at noon on weekdays for a two week span, the accessibility of the free afternoon shows and low-priced evening tickets and the line-up of popular singers and groups that participate. Chorus is a well-executed festival to welcome spring that gains momentum with each year.
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