Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Fête de la Musique

Yesterday was not only the longest day of the year, but it also marked the date in which Amy and I only have one month left in France. It was a rather busy day for us as well.

Our water, once again, was being shut off at 9 in the AM and so we awoke early, showered and breakfasted. We then left for the library to return and check out books, CDs and a DVD. While we were out and about we decided to check in with Air France to see what an extra piece of luggage would cost us.

Amy has about four books full study material here, which she has to have in Indiana when we get back so that she can study for her PhD exams. At the German post office (which is cheaper than the French PO) is going to charge us about 60 Euros per box! Air France will charge us 100 Euros for an extra bag. So, we are now looking at cheap, but durable bags in which we can stash at least a couple of boxes worth of books.

After lunch we spent the afternoon lounging in the shade at the park. It was a very pretty, yet extremely hot day. Without air conditioning our apartment is rather unbearable and thus sitting under a tree is preferable than sitting on our couch.

It was also the annual Fete de la Musique in Strasbourg, which is basically a city wide music festival. At all of the larger city squares they set up official stages in which the more popular local bands, and a few medium sized names in French music jammed into the wee hours of the morning. Yet at nearly every block in the city unofficial musicians were playing their tunes. This ranged from 7 piece zydeco/reggae bands to one guy playing a flute with another guy playing an old recorder. No matter where we were in the city, we could hear music.

We were meeting with a group from the university around 8:30 but Amy and I decided to wander around a bit first. We caught a fun French group with a terrible Rastafarian sax player in the Place de Zurich. Then we wandered downtown where there was live music playing every 20 yards or so. These street performers were so close together you could hardly hear them apart from each other. Around the cathedral it was madness. An official stage was set up in the Place de Gutenberg as well as nearby, right in front of the cathedral. Non sanctioned performers were everywhere in between, as well as a throng of people. The poor choir, in front of the cathedral, could barely even be heard even when I was standing but a few feet from them.

Time came and we went to meet the gang. None of us having any idea about where to go, we began wandering back towards the center of town. The crowds were expanding and it was quite an experience just trying to keep the 12 of us from getting lost. We caught short snippets of several bands before always moving on. As is always the problem with large music festivals, no matter where you are, you always think something better is around the corner.

Eventually we all tired and amazingly found empty seats at a local café. It was a little removed from the live music, but the block was more than making up for this with DJs playing piped in music. Our café was unlucky enough to be very near two DJ while employing one itself. This created three separate piece of music blending together into one loud mess. It was so loud we couldn’t really talk to each other and I quickly developed a headache. Our gang seemed content in sitting their drinking beer, but I became discontent and told them we were leaving. It was not only the annoying DJs, but the fact that I was spending my night listening to canned music while live music was literally playing around the next corner, and throughout the city. I guess we might have seemed rude, but I was sick of sitting there.

We caught a punk/metal band in Place Kleber. They covered Nirvana as we were walking by, so we decided to hang out a bit. It has been a long time since I caught a live metal act and I must admit it was fun. The energy was really strong, and the kids were having fun jumping up and down.

Our feet got tired so we wandered away again to another square in which there was grass to sit upon. The band was playing lots of classic American rock and we decided to stay. They played covers of Dire Straights, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Deep Purple and AC/DC. And let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve been surrounded by a mass of drunken French people screaming Highway to Hell at the top of their lungs.

As we started towards home, around midnight, the crowds had really swelled. Walking near the cathedral, the streets were packed. It didn't help that a popular band was playing right near the street itself. There were folks enjoying the band, walkers who would hear the music and stop to see what was going on, venders selling drinks and sandwiches and masses of people trying to go both ways. Some dumb car decided he could get through the street, but got stuck about half way. As I passed it, I was getting pretty smooshed against its side. I had to stick out my elbow as a defensive action to keep from getting smashed. When we came to the car mirror, I had to shove myself against the crowd to make a little room

The music officially ended at 1 AM, but many of the unofficial acts played much later. The street parties didn’t end until much later as well. We returned to our apartment and tried to sleep. Luckily the official places around us had cleared out early which moved the party a few blocks away. I still was awoken a few times by the drunken hordes singing their lungs out as they returned home, but all was well. All was

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