Scenes from La Fête de Musique.

On the first day of summer, all across France, in small towns and big cities, people gather to enjoy music and celebrate the start of summer. The June days are long here and twilight comes at 10:30 or 11, so we had a long evening to carouse. My French friends were surprised to hear that we don’t have similar festivities in America, and let me tell you, I think we should. Cooler than Porch Fest in Somerville (itself a very cool event), the night was marked by typical Breton music and dancing, French Caribbean costumes and movement, and even an American country music quintet. Friends and co-workers encountered one another in the street and kissed each other’s cheeks. We went home by midnight, but the drinking and dancing continued.

The central plaza in town is the Place de la Liberte. Surrounding streets were closed off to auto and tram traffic in favor of pedestrians. At the start of the evening, people danced the traditional dance of Bretagne. My friends are from elsewhere in France, so they did not know the steps, but it reminded me of the traditional Catalonian dance I witnessed in Barcelona.

I did a poor job of capturing the dance but it was impressive to see both old and young joining together in the tradition.

There was a parade of “Twopical Breizh” – local people who hailed from, or identified with, the Afro-Caribbean cultures of Martinique and Guadeloupe. They were incredibly festive and this photo happened to capture a scene that I have definitely seen in the US – people of color dancing, with the crazy hippie white lady following alongside.

These guys played modern Breton music and were quite good. The front-man proves that accordion-playing hipsters look the same everywhere.

I was impressed by the gender diversity of the next act. While they also proved that band geeks look pretty similar everywhere, they bucked American musical gender stereotypes with several female saxophonists and a couple of trumpeters. The flautist was a woman though.

The last act we saw played American folk-rock/country! Tunes by John Denver, Johnny Cash, and the Eagles. I’m sure they were surprised to see me singing along to “Lyin’ Eyes”.

I love a good outdoor party, and this one brought out the whole city on a cool but clear night, and made for my favorite night in Brest so far.

Bon été!

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