Who doesn’t love a good music festival? The French certainly do and there are some fantastic ones throughout the country including Lollapalooza, Main Square Festival, and Vieilles Charrues Festival, the largest and longest-running music festival in France.
But today, we’re focusing on the crème de la crème that the South West region of the country has to offer. And there’s something for everyone from blues and jazz through to techno and piano.
Whilst you don’t get the hoards of people you get at Glastonbury or Coachella you can still see some headlining acts and enjoy pretty much every genre. Plus, you’ll be hopefully doing so under the sun, avoiding the much-dreaded rain you’d probably get in the UK
We’re starting off in a place very close to me in the Charente region in a town called Angouleme. Now this town is no stranger to festivals, in fact, it’s the home of The Comic Strip Festival held every January to celebrate cartoons.
Musiques Métisses Festival
When: Fri, June 2 – Sun, June 4, 2023
Where: Esplanade des Chais Magelis, in Angoulême (Quai de la Charente)
Festival Details: www.musiques-metisses.com
In 2023 the festival celebrates its 47th year and showcases artists from around the world. From established to those newer on the scene its aim is to entertain with a wide variety and something for every taste, no matter how diverse.
It was founded originally by a local group of music enthusiasts keen to expose their city to different styles of music. Initially, the focus was mainly on African and Caribbean music, but gradually, over time, it widened to multiple musical genres and styles.
But music isn’t the only thing on offer as the festival also includes a range of cultural events and activities, such as dance workshops, art exhibitions, and culinary events, all with a focus on celebrating the diversity and richness of global cultures.
Cognac Blues Passion
When: Tues, July 4 – Sun, July 9, 2023
Where: Cour du Musée, Boulevard Denfert Rochereau, Cognac
Festival Details: www.bluespassions.com
Staying in the Charente our next stop on the music festival tour is Cognac, the home of Hennessy, Martell, and Rémy Martin. Celebrating 30 years in 2023 it’s a week-long event featuring R&B artists from around the world playing on the banks of the Charente river.
With past headliners including Santana, Simple Minds and legends such as BB King it’s one to put in the diary. Confirmed for 2023 are Buddy Guy, -M-, Placebo, Michel Jonasz, and Chris Isaak.
In addition to the music, you’ll also find a range of cultural events and activities, such as art exhibitions, street performances, and culinary events.
Francofolies: Music Festival
When: Weds, July 12 – Sun, July 16, 2023
Where: Jardin Bobinec, La Rochelle
Festival Details: www.francofolies.fr/
Now it’s time to head into the Charente Maritime, the next region from the Charente and located on the Atlantic Ocean. For five days La Rochelle is quite literally alive with the sound of music by the sea.
It all began in 1985 and is dedicated to the French music scene promoting only French-speaking artists and musicians. It stayed true to its roots and has around 150,000 festival goers over the 5 days.
Probably the most famous French star to stand on the Jean-Louis Foulquier stage, named after the festival’s creator, is Johnny Hallyday.
As it’s developed there have been some great new initiatives including the Village Francocéan, the Folies Littéraires at the Maison des Francos, the singing walks with the Tourist Office, and the Francos Stories with Disney+.
If you want to know more about La Rochelle you’ll enjoy these two posts: 9 Things to Do in La Rochelle and The Ultimate Guide to La Rochelle.
Jazz in Marciac: Music Festival
When: Thurs, July 20 – Sat, Aug 5, 2023
Where: 8 Place du Chevalier d’Antras, 32230 Marciac
Festival Details: www.jazzinmarciac.com
Marciac is a small commune in the Gers department and has become known for its jazz festival. Now in its 45th year one of my favourite artists, Norah Jones, has been confirmed as one of the headline acts for 2023.
The festival was the brainchild of André Muller, a jazz enthusiast. He wanted to allow fans of jazz in and around Marciac to enjoy the genre through some of the big names of the time. Originally called “Jazz in Marciac – the French Berklee” the focus was on local jazz musicians. As the festival grew it partnered with the Berklee College of Music in Boston and some big names became part of it including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Wynton Marsalis.
Apart from the music, the festival also offers a range of other activities, including art exhibitions, theatre performances, and of course, food and wine tastings.
Pink Paradize: Music Festival
When: October – December 2023
Festival Details: www.pinkparadizefestival.com/
A relatively new festival, only created in 2015, it’s growing in popularity and spread out over a couple of months. Plus, any excuse to pay a visit to Toulouse and I’m there.
Offering a diverse lineup it’s a unique blend of music styles, from pop, rock, and electronic to world music, reggae, and hip hop. It managed to attract some pretty hot headliners including Grammy Award-winning American singer-songwriter Macy Gray, and British electronic duo Basement Jaxx.
The Delta Festival
When: Weds, 23 August – Sun, 27 August 2023
Where: Plages du Prado, Marseilles
Festival Details: www.delta-festival.com
Another new kid on the block this techno, dance-pop music festival is making some noise. And why wouldn’t it? I mean the location is in the South of France on the beach in Marseilles. It doesn’t get much better than that.
The main stage is located right on the beachfront, offering spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea, and has seen a lineup including DJ Snake, David Guetta, and Martin Garrix.
And of course, there are plenty of other things on offer including food and drink stalls, a carnival area, and an amusement park.
Festival de Carcassonne
When: Sat, July 1 – Sun, July 30, 2023
Where: Thêatre Jean-Deschamps, Carcassonne
Festival Details: www.festivaldecarcassonne.fr
Starting on my birthday, July 1st, I was actually lucky enough to be in Carcassonne for the festival in 2022. Trust me you don’t need a reason to visit this city but going during this time is definitely a bonus.
With 11 stages, 120 shows, 80 of which are free, and music ranging from opera to dance, you can see why it’s now in the top 10 music festivals in France. Offering stunning views of the ancient city walls and the mediaeval castle, La Cité de Carcassonne, it’s the perfect combination of history and music.
Over 200,000 spectators flood the city to share in this event hosted at a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the biggest acts include Sting, Lenny Kravitz, Elton John, and Carlos Santana.
In 2023 both José Carreras and the pianist Lang Lang will appear at the festival. As a classically trained pianist, I’d kill to see Lang Lang.
Garorock, The Music Festival
Where: Marmande, Lot et Garonne
When: Thurs, June 29 – Sun, July 2nd, 2023
Festival Details: https://www.garorock.com/fr/
Is there anything better than a festival in the middle of rural France in a big field surrounded by countryside? Now imagine that then add in acts like Muse, Lana Del Rey, and The Chemical Brothers, all of whom have played at Garorock.
It started in 1997 with a punk/rock theme in the old Marmandais slaughterhouses, and the name is a combination of Garonne, where it’s located, and Rock, the style of music.
One of the priorities of the festival is sustainability, with efforts made to reduce waste and promote eco-friendly practices. There is a big push for festival goers to use public transportation or carpool to reduce their carbon footprint, and recycling stations are provided throughout the event space.
Esprit du Piano
When: TBC (usually in Nov-Dec)
Festival Details: www.espritdupiano.fr/
I had to include this one as a pianist because I’m fully intending to go this year. As you can imagine from the name, the festival focuses purely on the piano and hosts pianists from around the world.
The event is run in partnership with the Opéra National de Bordeaux and the patronage of the BNP Paribas Foundation. Various venues are used throughout Bordeaux for the concerts, including the city’s historic theatres and concert halls.
Each year showcases a different theme, such as “Romanticism” or “Women Pianists”, and there are workshops, masterclasses and the opportunity for discussions with the artists.
I can’t wait to go and immerse myself in all things piano for a day or two. It might inspire me to spend more time playing as I do have a gorgeous baby grand in my office.
So there you have it, the 9 music festivals in South West France I recommend. Have I missed any out? If I have I’d love to know as I’m always looking to discover new events I can go to.
And just one more...
Oh and here’s one you probably won’t have heard of, The Mad Hatters Wonderland Festival. It’s a more local one to me and if you love the idea of pitching a tent for a weekend and listening to some great cover bands you’ll enjoy this.
After two years of nothing during Covid they were back again last year in 2022 and are planning to return in 2023. The dates aren’t out yet but it’s usually in August. Held in Caulnay in the Deux-Sèvres it’s a lot of fun and you can find out more here www.madhatterswonderlandfestival.com
À bientôt et merci beaucoup!