Les Plages Electroniques: Europe’s Biggest Beach Party
30 August, 2017
When you think of Cannes what springs to mind is probably super yachts, the film festival and beautiful people. Electronic music festivals on the other hand no doubt conjure up images of sweaty dance pits, wide-eyed partygoers and grotty port-a-loos. So what happens when you combine the two? On a sunny weekend in mid-August, I hit the Cote d'Azure to find out.
Les Plages Electroniques is in its twelfth year and has repeatedly drawn big-name tech-house acts including Carl Craig, Tale of Us, The Martinez Brothers and Loco Dice to the French Riviera, along with legions of sun-seeking dance addicts who come to experience one of Europe's "biggest and best beach parties". Last year saw 16,000 descend on the coast; this summer that number nearly doubled with 30,000 revellers spread across three stages hosting 35 sets - an impressive feat considering the tragedy that hit La Croissette in 2016.
My surprise at not having heard of the festival before this year was explained by a distinct lack of English partygoers in attendance, apparently preferring mud and bad weather in Blighty to 30 degrees and white sand in France - for someone who can help but cringe upon bumping into Brits abroad, this comes as a big plus.
Instead, on Thursday evening we were met by thumping beats and a young, French crowd enthusiastically getting down and dirty to the likes of Fakear as the sun set. I was relieved to have forgone wavy festival garms as girls and boys were nonchalantly dressed in denim cut-offs and vest tops in a I-just-came-off-the-beach kind of way. This is not the place for glitter and feathers.
First stop is to load up a wristband with credits, as a slick cashless bar keeps queues to a minimum and ensures no faffing around. A pitcher of beer will set you back 18 euros - not horrifyingly steep for a festival, while various food stands mean guests can arrive at 3.30PM when the gates open and stay until the early hours, with a sunny roof terrace and afternoon Afro-beats making the daytime atmosphere akin to a lively beach club.
But it's after dark that the real vibes start. As the sun goes down, the bass goes up and crowds pour into the festival enclosure (many have bought a day pass), testing the water with drinks in the Sønørd Klu chill area before hitting up the main stage below, where people sprawl across the sand (and the merrier among them into the sea). Headline act Paul Kalkbrenner whipped a packed-out open-air arena into a frenzy on the Saturday night, as an impressive light show reflected off the water making for an atmospheric backdrop unlike any I've experienced in a field. The vibe palpably changes not only from day to night, but also over the course of the weekend as Flume, NU, Lee Burridge and Bondax draw an older, international crowd while up-and-coming acts such as Sucré Salé and Lunar Disco keep things fresh on the glitterball-strung Cocobeach roof stage.
As blow-up inflatables are tossed overhead and people continue to wear their sunglasses long past sunset, the festival screams endless days of summer. With the central Cannes location meaning attendees can come and go as they please, easily combining dance antics with sunbathing, sightseeing or mandatory people watching on the promenade, Les Plages is a pretty sweet set up if you're looking for a weekend getaway with beach, town and party rolled into one.
SUITCASE Magazine was a guest of OKKO Hotels.