A day of song, food and finery

Far from the smoggy streets normally known as home and Clash finds itself in the beautiful surroundings of Cognac, France for this, the 19th Blues Passions festival.

The town itself plays host to a multitude of international acts of all different flavors, blues, soul, funk and pop all showcased over six days of sunny skies, and finest Hennessy. With our own Editor-in-Chief Simon Harper helping judge Hennessy's 'Chase The Music. Own the Stage' competition, it's great to see deserved winners NexCyx deliver a blazing afternoon set.

Bringing some of their Barbados party vibe to proceedings the band's energetic mix of rap, rock and soul proof the perfect antidote to those post lunch sleepys. With the self assured swagger of a band already filling stadiums front-woman Mahalia leads the group through roof raiser 'Bring Da Bass' grabbing the attention of all present. It's pop done right - big, hooky, loud but with actual soul and presence. 'Old School' sees member Kris lay down some good meaty bass groove while the crowd chant along and soon guitarist Russell is shredding his guitar like Van Halen, rock and metal influences worn on sleeve.

Stripped back ballad 'Eternal Summer' show the bands versatility before an encore of party starters causes everyone from the kids at the front to the old hippie at back to dance away. Set over and fresh Cognac in hand Clash heads over to visit FM Laeti who's debut 'It Will All Come Around' has been warming hearts all summer. "I'm excited!" she starts with a big smile on the face "I'm loving it..I grew up with Sting so I'm looking forward to seeing him tonight. As for everyone else it's going to be a discovery! So many great, great artists have played here before so Its going to be cool."

"This summer I'm learning to adapt my music to say three thousand people being there. There is a different energy at summer festivals such as this, there is not the same pressure then say Paris. You're outside and we're about the music and about having fun." A man who is having fun is Friday's headliner Sting. Bursting onstage and straight into a hit laden set the the town of Cognac roars in approval as even Mr. Maurice Hennessy himself stands amongst the crowd, enjoying the fruits of Sting's thirty odds years in the industry.

With recent tours including backing orchestras and more conceptual practices its refreshing to see Sting with low-key backing. He's simply enjoying himself, happy to let loose and play some bass with the help of a few friends. "Everything Little Thing She Does is Magic', is lapped up, the chorus as catchy as it's ever been while 'An Englishman in New York' is dropped surprisingly early in proceedings.

The band are tight but relaxed, enjoying the cool night air as midnight approaches and passes. 'Desert Rose' helps complete and career defining set and end a day filled with song, food and finery. Here's to tomorrow.

Words by Sam Walker-Smart
Photo by Al De Perez

View a photo gallery from Friday at Cognac Blues Passions featuring Nexcyx, FM Laeti and Sting.

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