It's the Fête Nationale in France, erroneously called Bastille Day by many English speakers. Since it is in the middle of the week this year, many of the festivities take place on the 13th instead of the 14th.
And so tonight I went to the fire station at Place de Bitche (a charming town on the Moselle, in case you are wondering), just as things were getting started at 10 p.m.
The female singer started off with a very heartfelt rendition of the Lily Allen hit "Fuck You."
The group was pretty good, actually, for this sort of thing.
The first people were beginning to dance under the mirror ball inside the station itself.
The male singer and the female singer alternated all sorts of pop hits, from Lady Gaga to Madonna to Amy Winehouse to Vanessa Paradis and from Christophe Willem to Robbie Williams to Radiohead to Rachid Taha.
The crowd continued to grow. There was a combined fake security check and very real contribution barrel at the entrance. People could give whatever they wanted.
No firehouse is complete without a champagne bar, is it? A draped passage led the way...
Champagne was most definitely being drunk in the back courtyard, where there was also a slideshow of the activities of the firemen throughout the year, as well as a display of historic photos of the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, apprentice firecooks were manning the grills for the hungry.
Wow, that looks like so much fun. Was there a flotilla &/or a fireworks display, or were the barricades just to keep the crowds from teetering on the water's edge?
Any idea what that antique Canal Martin photo is depicting?
My French fireman story, which I've probably told before, but hey -- how many French fireman stories can I be expected to have?
Years ago we met a small group of young French guys at our local watering hole. They were friendly and happy and willing to struggle with English in order to converse. Finally someone asked them what brought them to New Orleans. Slightly embarrassed looks, some confabbing in French, then one of them said, as modestly as he was able, "We are heroes!" All of them had performed heroically in their jobs as firemen, and the trip to NO was their reward.
Turning on the morning news, I had a major WTF moment during the report of the firemen's balls of the night. Everything had gone wonderfully well, except for the fire station that caught on fire during the night... Yes, you guessed it.
Seven people were injured during the incident. Apparently, somebody shot a rocket through the window. Must not have been a rocket scientist. I jumped on a bike to go and take a look. The sound and light truck was just leaving, the stage had been packed up, the firemen were cleaning the mess. Not a very big fire, but they looked quite glum from having their big party spoiled, not to mention a lot of their stuff being damaged or ruined. Funny, because I had been thinking last night "what happens when they get a fire call during the firemen's ball?" I never thought that the fire station itself would burn...
Lovely photos and so unlike ' a ball' as in ladies wearing long evening gowns, men in a Tuxedo.............a stuffy kind of affair! But instead, a ball in every sense of the word as you can clearly see the people there are definitely 'having a ball'! Thanks Kerouac.
Oh my gosh ~~ what an epilogue! Were the people injured those fighting the fire, or people who were in that room when the firecracker hit it? What a shame. Yes, I can imagine that you goggled at the tv news!
It really looks like so much fun and the bands sounds great. I see you all do that stupid waving-arms-in-air at live music in France too. Maybe those were foreigners.
You really took some wonderful pictures, and I loved that glimpse at @:55 on the second one showing what a melting pot France is.
I think I always had a different image in my mind, even if your reporting is probably more realistic of the celebration. The side note about the fire at the fire station was interesting...I too, would wonder how fires are handled on this night. Hopefully, there wasn't too much damage at this fire station.
As for me, I am making French toast for dinner tonight. My tongue-in-cheek nod to my childrens' half French heritage. (Because this holiday always seems to occur in the middle of the week!)
p.s. How does celebrating on Tuesday differ from celebrating on Wednesday for a middle of the week celebration?
Bixa, love your French firemen story. Those guys sound adorable.
Great photos, Kerouac. It's a shame about the fire. Come to think of it, when I was on a tour in Paris, my Greeter told me about a fire at a fireman's ball. He must have been talking about this one. What are the odds of this happening more than once?
Though I've been in France on several Fête de la Musique dates, I've always missed the Fête Nationale. This year I'll be there for both, so I want to read more reports like this one to start getting prepared. I've heard/seen the jets as they've done practice runs down the Champs Élysées, and I know there is a military parade. Other than that I'm clueless, so it's nice you brought up this thread, Kerouac.
Wonderful job of capturing the 2015 Fireman's Ball, Kerouac. It's nice to see people of all ages, including children, out having a good time. The band was super talented, too, and did a nice job of energizing the crowd.
My parents lived in France for 9 years after retirement and left due to wild exchange rate variations which were quite scary. If they had delayed their decision just one more year when the dollar skyrocketed, they might have stayed for another decade. My father never learned to speak French -- the principal reason being that he spent 20 years in the engine room of US Navy ships and the noise permanently damaged his hearing -- but obviously he picked up quite a few expressions and terms over the years. He would have "conversations" with local villagers all the time. The villagers loved to talk to him because he was 1) an American and they loved Americans and 2) he was totally sociable and would listen to anybody.
Anyway, one time when I was visiting, he returned from talking to somebody or other and had all sorts of information but was perplexed by the person's holiday because he had been to a beach in Moselle. This brought a laugh out of my mother and me, since beach is the way you pronounce Bitche in French. One mystery remains, however. I still have no idea why anybody would spend their holiday in Bitche.
It is certainly a popular event! I am of two minds about band vs deejays. On one hand, live music is automatically more exciting. On the other, the tendency is to face the stage. With deejay music, it looks as though there is more milling and conversation along with the dancing. That is a good thing. As far as the firemen doing the cooking, maybe the decision to move the food to a food truck was partly for crowd control and partly to do away with open fires. The incident Kerouac reported in #6 above wasn't caused by cooking, but maybe the fire department wants to set an extra cautious example. It does seem wrong to serve over-priced food at such an inclusive gathering, though. Regardless, the video makes it clear that everyone was having a good time.
I fear that doing away with the firemen doing the cooking might have been one of those annoying legal reasons. The food truck obviously has insurance against anybody getting food poisoning, but the firemen of olden times probably did not. Sometimes I hate all of the safety of modern times.