Lyon’s city centre encapsulates France’s medieval and renaissance past, justifying its status as a UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Ornate architecture courses through winding streets, spilling into the countless city squares that line the municipality’s landscape. Wander further, away from the constraints of the touristic old town, beyond the abundance of immaculately preserved landmarks, and you will discover the more industrialised enclaves of the city: redundant factories, barren silos and abandoned warehouses. It’s within these repurposed spaces that the 17th edition of Nuits Sonores welcomed over 70,000 attendees to engage with six days of formidable sonic and cultural programming.
Split between the daytime and evening programme, Nuits Sonores continued with its adopted A Day With format, in which Bonobo, Maceo Plex, Peggy Gou and Lena Willikens were offered the opportunity to curate a series of line-ups showcasing a handful of their favourite selectors. On the Esplanade stage crowds sweltered beneath the late afternoon sun as Joy Orbison blended house and UK funky tracks with the distinctive transfixing vocals of flamenco-pop sensation Rosalía. Daytime dancers took refuge inside the dimly lit Salle 1930, a former sugar storage facility overlooking the picturesque La Confluence waterfront. Inside, perched upon an arena-style stage, Timedance label head Batu commanded the room: mixing UK-centric bass and techno with baile funk. Up some five flights of stairs atop the warehouse was Le Sucre: a hidden, more intimate space. It was on this stage that French-Canadian producer Marie Davidson jolted back and forth, mesmerizing those before her as she reconstructed tracks in real time: layering live vocals with off-kilter house and techno assembled via her extensive hardware setup.
As the evening programme commenced, the festival’s proceedings relocated to Fagor Brandt: a collection of disused factories situated in the heart of Lyon’s 7th arrondissement. James Blake took to Halle 1 – Nuits Sonores’ main stage during the evening programme – to perform tracks from his latest release Assume Form, including a modular synth rendition of I’ll Come Too that reverberated through the expanse of the enormous depository, marrying seamlessly with the innovative panoramic lighting displays. DJ sets from crowd favourites Jayda G and The Black Madonna served a particularly young and energetic festival crowd with the jaunty house and disco cuts they’ve come to love and expect from the two respective artists.
Over at Halle 2, Volvox and Umfang kicked off their dynamic b2b, providing the adoring cluster of early morning ravers with two hours of vigorous techno. On the corresponding stage, Tony Allen and Jeff Mills delivered a cosy performance of their jazz-techno hybrid, journeying through a melodic heart-to-heart.
Between acts, festival-goers frequented the chill out areas and ‘vapezone’, a peculiar room lined with mirrors in which punters could sample an assortment of vape flavours, its inclusion perhaps signalling the target group of the festival. Additionally, numerous seated areas were spread throughout the vast venue space and were a welcome addition for the drunk and disorderly demographic that the festival had unfortunately attracted.
Although the crowd may have left a lot to be desired, the 17th edition demonstrated the festival’s curatorial efforts in platforming an array of intriguing artists reflecting a myriad of genres. The next step in the event’s progression seems blatantly clear: adopting the same attitude towards the diversification of the festival’s line-up in an attempt to close the distinguishable gender gap even further.