It is sure summer in Grenoble, France, with temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit and afternoon rain showers. Grenoble is a city in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France known for being a top-ranking, student-friendly city.
I arrived in Lyon on Thursday, May 31st and it’s taken about a week and a half for me to settle into my “new” French life. I have a French mom, sister, brother and a cat! My intensive 4-hour, 5-day-a-week French language course is in full swing.
Spotty internet connection makes for interesting dinner conversations (sometimes without the help of Google translate!). The first night during dinner I was asked if I wanted to attend a concert. I jumped at the opportunity, with the only information that I understood being that the singer, Calogero, was from Grenoble. It would have been smart to ask which night we were going out.
Fast forward two days after, I meet my fellow AIFS in Grenoble classmates and Resident Director, Miranda, to go to Château de Vizille. This 17th century Château was built by François de Bonne, Duke of Lesdiguières, Governor of Dauphiné and the last Constable of France. While touring the grounds, Miranda told us the legend of its construction.
François de Bonne was believed to have employed the devil to aid in the construction. Of course, the devil being “a devil” wanted something in return, so Bonne made a bet that if he could ride his horse all the way around the perimeter of the grounds, he would get off scot-free. The devil knew that the distance around the grounds of the Château would take Bonne days to complete. Little did the devil know, Bonne was a famous horseman known for speed and accuracy. On the 8th day, just as the devil began to seal the edges of the ground’s walls, Bonne and his horse jumped over the wall, kicking the devil off into the distance. To this day, far beyond the walls guarding the Château lays “The Pierced Stone,” what is believed to be the devil’s fossilized body.
After a round about tour of the grounds, a mating dance performed by a male peacock, and quick rendezvous in the museum (where I learned that as well as hosting a planning meeting for the French Revolution in 1788, the Château also provides a vacation getaway for French and American Presidents alike), I returned back to my homestay around 6 PM. Before I had even gotten in the door, my host mom (in French) tells me we need to go to the corner to meet her friend so we can to go the concert.
So off we went, in a red Peugeot full of four French women and me. The only conversations I understood on the way over revolved around parking and work.
Once we arrived at the Palais des Sports (the concert stadium) we made our way over to the giant line to wait to get into the venue. As one may imagine there were hundreds of people all crammed on some grass, waiting to get into the concert. As I was standing with four middle-aged French women I was host to many confused stares.
Once in the stadium, my host mom got our group some refreshments and as we walked with them into the hot, humid centre of the arena, I realized we were claiming our standing room. In broken French, I asked my French mom if we were just going to stand or go to our seats. She looked at me like I was crazy.
Before the concert began, my French friends gave me a brief overview of the singer. Virginie told me, “le chanteur s’appelle (is called) Calogero.” Cecilia added, “il est très beau,” (“he is very handsome”) and my host mother told me, “il chante sur la politique et la religion” (“he sings about politics and religion”).
Similar to a concert in the United States, there was an opening band who played a few songs before Calogero came on. The opening act was a blonde woman who appeared to be in her late 20s and sang about love. The first band finished at 8:00 PM and then there was an intermission before Calogero came on to play what was supposed to be a 2 and a half hour concert.
During the concert, every moment I found myself being slowly pushed in towards the middle of what seemed like a mosh pit (French style, of course). A mother and daughter rocking out on my right and a family of four huddling together on my left. Calogero sang song after song, and some would make the crowded go crazier than others. They played with mixed media and stayed on stage for an extra hour!
It was fascinating for me to think about how different my day was from my night. I always consider spending an afternoon at a Château to be a very French pastime, but usually when I think of concerts I think only of American ones. Now I have another frame of reference! I thought it was interesting to compare the calmness of my afternoon with the rowdiness of my night. I will always remember my first French concert, especially because when I told my Resident Director that I had seen Calogero, she squealed delight and told me that tickets sold out six months in advance!