Pitchfork Paris 2013: Five things we learned

Savages are just the job for Halloween, the Knife shine even when they mime, and even Parisians can be disconcerted

1. Paris knows how to party

It's easy to assume a festival run by the biggest hipster music website, and set in the chicest city in the world, would be a rubbish place to party. You'd imagine a crowd too constricted by their vacuum-packed skinny jeans to be able to lose their inhibitions. However, Pitchfork Paris, now in its third year, seems intent on proving its partying muscle. The three-day festival is indoors, which makes a pleasant change from mud, rain and the grim-looking Portaloos. It staggers the lineup between two opposite stages, so you've got enough time to go for a wee between acts, but no lengthy waits where nothing's happening. And much like Sonar, in Barcelona, the fringe parties and aftershows are a draw in their own right. If you really want to experience how it feels to be bohemian (that is, poor) in Paris, though, you can: a pint of lager on the festival site is €7.

2. The Knife have mastered the festival closing set

There's nothing quite like a band in shiny jumpsuits bashing space-age-looking instruments and dancing about the stage like the cast of Stomp to end the evening. The Knife have been criticised for this show, which accompanies their latest album, Shaking the Habitual, and reveals the "live" part of the Swedish duo and their disco ensemble's performance to be an illusion. But when that performance has a bit where they wheel on a disfigured singing portrait – and a techno-blasting finale where they party onstage as if they were making a piece of rave theatre – who cares if they're miming?

3. Savages are the ultimate Halloween party band

The foggy lighting, the brutal post-punk riffage, the menacing atmospherics, like a sci-fi film being chewed up and spat back out – Savages were the suitably spooky soundtrack to the festival's All Hallows' Eve. Drummer Fay Milton leaps out of her seat during a rapacious rendition of She Will, as though she might swoop into the crowd like one of The Witches. Guitarist Gemma Thompson invokes all manner of nail-biting screeching from her axe, while Ayse Hassan levels the intensity with a thrust of her bass. And few things are genuinely more chilling than frontwoman Jehnny Beth, who skulks about like a hyena, as if ready to ravage her band members should they make a wrong move. Scary stuff.

4. Omar Souleyman should be on every festival bill

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The Syrian wedding singer cum western sensation was on early, but his hypnotic Middle Eastern electro ballads, skewering folk dance music (called dabke) with syncopated drum-machine beats and the synthesised noodling of traditional reed instruments, whipped up some of the most enthused dancing of the festival. The rhythms pumped out by his Korg player are unrelenting, exhilarating and as fresh as anything by today's young bedroom producers. And the reaction he gets proves that he's more than just a quirky world music crossover.

5. Connan Mockasin has the best comedown music

Pitchfork Paris was steeped in psychedelia – from Danny Brown's crackpot Cartman raps, to Warpaint's swirling Californian rock – so eccentric New Zealander Connan Mockasin's set was a perfect fit. He looks like Brian Jones dressed as a priest, and does things so strange – like asking the crowd to stop clapping and click their fingers instead – that even Parisians don't know what to make of him. Still, his music is refreshingly weird: he can wig out with 10-minute odysseys, all long sighs of guitars that sound submerged underwater, or pair Prince-indebted grooves with his childlike falsetto. Where much of the psychedelic new wave cut and paste the genre's dreamy drones into whatever music they make, Mockasin basks in it.

Contributor

Kate Hutchinson

The GuardianTramp

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