Rick Rubin and the Tuscan village transformed into the center of music

Rick Rubin and the Tuscan village transformed into the center of music

Two of the Måneskins in church while Win Butler and Régine Chassagne go into a trance on the pulpit and Levante dances on the kneeler; the two from Arcade Fire who listen in religious silence to James Blake, who, struggling with technical problems, decides to give up the loops and not to throw insults under the crucifix but to improvise only voice and piano. At the first bench Rick Rubin is gloating and Jovanotti is swinging on the mantras of Krishna Das; in the square there is a barefoot Beth Ditto and Riccardo Scamarcio who launches into playing the percussion. And much, much more. All, however, surreal. Fantastic precisely in the sense that not even in the wildest fantasies, those present could have hoped for so much.

There was no doubt that the first Festival Of The Sun conceived and organized by Rick Rubin in Casole D’Elsa, in the Sienese countryside, had surprises in store. The American producer, now Tuscan by adoption, owner of an estate, with a studio mirroring the Shangri-La in Malibu, keeps a directory of stellar contacts and it was expected that someone would answer his call for a very secret event, but not that stayed a long time and mixed with the others. Like one among others. Together with the others.

Friday, the solstice

Let’s start from the beginning, Friday 21 June, summer solstice, and a sun drawn on the tarot card for invitation.

In the small village of almost four thousand souls, decorated with yellow and red flags for the next palio of the six districts, there is a general sense of disorientation. Nobody knows what will happen. You navigate by sight. Out of sight. About timetables. About names. In the afternoon, Rubin’s white beard slips into the church, Jovanotti follows him limping due to the after-effects of the operations after falling on his bike. Another two hundred people enter, including curious inhabitants and young people from the area who have come to trust. The yoga rock star Krishna Das plays, Indian harmonium and tablas for a collective ohm, invocations and long meditation songs. “Calindiana” performance: it feels like being a bit in California and a bit in Varanasi. .

After him, James Blake appears (that’s the correct term) unexpectedly and delivers an enchanting set. Nothing works. Electronic devices fail, phones don’t work. A true blessing. He makes his debut song “Limit To Your Love”, then “Mulholland”, “Thrown Around”, the beautiful “Retrograde”. His clean voice is a secular prayer at the foot of the monstrance. The atmosphere becomes suspended. He admits it too: “This is like no other place I’ve seen in the world.” In the cloister behind, Paolo Nutini wanders. He says he’s dying to join in, sing unexpectedly in some medieval corner, but he can’t, out of respect for those who bought tickets to his official Tuscan concert.

We have already talked about Lorenzo Jovanotti’s forcedly sedentary set (this too, in its own way, unique), accompanied by Adriano Viterbini’s guitar. It marked his return to the stage after months of hiatus, but here Lorenzo can be found everywhere, like a any music lover, to listen to colleagues, to show off hats, to do the honors of Casole, like a good host.

He and Rubin stop to chat at the sake counter. The nine-Grammy producer, or rather “the reducer”, the guru of the essential, for whom perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add but when there is nothing left to take away, is enraptured by these places. And, as we know, places shape his records (see “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, absolutely influenced by Laurel Canyon). The difference between the studio he has in Malibu and the new one in nearby Cotorniano? The first is from the 70s, the second is located in a villa from centuries ago: «It seems to be immersed in the past. There’s a sense of history in there. In California, old houses are a maximum of forty years old » he explains. The Cotorniano website mentions the “Rick Rubin music center” among the local activities. And Rubin had already told us that, in addition to recording, he would like to launch courses for musicians from all over the world, and allow artists to take a sabbatical retreat. We will see many national and international personalities pass by. Jovanotti introduced him, for example, to Gianna Nannini. Rubin liked her and invited her to the festival, but unfortunately she was busy. .

Meanwhile, he invented a festival: «Exactly how I dreamed of it as a kid» he says. Lorenzo shares the enthusiasm: «The idea of ​​creating small, local-sized performances makes everything special. For an artist it is inspirational, and it is a way to create culture. And now don’t miss Gossip.” Rubin, years ago, was struck by them, and also had them reunited on the last album: «I saw them together with a hundred others. I just liked them, right away. They are very powerful.” In fact, Beth Ditto, barefoot, with a fan and transparencies, dishevels the front rows of the square, especially with “Listen Up”, which incorporates the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer”, and “Standing In The Way Of Control”. In the alleys, you meet Madame, Paola Zukar, Gianmaria, Frah Quintale, the singer-songwriter Birthh, Riccardo Scamarcio and Benedetta Porcaroli. Films are shown at the amphitheater, including “This Much I Know To Be True”, the docu on the creative relationship between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, in the presence of director Andrew Dominik. The full moon then takes everyone to castles and farms.

On Saturday

Saturday 22 June another spin, another wheel of fortune. Jack Dorsey appears in the conference room, the founder of Twitter, former CEO of the platform, casual billionaire today on a mission on behalf of bitcoin. He gives a talk on technology and freedom, as oxymoronic as it sounds (Jovanotti and Rubin look on with interest). Among the cobblestones are the Lista Representative and the actresses Lily Cole and Jameela Jamil. Piazza della Libertà yields to the ecstatic dance of DJ Cosmo Gonik, the Collegiata hosts the cellist Lucinda Chua, the suffused soul of Rhye, and the Armenian pianist Marie Awadis. Next to her, an acoustic guitar materializes with the words: “Call mom” written on it. He makes it clear that someone else will play next. Who?

In church, the front row belongs to Ghali.

Behind, Thomas Raggi and Ethan Torchio of Måneskin reveal themselves. The altar lights go out, the candles and incense are lit. From this moment on, the full moon raises the tides. Régine Chassagne’s requiem “Pie Gesu Domine” starts, then in the dark, from the back of the nave, behind those present, Win Butler’s voice rises in “My Body Is A Cage”. A cappella. A real ambush on the heart, on the skin that gives off goosebumps. He, very tall, in a tie dye jeans suit and an orange flower on his ear, moves on to “Grinnin ‘In Your Face” by Son House, but the blues are all about him. It’s an ecstatic journey: “Neon Bible”, “Black Mirror”, “Yesterday’s Tomorrow”, then reads an excerpt from “A Coney Island Of The Mind” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, sinks into “Age Of Anxiety”, “Rabbit Hole” , “End of the Empire”, “Ride or Die”. Suddenly, Jovanotti renounces this beauty and runs away from the church. They warn him that there are impatient, understandably frustrated people outside. A maximum of two hundred people fit inside. They are enjoying an offshoot of Arcade Fire in a situation never seen before and which will never be seen again. How to repair? What to do for the other eight hundred excluded? Lorenzo becomes “the fixer”. He goes out into the square and improvises “Ragazzo Fortunato”, “Summer on”. Joined on stage by Scamarcio, he mentions “Gente della Notte”. .

At the same time, in church, on “The Suburbs”, the mass becomes mass.

Away with the piano and guitar, just clapping with natural reverb and a collective choir, which just doesn’t want to stop singing the verse: “Sometimes I can’t believe it/I’m moving past the feeling”. Butler says it clearly: “We weren’t prepared for this.” It picks up from “Iko Iko”, flows into “Wake Up”, which becomes infinite. Levante and others are standing on top of the benches. Butler’s guitar is raised next to Christ on the cross. The priest of Santa Maria Assunta is there in front. He and the mayor are two brave men. Regine takes the tambourine and with Win and the other two hundred start a procession outwards. Gorgeous. At this point, someone has certainly converted. Then, however, once he arrived in the square, he immediately fell back into the profane. Win and Régine start a wild DJ set, on which they sing and play anyway. They call anyone to dance on the small stage, the invasion arrives, the maniacs, maracas, turbans, Scamarcio unleashed on the percussion. They range from Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” to funky, South American and African rhythms. A swirling and tribal spin. A village sabbat. Not happy, the two from Arcade will continue with the private party at the castle, with Thomas Raggi and Jack Dorsey still under the console. The moon that closes these two days is a red medallion in the sky. Natural intelligence, not artificial. Even skeptics of magic have a breakdown. .

Rubin’s cube

Rubin’s cube mixed and aligned colors. He has done it many times in music (he once again made Johnny Cash shine with covers; he proposed “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith to Run DMC, who were very much against it), and this time he made a tiny town an impermanent and glocal center of gravity, among natives , foreigners, common people and quite a few freak-chic people. As Jovanotti sang in the correct lyrics of “Oh, Vita!” it was “a mixed salad of shamans and futurists, directors and musicians, technology experts and humanist spirits, tarot readers, people without blinders, under an Italianism sky”.

Rick Rubin proved to be mystical and down-to-earth.

Of course, to organize the event in just one month, he was helped: by sponsors, by the entrepreneur and actress Fiammetta Cicogna and by Sun San Production, by Wake Up by Paola Balestrazzi and Antonio Filippelli, by the Tuscan team of Woodworm and by the technical production . But, above all, he had a vision and the crazy will to create this unpredictable, anti-algorithmic bubble. If Roger Daltrey of the Who recently lamented the end of the surprise effect, with live shows always packaged and setlists available before the concerts, Rubin’s secret festival has finally followed the opposite direction. The connection to Casole is almost non-existent. If you want to exaggerate with your wishes, if cell phone recordings were prohibited, everything would become even more unique. .

In the end, it feels like I had a good dream. All the same. When have we ever seen so much quality given away for free? When have we ever seen artists so free to deviate, so ready to improvise and therefore also to fail? Do you enjoy and participate as much, if not more, than those who watch them? The next edition cannot be as collected, spontaneous and surprising. And many artists will come to show themselves, not to be there. How will Rubin do it? “I don’t have the slightest idea,” he replied, smiling. «This year too it seemed impossible, and here we are. Somewhere in the universe there will be the solution. All you have to do is capture it.”