A few days ago I attended a concert by the Australian folk and indie pop duo Angus & Julia Stone at l'Espace Médoquine in Talen...

Inside l'Espace Médoquine for the last time

A few days ago I attended a concert by the Australian folk and indie pop duo Angus & Julia Stone at l'Espace Médoquine in Talence (usually simply known as "la Médoquine"). This was, in all likelihood, my last visit to the venue which will close for good in 2018, with residential buildings and scenic greenery set to take its place.

The multi-purpose venue, best known as a concert hall but also used by local associations and businesses for meetings, conferences and miscellaneous events, was built in the late 1980s to the designs of the Gujan-Mestras-based architect Bernard Vayssière. French singer Yves Duteil was the first headline artist to perform there on March 4th 1989.

The venue could be configured according to the event at hand, catering for attendances of anything between 250 and 1,000 if seated, and up to 3,000 standing. The standing configuration is the one with which I am most familiar as a concert-goer; during my first stay in Bordeaux in the 1990s I saw many personal favourites there including Joe Jackson, Lloyd Cole, Stephen Duffy and Tears For Fears. In more recent years, my occasional Médoquine concert outings have included the electronic rock outfit Archive and alternative pop band Metronomy.
The days before barcodes: old Médoquine concert tickets!
Metronomy, November 2014.
Having said all that, one of my most memorable Médoquine (non-) events was a date by Oasis back in 1996, when they were at the height of their Britpop fame. Reportedly underwhelmed by the safety barriers that had been installed in front of the stage, the band decided to cancel their performance at the last minute, to the great disbelief, disappointment and anger of the crowd waiting outside! (The group did return to the venue in 2009 and apparently played an uninspired Oasis-by-numbers set.)

But the local music history books will probably associate the venue with more notable appearances by the likes of the Michael Hutchence-led INXS in June 1993. They had just made the uncomfortable move of downsizing from stadium gigs to more intimate mid-sized venues, and la Médoquine fitted the bill nicely. And, in June 1997, one David Bowie brought his Earthling tour to Talence; this was the only time Bowie was to perform in the area.

Beyond my personal concert-going memories of the venue, my day-job duties in the Communications team at Thales have enabled me to view la Médoquine in a whole new light, spending full days there working on the organisation of new year all-staff meetings. This has meant I have enjoyed the enviable privilege of sitting behind a big mixing desk feeling like I’m important or, with the whole venue to myself pre-event, wandering about on stage secretly pretending I’m Joe Jackson or David Bowie. 

On stage: take the seats away and you more or less have a Bowie-eye view of la Médoquine.
Mixing desk vantage point.
However, possibly the most enduring memory of those days spent at la Médoquine, invariably at the height of winter, is how cold the place was. Although the heating system would be switched on in the morning, it took until mid-afternoon for the temperature to reach anything approaching bearable. As somebody who is more used to working in a comfortable office environment, my days at la Médoquine generally meant wrapping up like I was off to a ski station. Thales managers, ahead of their keynote talks to employees, would be checking out their notes wearing warm coats and scarves. In contrast, when I've attended concerts, the place has felt a little like being stuck inside an oven, regardless of the time of year. Go figure...

Behind the scenes on stage at la Médoquine.
Which brings us on to why the municipally-owned la Médoquine is to be demolished: the rapidly-ageing dysfunctional venue was in dire need of being overhauled and the bill for Talence would have come to between 2 and 4 million euros. Although the venue is run by the semi-public company Talence Gestion Équipement, the municipality continued to provide a substantial annual subsidy (322,000 euros) to cover losses and funded ongoing maintenance and repair work in full. Hence the decision to sell off the land to private property developers, with the resulting revenues being injected into a new project to build a combined music and dance school with a performance hall nearer to the centre of Talence.

La Médoquine's futuristic design will soon be a thing of the past...
Also, while concerts only accounted for a little under a third of the venue’s average annual revenues (29%, while corporate events generated 39% and municipal/associative events 32%), la Médoquine certainly retained its image as a live venue and began to struggle in the distinctly crowded Bordeaux concert hall landscape. La Médoquine has thus been left trailing behind more modern, more attractive and better-equipped counterparts such as Le Rocher de Palmer (comprising separate 250-, 650- and 1,200-capacity halls), which coordinates its highly desirable concert programme in partnership with Bordeaux’s Rock School Barbey and Mérignac’s Krakatoa.

Elsewhere on the outskirts of Bordeaux, Théatre du Casino Barrière and suburban venues like Théâtre des Quatre Saisons in Gradignan have also drawn potential artists and clients away from la Médoquine. Finally, over in Floirac, the cutting-edge Bordeaux Metropole Arena will shortly be opening for business, with a capacity ranging from 2,500 to 11,300, simultaneously overshadowing la Médoquine and replacing the acoustically-challenged Patinoire Mériadeck in central Bordeaux. Meanwhile, Cenon is also considering building an additional 2,500-capacity venue alongside the Rocher de Palmer!

Angus & Julia Stone and a sea of mobile phones, October 2017. The bird statue thing was part Muppets and part Spinal Tap.
According to media reports such as an interesting France Bleu feature broadcast in 2015, locals have mixed feelings about the closure. Many were only too receptive to the activity the venue generated in the neighbourhood and each event was synonymous with lively, lucrative nights for nearby bars and fast-food outlets. But others won’t miss the venue and its crowds; they had previously been vocal in their opposition to la Médoquine, resulting in measures including a strict 10:30pm curfew for concerts. And they probably don’t look back fondly on highly-publicised incidents such as the acts of night-time vandalism carried out in March 2017 ahead of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign rally there in the run-up to his election as French president! 

Anyhow, with a few months to spare ahead of what appears to be the final concert date, veteran singer Hugues Aufray’s March 29th 2018 performance, let us bid a fond farewell to La Médoquine. Thank you for the memories and good night!

The scene at the end of Angus & Julia Stone's set.
No re-admittance...
> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: la Médoquine, 224-226 Cours Gallieni, Talence.
> At the time of writing, la Médoquine does still have an official website: www.medoquine.com 
> Some of the figures in this piece were culled from an excellent, informative, highly-recommended article published by in March 2017 by Rue 89 Bordeaux : http://rue89bordeaux.com/2017/03/fin-de-vie-indigne-medoquine/
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !

[BONUS] In case you're wondering, here are the songs performed by David Bowie at la Médoquine in 1997 (via setlist.fm):
David Bowie Setlist Espace Médoquine, Talence, France 1997, Earthling

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