As soon as the early Django Reinhardt vinyl and ancient 78rpm discs were spread out, in a frantic grabbing frenzy, they were all gone.
Occasionally the godfathers of Manouche, better-known names, such as Raphaël Faÿs or brothers Romane and Stochelo Rosenberg, who are modern-day giants, get a hero’s welcome whenever they stroll in amid much nudging and sleeve-tugging.
The well-established names are happy to mingle with the crowd, soaking up the adoration and strutting their stuff in 18-carat style. From time to time, they stop to admire the instruments which famous makers such as Dell Arte and Lebreton have put on show in their tents – then treat onlookers to dazzling impromptu show-off performances.
At the other end of the spectrum, the drama surrounding the young bucks would provide great material for a film script.
These olive-complexioned adversaries cruise the sideshow tents like sharks weighing up the competition. They disappear then return, guitar in hand, all set for the musical duel.
They are like pool room hustlers. When one sits down, it’s normally directly opposite the musician he has already sussed out and chooses to impress.
The sessions are delivered at blistering pace, some of the get-this riffs performed by hands which are unbelievably attached to bodies only nine or ten years old.
On the sidelines, ecstatic punters who cannot believe they are so lucky, push forward eagerly to immerse themselves and wallow. If you look up, that’s when you see the sea of smiling faces.
The I-can-play-better-than-you challenges last well into the night around log fires in campsites spread along the river’s edge as musical gauntlets are thrown down left, right and centre.
At the end of the night, you find yourself driving deliberately slowly along the avenue known as the “road of guitars”, windows down to catch the fading notes as tunes float out on the breeze, still tugging at the coat tails.
I never saw a single mobile phone in use throughout the entire weekend.
In jazzland, they’re all too chilled out for that. Besides, it would be very un-hip if one went off in the midst of such exalted company. The river would surely beckon after a few well-aimed boots had connected with the offending backside.
At the close of proceedings, someone said he wished he could bottle up the vibe and take it home to let some out a little at a time whenever he required a pick-me-up.
In reality, there’s no need. The feel-good factor doesn’t go away.
Like I said, when you’ve been Djangoed, you just can’t stop smiling.
* Check out the www.festivaldjangoreinhardt.com website for details on next year’s dates and camping opportunities. The comfortable La Fallonniere gite (sleeping two) including breakfast, at nearby Bois le Rois, was only a five-minute drive from the hub of things. There are many more to choose from online. River houseboats are also available at Fontainebleau, 5km from Samois.
Getting There: Hire a car on arrival at the airport for the two-and-a-half hour drive from Paris to Samois, or take the coach service into the city centre and train from Gare de Lyon to Avon/Fontainebleau to link up with the mini bus shuttle to and from the festival site.