La Route du Rock: Talking Points of the Weekend

Posted on 25 August 2016
By Ollie Rankine
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Since the early 90s, the ornate, walled, city of Saint-Malo has been annually invaded but the best part of 15,000 excitable festivalgoers, all-congregating for one of France’s most resilient and longstanding music festivals, La Route du Rock. Each year, hand picking an eclectic mix of both English and French speaking artists, RDR organisers have often tended to veer away from the usual collection of mainstream acts and instead impress crowds with a rich selection of weird and wonderful artists that span across the three day event.

Although this year sadly saw the cancellation of legendary electronic duo, The Avalanches and then, The Field on the day of their set, RDR crowds were once again, positively dazzled by the extravagant light shows and consistently slick stage performers. Having whittled it down to just a few of the main highlights, opinion amongst RDR festivalgoers will undoubtedly vary due to the excellent standard of each performance.

La Femme

Occupying the Saturday headline slot were French psychedelic rockers, La Femme. Having never come across the name before, curiosity naturally ensnared the night’s proceedings. The first point of surprise became apparent after witnessing the sheer volume of devoted French festivalgoers waiting at the main stage in a lively state of eager anticipation. Perhaps nearly the entire festival were standing, huddled before the empty stage in a vast sea of excitement. It was clear something wonderful was on the cusp of eruption.

Suddenly glaring the crowd with a mix of deafening noise and florescent light, all nine members of La Femme entered the stage to an uproar. Any previous ideas about the French being somewhat subdued live music spectators were immediately put to bed as the entire crowd unanimously fell into total bedlam. Front woman, Clémence Quélennec captivated the audience throughout with her smooth vocal whilst keyboardist, Marlon Magnée paraded around stage in black leather trousers with the word ‘badass’ scrolled across his arse in almost hilariously French style. Brilliant doesn’t even cut it.

Suuns

Running into the early hours of the morning was one of the more anticipated acts of the festival. Having already performed in both 2011 and 2013, Canadian quartet, Suuns triumphantly returned for their third RDR performance. Having released their third album, Hold/Still in April earlier this year, Suuns arrived fully armed with a fresh set list of new material to entertain fans with no intention to disappoint.

Describing the set is difficult to say the least due to Suuns’ totally unique feel and sound. Hypnotised by the depth of frequency and repetitive, desperate lyrics, Suuns’ enthralling nature derives from numerous factors. Whether it be the on-stage, inflatable visuals or the barrage of sadistic melody that never once fails to falter, Suuns were truly captivating and remains to be the most stand alone performance of the festival.

Savages

Certainly one of the more acknowledged acts of the weekend whilst also having played the year before, Savages returned to RDR for round two in unsurprisingly chaotic fashion. Having released a new record, Adore Life in January this year, Savages proved their female-fuelled punk is far from losing its venom after staging the most explosive set of the weekend.

Playing a healthy mix from both their debut and recent albums, experiencing Savages live can be compared to being repeatedly punched in the face, but in a good way. Never failing to enthuse a crowd, front woman Jehnny Beth spent most of her time either conducting the stage as if it were some kind of abrasive symphony performance or hurling herself into the sea of uncontrollable onlookers. Leaving the crowd literally in tatters, Savages tore through RDR like a hot knife through butter and were sure to leave a lasting impression.

Sleaford Mods

Last but certainly not least were Nottingham duo, Sleaford Mods. Despite forming in 2007, Sleaford Mods only started gaining traction a couple of years ago following their 2014 album, Divide and Exit. Having successfully formulated a slightly bizarre, spoken word punk style, they illustrate their brutal representation on the current state of modern Britain whilst making it closely relatable and almost spitting uncomfortably in your face.

The entire set was strangely empowering as frontman, Jason Williamson screamed endless streams of profanity at the audience with not even a hint of recoil whilst band mate, Andrew Robert Lindsay Fearn took his usual position behind the laptop, nonchalantly sipping on a Breda. I suppose the most amusing aspect was the sheer look of bemused shock on many French faces as Williamson smashed down any sense of predictability for the previously unaware onlookers. Though many may not have understood the lyrics, the general gist lay in plain sight.