When I took on the task of my first solo festival review, with words not just photos, I thought I was going to have a big challenge on my hands. But my first La Route Du Rock experience has filled me to the brim with such wonderful feels, that it's pouring out with ease. I want to stress this early on - next summer, if you are looking for a cheap and cheerful weekend away packed with amazing music, food and scenery, please look no further than Saint Malo's La Route Du Rock festival.

The easiest journey to the festival is by crossing the channel on one of those huge overnight ferries with restaurants, bars, cinemas and duty free shops. Even though I was only across the water from home, for me the excitement of an adventure began after I set sail in a pink sunset, a cheap cocktail in hand. I doubt the location was set with a conscious decision to amaze the English-folk when they arrive off the ferry, but the fact that your first impressions of the place is a beautiful stonewalled port city surrounded by clear blue sea and bobbing fishing boats really is a bonus feature.

Saint Malo is gorgeous; boasting cobbled streets lined with fresh seafood restaurants all competing for the best 'Moules, frites et vin blanc' combo deal, an impressive city sandy beach with a sea water swimming pool that fills up with the tide and gets heated by the sun and an array of boutiquey clothing stores. La Route Du Rock placement is pretty much picture perfect.




The festival itself is separated over just three stages. The music starts at a cute, almost pop-up, stage on the beach that plays smaller bands/musicians during the daytime for punters to relax in the sun with bread and cheese picnics, and then moves to the old 18th century fort (yes, you read that right), about 15 minutes out of the city. Here, there are two stages - the main stage and a smaller side stage, which when I first arrived, Wand were playing on and had roused the attention of a dozen or so billy goats lining the tops of the walls surrounding the site and checking out the music. With the best view they most definitely had a blast.




One of my favourite things about La Route Du Rock is the fact that there are absolutely no clashes; the acts play one after another on consecutive stages, and there are no other distractions to the music. You are either watching the bands or taking a breather at the dining area. With this rule in place, I obviously couldn't help but notice the lack of rowdy drunkards causing havoc and ruining it for others, and it was a breath of fresh air. This observation was confirmed by a quick drop in at the first aid tent for some paracetamol (French wine flows a little too easily), and a load of bored paramedics all nearly jumped on me for something to do. The general atmosphere was so happy and friendly and full of love for the people playing and others around you.




The festival kicked off on the Thursday evening with a teaser of talent to come. Sun Kil Moon opened the event and seemed to keep his hothead under control most of the time, apart from a little slip when he restarted 'Dogs' because the crowd didn't cheer loud enough the first time. The crowd in return then didn't stop cheering and it all ended with a bit of a giggle and a 'fair play' nod of appreciation from the artist. Kozelek ended his set with a very touching spoken word he had written especially for the festival. It gave tribute to La Route Du Rock, the place he stays in Saint Malo when he is over to play and his girlfriend and how he missed her as she was with there with him the last time. The beautiful simplicity in his words and the brash and honest way in which he spoke really deeply moved me - no matter how much bad press he gets for his short temper I will always be a fan. He had a warm heart by the end of the night, giving thanks to all the hard working team at La Route Du Rock and even gave a shout out for his French driver, leaving the stage with everyone smiling.




With a scarily wet start, Friday's beach time antics were called off and the music kicked off a bit later in the day over at the fort. With word that last year's wet weather caused a mini lake within the fort's walls, I must admit I was dreading it a little. However, a new drainage system and a sea of eager punters armed with wellies and yellow macs (this was clearly a trend I am late to), there was no defeat. Tour/label maties Wand and Fuzz set the energy bar high, riling the crowd to create mosh pit mud puddles with their noise-heavy psychedelia. As I mentioned before, even the goats gave a minute of their time for that. Thurston Moore Band's set was the perfect soundtrack to the skies clearing up as the sun went down over the sea of damp ponchos, and Algiers (being a band I hadn't listened to before) really impressed me with their beautiful brooding southern gospel sounds. The fact you could tell lead singer Franklin James Fisher was slightly nervous and still managed to blow the crowd away, makes you put a sticky note to the name to keep an eye on how he grows as a musician once he manages to shake those nerves off.




Girl Band were on next and they were top of my list of acts I wanted to see in a festival setting after seeing them tear the cosy Old Blue Last to shreds at the beginning of the year. With word on the street that their London show the night before their La Route Du Rock's was absolutely terrific, I was reeling with excitement in the photography pits waiting for them to come on. Their high-speed drums and bass, beautiful yet scratchy one note-feedback guitars, and hilarious yet equally terrifying lyrics had the crowd pumping. The majority were covered from head to toe in mud and loving it, kicking it at each other (and me) and a few even rolling in the deeper puddles during the immaculate and highly energetic set. (Note: I like that Dara Kiely isn't as innocent as he looks; we saw him eating in the dining hall and he impressed me with how mean he can sound after watching him politely stuff his face.)




I'm going to be honest, the Saturday was my least favourite day musically - after enduring Only Real's underwhelming setlist with guilty thoughts of "a shit version Mac Demarco", I was given Hinds and Foals. Hinds are so, so cute, don't get me wrong, but I have tried countless times to love their music when my eyes are closed and I think I'm at the point now where it just ain't coming. Their shrill and shrieky voices are just too much for me. Karen Dalton is my favourite female voice so you can understand why Hinds don't quite sit right with me. Foals are like ordering the same thing you always order on the menu at the restaurant you always go to when you want a cheap and easy meal. This with a side of news that the bassist had a dose of food poisoning, cutting their set time by half due to the fact that the roadie that stepped in didn't know the new album. To be honest though, I think I was just bitter that I was meant to get to see Bjork play that evening (LDRD was unfortunately one of the shows she cancelled recently), who knows. Sob. Icelandic DJ duo Kiasmos were my only saving grace that day, filling my happy feels to the brim dancing to them with my raspberry cidre whilst the sun went down.




With the slight personal disappointment in bands playing on the Saturday, Sunday made up for it and more. We watched half of Father John Misty's sunny set in real life before caving in to our last free three-course meal buffet dinner and watching the other half on the screens in the dining hall, running out briefly to watch 'Hollywood Forever Cemetery' side stage (please write more like this Father, please). I think I might have been the only one on the press table who liked his stage presence, the others took major offence to his ego. Viet Cong came out at dark and drew the crowd in, their cleverly written melodies and adventurous post-punk throb filling the fort's walls whilst the bats darted in the dusk. Then came a stonking set from Savages, silhouetted against mist and strong backlights, front-woman (being one of only two all women acts playing at the festival) Jehnny Beth was mesmerising to watch as she effortlessly howled through their hits, even whilst walking along the front bar barefoot and crowd surfing when it took her fancy. Savages show their true colours when they play fast and this is why, for me, super talented drummer Faye Milton is the shining star og this band.




La Route Du Rock experience ended on a high with Ride playing my favourite golden oldies with precision and experience, and observing Dan Deacon's very interactive set (separating the crowd into two and giving them a different dance move to take on each) side stage then diving in for a taste myself at the end.




I managed to make it home safely after a very late night, a blurred ferry crossing and a ride back to London from the coast. I was fat from far too many bread and cheese lunches and three-course dinners with endless wine of all colours, but embraced this as if just one new roll was the price to pay for one of the best festivals I have experienced in one of the most picturesque towns I have been lucky enough to step foot in.

You can view more of Hollie's wonderful photography by heading here.




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