La Route Du Rock - 14th - 16th September 2009 Festival Review

Review of La Route Du Rock Festival

La Route Du Rock

Sprawling beaches, idyllic countryside: it sounds more like a holiday than a festival. But this is Le Route Du Rock, which is now nearly two decades old and still packing an aural punch. Set in the rather charming French seaside town of St Malo (well, sort of) it has attracted some legendary artists over the years, and 2009 saw no sign of this waning. Almost like a French ATP, you could bill it as the thinking muso's festival including some of the biggest names in alternative music. The stages run consecutively also, making it impossible to miss anything, even if you wanted to!

No prizes for guessing that Friday's line up is distinctly shoegaze in theme. From legends My Bloody Valentine down to up-and-coming Deerhunter and Crystal Stilts, it was sonic loveliness aplenty. Deerhunter in particular impress with a fantastically tight set and an added bonus - they seem genuinely happy to be there. And with beautiful surroundings such as Brittany, it's impossible not to see why.

So onto the headliners. My Bloody Valentine's sudden revival of popularity must surprise no one more than them. Their sound has always divided opinion: held up by purists as overlooked genius, dismissed by just many as white noise. Well, it's certainly noise that is the focus of tonight's performance - and I'm guessing that if anyone came with a prejudice towards the band they would have certainly left with one. It's a visceral sonic assault from the start, one song muddies into the next, to then gather into a deafeningly loud crescendo. It's mind-blowing in every sense, but then again some people don't like having their minds blown, do they? There's seems to be a marmite flavoured reception: those pressed up against the speakers with their eyes closed love it - maybe people 20 rows back are not so sure. The stragglers that weren't scared off by all the din will no doubt have been seen off by Brooklyn's A Place To Bury Strangers - infamous for being 'the loudest band in New York.' Personally, with regards to the two final bands of the evening I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather be deafened by, but if you favour the quiet life then perhaps the evening wouldn't have been such a hoot.

Saturday however is more of a populists evening, featuring likes of The Kills, Camera Obscura and the rather colourful Peaches. Let's hope the kids have gone to bed before her arrival on stage, which turns out to be one of the most unforgettable highlights of the weekend. She's past 40 now but rather than shelving the dildos, she actually seems to get filthier with age. And who's complaining? She's always looked to shock, and you can almost see prudes in the audience make a swift beeline for the bar as she opens with 'so, you want Peaches to be a slut, Le Route Du Rock?' She proceeds to lay waste to the evening, somewhere in all the smut and chaos it includes giant dancing Cousin Its in lacy pants and a gorgeous girl guitarist who can wail like Slash. New single 'Lose You' betrays her actually quite impressive singing voice - and with her tongue firmly in her cheek she proves that growing old disgracefully is a load of fun. The Kills seem positively squeaky clean by comparison.

So there was all the noise, there was all the smut - what could possibly be missing? Perhaps some amazing music without all the fanfare. Well fortunately, Sunday held some of the best. Andrew Bird, and Grizzly Bear was a wonderful final evening line-up and made sure the festival went out with a not a bang but a lovely flourish. Grizzly Bear are awe-inspiring in their musical talent: rich folk harmonies with a little prog experimentation in the mix. As they finish the summery, relaxed vibe is inescapable - but then the atmosphere surrounding everything was throughout the entire weekend really. Le Route Du Rock is low-key, friendly, cheap as chips to to go and as laid back as a week on a beach - and with so many European festivals kicking around momentarily, you could do much worse than taking a chance on this little-known gem. Two thumbs up.

Natalie Kaye

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