If you’ve never heard of La Route du Rock, you’d be forgiven for assuming it was the title of a French power ballad circa 1986. If, on the other hand, you have heard of La Route du Rock, then you are very fortunate indeed. After such an exceptional trip to the festival last year, we are upping our coverage game this year and giving you a breakdown of what makes this the hidden gem of the European festival circuit.
Firstly the location. St Malo is, to channel Michael Palin briefly, a ‘quintessentially picturesque’ setting. You need only throw in Scarlett Johansen and maybe Jesse Einsenberg and you’d be halfway to a sub-par Woody Allen movie. La Route du Rock is not a typical festival site - during the day it is closed, meaning the best option is to jump aboard a free shuttle bus into the town. Fair to say you shouldn’t expect Glastonbury’s Shangri La on your arrival, but the selection of cafés and bars to lounge around enjoying chilled vin blanc are plentiful. We would also recommend you get yourself some moules-frites. If you haven’t had this dish before, its basically mussels in a creamy sauce with chips - but it tastes excellent and importantly sets you up with essential slow release carbs and lots of vitamin B12 which mussels are apparently shitting out their ears.
Beyond nutrition there is also the beach. It is a seaside town so you can sit and bask, go in the sea or listen to the daytime DJ sets that La Route du Rock put on. They can sometimes jar a bit with the family holiday vibe that a mid-August St Malo has, but they provide a good background nonetheless. Once you have enjoyed the sun, the sea and the sounds - and probably instagrammed a bit of driftwood and a sandcastle - it is time to head back to the festival.
Once opened the site is pretty compact, you can easy wander between the main stage and the smaller stages and bars without breaking a sweat. Drinking at the festival can be a bit pricey, but given the more than reasonable price of the ticket, it’s a small price to play. The site is built around the ruins of an 18th century fort that, according to a badly translated Wikipedia article, employs thirty goats to ensure its upkeep throughout the year. The goats are clearly doing a good job as the surroundings can, depending on who is gracing the main stage, give the festival a timelessness - a party of sand and stone.
Lineup highlights - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Tame Impala, Hot Chip, Local Natives, !!!, Disclosure (live), TNGHT, Efterklang
Words: Angus Harrison