Will it? Won’t it?
Will I buy a ticket? Will I get a refund?
*checks festival Twitter page daily for updates*
It’s been an up-and-down few years for everyone – buying tickets to events / festivals seems like constant pot-luck over the past 24 months. Buying tickets, only to be told a day before that some new government ruling means only 50% of audiences can attend, or that the event has been fully cancelled / rescheduled. It’s safe to say, we’ve gotten used to the disappointment.
It’s why when the announcement that the 43rd edition of Les Trans Musicales de Rennes would go ahead, we jumped at the chance to travel to the capital city of Brittany, in northern France.
This will be GoldenPlec’s seventh trip to ‘Les Trans’, with the festival being called off last year, the first time it hasn’t gone ahead in many years [Covid related of course].
For many, including this reviewer, this will be the first large-scale festival we’ve attended since pre-covid times (*swoon*).
As we travelled for the first day of the festival (Thursday 2nd), the whispers of Omicron are starting to gather pace
The Set-Up /// Covid Times
The festival itself is located in an exhibition park on the outskirts of Rennes. The park features 6 stages set up in decommissioned airport hangers. This eliminates the worry over weather, as you’re only ever a one-minute walk between halls.
Considering the new world we’re in, the large hangers provide an improved setting to a small stuffy room for the 56,000 punters attending across the 5-day festival which features 3 main music days.
It’s located a 15-20 minute bus journey outside of the city with shuttle buses running every 2-3 minutes from the city centre. One would’ve expected decreased numbers travelling via bus due to Covid transmission concerns, but like previous years, it was very much ‘stuff as many people in one bus as possible’ mentality – which was a little unnerving.
Of course, a Covid cert was required to receive your festival ticket, and checked before entry each night. And masks were mandatory, just like across the city, but obviously, the adherence to this wanes as the night rumbles on.
Unfortunately, direct flights from Dublin to Rennes have recently ceased. But flights to Charles de Gaulle are only around €80-€100 return. Then it’s a comfortable TGV from Paris to Rennes (another €30-€50) – a tip is to get the TGV from Charles de Gaulle airport for the most direct and quick route. A super straightforward journey.
The festival only kicks off around 7/9pm and can run as late as 6.30am, depending on the night. So you have all morning and afternoon to explore Rennes and it’s picturesque cobbled streets. You can take in the Christmas markets, gorge on Tartiflette (a dish of potatoes and Reblechon from Savoy in the French Alps) from a street vendor, peruse the local record stores or kick back and relax in one of the cities laid-back cafes.
The Music – Our Top Picks:
Daði Freyr perhaps is an outlier to the usual kind of acts that appear at Les Trans. Since the festival’s inception in 1979, they’ve always supported new music, and not just ‘new music’ but ultra small and promising artists. Many of whom have 100s of streams online – their journey yet to begin.
So considering Daði Freyr’s last two years, two high-profile visits to The Eurovision, representing Iceland, a viral hit with ‘Think About Things’ (102 million streams at time of writing) and sell-out gigs in prestigious venues across the world, including our own Olympia Theatre.
His 5-piece Eurovision band is reduced to a 3-piece with a heavy synth presence. From the off, it’s clear this more focused set-up is not holding them back, as they continue to deliver a robust and technical sound.
They filter between songs in Icelandic and English, kicking off the set with a double header of Skiptir Ekki Máli and Endurtaka Mig – a bright, infectious duo of songs.
Think About Things and 10 Years impress as expected, before the set is closed out with Daði Freyr’s Christmas song Something Magical – it is now December after all.
While the ethos of Les Trans has always been about introducing new music, each year, they always have spots for some well-known electronic or DJ acts. This year, enter Yann Tiersen – the famed composer of the award-winning Amélie soundtrack in 2001.
For this performance, the musician delighted fans to an exclusive electronic show where he revisited his repertoire of old and new, accompanied by an immersive video and light-show – all orchestrated by multimedia artist Sam Wiehl.
Someone high up on every ‘Must-See’ list was Priya Ragu. It’s been a whirlwind year – from quitting her job in the airline industry to being named on the BBC’s Sound of 2022 list.
She showed her promise on track Goodlove 2.0 and duly delivers on the night with a stonking rendition of her biggest tune to date. She was scheduled on the Hall 9 stage at Les Trans (pictured above) – at surely what must have been her largest crowd to date and it didn’t seem to phase her.
Her sound is a melting pot of her influences and childhood – elements of her Sri Lankan-Tamil background are also reflected in her music.
Chicken Lemon Rice and Lockdown showcase the best of her catalogue, already bursting with quality. Watch this space!
Tankus the Henge
Tankus the Henge are a interesting act to take in. A British band based out of London, known for their on-stage showmanship, cult following and large European tours – they explode on to the stage with all the bluster and drama of a stadium-filling rock band.
It doesn’t take long for Jaz Delorean, piano and vocals, to maraud across the stage – at one time, scaling his piano to showboat atop the free-standing piano – a piano that spews out constant smoke for the duration of the set, as if on fire from the relentless playing.
Tankus the Henge keep the energy high throughout with a large brass wall of sound – the perfect festival soundtrack.
Smiling Makes The Day Go Quicker is a perfect example of the joyous, uplifting and bright music that Tankus the Henge indulge in.
The Parisian duo took to a packed Hall 9 at 1.15am – an incredibly intricate light-show was to follow. Each beat, each period of fuzz – all creatively visualised in a myriad of different visual effects.
KAS:ST know how to build a song. Starting slow, moody, tentative – then growing to an inevitable drop which erupts the 15,000 mask-wearing fans in attendance.
Hell on Earth is a good example of this slow build, only to unleash a heavy drop late on. VTOPIA, Hold Me To The Light and Insomnia also stand out in a set packed with such quality. The standout set of the weekend.
Komodrag & the Mounodor
What a throw-back! If you closed your eyes for the majority of this set, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re at Glastonbury in the 70s. A proper homage to the golden era of psychedelic rock – not only by way of musical theme but also of dress.
Think Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – think Jackson Browne – think riffs! Komodrag & the Mounodor certainly pray at the Church of Riff! No place is this more evident than on Green Fields Of Armorica – a wonderfully marauding track that ends with a rhythmic rally to arms.
A band in their pure infancy, no Spotify presence just yet and only a handful of YouTube videos to their name. Having not much to go off before attending, Komodrag & the Mounodor certainly impressed on the night – not only the songs, but the overall stage presence was eye-catching and impressive.
El Combo Batanga
El Combo Batanga were one of the final acts of the festival, taking to the Hall 8 stage at 3.45am on the Saturday and final night of he festival.
The Madrid band recreates the music of vibrant Spanish Harlem of the 1960s, a neighborhood in northeast Manhattan with a strong South American community. A melting pot of salsa and boogaloo, with a unique blend of Cuban soul, pop and rhythm & blues.
It’s a big brass sound that invites you to dance the night away. A welcome invitation, if even for a group of sore and tired legs in the crowd.
El Barrio en la Mirada, Mi Boogaloo and Don Lamento standout in a set littered with impressive tracks.