La Route Du Rock is a music festival held in St. Malo, Brittany, in the North-West of France. Now in its 26th year, this is one of France's best established festivals, and continues to bring a selection of alternative and arty indie bands.
La Route Du Rock 2016 - Belle and Sebastian, Savages, Battles, Tindersticks, La Femme, Sleaford Mods, Lush, Fat White Family and more.
Largely contained within the ancient walls of Le Fort de Saint-Pére, La Route du Rock feels like a small and intimate festival, but regularly presents high profile experimental acts.
With an emphasis on history and variety, the bill usually features artists who already have a very well established career, with a few cutting edge new artists. This has earned it a reputation as a music connoisseur's festival, and it enjoys a loyal audience, many of whom have been coming to the festival for a number of years.
Because the first artists don’t take to the stage until the early evening, the festival arena isn’t much used during the day, with many festival-goers sleeping off the previous night, or making their way into nearby Saint-Malo to go to the beach. The acts on the first and second stage go on until the early hours of the morning.
La Route du Rock is not a family festival as such. However, it draws a very well-behaved - and very enthusiastic - crowd from their late teens to mid-forties.
Stages and other entertainment
The festival’s emphasis is on watching the artists first and foremost, so there’s little else on offer in the way of on-site activity, but that only makes the performances extra special. There’s also plenty to do in the surrounding area, and the festival encourages the audience to explore during the day.
There are two stages in the main arena, which are at opposite ends and face each other. Because they alternate between bands, the audience can easily move between them to see all the artists.
Both stages take their names from their military surroundings. The largest stage is the Fort Stage and the smaller, second stage is the Ramparts (or ‘battlements’) Stage. The lighting on the Fort stage is particularly impressive, and there is usually a major visual element to the night-time performances using screens, lights or both.
The beach in Saint-Malo has a small stage of its own which is programmed by the festival but can be enjoyed by anyone and doesn’t need a wristband or ticket.
The festival also has a year-round venue called La Nouvelle Vague, which hosts a full evening bill on the night before the festival site opens.
On site there is a photography exhibition, and a dedicated labels and zines area where music fans can browse and buy zines, records and other merchandise.
Nearby Saint-Malo is just 10km away from the festival site, and is a tourist destination in its own right. The festival runs a free shuttle between the town and the site several times a day.
There are bars, cafes, shops and restaurants in Saint-Malo, making it a peaceful and enjoyable place to spend the day. It’s a beautiful walled city with many historic buildings, and is well known for its oysters which can be bought at stalls or ordered in restaurants along the seafront.
Anyone attending the festival can take a festival bus to the beach, and go swimming in a large swimming pool on the shore, drink on the beach, and watch the performances on the beach stage.
On the Sunday there is a traditional sports tournament on the beach called Sports Are Not Dead, including volleyball, football and dodgeball, in which teams compete for prizes.
Children are permitted at La Route du Rock. However, there are rarely any children at the festival, due to its late running hours and minimal on-site activities that would appeal to them.
The festival does have disabled access, but no separate tickets for disabled attendees.
The weather is normally extremely warm and sunny, so sun cream and shades are advised, as well as warmer clothes for the late night performances.
However, it’s still wise to bring wellies and a raincoat, because there’s very little shelter in the arena, and the weather can sometimes be terrible, so it’s best to be prepared. In previous years, the festival site has suffered from heavy rain which has caused the arena to flood. This has led the organisers to install a new drainage system on the site, which has helped a great deal.
There are four hotels partnering with the festival to offer a ticket and accommodation package, and all of these are in Saint-Malo.
They are: * Citotel Aux Voyageurs * Hotel Kyriad St Malo Plage * Hotel Ambassadeurs * Hotel Cartier
The festival’s shuttle bus stops close to the hotels if requested.
It’s also possible to book a bed at the Saint-Malo Youth Hostel through the festival and get a discount with your festival ticket.
What to wear
This is a low-key but stylish festival, and the French audience all look effortlessly cool. There’s a lot of denim, a lot of navy, cream, white and brown, and not many bright colours.
For girls: Strappy vests and shorts are fairly standard, all in muted colours. Jeans come out in colder weather, as do the military style coats.
For men: Retro band t-shirts are prevalent, but other than that it’s skinny black jeans, jumpers and backpacks for everything.
For both sexes: Breton stripes are absolutely everywhere, as you might expect, with it being more or less the Brittany uniform. They look so good you’ll want to buy one on your way home.
The campsite is next to the arena, outside the walls of the Fort.
It’s quite a basic set-up compared with some festival campsites, but has everything you might need.
There’s dedicated parking on-site at the festival, which is free to ticket-holders, and is signposted from the road.
The campsite has toilets and showers, as well as a restaurant and bar, an internet station, camping store and phone charging facility.
Rather than using cash, the festival users a cashless card system on site. Everything from food to merch can be purchased with the card, and the card can be topped up throughout the festival.
Cards can be pre-ordered and picked up on arrival, or they can be bought on arrival at the cashless stand.
Food and drink
The food and drink stalls at the festival are above average. Local food sits alongside the standard burgers, and they even have a champagne bar where the bubbly is surprisingly affordable and as good as you’d expect.
Drugs and security
Drugs aren’t really part of the festival’s culture, and as a result security isn’t a particularly noticeable presence.
La Route du Rock has its own app for Android and iPhone, which offers practical festival information as well as audio, video and pictures from the festival, and line-up announcements.
Trivia and history
The festival also has a winter edition which takes place at La Nouvelle Vague The 2015 headliner was supposed to be Bjork but she cancelled all her festival dates at the last minute and was replaced by Foals There’s usually a heavy British influence to the bill as the festival organisers are big fans of British music.