Get your groove on
Europeans love to dance, and at the Festivales Transmusicales — which took place Dec. 6 through 8 in Rennes — the sentiment was no different. Even though the dance-pop craze in America has been rejuvenated in the past few years by the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Justice, it has never really gone away in Europe.
This weekend’s festival, which used vacant airplane hangars as stages, showcased this European enthusiam accordingly. Though there were no official “headlining acts,” Friday night belonged to local French DJ Etienne de Crecy, who emerged on stage elevated in a massive white cube. Starting off with just the pulsing blare of a fire alarm, de Crecy barreled through a set of beats so ferocious you could feel the thudding in your heart. You danced, whether you liked it or not (... you liked it).
Though the presence of French musicians and audience members was undoubtedly felt, it has always been a Transmusicales tradition to promote both younger groups and groups from other countries. Dancing audience members got to take a breather for Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela, two technical powerhouses of the acoustic guitar. With the Spanish influence came original tunes rooted in rhythmic Flamenco patterns, while the musicians’ heavier rock roots led them as far as covering Metallica tunes. A one-man act from Copenhagen, Prins Nitram, decorated his stage with a La-Z-Boy chair and a reading lamp. “Welcome to my living room,” he announced. Nitram’s music had a Grizzly Bear-influenced vibe; he would frequently loop guitars and overdub bass lines for relaxed, ethereal effects. Occasionally, he would try out his musical bravado and funk out, playing both bass and drums at the same time (he should stick to guitar).
But the real focus of the weekend was worldwide stomp, and there was plenty of it. The Whip, from Manchester, UK, pieced together simple, rhythmic vocal lines with guitar patterns and drumbeats that were just as kinesthetic. Another British smash at the festival was Calvin Harris, who, like The Whip, always threw down catchy beats and grooves. Harris, however, got lost much less frequently in thick synthesizer lines and electronica monotony; he and his group kept catchy vocal hooks and bass lines popping throughout the set. His young age (he’s 24), however, often makes for ridiculous lyrics. He constantly reminds us that he “gets all the girls,” as well as proclaiming that “merrymaking and drug taking” take place at his house.
Then again, criticizing drug-taking, love-making, and being brash would completely undermine the (French) music festival experience. Festivales Transmusicales was an absolute party, with friendly vibes and music that only enhanced them. Sure, suspicious activity took place, but by the early morning hours of Saturday, the highs and vices just seemed like byproducts of good music and a good time.