posted on March 09, 2010 18:00
The first of France's major summer music festivals to announce its 2010 bill is Les Vieilles Charrues. The annual trip to Carhaix in Brittany takes place on 15-18 July.
You might remember that last year's event featured Bruce Springsteen in his only French show of 2009. This year's stars are not as legendary but still attractive enough to ensure a healthy turnout.
Top of the bill are Muse. Now, the English trio are playing two huge concerts at the Stade de France in Paris this June, so it might seem strange that they play another large French show only weeks later. However, Les Vieilles Charrues attracts fans for the unique experience of a festival in the remote west of Brittany - which is also relatively accessible for English fans. Also, Brittany in July is full of young holidaymakers from around Europe, so Les Vieilles Charrues has a greater potential audience than its isolated location suggests.
Back to the line-up - the other name that interests us is Phoenix. However, the Grammy winners are surprisingly far down the bill - tugging the forelock to Mika but also to four other French acts. Who are these artists that the home fans seem to prefer over Phoenix?
We featured Indochine early last year - '80s post-punk veterans who will also be filling the Stade de France this summer. Diam's is a tomboyish rapper who raised some eyebrows when she converted to Islam recently. Alain Souchon is one of these old chanson française guys that you non-Frenchies don't need to know about.
The other French headliner is Jacques Dutronc (left, in his youth). If that name sounds familiar, it's because you may have heard it in the original version of 'Brimful Of Asha' by Cornershop - at the end, when Tjindar Singh is listing his old records, he mentions "Jacques Dutronc and the Bolan boogie".
So who is Jacques Dutronc? Well, as a young man in the 1960s he was a pop star, and by the '90s he had become a respected actor. He is the partner of Françoise Hardy, perhaps France's coolest female pop singer ever - and their son Thomas Dutronc is now a star himself, making a likeable kind of jazz manouche-influenced acoustic chanson-pop.
And what does Jacques Dutronc sound like? From looking at his picture (left), you'd imagine such a suave and dapper man to croon like Bryan Ferry. In fact, Dutronc père has a rasping, hectoring voice, like a hoarse Mick Jagger. Indeed, his '60s hits bring a touch of Stones raucousness to the chanson française genre - lots of words and little melody, but with enough attitude to compensate.
As for other acts at Les Vieilles Charrues, dance music fans will recognise Vitalic and Etienne de Crécy. Revolver make a rather nice skiffle-pop sound. But you don't need to bother with Gojira or Gaetan Roussel. And if you're travelling all the way to deepest Brittany to see one-hit-wonder Mr Oizo, him of the Flat Eric fad in 1998, then you've got issues.
On which point, how does one get to deepest Brittany and Les Vieilles Charrues? First you go to a major west Breton town like Lorient or Brest (by air), Roscoff (by ferry) or Guingamp (by train). From there, the regional authority has organised coaches to Carhaix for only €3 return. Full practical details are available here in English.
Tickets for Les Vieilles Charrues went on sale last week and already all 35,000 four-day tickets have been sold - unless you choose a four-day package including transport to and from faraway French cities like Dijon or Toulouse. Never mind - you can still get a three-day pass for €88 or a one-day ticket from €37.50 to €51.20, depending on which day you choose. Muse are playing on Thursday 15 July and Phoenix on Saturday 17 July (with Indochine headlining that night). You can find full ticket details on French online ticket agents like FNAC.
For more information on the festival, check out Les Vieilles Charrues' website (in French apart from the practical info page in the link above). Here's a pleasantly bizarre song from Jacques Dutronc that Neil Hannon has been known to perform live - 'Les Playboys':