It’s not possible to talk about Rennes without mentioning the history of French rock. A glorious page in history began in the late 70s with a new-wave of some groups now etched in history, like the Marquis de Sade, Marc Seberg and the Nus. This group of friends was able to capture the zeitgeist of the post-punk wave and inspired other artists with music that was both rock and poetic. This blessed time hatched tens of concerts, festivals and rock’n’roll bistros, the like of which few cities have known. At the same time, the Trans Musicales Festival was growing up.
The rest is history: the cold and melancholic new wave transformed into a colourful butterfly. The 80s saw the rise of timeless pop stars Étienne Daho and then Niagara, whose hits still spin on the turntables of radios and nightclubs. The adventure continued into the 90s with artists as diverse as Billy Ze Kick (“Mangez-moi! “) Percubaba (reggae-dub-rock) and the excellent group of crazy jumpers, Sloy, not to mention the rabid punk music of Tagada Jones, followed a decade later by the Ramoneurs de Menhirs, with a distinctly Celtic style!
From the history of French rock to the electronic scene today
Now, the Rennes music scene is not limited to just rock, even if it is the spine. For rock created countless sparks that moved towards more electronic horizons. Former bassist Billy Ze Kick, DJ Zebra was part of the explosion of electronic music in the 90s, up to its popularization from 2000. First known for his Afro-Latin mix, Zebra has created more than 500 remixes and hosted countless radio broadcasts and parties, both in Rennes and Paris.
The city has never lacked renowned Djs: Marrrtin, Boogaloo and Lotari, Ordoeuvre (France champion and vice-world scratch champion), Netik, Pat Panik etc. Many come from the soul / funk scene. We do not have enough space to quote all the artists who contributed to the Rennes electro and hip-hop scene, nor the huge number of electro-house and electro-rock evenings, such as the legendary Crab Cake at the Ubu, 88 Sessions at the 1988 Live Club, or the memorable DJ evenings at the Moon Station, Not to be missed if you are fans of the genre.
Olivier Mellano, a very discrete hero
Among the less-known but highly rated names among music lovers, Olivier Mellano is a writer and guitarist of a thousand faces, and one of the most talented of his generation. He has worked with more than fifty bands and artists: Miossec, Dominique A, Yann Tiersen, Françoiz Breut and many more for over 20 years, he has travelled all over France and the projects, from pop-rock to composition for symphony orchestra, retain Rennes as their home port.
He stops at nothing: theatre, dance, he also composed the music for “Across the villages” by Peter Handke, directed by Stanislas Nordey with Emmanuelle Béart at the Avignon Festival in 2013.
Other national talents emerging from Rennes, include rock singer Laetitia Sheriff, a native of Lille with the heart of a Rennaise; the stepped up heroic crooners rock by Success; the intellectual electro-pop Juveniles, headliners of several rock magazines; and of course the very cinematic dancing surf rock of the Bikini Machin.
Canal B, a curious and unique radio
This is one of the prides of Rennes; a radio unlike any other, made of talent and love that began over 30 years ago. Originally a pirate, Canal B (for Bruz, its city of birth) grew up with the rock generation and with the city and its changes. Its punk spirit still lives, thanks to its strong DJs: the Grignous, professionally cantankerous, talkative and very much in love with their city. However, the whole team has also turned professional.
The Canal B project goes far beyond its walls: the association supports Rennes cultural life, opens its antenna to all and sets up mobile studios wherever and whenever possible. No local event escapes its news program, Plan B; no release escapes Yann the rock scholar’s turntable (also an expert in genres from yéyé to electro). For French music, listeners can always count on the selection by Thibault Boulais on his show Les richesses du terroir (The wealth of the land.) Finally Paco, eternal youth, offers his favourite dub, reggae and world music, but also comics, movies and other gems.
Noise rock, metal, pop, soul, but also feminism, gastronomy and politics: the presentation is rich and surprising. Should you be passing through Rennes, turn a curious ear to 94.0 MHz on the FM band, or if you are over 30 km from the city, on the website.
An extraordinary garden
In the industrial area on the Lorient road, old factories are gradually being transformed into exhibition spaces and artist residencies. Along the river Vilaine, a few pedal strokes from the centre, a block covered with giant murals emerges from a park: this is the Jardin Moderne, a space dedicated to the creation and dissemination of modern music. It is an amazing place to hear music, to play, to rehearse and to get together. The programme is eclectic and focused on the local scene, but not only. Christmas market, exhibitions, training, catering, Garden is primarily a place of life. It’s well worth a visit even if you are just passing through.
Rennes has no shortage of concert venues. The Ubu, the 1988 Live Club, the Étage and Liberté, are located in the centre; the MJC Antipode, SMAC (Current Music Centre) approved, is located in the Cleunay district while small venues enliven the campuses: the Tambour, la Harpe, le Diapason…