Living in London for fifteen years, I grew up in an area where music has a very strong cultural impact. It gives people a sense of identity, the music you listen to has an impact the clothes you wear, the way you speak and the way you behave in society in general. London is strongly divided by this musical culture and anyone would be a fool to say that they can’t see it. The way youths dress today derives strongly from what bands they like. This might seem quite a dated way to judge people but it’s not; it makes sense. Having come from such a strong cultural background I was somewhat sceptical about the kind of music I would find when I moved to rural France. However, I quickly learnt that if anything, French kids know more about what they are doing than the mainstream music reviewers give them credit for.
When I arrived in France I was shocked by the cultural difference between my very rural school and where I went before and so I went looking for something that I could relate to, a scene which would make me feel less alien in this seemingly very conservative part of France and I found it in a town called Saint-Lô, a place with a thriving music scene. People my age in Saint-Lô know what they like and have a strong sense of style. The town’s main venue ‘Le Salle Normandy’ has in the past had well-known bands playing (including Foals and The Cribs) but mainly plays host to unknown bands from around the area. These bands are the gems.
Befriending a guy named Valentin at a Foals gig I learnt that not only was ‘Le Salle Normandy’ the venue to be at every weekend, but that his band The Guest were something special. My weekly jaunts to Le Normandy led me to see many other bands and to meet many more people involved in this slowly growing underground scene. I was discovering that whilst French mainstream music may be lacklustre (Les Shades, Gush...) the local bands being allowed to support these big acts steal the glory. One of these supporting bands called The 60th Underground is a band who is a good example of this 60s scene not only through their music, but their clothes – think Carnaby Street in the 1960s. The 60th underground are not dissimilar to The Guest in stage presence and energy, however, their secret weapon is not a Farfisa Organ but a saxophonist and a ‘Bez,’ also called Valentin, his presence on stage is compulsive viewing. His main role seems to be clapping, hitting a tambourine/cowbell and dancing for about 40 minutes, non-stop. He is high energy, epitomises everything that is right and cool about this scene. Another group gaining a solid fan base here is Les Kitschenettes, seeing them live at a small bar tucked away in the bottom corner of Saint-Lô (small bar, BIG band), there is no word to describe the power of their music; short 60s songs, which are energetic yet controlled and perfectly executed.But don’t take my word for it, come and see them yourself.