Roscella Bay 2016: a young festival with a mature outlook emphasising local French acts

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Following a tipoff about the first edition, we headed to the port of La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast to enjoy the last days of summer in fine style.

Roscella Bay is a young festival in more ways than one, organized by a team in their mid 20s, for a crowd in their mid 20s. Just €42 for the entire weekend, camping €6 per night, and Airbnb options a short walk from the centrally located site, not to mention the whole of Friday was free with registration. Set in a derelict area of the port that was pretty much consumed by graffiti, there was plenty of character to the site, with just a few decor touches and some tasteful stage design creating a laid back feel to that festival.

On the Friday afternoon Roscella Sandsystem laid down the manifesto for the festival, cutting between A Tribe Called Quest, Young Marco, classic Shep Pettibone mixes, and Mr Mendel’s edit of Trio Ternura – ‘A Gira’, the selection acting as a sampler for the weekend.

As the sun came down, La Rochelle locals Dampa played their first live set together at the festival. Laying down expansive electronics and trip-hop, a standout moment came via the kind of quirky synth tones that recall Metronomy in their heyday. While the crowd dispersed during changeovers they were always quick to return to the stage for the next act. Parisian act Arat Kilo further expanded the palette with jazz inflected funk, even dipping into dub at times. Two piece outfit Agar Agar treated us to cerebral chuggers which had the few remaining wallflowers committed to the dance. Daniel Wang dusted off the decks again to close out the night with his signature brand of loved up disco and freaky electro, with plenty of favourites and some stunning obscure cuts. After the excellent programme presented on Friday, expectations were high.

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Discomatin opened the morning with a spread of all the funk and boogie you could desire, French covers of US disco classics and some from their own imprint, with ‘Sea And Sky Line’ a perfect expression of the mood on the dockside. As they wound down,  clambered into the Mad Max style dome that had been the backdrop to Discomatin. The solo artist was certainly a highlight for many who saw his performance. A sit-down live set, working with just a sequencer and a microphone, he conjured a feeling that brought to mind some of the recent work of Tornado Wallace. His deft ability to build a groove out of a simple bassline and an spread of household items was a real draw, his playful interactions and gestures showing he enjoyed it just as much as the crowd surrounding his little temple. In the era of blogs like “djslookingdepressed” Jacques is a welcome burst of spontaneity, having such joie de vivre you feel he could stage a pantomime by himself.

In a last minute addition, Yussef Kamaal roped in an extra band member to become a quartet, their sprawling and wild improvisations were a departure from the linear progression of Jacques. Dayes himself drumming with infinite energy, a live jungle number recalled West London circa 2000 and offered a rare nod to soundsystem culture. It was an impressive performance, with solos and flourishes gaining great applause. The Pilotwings picked up the pieces and perform their brand of exuberant house to a packed main stage, steering us towards the clubbier sounds that would later frame the night.

Funkineven took sundown as his cue to lay down the law, with big and bold house from Kenlou – ‘The Bounce’, “DJ Deeon – ‘Free 2 B’ right through to UR masterpiece ‘Timeline’. The Londoner got a lot of energy from the crowd, even the mandatory broken leg guy appeared, dancing away on crutches. A live show from Secret Value Orchestra sobers things up a bit with 4×4 European house grooves, via forays into jungle and jazz ahead of a Bambounou house set. In practice this means the Parisian eschewed his traditionally total techno attitude, dropping dark, wobbly garage and some choice Detroit cuts, Mike Huckaby – ‘Flashbacks From The M1’ sounding the huge rig.

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Afterwards we headed to Set club to enjoy a few hours from the evergreen duo of Marcel Vogel and Mr Mendel before heading home to recharge. After a sunny day in the spacious site, the busy club was a bit much.

In the morning it was all about French digger Victor Kiswell, and Hugo Mendez of Sofrito. Victor glided through a sun-drenched selection of Nana Love, Leo’s Sunshipp and Nohelani Cypriano, to name a few, while Hugo carried the flame with Tabu Ley, Steve Minote, Koro Koro, then closed the dome with dulcet reggae.
Nine piece band Cotonete packed the mainstage with their infectiously uplifting take on jazz and intense turns towards the funk end of the spectrum; it was the kind of performance that only Marcellus Pittman could follow. The Chicago legend flied through an irresistible blend of hits and party starters including, Glenn Underground, Model 500, Gino Soccio, Kleeer, Deodato, Mass Production, Naomi Daniel, his remix of MCDE, Eruption. All timed and mixed just right, a whole host of funk indebted sounds came down from the stage and the two hours flew by before Cotonete returned to accompany him on vocals, keys and brass for a climactic sendoff that drew endless applause before it was anywhere near over.

By hunting out quality away from the circuit regulars and emphasizing French acts, the organisers showed a brave and mature outlook, which really paid off, and no doubt helped preserve the tight numbers and friendly pricing, still selling out the festival without compromising the experience, and somehow feeling more intimate than many small clubs could be. Which is not to mention the great location, good-natured crowd or perfect weather. From the programming to the execution, Roscella Bay 2016 was a triumph, and next year they surely can only build on this.

Photo credit: Léonor Berrehar

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