Are café-concerts disappearing in favor of cocktail bars?

This will be a first in the history of the festival. Organized since 1986 alongside the Trans Musicales, Bars in Trans this year do not include any zink from the Place des Lices in their programming. A warm and popular place to hang out with the youngest, has the square lost its festive spirit? Not completely. But several mythical addresses have disappeared or changed identity in recent months in Rennes, giving arguments to all those who cry out for the gentrification of the city center of what was once the French capital of rock. As you can imagine, the Covid-19 has its share of responsibility, but it is not the only one. By now, with fourteen addresses where to see concerts on the sidelines of the Trans Musicales, the Bars in Trans prove that they have kept the confidence of the owners of bistros. And recall that the café-concert is not dead.

The years 2020 and 2021 will have been disastrous for several legendary addresses of the festival in Rennes. Mondo Bizarro has stopped punk and rock to get into jazz. Specializing in electro sets and beers strung with a slice of pâté after the Saturday market, the Chantier has closed and will be transformed into a cocktail bar. The Bar’Hic and its small rectangular stage have been sold and will be completely refurbished… In short, the class photo of the “caf ‘conc’” in Rennes has some notable absentees. “The Covid precipitated certain decisions on the part of the bosses”, recognizes Philippe Le Breton. The boss of Bars en Trans remembers that “six or seven years ago”, six or seven bistros on the Place des Lices took part in his festival. “The old-fashioned café-concert is a concept that has not gotten old. It is true that there are more cocktail bars in Rennes than show cafes. The city is changing, so are customers, the public is changing, we have to adapt. “

Philippe Le Breton is the programmer of the Les Bars en Trans festival, which offers concerts in bistros on the fringes of the Trans Musicales. – C. Allain / 20 Minutes

New generation

This observation is shared by a good number of small independent bosses, who have tasted very rare weeks of calm without raising the curtain, especially during the first confinement. Many admit having “rediscovered” their family life during this period, leading some to sell their establishments. “Those who have disappeared, we have succeeded in replacing them. It was not easy, we must admit, but there is a new generation that believes in the future of café-concerts. Those who are still there are all the more motivated. It’s almost a militant fight. We feel that the little ones are sticking together to exist ”, continues Philippe Le Breton.

Open a café-concert during the delicate period of Covid-19 which imposes so many restrictions, some have dared the idea. Rue de Saint-Malo, La Trinquette or Le Doujezu have taken the plunge. Just like the very recent Uzine, which replaced Le Méliès on the quais de République, and redeveloped a 100 m² room in the basement to accommodate concerts and the wide spectrum of shows. “A room like this is extremely rare in Rennes. When we found out that the bar was for sale, we didn’t hesitate, ”says Irvin Tollemer, who joined forces with David Janneau, owner of the Cité d’Ys, to buy the establishment. The singer of the rock group Darcy knows better than anyone the essential role that café-concerts occupy for new artists. “We must have played in a hundred bistros before turning pro. Most groups go through there, ”says Irvin. The singer remembers that his label, before signing with Darcy, had asked to see them on stage. “We had played at Mondo Bizarro, it was really hot. And Darcy had turned pro.

The bar Le Chantier took part every year in the Bars en Trans festival in Rennes.  It has just been sold
The bar Le Chantier took part every year in the Bars en Trans festival in Rennes. It has just been sold – C. Allain / 20 MInutes

“A hundred requests every week”

Since the opening of the Uzine bar a month ago, the three associates have never ceased to be solicited by groups, associations, theater companies, DJs, comedians and many others who all dream of performing. in the small basement room. “We have a hundred requests every week, it’s crazy,” continues Irvin. “We had never received so many requests,” confirms the patron of the festival.

For three days, the stone walls of Uzine (which have been soundproofed) will vibrate to the sound of Bars en Trans. With the mask on his nose but with a furious desire to accompany these emerging artists. “The café-concert is where you get your first teeth. Even at the time of YouTube and Spotify, it remains an almost obligatory passage, estimates Philippe Le Breton. For four days, his festival intends to recall it. The public is waiting for that.

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