As soon as the sun comes out, my thoughts seem to turn to music festivals – the fun of seeing my favourite artists live alongside fellow music fans in congenial atmospheres.
One of the best festivals I have been to recently has to be the Blue Balls Festival in Lucerne (yes I know, the Swiss are aware that we snigger at the festival’s name … but I think they quietly enjoy the consternation is causes.) My theory is, that in their courteous and low-key manner, they are quite revolutionary in their design style and their musical tastes – far more adventurous than we are over here in the UK– case in point, the construction of architect Jean Nouvel’s KKL Luzern, surely one of the best concert and exhibition centres around today.
Maybe my view is coloured a little as I went to see one of my all-time favourite artists – Everlast – alongside Gil Scott-Heron. This pairing worked remarkably well as we discovered during the concert of Scott-Heron’s influence on Everlast – and thereafter, it was interesting to hear the similarities between two such diverse artists. Truth be told, I could have stayed on for the entire festival to see the other artists performing there last year too – Morcheeba, The Dandy Warhols, Sinead O’Connor and Paloma Faith.
Anyway, back to the festival, not only do you see your artist perform, you also join in a spontaneous city-wide open-air musical party of around 100,000 people over the nine days of the festival with music concerts and performances taking place right around the lake-side, overlooked by some of the most exclusive luxury hotels in the world. Surrounding the lake of course, are those amazing mountains which has to be one of the best backdrops ever devised.
The first festival took place in 1992 with just 300 people and this has now grown into one of the largest music festivals in German-speaking Switzerland, presenting a total of 100 shows in three venues – Open-Air Pavilion, KKL Luzern and the Hotel Schweizerhof Club – with top international blues, jazz, soul, funk, world music, rock and pop acts alongside exclusive exhibitions of renowned photographers from the world of music. Featured photographers in the past years were Danny Clinch, Gered Mankowitz, Michel Comte, Isabel Snyder, Mick Rock and Gavin Evans.
What I liked best however about my musical interlude, was that I could combine it seamlessly with an exploration of Lucerne– now so easy to get to from the UK via the high speed train from Zuerich Airport. We walked around the medieval city, saw the Bourbaki Panorama – one of the few panoramas still in existence, were amazed at the Picassos and Klees at the Rosengart Collection, had a slow car crash at the inter-active and Swiss Museum of Transport, checked out the shops (and yes, I bought a much loved tiny cuckoo clock), but best of all, we took a cruise along the lake in the sunshine and combined it with a trip up Mount Pilatus, travelling up the world’s steepest cog-wheel railway until we were actually above the clouds. The slightly embarrassing thing was, of course, as we creaked up the mountain, we watched the Swiss climbing up … and we saw them reach the summit not long after us! How fit even the more advanced in age are, there in Switzerland. Anyway.
In my humble opinion, this vital city has it all – festivals, design, lake, mountains, some seriously funky hotels alongside the traditional ones, and yes chocolate. What more can a girl possibly want?
See www.blueballs.ch (Twitter address is @BlueBallsMusic) for information on the 2011 festival – the line-up will include Sophie Hunger, Lenka, Macy Gray, Raphael Saadiq, Beverley Knight, Erykah Badu, The Secret Sisters, KT Tunstall, The Robert Cray Band, Jonny Lang, Tom Freund, Ben Harper, Kelis, Jamie Lidell, Beth Ditto and Marina & The Diamonds.
Ses www.kkl-luzern.ch for information on this and other music festivals.
See www.luzern.com (Twitter address is @I_love_Lucerne) for information on Lucerne.
Contributer: Sue Lowry
KKL Luzern and Lucerne Tourism are clients of Magellan PR. Photograph of KKL Luzern courtesy of KKL Luzern.