The first two weeks of July is when cars, trains, and boats carry thousands of visitors to Montreux, a small and otherwise quiet lake-side town 80 km away from Geneva. Jazz Festival.
There are 4 or 5 stages with good to exceptional performances each day, plus a chance to get on the Salsa/Tango Boat during the day. Unlike those festivals that turn fertile fields badlands for decades after the stage is taken away, Montreux is civilised, even with Switzerland being very liberal about drinking age. Well, yes, and drinking volume, now that you’re asking. In ten years I’ve been coming to the festival, I witnessed one fist-fight among teenagers that attracted so much police attention I thought Justin Bieber must have been one of the teens.
No, Don’t be repulsed. Justin is not coming. B.B.King, Santana, Clapton, Joe Cocker, Prince, George Thorogood, Lilly Allen, Alice Cooper, Herbie Hancock, Deep Purple with Lyon orchestra, Leonard Cohen, K.D.Lang, Lang-Lang, Sting, some unspellable hip-hop, and, of course, some real jazz – overall it is an amazing parade of names great and big (and I am just listing names I remember from the last two-three years) from varied genres of music and singing. Yesterday, I was at Green Day show (speak louder, please! – I was told my hearing will get better tomorrow) and today it is Paolo Conte.
The organisers produced a t-shirt a couple of years ago with the slogan, “Montreux, it’s so f**ing disco”. It is true the festival sold some of its jazzy soul to the devils of rock, disco, and pop, but (a) those are some of the finest demons of their kind and (b) this is what has saved this festival. Most similar events went below the sea level in attendance, and can at best showcase a local bigband, plus the English student singing Louisiana blues with Northumberland accent, who came over five years ago and usually waits tables at a local brassiere.
Big names are only a part of the game. It’s the environment that does the rest.
Your morning is likely to begin with fresh cheese and berries. Or aspirin (just as probable, if not more likely):
The process of raising from the dead (that’s why people have fallen for the Apocalypse concept so easily – they think they’ve already been there) is punctuated by cries of gulls, the sound of a lawn-mower, and an occasional hooter from the lake:
If you feel touristic during the day, you can go to Martigny (usually hosting huge art exhibitions – no queues, wonderful park of sculptures), or to the Chillon castle, where Byron scribbled his name on a column in the cellar. Today, this example of highbrow vandalism is encased in glass and awed at by crowds. Remember that attempts to immortalise yourself next to Byron will be severely punished, unless you are Bono.
A day at Martigny may not be enough. Currently, they are running an 80-piece show of Modigliani and the Paris School with some of the works being taken from closely guarded private collections. I am basing my previous and next posts on that exhibition.
The park is stunning:
Good for walking, watching, thinking, meditating (pretending to be thinking), and getting a bit of suntan.
The big tit from my previous post can be found in this park:
It is fenced because men – regardless of their age or status – ruin the lawn. An irresistible force drags them closer, closer, closer, touch-down! Men want to touch it, and to get photographed in front of it. I documented this obsession with female breasts here. There’s a theory that a tit of this size makes men feel exactly the age they were breast-fed. As they recall their milk-extraction experience (subconsciously, of course), they jump the fence. If you have a different answer to my question in the previous post – I’d love to hear it.
The same sculptor (Cesar) is mostly famous for this piece (also in the same park):
I don’t know if this finger reminds people of their parents’ thumbs, but visitors love cuddling and embracing it, and, have no doubt, get photographed with it. Perhaps, for the same reason as with the breast. Remember, you can play with the thumb as much as you want. This alone makes the trip worthwhile.
When you are back from Martigny, Montreux is already crowded.
Its sun-bathed 19th century front makes you want to walk its boulevards and tip your hat to people passing you.
Walking the boulevards is, in fact, an adventure as the crowd is cheerful, friendly, but still a chaos:
The main plain air stage is the place to be if you don’t have a ticket to the night’s big-name performance:
No chairs, but Swiss lawns are very bottom-friendly.
Having spent the sunny part of the evening enjoying lawns, fast food and beers, you go to the main event, usually consisting of two performances.
Like Paolo Conte from 8 to 10 pm and Randy Crawford from 10 pm to midnight.
And then you go out into the bustling night (everything stays open until 2 am), but you know you are over 40 when your biggest problem at that hour is getting a taxi to your hotel, your room and your bed.
Stay tuned for Modigliani nudes that will solve the riddle of my previous post!