Folk yeah! I finally went and did it – popped my Paléo Festival cherry. Woohoo! Well, I guess I’m not the only one – 230 000 people (! it is the second biggest festival in Europe, after Sziget in Hungary) will pass through the big purple Paléo Festival gates this week, and I’m sure I’m not the only first-timer. Now in it’s 37th edition, Paléo is arguably the most beloved Swiss festival, set as it is in amongst lush rolling green fields and a little babbling brook, and sells out instantly every year, with consistently interesting and inspired line-ups.
This year, the weather has been particularly blessed, hot, dry and sunny, rendering the festival site into one big dustbowl – but hey, that’s surely better than mud, right? :) From the opening day on Tuesday, tens of thousands of happy campers streamed into the site, on time and ready for a week of fun, thanks to impeccably organised transport, ticket, security and camping schedules and ordinances. So Swiss! I love it.
And what about the music? Early on Tuesday, French lo-fi folksters GaBLé took to the Club Tent, producing a strange, sometimes charming and compelling mix of indie, rock, electronica, The Wiggles and kooky rhythms. Later, amongst a cloud of particularly pungent green smoke (from the audience), Philadelphian indie band Kurt Vile and the Violators breezed on stage to give us some long-haired stoner folk rock, complete with drawled intonation and a song dedicated to their mates Warpaint.
Franz Ferdinand are a band I’ve long wanted to see, and they were pretty adept at making their presence felt on the cavernous Grande Scène stage – no mean feat. You need some serious charisma to fill up that space (singer Aex Kapranos’ worrisome facial hair and rather unflattering bowl cut went some way to filling the void). The band played a few new songs, which exhibit much more of a standard indie rock feel than the driving electro rock beats that made their early work so popular. They did a good job of working the crowd into an arm-waving frenzy, but as usual when I listen to more than a couple of songs, I was struck by how similar in structure and sound a lot of the songs are. I know, I know, what a sacrilege! But there you have it, that’s the honest truth.
And there ended my first day…stay tuned for more soon.
A note about safety: as I’m often travelling alone to festivals and gigs I like to feel safe, and Paléo Festival feels the safest of all the festivals I’ve been to. Lots of security people in the right places (on the way to the train, in the foresty bits, crowd control), general friendly, relaxed and chilled-out vibe, and lots of helpful staff. It’s nice to feel looked after. It’s also quite family-friendly – saw lots of kids there rocking out, and they also have dedicated childcare facilities and lots of roaming entertainment for everyone to enjoy. I’ll definitely be back next year, maybe with the family in tow.
The 37th Paléo Festival runs from 17- 22nd July 2012.