Swiss Festivals Run Like Clockwork

Paleo-Nyon booker Sebastien Vuignier, Gurten Festival chief Philippe Cornu and Blue Balls programmer Urs Leierer are all happy their events went like clockwork as the Swiss festival season built to its annual three-week climax.

Paleo, Gurten, Blue Balls, the Moon & Stars season that Good News runs in Locarno, Montreux Jazz, and Frauenfeld all fall between July 4 and July 27. All reported excellent results and sold a half-million tickets between them.

It’s not unusual for Vuignier to be happy, as Paleo has sold out its 35,000 capacity every year since the turn of the millennium. But this year did it three months in advance with a July 22-27 bill including R.E.M., Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, dEUS, The Hives, Massive Attack, Mika and a support bill that included successful European Talent Exchange Programme acts like Blood Red Shoes, I’m From Barcelona, Goose, The Do, and Yelle.

The gradual swelling of the coffers over the last eight or nine years has enabled the nonprofit organisation behind the festival to invest in the new 500-capacity Le Detour stage, a high-profile platform for emerging Swiss acts.

It also helps fund the regional music scene and this year spent $100,000 creating a permanent festival area for circus-style acts.

"A private company wouldn’t have done that," Vuignier explained. "But we try to take care of detail and we’ve found that people enjoy having an area where they get away from the festival inside the festival."

It was Gurten Festival’s 25th anniversary July 19-22 and it came so close to selling out its 16,000 per day capacity that it made no difference.

Cornu, who’s run the last 18 installments of the event, didn’t bother with a fireworks and balloons party to celebrate the landmark birthday. He did spend more on the entertainment budget and produced a lineup that included Herbert Groenemeyer, Kaiser Chiefs, N*E*R*D, The Chemical Brothers, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, KT Tunstall and Paolo Nutini.

"It was one of the most relaxed festivals we’ve had," Cornu explained, describing it as the sort of event that had so many stand-out performances that most fans must have found at least a couple each day that they couldn’t walk away from.

At Blue Balls, a sort of Montreux Jazz for the German-speaking part of the country, Leierer reported another annual crowd of more than 100,000.

A lot of the business was thanks to the shows in the 4,000-capacity Culture & Convention Centre selling so well. The July 18-26 lineup in Lucerne included Justin Nozuka, who was quickest to sell out, Stereo MC’s, k.d. lang, Jethro Tull, George Benson, Macy Gray, and Shaggy.