Saturday, 6 August 2011

My Gurten Festival 2011 Experience

My July traincation bound for Switzerland (compliments of Global Cool) kicked off with my first trip on Eurostar from London to Paris. I always seem to set off the security alarm, so had to endure the obligatory body search and handbag emptying ritual. What I had managed to squeeze into my bag was quite impressive and it was most amusing watching the security guy trying his best to repack it. My time was well spent telling him the reason for my trip and of course, all about Jamie Cullum!

After a brief stop in Paris, our journey continued on TVG Lyria to Bern, Switzerland in first class, which is definitely the only way to travel! Speeding through the French/Swiss countryside, we enjoyed complimentary meal and drinks, served by the sweetest guy from Belgium who reminded me of Hercule Poirot. 
Arriving by train in the centre of the city made a nice change from flying, when after landing at the airport, you usually have to travel another hour. Thumbs up for train travel! After negotiating the Bern tram system without too much trouble, we found the way to our accommodation.

The four day festival was located on the Gurten, which overlooks the city of Bern. Thankfully, there is a little train 'Gurtenbahn' to take you up the mountain! After exchanging our tickets for wristbands, we headed to the Sleeping Zone to set up our tent. It soon became evident that space was not something we would have much of as we became lost in a sea of tents. But what a view! 
Back down the mountain to have lunch by the fast-flowing River Aare. Such a beautiful colour, apparently due to minerals. I am told on summer days, you can often see lots of people drifting past in the river. 

Time for the music festival! Noah & The Whale were playing the Zelt Buhne stage that evening. They've had a lot of radio play in the UK so I was curious to see what they could do live. 
The waiting crowd
As the lights went down, Bohemian Rhapsody was played over the P.A. brass band style. The crowd sang along, showing it was going to be a fun gig.

Noah & the Whale 
His name isn't Noah.

Video: Tonight's the Kind of Night
Some rocky guitar licks, good audience contact, rather odd foot shuffling moves and one crazy bass player. Promising band. 

At this point, I will mention the only negative part of the trip...

Festival camping. 

I'll spare you the long story but suffice to say I can now tick that box on my 'To do' list along with the reminder - never again!

Saturday was the best day because Mr Cullum and band were in town! It promised to be a scorcher and after securing our place on front row, there was a mere six hour wait in the hot sun. 

The Script were up first. The show was okay, the crowd loved them. Frontman Danny came down to the barrier for a couple of songs, and ended up climbing over into the audience for a walk-about, sending security into a panic. 

After managing to get a touch of sunstroke, it looked like I'd end up missing the show. Somehow though, as soon as Jamie bounced on the stage with a smile, I felt a lot better!

Jamie didn't disappoint. As always, he kept the show interactive throughout and the reception the whole band received was amazing.

I took a bit of video before being told off by security. After that, I managed to get a couple of sneaky clips!

Video: I'm All Over It

During All At Sea, Jamie gave us a taste of Space Cowboy by Jamiroquai, which was fitting since they were sharing the stage that day! 
Space Cowboy

Even the festival security staff got into the swing of things as you can see in this video: 
During the 'I Feel Fine' chants, Jamie invited Mr Tree to sing 'I feel fine!' Bob the Tree endured the heat in this tree costume and became quite a celebrity after his mention from Jamie! After I spoke to Bob, he was taken off to be interviewed for the festival. 
Bob the tree
Jamie said Gurten wasn't like every crowd round the world and he wants to come back every year, even if it means cleaning the loos, so long as there is a piano at the end! 
'High & Dry' never fails to move me and this was no exception. With the customary but far from ordinary singalong that sees Jamie lead a huge audience choir in singing a three part harmony. He invited us to sing from the heart and not to sacrifice beauty for volume. 

The anthemic 'Mixtape' is best suited to a standing venue. Everyone jumping en masse on Jamie's command and then continuing the song as the band left the stage until they returned for the encore is something you simply have to experience to appreciate.

 Just time for one final song 'Wind Cries Mary' before they were gone. That's the only drawback of a festival. Because of the quick turnaround of bands, you are always left feeling shortchanged. Especially when you are usually spoilt with a good two hour show!

Jamie's Gurten setlist
I'm All Over It
Get Your Way
All At Sea/ Space Cowboy
Don't Stop the Music
Cry Me a River
These are the Days/ I Feel Fine
High & Dry
Wind Cries Mary

Kaiser Chiefs followed Jamie on the main stage. Loved the funky Jamiroquai later. They've got a great live sound and JK is quite the showman. The plan was to stay up to watch Pendulum after midnight but it had been a long day so we gave them a miss.

The last day of the festival arrived with ... rain! Now we had the complete festival experience under our belts (and our rather fetching blue pvc ponchos). Much fun to be had packing up whilst trying not to get coated in mud!
By the afternoon though, the rain eased and it was time for a walk along the cobbled streets of beautiful old Bern, taking in the architecture. Our route took us to the Bear pits by the river. 
River Aare
Bear Pits
Bern Clock Tower

The last main act of the festival was Arctic MonkeysUnfortunately, there were major technical problems, which led to the band walking off stage for a bit. Whatever the problem was seemed to blight them thoughout. No doubt they were affected by the constant breaks in the show, but I just couldn't connect sadly. 

We returned home muddy and with a major sleep deficit but with lots of memories from our traincation to the beautiful country of Switzerland and Gurten Festival!

More photos here


  1. Wonderful experience, great memories!!! Thanks for sharing this review. It's all I could expect from you.Thanks again!