By The Lake Festival in Switzerland: REVIEW

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On what is traditionally the wettest weekend in June, I unplugged from the mayhem of London life and nestled myself into the serene mountains and lakes of Switzerland to sample the Swiss approach to weekend shenanigans (and to help drown out my Glastonbury FOMO)

By The Lake (or Au Bord De L’eau if you speaka de french) is in an undeniably beautiful setting. There’s a back drop worthy of Disney wonderland animators comprising of awe inspiring mountains, an emerald lake and lush green hills and vineyards in every direction. Add a stage, two bars, bowls, pedalos, some decent nosh, a couple of thousand people and an international line-up and you’ve got yourself a mini festival. There was of course a screen reserved to catch the world-cup, and even free pedalo rides across the lake to a secret degustation area where you could sample local cheese, cured meats, bread, wine and yoghurts – all for free! Score!

After procuring our first beer we took advantage of the sunshine and had a dip in the chilly lake; we quickly discovered why there weren’t many people in the water… I tried to look graceful as toed my way out over the pebbles only to look down to find myself resembling a swamp monster – green, gooey shit was attached to every hair follicle I had no idea I had. This particular lake has a rather server problem with algae, unnoticeable until you get in! Fret not, thankfully there is shower for de-gooing.  There’s also an abundance of beautiful – swimable – lakes near by, so make sure you venture away from the festival site during the day light hours.

From Ethiopia to Japan, India to Italy, all taste buds were covered this weekend. Good quality grub was served up by a variety of friendly vendors who looked out onto a large under cover eating area. Food is a major attraction here as when the main stage action comes to a halt, stuffing your face is the most appealing activity.

For a small festival, they’re right up there with the future thinking; this was the first at which I’ve experienced a cashless environment. We were given a digital wristband which is simply tapped by an iPhone to take payment and can be charged with money in the same way. No more getting wasted and being sure, so sure, you just had a 20 pound note and now can’t find it anywhere. Lollapalooza will be the first US festival to roll out this new way to pay. But By The Lake was there first!

Whoever programmed the music for By The Lake has a good ear. I’d only heard of a couple of folks on the line-up (Gramatik & Food) but was surprised to leave Switzerland wanting to follow up a couple of acts.

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Gramatik headlined on Friday night after a Beastie Boys tribute set from Food, Cheeba & Moneyshot. Gramatik brought a multi-instrumentalist with him who produced brass and wind items from a seemingly endless box of tricks and blasted out some live melodies to punctuate the big man’s set. His brand of broken beats and bass didn’t quite connect with the festival goers who seemed dead set on standing still. I received some odd looks from people as threw myself around like a child having a large scale tantrum. Composure it seems is something the Swiss adopt at all times. Not I.

Bulgaria’s KINK played a wobbly, bassy set with Rachel Row on vocals while Karosel played a smooth, sexy set laden with beats and live brass. The music was great balance of hip-hop, soul, jazz, funk and beats with great vocals and deep bass. But with only one stage, the atmosphere dipped between acts a little too much.

The organisers of By The Lake were all very welcoming, as were the rest of the staff. They’ve been working on their baby for 8 years and are very proud partents. They should be! That said, this is a very ‘local’ festival. If you’re an international party goer and you’re after a more full-on, talk-shit-to-strangers, go-till-sunrise, abuse-chemicals type experience etc. this probably isn’t the festival for you.

It would however, be a perfect way to end a week of exploring what the rest of what Switzerland has to offer.  If you want a weekend lived half the normal pace, far removed from the craziness of cities (and Glastonbury), and want to go for a morning run through the mountains and stumble across quaint little restaurants in the hills then oui, By The Lake is for you.




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