A-FESTING WE WILL GO

June 21, 2001

Thursday was the Festival de la Musique in Lausanne. Of course we had to go, even at the end of a long workday: it was the very last festival in Lausanne until the Fete de Lausanne next weekend, which will in turn have to hold us until the Festival de la Cite, which doesn't begin until the week after that.

So, fleeing this looming threat of eventlessness, we ventured forth. The first musicians we encountered, in the Place St. Francois, billed themselves as a gospel group - though personally, I have trouble using that term for a piece like "Operator, Get Me Jesus on the Line". (What would that be, anyway? Christian be-bop?) The sound system was not very good, and we quickly continued on our way.

Because this Festival was much more spread out and low-key than either the Fete du Soleil or Luna Park, it took us some time to find another stage, this time recorded rap music with a few people doing some desultory break-dancing. Some of the individual moves were impressive (at one point we saw two men jumping in circles on their hands, bodies horizontal, feet in the air), but no one kept the stage for more than about ten seconds before fleeing back into the crowd, and the pauses were long and many. It was like an undirected talent contest or a recital in which no one could remember more than 2-3 bars of their piece.

Other street performances we encountered included a community orchestra that was massacring popular tunes to the point of near-unrecognizability, a moderately good standard rock band, and a barbershop group billed as an "a capella quartet" (an accurate term, strictly speaking, but it led me to expect something a little different).

We found a higher standard at the Opera de Lausanne, where various free classical music performances were being held. We spent a pleasurable hour and a quarter listening to two professional-sounding duos perform various pieces on violin/piano and cello/piano respectively.

Finally, after a late supper of Japanese fast food, we wandered back to one of the outdoor stages in time for the evening's "piece of resistance" as Dave would say: a group called Gerbophilia.

The contrast between this spectacle and the staid dignity of the classical performances is impossible to exaggerate. Um. OK. Imagine six or eight slim gorillas or carnivorous kangaroos sporting a variety of costumes, of which the most readily identifiable is that of a very tall sheep in a clean room suit (with, I might add, "Bush Sux" painted across the back). Now imagine them jumping maniacally up and down to a heavy electronic beat amid flashes of colored light and occasional sudden bursts of smoke, and you'll have the general idea. (Dave tells me that I should also mention the deep, electronically enhanced growling noises that this group invariably introduced as "songs", but I have no memory of them. Sensory overload, I suppose.)

Gerbophilia was clearly untoppable, and anyway it was after midnight, so we went home.

(ADDENDUM: After I wrote the above, Dave and I stumbled across the Fete de Sauvetage in Ouchy. It was just a very tiny carnival: one bandstand, one carousel, a few game stalls and a couple of crepe stands. Not much of a festival at all; just enough to show me how silly it is to assume that there wouldn't be more than one in a given week....)

Till next time,
-- Lyn

Copyright 2001 Lyn Pierce