Combining my two interests of running from uni work and trying to explore a city in an inordinately short amount of time, last Friday I spent the night in Lyon for Day Three of the annual Nuits Sonores Festival. Nuits Sonores is an urban festival, taking place all over the City of Lyon during the Ascension weekend.
Knowing I’d be staying up all night (the event was running from 9pm-5am, so I decided to save on hotels and just get a commuter train back to Basel in the morning), coffee was in order.
When I arrived in Lyon it was drizzling, but luckily the nighttime events were taking place in the Ancien Marché du gros, a collection of disused industrial buildings which were lit up for the occasion. Despite being fairly central, they weren’t that easy to find, so the lava lamp visuals projected onto the side of the main hall were not only snazzy but practical too.
Having arrived at a time that most would consider devastatingly uncool (before 11pm!) I was there to catch Blue Daisy, who’s electro-rap stylings were going down very well with the crowd. (Though it doesn’t look very full in the photo above, the halls were huge!)
I was also there early enough to get some drinks tokens before the queues built up (and over the course of the night, they really did build up.) and to grab something to eat:
This being France, there wasn’t an abundance of vegetarian options among the impressive line of food trucks. Among them I managed to track down the fantastic Bão Kitchen who were serving up some tasty veggie bão – savoury buns filled with diced vegetables and smothered in sweet chilli sauce. I may or may not have gone back for seconds before the night was out…
Next I headed over to the third and smallest hall for the brilliantly named Jessica93, a post-punk one man band from Paris who was looping and layering some shoegazey noises and getting some interesting results. Hall 3 seemed to be home to the more eclectic acts of the night, as demonstrated by the next band, Future of the Left.
I had barely heard of Future of the Left before Nuits Sonores, and I demand to know why nobody told me about them. This shouty alt-rock band from Cardiff were the unexpected highlight of the night for me, although they weren’t exactly at home among the electro-house pumping out from the other two halls. They might not have drawn the biggest crowd at the festival, but it was certainly the most rowdy. The guitarist brought a number of bananas onto the stage, and one by one fed them to enthusiastic crowd members during the set. In this cut throat music industry it’s great to see a band that takes the time to worry about their fans’ potassium intake.
Next up was the act I had come all this way for – Public Service Broadcasting. Credit to Rosie for taking me and Bill to see them last year and getting me hooked. This was before their new album The Race For Space was released, and I was excited to hear some of the new tracks live. They didn’t disappoint. Along with some favourites from their debut album, they played Gargarin and Go! from the new album, both of which got a great reaction from the crowd and rightly so.
By this time the larger halls were starting to get really full, so I went over to check out Brodinski in hall 2. I loved his solo release, Dance Like Machines, so I had high hopes for his set. I was a little disappointed. This is probably an unpopular opinion but as one of the more sober members of the crowd I felt slightly unimpressed with the repetitive beats and lacklustre mixing, which fell short of being redeemed by the impressive lights, and the visuals dredged up from the depths of the uncanny valley. Some of his set is of course on youtube, so you can listen to it here and draw your own conclusions.
All in all, Nuits Sonores Night 3 was fantastic, and I’ll definitely try and head back for next year!
Were you there? Can you recommend any other festivals in the area? Let me know in the comments!
This week in Basel it was Fasnacht!
Fasnacht is the spring festival in Basel – it’s a bit like Mardis Gras, and takes place a week after Shrove Tuesday. It lasts exactly 72 hours, running from 4am on the Monday to 4am on the Thursday. It’s INSANE. Some Fasnacht facts (Fas-facts?) I’ve been told over the last few days which I can’t confirm but sound good:
- 1 in 7 Baslers is an active “Fasnachtler” – Fasnachtlers are members of the marching bands which patrol the city in full costume throughout the festival.
- Some people stay up for the WHOLE 72 hours. (how???)
- Fasnacht is supposed to “chase away the ghosts of the winter” – the sun has been out in Basel this week, so clearly it works.
The official Fasnacht website doesn’t offer a lot of clues as to its origins, other than that, “the terrible earthquake of 1356 which destroyed large parts of the city and many official archives”, so there’s no real record of the festival’s beginning.
The profits from these badges help to fund Fasnacht, so it’s bad form to be seen without one. You can even buy a gold version! The design this year is based on the new tower at Roche, where I work. A surprising choice, as not all the locals are big fans of the tower; it’s set to be the tallest building in Switzerland when it’s completed, so it’s pretty big on the Basel skyline.
Before Basel Fasnacht is Chienbäse, which takes place in Liestal. “Cheinbäse” is the name for the bundles of pinewood which are traditionally set alight and carried through the old cobbled streets of the town.
These seem pretty impressive. Then you see the bonfires:
It gets pretty warm! The procession gets on for about an hour, with the bonfires getting taller and hotter until the whole street is filled with smoke. This happens the Sunday night before Fasnacht begins in Basel, so I left smelling of woodsmoke and opted to stay up all night for the 4am start.
Fasnacht in Basel begins with Morgenstraich.
At 4am on the Monday of Fasnacht, all the lights in the city are switched off, and the laterns belonging to the various “cliques” are illuminated. They then parade around the city into the morning, playing the traditional Fasnacht tune on piccolos.
The next day, things get very different. Large brass marching bands assemble to play Guggenmusik, often discordant versions of pop songs or standards (I heard the Pink Panther Theme A LOT). Waggis appear, showering everyone with confetti, flowers, and increasingly strange gifts – on separate occasions, I saw fruit, cuddly toys, scarves, cakes, lighters, cans of cider, leeks, potatoes and bulbs of garlic handed out. In my bag at the end of the day I had sheets and sheets of stickers, a white rose, a bag of popcorn and a lemon.
Many of the costumes and lanterns featured jokes, mostly about politics or social issues. Being written in the Swiss German dialect, the majority of these went right over my head. However, I think everyone can appreciate this topless Putin costume:
After an exhausting weekend, I was back to work on Tuesday – no 72 hour partying for me. Despite the rain, I can definitely see why the locals call Fasnacht die drey scheenschte Dääg, or “the three most beautiful days”.
Hi there! Sorry for the lack of updates lately – despite exams being over, I’m still managing to be super busy. Six days after finishing my last exam, I was straight back into the labs for a “boot camp” in preparation for my industry year in Switzerland. Between these sessions I’ve been trying to sort out my visa for Shanghai, so all in all, not the chilled out few weeks I wanted! I’ve found time to finally play Red Dead Redemption though – been wanting to get hold of it for ages. I realise how late to the game I am with that one, so of course I don’t need to tell you how super-fun it is (you can lasso people!)
That aside, I did get a chance to head over to University of Birmingham’s Valefest yesterday with the lovely ladies Anna of ALMSEE and Rosie (who has yet to get blogging..), both of whom finished the same day as me. Despite a pretty grim weather forecast, we donned the obligatory raincoats, glitter and flower garlands and headed over to the Vale.
Valefest is a yearly music festival run by students at the university, and this year was it’s tenth birthday. With loads of tents, stages and stalls featuring bands, DJs, comedy acts, and workshops, there was something for everyone. We turned up in time to catch Temple Funk Collective, an 8-piece brass section from Oxford, who managed to coax the sun out with their jazz-funk rearrangements of modern tracks. If this sounds like it might be up your street, give their “Drum and Brass” medley a listen:
When these guys had finished, the sun was shining so we sat out on the grass and watched Battle Reenactment Society do their thing. This is exactly what it sounds like (think chainmail, axes and shouting) and after seeing them open the Miscellany Gala earlier this year, I was keen to see them again. They did not disappoint.
After this we wandered over to the food court – there was a good amount of choice, although I was sad to see that purveyors of “gourmet toasties” The Jabberwocky, were absent. They were there last year, and their “4 Cheese Supreme” was one of the highlights of Valefest 2013 for me. We grabbed some sizeable burgers (Quorn! yey!) from the BBQ stall and ate them in the sunshine by the main stage. The Sons of Pitches were playing, who I’ve heard a few times and who are always good fun. An acapella group of uni students, these guys have quite a following. It’s not hard to see why – it’s hard not to smile when you hear them:
After The Sons of Pitches, we were treated to a set from Fresh Dixie Project. The self professed “crossover swing” band were perfect for the festival, and welcomed in the warm evening with their upbeat original tracks.
(Their cover of “I Wanna Be Like You” from the Jungle Book was a standout track for me, although it doesn’t seem to be around online. Anyone who’s heard Paulo Nutini’s version will know where I’m coming from, though.)
Next we wandered over to the Macmillan Stage and caught Signals‘ set. Math-pop/rock always makes for an impressive live show in my opinion, and Signals were no exception. As an act they were tight, and their clean harmonies were a breath of fresh air amongst the plentiful ska/funk bands we heard over the day. Their audience was unfortunately a little sparse to begin with, but after a brief shower drove lots of people into the tent, they had a lot more listeners. The new, bigger crowd was only in part thanks to the weather, though; the sun soon came back out, but no one left. Their song “Constructions” was one of my favourite tracks of the day:
They were followed by Ghouls, a lively band of “alt-gypsy-punks” from London. This was the headline act for the Macmillan Stage, and they certainly went out with a bang. Never stopping to lower the tempo, Ghouls got the crowd going with song after song of short punchy tracks – think Reel Big Fish meets The Meteors:
Finally, closing the whole festival was the Electric Swing Circus. I had heard a lot about these guys – as locals and ex-UoB students, they play a lot of shows near me, but until now I had never made it to one. They more than lived up to the hype. Fusing 20s swing with electro-house beats, the group put on a fantastic show, complete with smoke machine(!). Vocalists Laura Louise and Bridget Walsh had the air of seasoned performers, all twenties dance routines and unbridled sass. They even found time in their set for an electric double bass solo, which is pretty much all I want from a live band. Their new track, “Minnie”, tells you all you need to know:
So, all round, Valefest 2014 was exactly what the doctor ordered – live music, good food, and a few drinks in the sun with friends. Not to mention that all the proceeds go to Macmillan Cancer Support and Trekstock. What’s not to like!
Were you at Valefest? Have you made it to any other great festivals so far this year? Let me know in the comments!
So, after a month of fighting with Dell and Windows 8 (more on that here) I’ve gone over to the other side; I am now a proud Mac user! Good bye, maintenance loan.
Spending so much time uninstalling/reinstalling drivers and generally trying to get the machine working got me thinking about my relationship with technology. Generally I’d say I’m pretty up to date, and as a chemistry student, I love a good gadget. Most of the stuff in my uni’s labs is pretty up to date (you should see our MRI machine!) but I did come across this gem the other month:
It’s a pretty neat old graphic printer. Thing was though, the other students doing the experiment had a computer and a modern printer – despite it’s charm, my lab partner and I felt a little bit short changed having to manually wind the paper through.
So, I’m not saying that “nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake” is a good excuse for obsolete technology. However, I’m blogging today in defence of film photography; more specifically, disposable cameras.
I love my DSLR. It takes brilliant shots. But there are some places – gigs, house parties, etc – where I just don’t want to take it. Anyone who’s seen my instagram feed lately will probably have noticed the big smudge on my phone camera, so that’s no good if you want a half decent photo.That’s where disposables come in. I can leave on in the bottom of my handbag, drop it on the floor, spill stuff on it or whatever, and at the end of the day the worst I’ll lose is a few undeveloped photos. The only downside is they are a bit of a pain to get developed now. My local Boots does do it, but the staff behind the counter never seem to know what to do with the things when I take them in – plus it’s not cheap. For glossy prints from events when I otherwise wouldn’t be able to take photos though, I don’t mind paying. And, the ones that develop really nicely make it all worth it.
What do you think? Are disposable cameras still useful, or are they a waste of time? Let me know in the comments!