JVAL Openair – Begnins – 27.08.2016

Fùgù Mango saved my evening.

The most remarkable thing about the JVAL Openair festival is its setting. The stage is set up in the front yard of a large farmhouse in the foothills of the Jura, entirely surrounded by vineyards that roll down to the shores of Lake Geneva, with the Alps looming up on the other side. After darkness fell on the last night of the festival, a swarm of Chinese lanterns were released from another courtyard somewhere below, as lightning flashed through the clouds over the distant mountains.

In the warmth of the late evening, this spectacular natural light show almost made up for having waited through a terribly boring set from Belgian singer Kris Dane. He was accompanied by a string quartet, drums, percussion, bass, organ and a backing vocalist. Sadly, even allowing for the clear problems they were having with getting the audio mix right, his songs were not strong enough to hold the attention of the audience, who chattered noisily throughout the set.

(While waiting for him to arrive on stage I read through a profile on his website. Alarm bells started ringing when I read the following: “He also admits that he doesn’t have a library of great music and if he ever attends a concert he will leave after half an hour since he knows exactly where it’s going.” Indeed.)

Fortunately the final act of the night were his fellow Belgians Fùgù Mango, whose music was billed as “indie pop and afrobeat”. They immediately had the crowd hopping (possibly with relief) with their happy melodies and joy-filled performance. The four members – three of whom sang – were lined up along the front of the stage, with guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and a selection of percussion instruments. Their sound reminded me of both Foster the People (of Pumped Up Kicks fame) and a slightly poppier Yeasayer.

They played a very solid hour during which the energy levels never dropped. For an encore the two vocalists climbed down into the crowd, handing out a selection of shakers, to sing one final song with the audience on backing vocals. After the energy-sapping experience of Kris Dane before them, it was a warmly wonderful way to end the evening. I’d definitely like to see them live again.

I can’t find a live video that quite captures their energy, but here’s one nice performance from earlier this summer:

I should mention that the first act of the evening was Pandour, a pair of DJs from Fribourg. They were accompanied by a couple of guitarists, but their music – described as “deep orientalist and electro-acoustic” – wasn’t my cup of tea. I hesitate to be too critical, as I know that I don’t really “get” a lot of what is done by DJs like this. I found it all a bit boring, but there were definitely people there who were really into it.

I’ll definitely go to JVAL again in the years ahead. It’s a cool little festival and even the 1 out of 3 hit rate for me on Saturday was enough to make it worthwhile.

Snowfolk

It snowed a lot here last weekend. I don’t recall ever seeing so much snow down at the level of Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman, to use its official name), with the possible exception of one year around 2006 or so when Geneva itself froze up for a week. In our village of Vich, just above the lakeside towns of Nyon and Gland, we had 20 to 30cm of snow fall throughout last weekend, with more falling on Monday.

Snowfolk

Robert (now 3 and a half) and I rushed out to the back garden for some snowman action on the Saturday morning, but the snow just wouldn’t clump together. It was probably too cold. We made do with some sledging beside the village school. The following day, however, with slightly higher temperatures and a fresh dump of powdery snow, delivered perfect conditions for the building of snowfolk, hence our little snow family above.

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I took another photo before heading to work on Monday morning. “Nadine” had toppled over and my own likeness was looking a bit wobbly too. All facial features had either fallen off or were covered by the previous night’s fresh fall.

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Today, one week later, the aforementioned wobbly me remains standing at a gravity-defying angle, and Declan’s minimalist facial features have revealed themselves again as some of snow dropped away. (The carrots were cooked eaten last weekend!)

Temperatures barely rose above zero all week and a bitterly cold bise has been making it rather unpleasant to venture outside for the last couple of days. Let’s see how much longer our little snow family struggles on.