Paléo: from Godfather to Gainsbourg

More than music: comedy acts such as Circus Topolino provide light relief between concerts. Paléo

From rock to hip-hop, crooners to world music, Switzerland's biggest music festival, which runs until the weekend, has something for everyone.

This content was published on July 24, 2002 - 13:46

As ever, the six-day festival in Nyon, now in its 27th year, features an eclectic mix. Headline acts include the superannuated Supertramp, veterans like The Cure, the Pet Shop Boys and De La Soul, and top French acts like Noir Désir, Indochine and MC Solaar.

One of the most eagerly anticipated of the 120 concerts will be performed by James Brown: the septuagenarian Godfather of Soul will be strutting his stuff and demonstrating where many of the younger artists got their samples from.

Equally fascinating will be a concert by Jane Birkin, that most Francophile of English singers. She will be resurrecting the spirit of her former partner, Serge Gainsbourg, though this will be no ordinary homage. Birkin will be performing Gainsbourg classics with a Moroccan backing group - a combination described as "voluptuous and spellbinding".

Party atmosphere

Some 200,000 people are expected to descend on the Asse festival site, which lies between Lake Geneva and the Jura mountains. They'll be coming as much for the communal party atmosphere as the music.

"There's always someone you know at Paléo. It's a place to meet old friends," says festival spokesman Vincent Sager.

For the first time ever, Paléo completely sold out before its opening night. "Never have the tickets been snapped up so quickly," adds Sager.

Those without tickets are advised to stay away. They can, though, keep up with what is going on at Paléo via the festival's website, which will broadcast some concerts live.


The evenings that sold out the quickest are Thursday, when gothic post-punks The Cure and French veterans Indochine are playing, and Sunday, the night when Paléo favourites Noir Désir, the gravel-voiced Belgian rocker Arno and the multi-instrumentalist, Yann Tiersen, best known for the soundtrack to the film, "Amélie", play.

Many of these groups are regular visitors to the festival. Noir Désir, stepping in at the last minute two years ago, produced a barnstorming set.

Yet there is more to Paléo than meeting old friends. The likes of MC Solaar, Indochine, The Cure and the Pet Shop Boys may be the big draws, but Paléo is also the launch pad for many new bands - especially French-speaking ones, because Paléo is one of the biggest festivals in francophone Europe.

"It's a great place to see the best French bands," Sager told swissinfo. "We try to put on as many different artists as possible - established ones and new ones, like Bénabar, Miro and Sanseverino, who will be the stars of tomorrow."

The organisers want Paléo to be a voyage of discovery, where visitors can experience not only new bands, but also new styles of music. Someone who comes to see the Pet Shop Boys or Zucchero may be bitten by a star of world music or hip-hop; a teenager may hear The Cure or James Brown for the first time.

There are no fewer than six venues at Paléo, including one devoted to dance music and another to world music. Indeed, just visiting these stages throughout the week would be worth the admission alone.

by Roy Probert

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