Zermatt Unplugged 2016 – Australia’s Finest (part 1)

Blog, Festivals, Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum, Xavier Rudd, Zermatt Unplugged

April is a buzzing month, because slowly but surely, I’m able to wake up from my brief festival hibernation of three months and stick my ears wherever I can in order to enjoy familiar tunes plus discover some surprising new ones. Gosh, how I missed that! And what’s the best thing to open this year’s festival season properly? Exactly, heading on top of the mountain, for the awaited Zermatt Unplugged.

The scenery plays of course a big role here – a mountain town that becomes a total music venue for a whole week isn’t daily business. The combination of chalet charme, different multiple venues per evening and the gastronomic aspect are unique. You couldn’t avoid it if you’d ever try so. An outstanding line up that brings together big names and new talents will make you wanna skip your so awaited skiing routine for a good while, that’s why I was more than happy to join in again this year for the closing weekend.


The first night on Friday was all about the Australian connection: I’m not exactly sure if it was planned on purpose, but it was a nice journey through total different musical styles. After arriving in Zermatt in the late afternoon, the first pit stop was the legendary Chalet Ferdinand for a season closing truffle fondue, just before heading into the main tent to start the night. And the closing season also just briefly wanted to remember us that April is not equal April on over 2000m over the sea level: so it decided to snow down quite hard and give us nearly the white Christmas feeling we didn’t really have downtown.


The new talent stage was the first planned thing and didn’t disappoint at all. Jamie Macdowell & Tom Thum is in fact a duo one of a kind. The slogan “one is good with his fingers, the other is good with his mouth” fits totally here, and no, I’m not talking dirty: putting together Australia’s best beatboxer (winner five years in a row) with an insanely talented acoustic songwriter can only bring a very refreshing show, wheter they play own material or simply cover a song.   They’re artists to watch for sure, they’re EP “The Sum of It” won’t be the last!


After this two wanderlusting boys, the gypsy vibes continued at the main stage, where Angus and Julia Stone were performing with a smaller band combo as usual. Their soothing folk melodies are perfect for a bonfire on a lonely beach, or if you’re less lucky, for a chilly evening outside wrapped in a blanket with your favourite red wine. Legendary songs like “Big Jet Plane” weren’t missing, and so weren’t the lines about lost love and death. The unplugged concert version would have been better in a standing setting in my opinion, I think the audience would have been a bit more aware of the magic spread out from those great lyrics. But you can’t obviously put a so attended headliner into an intimate mountain club. (Semi)Unplugged shows can change a whole concert setting, transform a whole performance – I remember exactly those electric guitars opening one of their summer festival shows last year in Switzerland, it’s like comparing day to night… As I said, in these situations you get how versatile music can be. And how it hits personal taste, still in a beautiful way though.


The Alex is been my most frequented venue of the whole festival: not too small, but with the perfect size to still allow the crowd to move, or in the case of the ending of Friday night, to dance out. My own reggae playlist maybe makes out 10% of the music I own, and after the Hawaiian band Iration I didn’t really find an artist able to move me in this kind of section. Until I joined Xavier Rudd‘s show. There should be more credited artists like him: a positive thinking multi instrumentalist, who was able to shake off a usually reserved Swiss crowd during his show. Because “we are all one and we are sacred” – and no, it’s not cheesy, it’s actually true – we’re all the same in the end and should forgive more than we allow. Xavier and his band The United Nations spread a message that sometimes seems to be forgotten, and throws his listener into a tribe wonderland. I see him covering the upcoming summer festivals easily, because the rithms, the lyrics and the power of this talent just smell like the warm upcoming season. The latest album “Nanna” truly is the bomb and a good alternative in between his acoustic works. Lost souls, take a listen please!


A special Thank you to Zermatt Unplugged for having me and supporting my trip.

The next Zermatt Unplugged takes place from April 4th to April 8th, 2017. If you can’t make it uphill then visit Zermatt Unplugged Kaufleuten that will be held in Zurich this Fall. More infos here.

*first picture of this article is courtesy of Zermatt Unplugged

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