Snowbombing 2009 - Rated!
Mayrhofen, Austria - 29 March - 4 April
Daniel Fahey - 06 April 2009
Overall – 7.5/10
As the Balearic bubble continues to burst in Ibiza - the curbing of late nights, police hitting harder on drugs etc – Snowbombing offers sun-seeking hedonists an annual alternative that will rival almost anything the Spanish clubbing capital can cook up. Essentially the week long festival is split into two parts: skiing, snowboarding and partying during the day, DJs, live bands and even more partying through the night.
Two main pistes of varying runs and difficulty cater for everyone from extreme sports enthusiasts to bone-breaking first timers, while eight unique venues give those with their limbs still intact the chance to get completely legless. But be warned, Snowbombing is not for the light-hearted, making the most of the full seven days with the final DJ starting at 6am each morning.
Regulars will tell you it’s the best festival they’ve ever been to and it’s easy to see why: great music, fancy dress and some of the most original and spectacular stages you’ll find on the planet. Musically the event relies heavily on dance with a number of live indie acts on the side and it’s the turntablists that impress the most during the week, with organisers selecting real quality over big names.
Getting There – 6/10
With Brits making up around 85% of the festival-goers, for many it is quite a trip, but it can be easily done. Flights direct to Munich from London take around two hours and that time is doubled after coach transfers. The festival also runs its own Road Trip, which this year saw 66 cars make the journey from the UK to Austria in just 24 hours. Those that take part get stickers and flags for the car, a night partying in Sven Vath’s Cocoon Club and money for fancy dress costumes, which make the excursion extra memorable. There are also coaches and trains direct to Mayrhofen.
Site – 7/10
Snowbombing takes over most of the quaint town of Mayrhofen, filling hotels, apartments and chalets with over 2,000 festival-goers and artists. The venues, most of which are within a 15-minute walk from one another, range from a stage in a hotel bar to an underground club and an alpine pub that serves Austrian lager in tankards and boasts its own pizza and kebab kitchen. However two of the arenas - the Arctic Disco and the Forest - make the festival one of the most memorable you’ll ever experience.
The Disco is an arching igloo that sits at the top of a mountain so high, that the town isn’t visible anymore. During the day DJs spin funk, reggae and indie while sweating snow-lovers chill out on deckchairs scattered around the outside bar and, by night, ravers move inside the stunning dome and bop until the ice begins to melt away.
The Forest stage, nestled at the foot of the surrounding mountains, is accessible by a path that’s pinned by evergreen trees, which makes the approach magical. The stage itself is in a clearing with bars, seating and a stage that looks like a dissected Scandinavian lodge, but the enchanting location will make any set in the forest unforgettable.
Finally, organisers revealed a new venue for 2009 - The Racket Club. The underground tennis arena, which houses most of the live acts, sadly suffers from poor sound quality for most of the week, but it looks good dressed up with glowing icicles.
Atmosphere – 7/10
The Snowbombing crowd is made up mainly of two groups of revellers: original ravers who remember Fantazia as an all-nighter in Bournemouth and 16-21 year olds in groups who probably think Fantazia is a Disney film. The younger crowd are as enthusiastic as they are loud – who takes an air horn to a festival? – while the older generation still party as hard as they did in ‘88. At times the atmosphere is a little like a ‘Lads Tour Of Benidorm’ – youngsters downing shots, chanting and pissing around without parental control - while at other times the euphoric feeling of unity, that only festivals can exude, is plentiful.
Greg Wilson – 8/10
Arguably the world’s greatest funk and disco DJ, Wilson is as chilled as ice-cold Jagermiester left on the mountain over night. Dropping expansive and intricate mixes of Stevie Wonder and Donna Summer, the veteran DJ mixes the set of the festival. There are moments when the sun is shining, revellers are sliding slowly down the slope, funk is echoing around the Alps and you think - festivals just don’t get any better than this.
Chase & Status - 8/10
Destined to steal Pendulum’s drum n bass act of the year crown in 2009, Chase And Status’ set is diverse and exciting. Announcing their arrival with some behemoth basslines, the duo then slip into some massive dubstep tracks including a remix of The Streets’ ‘Blinded By The Lights’ and their own bongo beauty ‘Against All Odds’. Dropping Mr Oizo’s cut of ‘Killing In The Name’, the pair set the room alight before they close the curtain with their own track ‘No Good’ marking themselves as one-to-watch for 2009.
Mongrel – 8/10
Despite performing to a crowd of just 50, the super group, made up of Reverend And The Makers, Arctic Monkeys and Babyshambles members along with the politically potent rapper Lowkey, perform the show as if it’s their last. Jon McClure lords around the stage like an ape, while the band ripple out reggae and synth splattered hip hop, proving professionally that the band are here to start a party, not take a pay packet.
Biffy Clyro – 7/10
After a year of treading the boards at almost every large festival in the UK, Scotland’s hairiest indie lads stride back into the swing of things in front of around 600 fans. The band thrash out an ever-energetic set that sees the first (and only) circle pit of the week erupt in The Racket Club, while the segueing of ‘Now I’m Everyone’ into a heavy version of ‘Who’s Got A Match’ sets the venue alight. Set closer ‘Mountains’ is sweepingly luxurious and although the DJs fare best during the week, Biffy prove that there's a need for live acts here as well.
The View – 1/10
Just two incomprehensible tracks into their set, the Dundee quartet’s singer Kyle Falconer left the stage feeling unwell. After apparently fainting backstage he returned for a third crack of the whip, this time on bass, before the whole band walk off in unison. "Kyle’s not feeling well, he’s already fainted once. I’m really sorry," bassist Kieran Webster offers as an excuse - too little, too late.
Baby, it’s loud outside
At the risk of sounding like a 70 year old that’s booked a Saga holiday in Salou, there seemed to be no rest for the wicked during the week. Shouting lads, the occasional smashed bottle and that bloody air horn make sure that those escaping the clubs in dire need of sleep were kept up that little bit longer – pack ear plugs!
Fancy dress is as integral as the snow at the festival and after watching streams of superheroes hammering it down the mountain; it was Captain America crowd surfing around the giant ski lift that was the most heroic call of duty during the week.
Not so much a random event, but the unscheduled brass band that covered the likes of Madness and the Rocky theme tune at the foot of the ski lift, were just what were called for after an afternoon on the slopes.