Gurtenfestival 2009: Rated!

Berne, Switzerland - 16-19 July

Gurtenfestival 2009: Rated!

30 July 2009

Considered one of Switzerland's most beautiful festivals, the event overlooks Berne from the lofty heights of the Gurten hill and offers punters of all ages much more than just a unique atmosphere.

Overall - 8/10

Starting out as a small folk festival way back in 1977, the event now attracts over 16,000 visitors per day, but still manages to retain the intimate, familiar feel of old. The natural site restricts the festival from growing any bigger too, meaning that promoters focus their efforts on quality and invest in optimising the existing infrastructure rather than packing the site to the brim. Three live stages and three dance tents enable punters to catch a variety of national and international acts over a full four days and with a line-up like this year's it was never going to falter.

Site - 9/10

Like a little makeshift village popped on top of the Gurten, the site has plenty to offer. Dance tents, bars, food and market stalls lead the way from one stage to another whilst the huge, central field provides views over the entire main arena. The east and west stages stretch off to the sides of this central location and the sleeping zone is located in a separate area just outside the actual festival site. Except from the usual showers and facilities it offers a hairdressers, a laundrette and a breakfast bar. For CHF 10 (approx. £6/€7) sleepyheads can get a fully packed breakfast bag delivered straight to their tent and even a shiatsu massage if the night was particularly heavy.

Getting there and back - 7/10

Berne has direct rail links to Zurich and Geneva Airports and can be reached from all over Switzerland by train or by car - your choice! Tram and shuttle buses (by night) run between Berne main station and Wabern where a five-minute railway ride or a 20-minute walk up the hill to the site awaits. Again, your choice!

Atmosphere – 9/10

Gurtenfestival is perceived as a miniature holiday by many, a chance to meet up and party with mates, making the atmosphere delightfully peaceful and relaxed. The altitude and weather came together on the first day, coating punters with sunshine and 30C temperatures, before the rain took over for the remainder of the weekend. Undeterred, hundreds of colourful raincoats stood up to the mud and the cold to bop to Ayo and her main stage buddies whilst thousands more shook off the drips in the dance tents. Those who didn't fancy partaking in the watery antics pulled through with card games, south-west-four-sw4-2009 and other cheerful distractions in the numerous lounges.

Music - 8/10

Without a doubt this year’s line up was the strongest in a long time. Record ticket sales for Thursday proved that, unlike last year, people were willing to take a day off work to come and rock out - as long as the bands were big ones like Bloc Party, White Lies and Franz Ferdinand. A hip-hop based bill on the Friday diluted what was otherwise a very compact programme, which boasted mighty headliners and new discoveries in the likes of Hockey and Baddies. With a main focus on indie acts, the promoters still managed to offer a diverse line-up with something for everyone’s taste, including the unique showcasing of domestic newcomers on the Swiss-only West Stage.

Only Friendly Fires had to cancel due to an ill band member but they were duly replaced with Australian electronica outfit Morph who proved a decent substitute, especially with a strong cover of The Prodigy's 'Breathe'.


Franz Ferdinand – Main Stage, Thursday
Mr Kapranos and his lads set the headline bar from the off on the Thursday night. The excursion to the local lido that afternoon must have had a positive impact on the Scottish rock band. As relaxed as you like, in shirts and trainers, they delivered a solid set and played hit after hit. ‘Take Me Out’, ‘No You Girls’, ‘Walk Away’, ‘Do You Want To’ – the audience got everything they could’ve possibly expected.

Baddies – East Stage, Sunday
No one really knew what to expect of British newcomers Baddies when they gathered at the east stage on Sunday afternoon. In the twinkling of an eye though they thrilled the tent with their raw and straight-forward punk-rock, justifying the praise heaped upon them by the British tabloids.

Travis – Main Stage, Sunday
Travis helped bring the Sunday sunshine back, literally and metaphorically. The band captivated the crowd with a warm and personal performance. The first few songs were barely over when Fran Healy climbed down into the audience, cleaved his way through the crowd to eventually grab a lass for a sweet little 'pas de deux'. A few imaginative souls had the brilliant idea of playing ball with some blown up condoms throughout hits 'Sing', 'Turn' and 'Writing To Reach You' before joining their 16,000 musical comrades in jumping on imaginary pogo-sticks for 'Why Does It Always Rain On Me'. Reminding punters that “condoms are used for your willies, not to blow up,” before adding “by all means, blow `em up, but ON your willy” and concluding with sentiment that “this is the best festival crowd we've had all summer”. For many, this might have been the best festival gig of all summer too.

Kings Of Leon – Main Stage, Sunday

Probably the act everyone was looking forward to. Accordingly, they were eagerly awaited by what was the biggest audience of the weekend and without wasting any words the Followill’s launched into a powerful, professional live set which steered its course until the end of the Sunday evening. The majority of the audience were overjoyed to hear a melée of tracks from their latest offering ‘Only By The Night’ as well as some old gems.


In all honesty, there wasn't one act that would deserve the label 'downer'. Sure, Bloc Party could have rocked the stage a bit more as they battled to completely captivate the Gurten masses with a rather electronic set that included 'Halo' and 'Hunting For Witches'. Had they played at night, in a more intimate setting, things may have been different. The same 'good but not brilliant' mantle could be given to Razorlight and Oasis who delivered the tunes but were too well behaved to dish out any more.

By Lorena Blattner.

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