Review of Pully For Noise Festival 2011

Situated on the bank of Lake Geneva, Pully For Noise festival is an eye opener for anyone that complains at the escalating price and cost of UK festivals. Weighing in at around £100 equivalent for just over 20 artists spread across three days, with no option of camping, the pockets are only stretched further with pints at other £7 and a plate of soviet grade noodles soaring past the £10 mark. This is Switzerland of course, but it is still almost heartbreaking spending amounts that makes you long for a soggy hot-dog and a pint of watery Carling for a tenner.

Pully For Noise

Fortunately there is much to warrant the financial outlay. Firstly the festivals' spectacular location, a wooded outlook onto the French alps which reach up into the sky on the other side of the lake. It is hard to describe without a list of travel-book clichés; truly it needs to be seen to truly appreciate, and the 2am moonlight reflections on the water and pastel colour illuminations of the cityscape are a surreal accompaniment on the walk home, at least in comparison to the typical slog through piss-diluted mud-fields.

Then there are of course the bands. As with the line-up, on-site there is a focus on quality over quantity. There are only two stages, with no crossover between the artists playing each one, and the main stage matches any at an outdoor festival for sound quality and ambience, with the enclosed nature of the site holding the frequency balance perfectly and featuring a light show that would put an arena to shame.

Due to a delayed flight over, and an overconfidence in being able to find a small clearing in a foreign city without looking up the address, Thursday main-stage headliners Elbow are the first and last band caught on the festival's first day. They have become absolute masters of their craft, and their performance is a confident, yet light-hearted, one that brings out the best of their recent, disappointing, full length 'Build A Rocket Boys!' alongside a selection of highlights from 'The Seldom Seen Kid'. With a capacity that doesn't appear to go too far past the 1,000 mark For Noise provides a much smaller audience than their own headline tours of the past few years, but the band soar on numbers such as 'The Birds' and 'Tower Crane Driver', and their on-stage banter manages to transcend the language barrier. The band celebrate their set with a shout of 'Santé' (cheers), a toast to twenty years of slowly becoming one of the UK's finest live acts and, in the absence of more noisy neighbours, the godfathers of Manchester.

On the Friday, Twin Shadow kick things off with their/his brand of detached but not-quite brooding synth rock. In a predicament that will affect The Antlers on the following day they are hampered severely by a crowd arriving late (it is difficult to drag yourself away from the beauty of the city admittedly) and temperatures settling around 30c, and never truly manage to catch on. Fortunately by the time Wild Beasts hit the stage both the light and temperature has dropped, and the crowd has filled considerably.

Helped by a crystalline sound their set is an indication of their growth since 2007's 'Limbo Panto' into a band who are confident rather than 'kooky' and have managed to hone their sound into something as unique but much less grating than their debút. The twin vocals compliment each other perfectly, and the weaving guitars and dulcet electronics of 'Bed Of Nails' and 'Loop The Loop' are an otherworldly soundtrack to the sun slowly setting behind barely snow-kissed mountains. Like the majority of bands playing the main stage (see also Elbow's - 'One Day Like This' , Blonde Redhead's 'Misery Is A Butterfly' and The Antlers' 'Wake') their epic closer, 'End Come Too Soon' is the highlight, stretched out with a hazy ambient drone that soon builds to the bands defining moment, with the wildest falsetto assonance this side of My Morning Jacket pirouetting out across the mountains.

A tough act to follow, but something which Blonde Redhead manage with ease. Despite a fantastic back-catalogue an fifteen years of playing live they have gained a reputation for being somewhat hit and miss, but their performance in Lausanne as an extremely palpable hit, with the band at the peak of their powers and easily claiming the mantle of band of the weekend. Kazu Mikano's vocals are at their siren like best and the duelling guitar and drums combo of the Pace twins burn with much more fire than on record. 'Spring By Summer Fall' and 'Falling Man' are positively cataclysmic, bursts of adrenaline-rush shoegaze that belie the age of the band. The bands more tender moments are just as touching, with the chiming 'Spain' and closer 'Misery Is A Butterfly' afforded a sense of intimacy rare for an outdoor festival. The crowd for their part is just right for the bands set, lively in the headier moments, respectively silent when the volume drops and appreciative material both old and new.

Saturday provides a much livelier day, at least after The Antlers' disappointing opening set. The stunning quality of their two full-lengths is almost beyond argument, but the fragile intimacy of their music, particularly selections from 'Hospice', do not translate to the scorching early evening sun, and attempts to 'beef up' their sound unfortunately fall flat. Much better, if only for the day, are Lausanne's own Honey For Petzi, who conjure up an intriguing blend of the schematics of Mew and watertight rhythms of Battles with a youthful spirit not typical of a band over a decade old. Whilst the majority of the other homegrown artists playing the festival are disappointing Honey For Petzi are true hometown heroes who do not feel out of place on the festival's main stage.

The closing couplet of Saul Williams and Death In Vegas send the festival out with a bang. The former may be stuck somewhere between a poet, a rock-star and a political activist but he is much more than any of these an entertainer, and whilst the crowd may be slow to warm to his abrasive mix of hip-hop and rock they inevitably do.

Which leaves Death In Vegas to bring down the curtain with a set which reflects the true depth of their material, from the dreamy psychadelica of 'Girls' to the pulsing electronics of their most recent single 'Your Loft My Acid'. Despite being almost entirely beat driven the building soundscapes they create are as close to the early shoegaze of Cocteau Twins as the Balearic house beats they rest much of their musical forays on.

Make no mistake, Pully For Noise is far from ideal for those looking at a European festival as a cheaper alternative, but for those wanting smaller, more refined pleasures, and an opportunity to explore one of the most naturally beautiful places on the continent it is hard to beat.

Jordan Dowling

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