Festival Balélec is the biggest student event in Europe. It is held every year on a Friday in May on the EPFL Campus in Lausanne, Switzerland. It is now on its 35th edition and in the past hosted bands like HIM, Anti-Flag, Sinsemilia and many more. I’ve been going there every year since I started studying in Lausanne and even now that I’m not a student anymore it’s a pleasure to go back. This year the festival grounds were slightly moved just in front of the Rolex Learning Center. The new emplacement is great and more organized like a proper big festival. With three concert’ stages (Grande Scène, Scène Azimuts and Scène Squatt) and two clubbing tents (RedOx Club and Le BEAT) Balélec transforms itself into a huge festival party. Every year it offers a programme which suits all tastes. In the last couple of years perhaps the big stage was too often given to reggae and hip hop acts but this year for the rockers’ happiness, the headliners were no other than The Subways! Last but not least, Balélec is amazing for the atmosphere it creates, so even though you are not into any of the bands who are playing it still manages to get you into the right mood to have fun. To give you an idea of Balélec’s popularity, tickets are sold out pretty much as fast as for Paléo Festival, so if you’d like to come next year plan ahead!
Les Manchots, Scène Azimuts, 7:45pm-8:15pm
It’s early and the festival grounds are still rather empty but Les Manchots manage to set the right atmosphere for the early birds! With their effective mix of jazz and blues they make you drift with your mind. They sing in French, which gives to their music a touch of crooner rétro. The double bass fits perfectly as with its low chords dictates the rhythm followed by the violin and the acoustic guitars.
Satanic Surfers, Grande Scène, 9:45pm-11pm
Despite their name suggests they are a metal band, Satanic Surfers are an old school punk rock band. Their fast-pacing guitars riffs and rumbling drums make you want to go straight into the moshpit, which is what happens up front. Raging screams and energetic beats set the audience into the right mood for The Subways.
Make Plain, Scène Squatt, 10:40pm-11.30pm
Make Plain are a young folk-blues duo from Ticino, Switzerland. They won “Palco ai Giovani”, a contest for new bands in Ticino in 2013. What Luca Imperiali and Andrea Zinzi can do with their two guitars and drums is pretty impressive. Some technical problems delayed the concert a bit but neither the band nor the audience gave up. As soon as they start picking their guitars, one the electric the other the acoustic, they drag you into their colourful music with fast-changing guitar’ chords to which they add a touch of blues with the harmonica. They make the audience dance like crazy to their extremely addictive folky tunes. Take the folk played by the early Mumford and Sons and imagine two people playing it instead of four!
Very friendly and at ease with the public they recount some anecdotes about Ireland and the admiration they have for a country in which music is part of the ordinary. During a rhythmic song they ask the audience to sit down and to jump on “3” as they suddenly start playing again, it’s a moment of great fun! You may have heard their tune “Mysterious Girl” on the radio at some point, live it is even better and it makes you sing along to the refrain “Your soul is much younger than my own” and jump to its catchy rhythm. Andrea plays the plates while playing his electric guitar and sometimes lives space for a beautiful guitar solo.
They bid goodbye with a special encore playing a folk cover of “Amazing Grace” with a proper Make Plain touch, truly amazing! Keep an eye and ear on these two talented young lads, they’re gonna steal your hearts and minds and take you on an unforgettable journey through sounds ranging from the Far West to Irish folk!
The Subways, Grande Scène, 11:30pm-1am
The British rock band The Subways truly rocked the big stage of Balélec. Their stage presence is amazing and should be taken as an example by all the bands out there who can’t create a relationship with the audience. Because The Subways can certainly do that and much more. They propel the audience into a spiral of guitar riffs and drums which combined create effective melodies, and on top of this there are their thought-provoking lyrics. The voice of singer Billy Lunn is echoed by the charming one of singer and bassist Charlotte Cooper. Billy Lunn tells us they’ve been around for more than 10 years and says they’ve released a new album from which they are going to play some songs.
Billy Lunn is super cool, he introduces every song and speaks to the audience very plainly: “What we’re going to do now it’s even better than sex. Let’s have a fucking party!”. The audience answers with loud screams. Then they start playing and after a while they stop, asking everybody to sit down and put their arms around their neighbour. As they get to the count end and start playing once again everybody jumps in the air! Peering around you can see lots of happy faces because this is one of the funniest things to do at concerts and when the band is so good and entertaining live it makes it a million times better. When they play their battle horse “Rock & Roll Queen” everybody gets crazy and jumps in all directions. Even though you think you don’t know The Subways you certainly know this song! With its raging riffs and the addictive refrain where Charlotte Cooper backs up Billy Lunn.
They dedicate the song “With You” to the audience, claiming that without them they are nothing. It starts pretty slowly like a ballad and then bursts into an explosion of riffs and drums’ beats. Its lyrics are pretty touching!
Charlotte Cooper sweetly speaks to the audience and thanks them for being there. At the end of the last song they play, Billy Lunn literally jumps on the drummer (his brother Josh Morgan) causing the drums to fall apart. This must be siblings’ love!
The Subways are truly down to earth, they’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, no joke! So thanks a lot to them for making this edition of the festival so special!
Thanks a lot to the Balélec team for putting so many great acts in the line up! Can’t wait to go back next year 🙂