Dramatic mountain backdrops, story-book cabin accommodation and a lineup that is almost too good to be true, almost.
Caprices festival is one of the festival world’s best kept secrets, this year it boasted appearances from Bjork, The Killers, Tori Amos, Cypress Hill, Amon Tobin and Portishead; it is a small wonder that the UK’s economy did not suffer an Olympic-style slump as a result of the migration of British music fans flocking en mass to the Swiss alps. Lucky for us - and the British economy - the Swiss seem to be as good at keeping secrets as they are at making watches (and festival lineups!).
Every story has its unlikely hero, and ours came in the form of sensual red-haired piano veteran Tori Amos. Mountain-air clear vocals snowed down on a mesmerised audience as she took us through her classics mixed in with some cheeky covers including Nirvana’s 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', Kate Bush’s 'Running Up That Hill' and a little U2, which we didn’t have the heart to hold against her. In a change of tone towards the more humorous, she decided to regale crowds with a story about “that fucking iPhone I found and got accused of stealing”. A rescued smartphone, a brush with the law, a gay man and a falsely accused heroine: a theatrical drama for the modern age.
The theme of modernity continued into the night. Amon Tobin’s visual masterpiece, a Danny-Boyle-esque tale of music and light, would have had the squeezed-in fans dancing to the industrial, grinding soundtrack - if they were not so terrified of what a blink would miss.
For those who struggle linguistically, "Ou est la festival?" was a Caprices essential. Rows of Hansel and Gretel-style cottages, winding lanes and snow-capped peaks on all sides makes the Crans-Montana setting a labyrinth of traditional fondue bars and ski-shops. The signposting was a little confusing - we were tempted to resort to dropping breadcrumbs to mark our path.
By day two though this was all part of the fun and we found Bjork with ease, helped along by her endearingly screechy war cries and illuminating, apocalyptic light show. Her stage presence and vocals were almost as big as her hair and impressive as ever, especially in what seemed like a natural habitat for the white witch of modern music.
Portishead, a particularly impressive coup for the festival, given their elusive nature, did what they do best. Oozing relaxed brilliance and ethereal escapism, they created the perfect happy ending for our Swiss festival experience.
Caprices is a traditional fairytale, with a dark modern twist of musical energy and innovative performance. At ten-years-old, it is still a nipper by British festival terms but we have a feeling that this is just the first chapter for the rock and electro gathering that was born too big for its boots. But for this year the book is closed, as Tori Amos said: “And the moral of the story, don’t pick up an iPhone” - unless it’s to book your ticket for next year’s Caprices festival that is (but keep it incognito, we don’t want half of the UK there). The End.
Words by Kate O'Sullivan
Photo by Anne-Laure Lechat / Caprices Festival 2013