Snowbombing festival preview

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Time Out is wondering where all the DJs have gone (They‘ve sloped off to the Alps for the festivals)

  • Snowbombing festival preview

    Cuban Brothers, Spandez warriors: a look for any time, any place, anywhere

  • It’s the year 2000 and a Manchester-based tour operator launches the Snowbombing festival. Snappily branded as ‘boarding by day, beats by night’, Gareth Cooper finds 250 willing customers, plus a handful of DJs and promoters, to make the trek to the tiny Alpine resort of Risoul. A shell-shocked Risoul had never seen anything quite like the ensuing debauchery.

    Fast-forward to 2008. None of the original 250 revellers would have predicted in their wildest daydreams that the tiny, and frankly shambolic, week of small club nights would, well, snowball into the slick and enormous beast that is Snowbombing today. It’s the biggest festival in the Alps, and more than 3,500 people are heading out next week.

    But Cooper’s not satisfied. Not yet. ‘There are 5,000 beds in Mayerhofen. I want to sell them all out. Although last year’s street party with 3,000 people going crazy in fancy dress was a good indication of how far we’d come.’

    Thankfully, Snowbombing isn’t Ibiza Uncovered on snow. While holidays can be bought for £219, skiing is never going to be cheap, and the average age is a should-know-better 27.

    ‘It’s about regression,’ laughs Cooper, who would clearly have it no other way. ‘Fancy dress is an important part of the festival.’ There’s nothing like making the final run of the day in a sparkly afro, a fetching red cape and sunglasses so large they’d put Elton John to shame.

    Still, it’s not all about looking a riot. Musically, this year’s Snowbombing is the strongest yet. Bugged Out, Tayo’s Tracksuit Party, Together, Black Rabbit and others are bringing (deep breath) live acts Madness (truly), The Pigeon Detectives, Foals, Does It Offend You, Yeah?, Lightspeed Champion and dozens more, while DJs carting their record boxes up the mountain include Erol Alkan, Plump DJs, Yoda, DJ Marky, Justin Robertson, the Scratch Perverts, Jesse Rose…

    From one hedonistic extreme to the other. The TignesFest is about to make its debut. There’s so much that makes this new festival special, not least that promoter Claudia Avila-Batchelor isn’t charging a penny for any of it.

    A case of making a good thing out of a very bad thing, Avila-Batchelor is using compensation money she received after sustaining an injury to put the festival on. She had planned to host a small party this season with some friends, one of whom runs a bar in Tignes. The three girls upped the ante considerably thanks to Avila-Batchelor’s cash.

    There are no all-inclusive packages for this festival. Revellers get themselves out there (although there are travel and accommodation deals available via links on the festival’s website), and get all the music gratis.

    ‘It was never going to be a moneymaker,’ says Avila-Batchelor, the sort of person who makes you want to do whatever you can to help. ‘I just wanted to do something good with the money. I could have put it towards a mortgage or bought more shoes that I don’t need, but it’s really lovely to be able to do this. There’s such a sense of freedom. We can take a risk with the acts we book and it’s much, much nicer to be able to offer support to upcoming acts.’

    The local bar and club owners have bent over backwards to offer support. ‘We’re staging different acts over four days in small local venues, and we’re using small stages for acoustic sets, plus an outdoor stage for the open-air Friday night party. We’re putting these acts on and in return we’ve asked for the venues to help us feed the artists. It’s been such a nice, hippy thing. I can’t speak, I’m smiling so much.’

    Cast aside any preconceptions of daggy folk music and singalong acoustic sessions, though. This is straight-up electronica and indie curated by Eddy Temple Morris, Kissy Sell Out and The Loose Cannons. Other talent includes Autokratz, David E Sugar and Bloody Beetroots. It’s not often you get the chance to take part in something really, truly special. This looks set to be one of those rare moments.

    Snowbombing is March 31 to April 6 at Mayerhofen, Austria. See www.snowbombing.co.uk.
    TignesFest is April 17-20 in Tignes, France. See www.tignesfest.com.

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