Packed bars along Lugano's lakeshore and crowds of people promenading leave us fretting about actually making it to the much-anticipated concert by the Icelandic trio Samaris.
Yet, despite this being July, peak season for throngs of tourists and one of the last remaining events of the popular month-long LongLake Festival, the well-manicured Park Ciani is virtually deserted on this particular Thursday evening.
Defined by its strict keep-off-the-grass tidiness, the lakeside park is indisputably beautiful, its splendour rendering it a pretty spectacular site for al fresco concerts.
The evening, the first sunny one in what feels like an eternity, has a slight breeze. But it is delightfully warm thanks to the comforting natural barrier in the form of its 360 degrees of mountains.
The LongLake Festival in Lugano
Disconcertingly quiet, our pace quickens as we traverse the park and I have the fleeting worry that my notoriously impeccable timekeeping skills have failed me. Fortunately, taking a sharp turn for the better, we spot a fenced-off corner in the shade. Flanked by high fences, a select but stylish group of people have gathered by a temporary stage.
More reminiscent of East London with its beer-touting VW campervan and the trendy hipsters sporting their coveted Fjällraven backpacks (hands up, I've got one, too), Lugano's 9-5-esque atmosphere, less than 500 meters away, feels like another world.
Sheltered by the high trees, it is still a bit quiet for a concert. We arrive at the conclusion that the show might lack a certain dynamism if it does not grow soon.
Nursing our beers, we dissect the small crowd, discussing who has gone out of their way to attend the show and who has stumbled across it, enticed by the startlingly un-Swiss like five franc entry fee – including a free beer. Gradually, the area starts to fill, eventually amassing a decent-sized crowd for one of the most promising new acts to emerge from Scandinavia.
Samaris – From Iceland to Switzerland
With the Park Ciani stage, LongLake Festival have compiled a bill to include some of the world's less mainstream musicians. With a keen eye, they have nailed the alternative music scene with the Danish lone wolf Agnes Obel and current British fancy Rae Morris.
Hand-picking some of Europe's best rising talents, we were incredulous when we spotted the young Icelandic trio in the programme. Samaris, consisting of clarinettist Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir, singer Jófríður Ákadóttir, and the electronic prowess of Þórður Kári Steinþórsson, have played alongside Björk, Patti Smith and Sigur Rós.
Having each just turned 20, they had their first headline tour of the UK this spring, and their summer is passing by in a whirl of festivals. Eco-conscious, gender-aware and fashionable to boot, the trio’s rise to fame has come of something of a surprise to them - but they are relishing the chance to travel.
Given their delightfully haunting (and hauntingly delightful) electronic music, an outdoor venue suits them as the sun hovers above the ridge behind Lugano.
Having created a sound unlike anything we have heard before, each track leaves a lingering feeling of poignancy with their 19th century Icelandic poetry, the fragility of the clarinet and the rhythmic electronics.
After a set that's over all too soon, we look up again and the sun has descended, disappeared from view, and all that remains are some slivers of light reflected from Lugano’s busy promenade.
A brilliantly well-kept secret, too secret in fact, Samaris is a band who leave you with an enduring sense of serenity. No momentary hype, no fleeting hipsters – the Icelandic trio bring with them a world that could not be further from here.
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