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How I Fell in Love with the Montreux Jazz Festival…

Montreux Jazz Festival 2015 - vincentbailly

The Montreux Jazz Festival has been on my musical bucket list for years.

For me, it has always been this magical event where all the cool people played while all the (slightly less musical yet still very) cool people listened in.

Plus, the festival had cult status way before I was born and has been eternalized in one of the greatest songs of all time. What was I waiting for? I had to stop my long-distance admiration and go straight to Montreux - preferably while the Montreux Jazz Festival was going on.

This is not going to be an article reminiscing about the good old days and all its musical geniuses. I am also not going to talk about Claude Nobs and his legacy, or the fact that next year, the festival will celebrate its 50th birthday. This article is about how Montreux and I met and spent twelve hours together.


How it all Began

It started like a lot of dates: online. I downloaded the Montreux Jazz Festival App, swiped around, pressed a few buttons, read biographies and listened to some songs. It looked promising, and I was excited for our first date in real life: Dinner and a show (or three).

I over-thought my outfit, hopped on the train, and re-thought all the outfits I did not put on. I also enjoyed the scenery, because it is impossible not to when riding a train in Switzerland.

"Prochain arret: Montreux." Ok, here we go. Clammy hands, beating heart, sweating... What if MJF is lame? I forgot to assign a friend who can fake a medical emergency that needed my expertise - expertise which I have carefully acquired through years of watching House M.D. and Grey’s Anatomy.


The First Contact

I did not need a fake emergency. Nobody in Montreux needs a fake emergency. I followed the signs and there it was, the festival of all festivals. The first moment was not all the magical: A (cute) kid almost mowed me down with one of those kick-boards, but I survived and acquainted myself with the festival.

It looked pretty good: Lots of charm, a good mixture between old and new, not too stylish and with just enough coolness. Yeah, I can work with that.

Of course, there was the usual awkwardness - finding out where to go, not looking like you do not know what you are doing. But I walked with a mission: To get my ticket, then tour the premises like I mean it.

Montreux Jazz Festival 2015 - vincentbailly

Eating, Dancing and Strolling - with a View

The MJF is not only music and all that jazz – it is also food stands and feathery, tie-dyed knickknacks you can only get away with at music festivals. The best part about this is that you will find the food stands on one side of the promenade, and Lake Geneva on the other.


What more could you possibly ask for? (Nothing.)

You do not even need a ticket for most of the awesomeness: More than half of the concerts are free, and the food stands are - compared to a lot of festivals – accessible to the public without a concert ticket.

Basically, the paid concerts are inside, the free stuff is outside: Along that scenic lake promenade, you can engage in some unparalleled strolling-eating-people-watching-action: And that is where I fell in love with the festival.

You must know, the way to my heart looks like the promenade in Montreux: There are food stands with happy comfort food, live bands, and a large body of water.

But let's focus.


The Climax on the Main Stage

I could have promenaded all night, but I did not want to be late for the main show of the evening at the beautiful and iconic Auditorium Stravinski: Paolo Nutini and the Alabama Shakes.


Alabama Shakes is ready to be on stage tonight at Auditorium Stravinski! #mjf15 @alabama_shakes

A photo posted by montreuxjazzfestival (@montreuxjazzfestival) on


Both concerts were absolutely magnificent. Foreplay with the Alabama Shakes, then I got my Montreux Cherry popped by Mr. Nutini - a guy with an Italian name, a Scottish accent, and charisma oozing out of all pores.


What happened after that?

More food.
More strolling.
More music.
Some light dancing.
(What happens in Montreux, stays in Montreux.)

And just like that came 5 AM. Montreux and I ate, drank, and danced the night away... What a night!

Montreux Jazz Festival 2015 - vincentbailly

Dear Montreux Jazz Festival, I had a great night. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me. I do not want to move too fast, but I like you, and I hope we see each other again.

The 2017 edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival will go on through July 15. Check it out if you get a chance, or at least download the app and listen to some of the concerts from the comfort of your home (Apple, Android). But promise to pencil it in for next year...

Montreux Jazz Festival 2015 - arnaudderib(Photographs copyright Montreux Jazz Festival: #1/2/3 by Vincent Bailly, #4 by Arnaud Derib)


Isabelle is a copywriter intern at EF Education First in Zurich and an online student at Penn State Word Campus. After living abroad for almost a decade, she took her two (US) cats and moved back to her Swiss roots in 2013. Isabelle suffers from chronic Wanderlust and loves coffee.


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