Friday, June 30, 2006

We All Came Down to Montreux... (Montreux, Switzerland)

Big Dog and I were here last year, too, to shoot a show for Japanese television. And now we are back.

Left Gare de Lyon on Wednesday, 28th, on a TGV for Lausanne, changing to a local train for Montreux. Swiss customs come onto the train after we cross the border and check passports. The man behind us, who speaks French but looks,,,I don't know, sort of mix-Asian, gets the full inspection. As soon as you put your passport away, though, here comes a couple of police to look at your passport again! They are armed, though probably not dangerous. This is how they keep the riff-raff out of Switzerland.

Montreux is a clean, clean city, sitting prettily on the edge of Lake Leman. I can't imagine what it would be like to grow up here. It seems intolerably boring -- a great place for Very Old People who want Peace and Quiet. Or reclusive rock stars, like the late Freddie Mercury. There's a statue of him in the lakeside plaza. In fact, one of the funniest things about Montreux is their desire to put themselves on the international map.

"We were made famous in that Deep Purple song," they proudly tell the visitors, referring to the Casino fire during the Frank Zappa gig (set off by a too-ardent fan) that became the subject of "Smoke On The Water." Near the Freddie statue is a big metal "Smoke..." sign and a musical notes sculpture. No one shows much gratitude to Frank Zappa, funnily enough.

"Freddie Mercury used to have a studio here."
"Vladimir Nabokov used to vacation here."

And, of course, the World Famous Jazz Festival. This is the pride of the town. Everyone is involved. Because it is THE event that puts Montreux in the international spotlight, the founder, Claude Nobs is like royalty in this town.

"He's a shameless self-promoter," says Big Dog. To BD, all the articles about The Great Founder plastered over the Press Room walls, Claude's MCing at the gigs, his mug all over the place...is just too much. I can easily ignore it.

We arrive two days before the festival and our producers arrive the following day, so our first shoot day is the eve of the festival. It is amazing how little is actually finished. In fact, there are still boxes and unfinished displays at 3pm on the day of the festival.

"If this were Japan, you'd have someone screaming. Things would be flying. There would be nervous breakdowns," I comment. But by 6pm, when the audience starts arriving, things are more or less in shape. There's a lesson hidden in all of this somewhere.

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