Monday, 20 July 2009

Claude Nobs, BB King & The Montreux Jazz Stupidity Festival...

I'm one of those people that like Jeremy Clarkson. Actually seeing that written I realise of course I don't "like" him, but I do find him funny at times, thought provoking certainly, and I like to watch that petrol head programme even though I am not myself a petrol head.

Be that as it may, I have for a long time, supported Clarkson's continual jibes at the Health & Safety people in their yellow plastic over jacket thingys and the constant calls for sales staff in places like Café Néro, to tell you that the double espresso you just ordered is HOT!!! There are times though, that Health & Safety type rules and regulations are not only adviseable but simply good common sense for the well being of all.

European countries have their own versions of H&S and as an example, the Austrian instigated little number whereby the carriage in a vehicle of a fluorescent yellow reflective jacket for use in the event of a breakdown, became law, was adopted by the French.

Switzerland while not a member of the E.U. is still part of Europe which some people seem to forget, and they have interpreted different rules and laws to suit themselves. Fair enough one may think. This became all too clear last Monday 13th July when I went along to Le Petit Palais, in Montreux where B B King was to hold a blues guitar workshop free to all comers. I went to one some years ago and it was quite simply wonderful. This guy is now 82 or 83 years old and he still feels that he wants to hand something back and so for any interested people he will get his band together, sit on a small stage for at least an hour and maybe longer; in front of a welcoming audience, talking to them, answering questions, play short blues riffs, telling stories and then end up with a couple of full blast blues numbers. Great. And this is FREE. Thanks B.B.

However on this hot day, with temperatures hitting the low thirties the room quickly filled and included, elderly people, kids who hated loud music and cried; all the while being ignored by their parents, and some babes in arms. Some even took the guitar workshop in the programme title too seriously and turned up with guitars in huge cases which they placed on the floor of the crowded room allowing people to trip and fall over them and into the laps of those lucky enough to have bagged a seat. Many more crowded at the doors and tried to push their way in.

About 15 minutes after B B King had been on stage talking and playing, Claude Nobs - THE Director of the Montreux Jazz Festival since 1967, which he started with nothing but a bit of string, a marble, some bubble gum and a couple of thousand US $ in his pocket, pushed his way into the room, got onto the stage and announced that BB King was there to provide a workshop and further; as there were outside a few (hundred it seemed) people still wanting to get in, everyone in the room should move around along the walls, so that these others could come in and climb into the gangways and aisles and spaces at the feet of those sitting, and thereby fill the room way past its legal capacity.

As the heat in the room increased, it was easy to see the discomfort on the faces of some of the people and eventually, not long before Mr King finished, they pushed, much to the annoyance of some others, their way out.

It was a good thing no-one fainted, or collapsed. No one had a heart attack, and no security nor medical people were needed. But if they had been, I would not like to have guessed the unpleasant outcome. That function room at Le Petit Palais, surely even in Switzerland, has a limit on the amount of people it should be accommodate at any given time.

Claude Nobs stupidly flouted any rules that country, that town, and that hotel's management must know exists for the well being of all.

The general policing on Saturday 11th, the evening of the Brazilian Night was woefully inadequate to the point of non-existent. There was an air of menace and threat once some of the pissed-up idiot country yokels arrived mid-evening and decided to push their way through the overcrowded pathways outside some of the venues.

This used to be a great Jazz festival, but for me this year, coupled with the near extortionate prices of most of the gigs it has become a has-been festival. I'm not saying that some has-beens are not good, but just a quick look at the list of acts suggest that has-beens possibly out number the maybes...

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