Clash hits the slopes for the freshest sounds...

Nobody has ever successfully explained to me how TignesFest survives. Zero sponsorship is contradicted by free entry, and an uphill battle to secure the freshest line up for zilch. Whilst sharing a similarity of essence with an Alpine festival titan like Snowbombing? Eh? It is an organisational conundrum.

Yet this musical showcase enigma seems to charm folk from the slopes in their masses, creating one of the most amiable atmospheres I have ever experienced at a festival. Kissy Sell Out explains the event’s importance:

“I love the idea of Tignes. We are a long way from Snowbombing and other big festivals. It is very young. It is just new talent getting a platform to deliver on. And that is quite unique. You don’t know what you are going to get, and I’m yet to be disappointed. I’m surprised there are not more events like this. For me it is so exciting. And I was flattered to be asked for my opinion.”

Unlike my usual sweaty train journey to festivals, the trip to Tignes was a 2,000-metre ascendance through a gang of hunched mountains, circling like bullies in a playground. And after overcoming so much ear popping that it resembled laid-bare minimal techno, it became clear why the French modestly dub Tignes “the most beautiful ski area in the world”.

Responsible for siphoning the most promising acts from the milky music pump of Europe were the special guest curators Kissy Sell Out (of Radio 1 notoriety) and XFM’s electro grey fox, Eddy Temple Morris. TM himself (pictured in action) gave us the lowdown:

“For me, a lot of this is education. I mean, artists like Alma Nofear (Swedish acoustic act)… She would never figure on my radar normally. Unless she had some sort of banging remix done. But it is really nice to listen to such stripped-down artists. From my personal choices, I’m excited to get the Midi Midis on. Tignes is all about unsigned talent and they are so fresh and so new. They are making music that nobody else is. I’m also really feeling Frankmusik, and it is great to see Benni G from Jackbeats. I was their first champion on radio, so I’m chuffed about that.”

And the ‘Ed-ster’ was not far off with his recommendations. Alma Nofear opened the festival with a whimsical acoustic sequence, constantly charming the crowd with Björk-ish mannerisms and a playful stage presence. Her tones settled well as an early afternoon slot in the sleet, and free mulled wine guaranteed a jovial, willing crowd. The atypical consequences of human nature took control, and as the alcohol flowed freely, so did the freeform boogie and artist mingling. By the time the Midi Midis took stage, a makeshift dance floor had formed and various characters from Russia to Reading got their groove on to the diamond in the rough/slight-Casablanca (Julian, not Bogart) vocals of Midis’ frontman.

With the swing meter at ‘full’, Black Peter Group took the final outdoor slot. Luckily an excitable Kissy Sell Out was at hand to offer his personal review. “I ran up to Eddy TM after Black Peter Group and said: ‘That was my choice. Beat that!’ They absolutely rocked it. They had such charisma on stage. And at the end of the day, the actual music was good. Here at Tignes, they are literally going to the top of the hills and shouting about it.”

Whether the crowd were fixated by their rapturous take on cheese-pop, or the skimpy attire of female vocalist Anna (let’s be honest), they had certainly buoyed attention. Their most infectious track ‘Goody Two Shoes’ has nested within my brain and refuses to recede.

Into the night and out came the resident nocturns of dance – Para-lel, Jackbeats and Mr Sell Out himself. Local nightclub ‘Melting Pot’ opened its doors to all and sundry for the decks to be commandeered and driven through a five-hour marathon of bass beats and jump-up rock, provided by the aforementioned trio. The sights of the dancefloor symbolised what Tignes is all about: promising musicians befriending fellow musicians, established producers, organisers, fans and press. All consuming copious amounts of alcohol. And generally loving it.

Aside from the music, Tignes is a hub of activity. When not on the slope with an instructor being told how much of a hazard you are to other skiers, local shops and a spa welcomed those donning the wristbands with open arms. And buckets of ice water to the face. Good for the skin, apparently. Not so much for the threat of pneumonia.

Day two presented another array of brash new talent. London electro-poppers Ou Est Le Swimming Pool lacked a little in substance for what they provided in bravado, but foundations are certainly set for growth. The performance of the day came from the least expected. Danimal Kingdom, set up for their first-ever live gig together, executed an alluring set packed with dainty pop soul like ‘Girl Boy Girl’ and more upbeat emotion with ‘Through The Ice’. The late night watering hole changed to L’@robaze Café, where Spanish DJ Pablo Decoder (pictured with Eddy TM) awaited with an arsenal of tight hi-NRG disco and electronica galore.

After a laidback afternoon with reflective acoustic sets from Scotsman Ryan Lauder and mezzo soprano Leslie Davis, TignesFest assigned the final night to London’s newest late night phenomenon, White Wedding. Since a feature in Glamour, the popularity of this tacky brides and ill-fitted grooms bonanza has become the biggest new ‘thing’ of 2009 since pirates got cool again. Fans, bands and curators piled into the cramped Bagus Bar to shake their bow ties and veils to the guilty pleasures of Lionel Ritchie, Duran Duran and plenty of other cheesy reminiscence.

So is Tignes worth a visit? If you want a free festival that, in the face of a punishing economy, stands firm with a credible ethos and admirable intentions; that delivers the best upcoming music, chosen by those immersed in the industry; and that gives out free mulled wine on the really cold days… Yes. Yes it bloody is worth it!

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Check out our TignesFest photo gallery HERE.

Also check the Tignes Youtube Channel


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