News Headlines     |     


Tuesday April 10, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

We're in the Swiss resort for its annual festival, Zermatt Unplugged. It is one of our favourite events in the mountains. Here’s why…



DAY ONE, Tuesday 10th April

It is now in its 11th year and is one of the most established and loved music festivals in the mountains.

It has seen the likes of Bryan Ferry, Simple Minds, Amy Macdonald and David Gray.

What I like about it is that it's about far more than its headline acts as the famous Swiss resort becomes awash with music.

Many bars and restaurants seem to have something going on and this year is no exception.

From the huge bands to the small Swiss acts and the local musicians.

Zermatt UnpluggedZermatt Unplugged 2018
















On the way to see the opening night I popped in to the Brown Cow for a sharperner.

In the corner of the bar the band was set up.

Zermatt Unplugged 2018Zermatt Unplugged 2018
















But I was on my way to the Big Top and the headline act.

And the band headling the opening night on Tuesday?

Step forward the Irish band, Kodaline.












Their performance was a game of two halves.

And I'm not talking about the Champions League football that was taking place at the same time on Tuesday night.  

Though there was a musical turn around similar to the performance of Liverpool in its European game with Manchester City, which I (and a few others in the crowd) were keeping half an eye on.  

Kodaline started off slowly and at one point ground to a halt altogether.

"I woke up this morning with a dodgy chest infection," croaked the lead singer, Steve Garrigan.  

During one of the early acoustic sessions that relied heavily on his vocals he simply stopped. 

Water was consumed to ease his throat.   

He continued and then, er, soared at times. 

It probably felt much worse to him than it sounded to us.  

Kodaline, Zermatt UnpluggedKodaline, Zermatt Unplugged

But to be honest the acoustic songs never really had the power, subtlty and depth that is the Kodaline trademark.  

But they put in a strong performance and the capacity Swiss audience lapped it up.   

A handful in the crowd shone the torches on their mobile phones but, like many a Mexican wave at a football stadium, it never really got going.  

The audience sat in their fur lined seats (very Swiss) tapping their high-healed toes, but no-one stood up.   

Kodaline, Zermatt UnpluggedKodaline, Zermatt Unplugged


And god forbid a bit of dancing in aisles. 

This is sedate Switzerland after all.      

And then the 'unplugged' aspect of the set came to an end and the guitars were plugged in. 

Kodaline, Zermatt UnpluggedKodaline, Zermatt Unplugged


The electricity flowed and so did the music. 

It went up several gears.    

The band hit its stride playing old songs and new ones.    

"This is a new one off our third album that is out in July," is the sort of sentence that normally brings groans from the audience.  

Not tonight.  

The crowd came to life and indications for the third album look highly encouraging.  

The final few songs even got people out of their comfy Swiss seats.  

Kodaline, Zermatt UnpluggedKodaline, Zermatt Unplugged

But sadly just as the band got going the gig ended and no encore.  

Sore throat?  


Perhaps encores don't happen in Switzerland.

For me Zermatt Unplugged is about the music but also the atmosphere, experience and the chance encounters.    

Outside the main big top venue the Travellin' Brothers hit the ground running as they delivered their set.  

Travellin' Brothers, Zermatt UnpluggedTravellin' Brothers, Zermatt Unplugged


And who should I bump into in the crowd?  

My great friend the mountain guide, Nick Parks with his wife Niki.  

"What the hell are you doing here?" I shouted over the band.  

"It's a long story he bellowed back, read the t-shirt."        

Nick and Niki, Zermatt UnpluggedNick and Niki, Zermatt Unplugged

Turns out he, his wife Niki and a bunch of friends had tried to ski tour to Zermatt from nearby Zinal where he lives in the Val d'Anniviers for Zermatt Unplugged. 

I have know him for years and skied with him last winter for a few days in the Val d'Anniviers.

At the time I questioned whether to ski in Zermatt or Zinal but that is another story altogether:

Zinal to Zermatt was a 2-day ski tour with a night at the Grand Mountet hut.

So, what happened en route? 

"We left the hut this morning at 6am for the final skin up to the Col Durand at 3,400m. After that it's a glorious ski down into Zermatt.

"At 9am we were 200m from the top of the col when I took the decision to turn back.  

"Winds were gusting at 100km per hour and I simply thought it too dangerous to continue. 

"If we'd had a problem then it could have been serious.

"It wasn't so much the avalanche risk but more the wind, so if someone had injured themselves then there would be severe risk of exposure and frostbite for the injured person and the rest of us.

"It was an easy decision to make as safety is paramount. 

"The group was relieved to turn back and head for safety."  

But it didn't stop the group making the Unplugged Festival.   

They skied back to Zinal jumped in cars and made it round in time for Kodaline.  

"The band was fantastic. I'm not so familiar with the music and despite the throat infection the evening was fabulous. Great gig!" shouted Nick over the Travellin' Brothers as they went up a gear or three.

Zermatt Unplugged 2018Zermatt Unplugged 2018
















An Unplugged moment if ever there was one.  

Nick and Yours Truly, Zermatt UnpluggedNick and Yours Truly, Zermatt Unplugged


Made better as I noted the final score in the Liverpool/Man City game.   

My son is a passionate Liverpool fan and therefore I am a supporter by default. 

Liverpool pulled it out of the bag, Kodaline pulled it out of the bag and so too did Nick and his group of ski tourers.  

Quite a good first night at Zermatt Unplugged. 

In fact a great night. 

I wonder what tomorrow holds in store...            

PlanetSKI was at the 2018 launch party in Ronnie Scott's in Soho, London, earlier this winter and reported on it on January 25th: And why at Ronnie Scott's I hear you ask?

The Ronnie Scott's All Star Band have performed at Zermatt Unplugged many times over the years and even put in the highest ever jazz concert in the mountains.   PlanetSKI was at the event in its early days:  

This year just look who is playing:

Zermatt Unplugged 2018Zermatt Unplugged 2018
















And now, for the first time in a few years, I'm back again at Unplugged.

I'm also off to see Emeli Sande on Wednesday on the main stage.

The Scottish soul and R&B singer has had a UK No1 album with 'Our Version of Events' and she performed unplugged at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

Emeli SandeEmeli Sande











And when she walks off stage The Kooks perform an intimate gig at the hotel Alex just over the road.

The KooksThe Kooks











Otherwise I'm going to do what I like best at Unplugged: mix in plenty of skiing with endless music, most of which is from bands, singers and DJs I have never heard before live.

There are venues and concerts across town.

Zermatt Unplugged, 2018Zermatt Unplugged, 2018
















I also make no apologies for admitting Zermatt is my favourite ski resort in the world.

I love so many others, but it all comes together for me in Zermatt.

I sneaked in back in January when the resort was cut off  due to the heavy snow, just after one closure and I got out before the next.

This time round there is no danger of getting snowed in but the conditions are superb for the time of year with sun and snow in the forecast.

I have the special Unplugged Pass that gives access to 23 bands across 10 stages + there are 4 After Show venues.

Bring it on :-)

And if you want to see a video of last year's proceedings to get a flavour of what it is all about then....

And do check back for daily updates...          

Kodaline - Zermatt UnpluggedKodaline - Zermatt Unplugged

















Kodaline - Zermatt UnpluggedKodaline - Zermatt Unplugged
















Zermatt UnpluggedZermatt Unplugged

















For more detail on the Unplugged Festival then see here.

For information about Zermatt here is the resort web site and for details on the skis and snowboards offer by Intersport across the Alps and beyond then see here.   

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

Related Articles

WORLD SNOW DATES TO 2025 (Thursday September 5, 2019)
SKIING ON 4TH JULY IN USA (Friday July 5, 2019)
What is it like to climb Everest? (Sunday May 26, 2019)
HAPPY NORWAY DAY! (Sunday May 19, 2019)

With thanks to our main sponsors...

Platinum partners

Bronze partners