Perhaps it is my age but the Sunday afternoon version of Chur’s festival is far more to my taste. The alleyways and courtyards of the old town echo to a grosser easy of old Americana tunes, Johnny B Goode, Teddy Bear and Nobody Loves You When You’re etc. etc. There are no conga lines; no mass renditions of Gaga-ish Argentinia, and no hint of trouble.
Long trestle tables full of families eating sausages and three-feet long kebabs are everywhere. It’s very communal – practically socialist Fox might claim. A day of catch-ups, from last night perhaps, or from time. There are numerous hugged reunions. The kids seem to love it. There are street games, straight out of Tom’s time: throwing things at heads to win a prize, strength tests – even a Swiss take on the Rodeo, with a bronco buck straight out of 1960s Dinosaur movies.
Chur seems set to celebrate middle America, pick up bands knock out rock and roll and ballads, and go on and on. I’m acclimatising to the tattoos which are ubiquitous – as is the smoking. Tom’s monarch, James the First, who liked to think of himself as a bit of a scholar – think Prince Charles minus Camilla plus “n” number of boys – wrote a treatise against tobacco in 1604. A Counterblaste, in fact. Clearly its message never crossed the Channel, nor got anywhere near Splugen, Thusis or Chur. Perhaps Zurich will be the new San Francisco of Switzerland. We’ll See.
I haven’t had time to track down Shakespeare in Splugen yet – guess I have the rest of my life to become the new Dan Brown/Stephen Greenblatt/James Shapiro/Crazy Person – but I have discovered that the alleged hotel was:
1) Built 150 years after Shakespeare’s death
2) Its most famous visitor was Nietzsche
3) Then Napoleon
Resting Bikers are found in the hotel @Frustuck. I retreat to my terrace and the rhododendrons – there we go – with some Hindi-Pop in the air. Mid-morning I go to Chur. The festival works, what’s there not to like about a schoolboy keyboard vocalist heading up a pop trio with an overweight George Michael guitarist on flashy Gary Moore Guitar? It’s like Keane without the Public School thing. Two Calenda beers down the answer is: nothing at all.
At my trestle table a “Beckham” in vest (Wife-Beater for the USA readers) has shoulder and arm tattoos of both cows and Chinese lettering. There are also a lot of Billy Connolly haircuts – mullets as were, but that gives the communal coiffeur-ery a 80s resonance that doesn’t do justice to the beards and bi-focals.
But I’m grosser easy. It’s ok.
Having a Facebook moment in the food area of the music arena I’m accosted by Varenna who is selling lottery tickets. I feign ignorance. “You know: you pay money, win prizes?”
I get the picture. We move on.
Is that an Apple Tablet?
I confirm that yes, it might be.
Then we must be friends, Varenna says. I am in online marketing. Effective online marketing strategies – that make money.
I touch screen away; soon I’m on Varenna’s home page, it’s part of the Oviva Social Network. Bookmark it, Varenna says. You’ll need it. Do you get comments on your blog – ouch baby, below the belt surely? – with Oviva not only do you get comments, but you get paid for them.
I see you’re on Facebook, so “they” know everything about you. On my network everything is – how you say?- secure.
And so ends my first ever listening to Latino rock at a county-town in Switzerland online marketing pitch done offline by a lottery ticket seller. I photograph a three three old wearing headphone ear muffs – well it is the trad jazz bit of the day – and chat to his parents. The husband is half-Scottish; the wife once lived off the Edgeware road. So much for journalism.
I’m asked to sign a petition about Kulture in Chur. All for it, I say, reaching for the pen. But my language choice disbars me. The next signature hunter is less discerning – clearly a girl with a lot of Facebook Friends – and I sign away. I’ve been away four days now, I wonder how many libraries Jeremy Hunt has closed since I left?
This is not going to be a Tom day. At the Kunsthaus – the art gallery for the Grisons region – there’s a good exhibition of mountain photography: I’m going to try and meet the curator tomorrow. The images go back to the 1850s and while that’s still 250 years ahead of Tom it is getting closer.
I ask the couple next to me how to say The Big Easy in German. There is much scratching of heads, we don’t know. I say the words one by one: they give me the translations..
But it makes no sense in German! The man says.
The woman writes it for me anyway: Der Einfache Grosse
That’s what we have today, our very own Swiss “happening”.
Then I sees Cher – circa that song that required straddling a warship’s canon. In fact from my trestle table outlook I can complete a Billboard Top 100 Antique Rock Starts without straining my neck. Consider Motley Crue, Fleetwood Mac and Bon Jovi as givens, then, blimey, Shirley Bassey, that Scottish woman from Texas, and for the kids we have the Osbourne girl who ditched her boyfriend by Twitter, Avril Lavine. Perhaps no New Jack City or Michael Jackson, but otherwise this is too Einfache a game.
Rock Me Slowly sings the schoolboy keyboard player, let’s call him Gunter Barlow, like our Gary.
Tom was reacclimatising too: this was a different mood – indeed religion – from Italy. I’m still on the fence about his real beliefs – being even a crypto-Catholic was not a good thing after the Gunpowder Treason three years before, and yet there’s something about Tom…He must have visited every church in Europe. Tomorrow I will visit Chur’s, and I hope to see some Durer. Like Goethe, Durer went early to Italy and brought some of that country’s sun and sex back to illuminate “northern” culture. In another kind of global exchange a Swiss girl named Sandra has got up on stage to sing a Mariah Carey song. She’s not bad, and the sing along with Gunter Barlow is quite nice: they hear “music in the air.” Then I twig, it’s fucking Glee, for sure. They sing another song, more bluesy, and I lose any facility for aesthetic judgement, why not? Any minute now Denis Quaid will turn up and make a dodgy bust.
I ask a young policeman what time this all ends.
At five, with a fierce yet strangely sympathetic smile.
And so it comes to pass. In fact the coming down is the most impressive feature of the day. A couple of years ago I photographed the Moscow State Circus on tour in England. Now they were good at taking the tents down and spinning their boleros and stuff, but this lot in Chur are efficiency itself.
I go back to Ems, the hotel – where neither the phone, wifi or showers work – hasn’t done my laundry. I go into Infer mood. How did Tom smell after three and a half months on the road in 1608? I hope he bought new boxers in Venice.
After Durer I might just squeeze in Giger again. Alien I-V and all that vs. Predator stuff, as well. There’s a theme bar somewhere in town.