What does a dream day in Montreux look like? We asked this question to the journalists who report on the concerts and backstage every summer! Find their stories, real or fantasized, from July 3rd to 18th on our website.
An imaginary tale of a place that does not officially exist but was finally discovered when an icon who had never been to Montreux Jazz performed her first concert there.
First, I wait for the hall of the Montreux Palace to empty when, literally across the road, they are getting ready for the evening concerts to begin. But without me. Calm, patient, my badge for once worn around my neck in plain sight, I follow a strict plan, keeping my distance from the desk where the hotel staff are waiting.
“My fantasies are worth as much as yours.”
At 8:50 p.m., according to the document handed to me by a guy who works with a guy who himself is close to a girl who is no stranger to the programming of Montreux Jazz, “B.”, who has never been seen here before, should very briefly cross a secluded area on the ground floor to head incognito to a protected space. A perimeter unknown to the tenants of this place, even more so to the lady’s fans, and which, if you ask connoisseurs of the Montreux scene, officially does not exist.
“There is said to be a secret underground tunnel connecting the 2m2c to the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace hotel. A tunnel about a hundred and fifty metres long, still missing from my urbexer track record…”
However, those who have been coming here every year for several decades, as I have, keeping their ears to the ground for good stories, have heard about it at least once: there is said to be a secret underground tunnel connecting the 2m2c to the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace hotel. A tunnel about a hundred and fifty metres long, still missing from my urbexer track record, and apparently used by most of the artists who have ever played here and who have been instrumental in your lives: Montreux Jazz, a land of music that has become a factory of memories and a hub of fantasy. Speaking of fantasies, mine consist in “cracking” the secret places of this part of the Riviera. They are not to be judged. “My beef is as good as yours”, William Burroughs would have said.
But here’s the thing: it’s already 8:45 p.m. B.’s fans, who were once lined up in front of the hotel, have reached the wood-panelled interiors of the Stravinski. It must be getting seriously sweaty over there now. They must be wondering what the queen is up to, hoping against a deafening background noise to finally see her appear after the agonising wait. There’s something beautiful in that patience mixed with excitement and muffled anxiety, isn’t there? For a moment the vulnerability and radiance of mankind are united in this turbulent expectation.
8:51 p.m. is knocking. And the icon furtively appears to me in a whisper of cloth and footsteps brushing against the ground. From my position, it is impossible to distinguish her clearly, however, three behemoths and a swarm of assistants escort her, authoritatively, towards an ordinary-looking corridor. Immediately, I follow them. A girl behind the desk raises her head. I wave a little stupidly. And speed up, run away, disappear (“I evaporate”, Nick Cave would say). The entrance to the corridor is in front of me. At the entrance, no particular security, no camera nor, as I feared, a bodyguard to cover B’s back. Not even the artist herself, who has stridden away with her crew. To put it plainly: nothing that indicates an important secret or encourages urban exploration. Rather, a corridor of about ten metres with a marbled floor leading to a private door with a digicode. And behind it, another weirdly curved shaft with faded white walls, neon lights glued to the ceiling. At the end: an access opening onto an elevator, this time guarded.
“Maybe from this tunnel where I am loitering, in this dazed yet soothing pallor, you can feel the energy, even in a tiny way.”
Once there, we will climb to the penultimate floor of the 2m2c, the Strav’ backstage cluttered with flight cases, the staff gesticulating, the musicians chattering, the dancers stretching, B. silent, while next door a humming thickens, soon to be transformed into a roar when the queen passes the black curtain that precedes the ramp leading to the stage. At this point, everyone can feel a sudden change in the air, as if announcing the dawn of a new time. Maybe from this tunnel where I am loitering, in this dazed yet soothing pallor, you can feel the energy, even in a tiny way. She says: “Montreux Jazz commune”. But, even so, there’s no way I’m going up. Not yet. Rather, I want to savour this place that I have finally found and that notoriously never existed. “This is not an escape from reality”, Burroughs would have argued. “But an attempt to alter it”.
David-Brun Lambert, cultural journalist (Le Temps, etc.), radio author and producer