Posted on April 16, 2012
For a week in April, Pete Saunders travelled to Mayrhofen in Austria for the Snowbombing Festival, a week of snow-capped music and madness.
Snowbombing in madness. There is no other word for it.
Nestled in the alps of Austria, Mayrhofen is about as picturesque as it gets. Usually looking like the backdrop to The Sound of Music, the town is transformed in April when thousands of party goers converge for a week of music, cheap beer and snow.
Standing in line to get my festival wrist band, I got the lowdown talking to an English couple and some girls from Ireland. It seemed that it didn’t matter where you were from or what you did, the week of Snowbombing was for everyone who enjoyed electronic music and enjoyed partying. One thing was abundantly clear though: this week was not for the faint of heart.
“I was walking through this forest and walked past an amazing lake. So sparkly and shiny and everything was beautiful.”
“That’s because you were off your face on acid.”
“Yeah. I went back the next day and it was a shitty pond with a gnome in the middle.”
While most festivals I’ve been to in the past provide you with a camp site and enough morning bass to hamper your recovery, Snowbombing expects you out on the slopes, dressing up in ridiculous costumes and skiing in the sun. To motivate you, they put on daily on-slope shows and parties and help you recover — the only way they seem to know how: by continuing the party. If you can’t muster up the energy for that, the town itself has numerous bars and restaurants to kick back, get some sun, eat some strudel and watch people through the cover of large, dark glasses. Truth be told, I didn’t make it onto the slopes due to holding a knee injury from the past ski season. Soft, I may be and it is one of my few regrets from the week (as smart choices often become regrets in retrospect). I definitely feel like I missed out on a whole part of Snowbombing that would further separate it from other festivals — which is the only excuse I need to go again.
The week’s lineup was something to behold. Being headlined by Dizzie Rascal, Example, DJ Shadow and Groove Armada is one thing, but to me, the appeal was in the depth of the line up. Fake Blood, Booka Shade, Sub Focus, Knife Party, Crookers, London Elektricity, Krafty Kuts and James Zabiela were all in there. Acts I would usually pay to see as headliners were advertised forth or fifth string on the lineup. The venues ranged from big arena-style areas, to clubs, outdoor forest parties, street parties and even a venue made entirely of ice (including the DJ booth).
One thing was constant over all the venues: the sound systems and lighting were second to none. It was difficult to comprehend how many people must have been working behind the scenes, but every venue had their business spot on. The music was loud, but crisp; the bass could be felt and the visuals were stunning. In that regard, the highlight of the week was definitely Groove Armada. Although their music didn’t inspire me a great deal, their Red Light show involved projection mapping: red LEDs showed every move they made in real time and projected it through an intricate and stunning series of lights and effects.
The general quality of music over all the venues was amazing with Fake Blood and Booka Shade playing two standouts, but the musical highlight of the week for me was Krafty Kuts absolutely dominating the street party.
Smack bang in the middle of the week, the street party personified Snowbombing. The weather was absolutely atrocious — a cold and wet day became an even colder and wetter night. But that didn’t stop hundreds of people from dressing up in their best Olympic games outfits and dancing outside for hours on end. At first, people tried to seek out some shelter, but when most realised they were going to get wet no matter what, it just became a case of screw it, let’s just rock out.
Krafty Kuts played the second last set and it pushed the sound system to its absolute limits, accompanied by an MC who actually didn’t ruin the atmosphere (as many tend to do). The rain came down, the wind kept blowing but the energy only increased. As people got more and more wet, their smiles rarely faded. The beginning of the set was even the site of a public, on-stage marriage proposal. Those same wet faces were still seen smiling at 3am, with the only difference being the running of face paint making most people look like a Jackson Pollock/KISS hate baby.
Aside from the music, what makes Snowbombing so special are the people. I met so many awesome people over the week that it made my decision to roll solo a great one. Not just people from the UK, but from Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Lithuania, America, Canada and of course Austria. People came from all over the globe specifically for this week. Ask a lot of people in Australia and they’ll say how much the crowds at festivals has degenerated, but everyone here was kind, friendly, happy to buy the next round and were more than happy to have a slightly odd, out of place Australian tagging along.
The people, more than anything, make me want to go back. While line ups change, if the collective mentality of the crowd and the organisers can stay anywhere near the same, I think Snowbombing will continue to be the best festival in the world. I may be biased because electronic music and snow are a few of my favourite things, but whatever the crew working there are doing, they’re doing right.