blue balls festival
Luzern’s Blue Balls festival. It’s not the most appealing of names for anyone with a working knowledge of English. Many of my ex-pat friends have tried to figure out where the name came from to no avail. The best guess to date is that the festival hired an American intern with a 12-year old sense of humor who convinced everyone that a blues festival should be named “Blue Balls”.
And its because of this name that each year for one week, we are surrounded by a chorus of American teenage tourists saying “Dude, dude, check this out. It’s called ‘blue balls’. hehehe.” while pointing to a festival poster. Full disclosure: I’m not above this humor myself and may or may not have spent my first year here making all sorts of cracks myself.
But aside from its truly unfortunate name, this is the showcase festival in Luzern. The outdoor free shows can be hit-or-miss, but for 20CHF, you can buy a pin that gives you entry into private venues to listen to bands from around the world. Of course, there are also formal concerts for which you buy tickets. We’ve seen artists from Jethro Tull to the Roots. But even without the pin or tickets, it’s still a week of outdoor performances, festival tents and the guaranteed worst weather of the summer.
That’s right. Somehow, every year, you can set your weather watch by the festival. When it starts, so does the rain. And that rainy/slightly chilly weather continues for basically the entire week. But no worries, the KKL, Luzern’s concert hall has a fantastic rooftop bar open during the festival and is easily my favorite part of this festival. For one week every year, they open the bar and the building itself to all visitors who sport the festival pin. The views are spectacular and the space is just really fun.
But mother nature has some sympathy on us poor Luzern dwellers. There were about 2 or 3 nights when the clouds parted for a short while to allow people the chance to really enjoy the festival. And when they did, everyone rushed out to enjoy what they could of a rainless festival evening.
And what’s an outdoor festival without a quick mention of food? The food here, sadly, doesn’t hold its own compared to what we saw in Montreux, so we normally eat dinner at home and then maybe grab an ice cream from the stand. I was beyond amused to see this flavor make an appearance at the KKL gelato stand. Needless to say, it wasn’t terribly popular and although I was tempted, I went with the safer bet of watermelon sorbet. Even I have my limits.
Weather and odd ice cream flavors aside, this truly is a fun time in Luzern. Even with torrential rains, you’ll still see people outside listening to live music and enjoying a beer. The city really does come alive during this week and we look forward to it every year. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area for Blue Balls 2011, make the most of it. Buy a festival pin and even a concert ticket, if you can. You won’t regret it.