Sofi Tukker at Openair St. Gallen 2018 in Switzerland, by Ian Young
Sofi Tukker (photo: Ian Young)

With Outside Lands soon upon us (three-day passes still available!) I decided to check out a music festival that shares many similar ethos to our own beloved party in a park: Openair St. Gallen in the northeastern part of Switzerland.

Held every year since 1977, Openair St. Gallen is a 4-day camping festival nestled in the rolling green hills of Switzerland just south of the German border. Since camping is included with every ticket and campsites are integrated within the festival site, most attendees choose to stay for the entire festival, enjoying the 24/7 music, dozens of pop-up bars and local food options (raclette, anyone?).

Openair has also established some key policies that help cut down on waste, pollution and litter. For example, every time you buy a drink or a meal, you have to pay a 1 Euro deposit. Return the cup, which the festival washes and reuses, and you get your Euro back. This all happens seamlessly by using a wristband, and is arguably better than each attendee using dozens of compostable cups and throwing them on the ground afterwards. Outside Lands could learn a thing or two.

But what’s a music festival without a killer lineup? This year’s Openair had that too, with world-class headliners being supported by standout local and up-and-coming acts.

Check out the gallery below as well as my list of Openair faves.

Best reason to brave the rain: Mama Jefferson

Zurich three-piece trash rock band Mama Jefferson braved the rain and mud to deliver a raucous, energetic set that was kicked off the first day of Openair in style.

Best use of smoke grenades and banana boats: Feine Sahne Fischfilet

Not knowing anything about this strangely-named punk band, I didn’t know what to expect. But what I definitely did not expect was a level of craziness usually reserved for small underground clubs — not the second-biggest stage at a huge music festival. Smoke grenades going off in my face. Beer bottles being thrown onto — and off of — the stage. Crowdsurfing on a banana boat (banana surfing?). And an impassioned take-no-prisoners performance by the band.

Best performance by OSL alumni: Sofi Tukker

Chances are you’ve seen Sofi Tukker, since they’ve been touring for what seems like eons. They played OSL last year and Treasure Island the year before that. All this practice has paid off their live show is pure danceable fun that had the entire Openair audience jumping and grooving the entire time.

Best homage to Karl the Fog: Nine Inch Nails

Except for a wet and muddy first day, the rest of Openair was bathed in sunshine…until Trent and company hit the stage. Covered in thick fog that was pumped in constantly from what seemed like every direction, this latest reincarnation of Nine Inch Nails pummeled the audience with an impassioned spleen-shaking wall of sound. They played old hits, songs from their latest album Bad Witch, and treated the audience to a rare performance of their Bowie cover “I’m Afraid of Americans.”