Buck 65 live at Heartland

The Heartland Festival brings Canadian indie music to Switzerland

The Canadian music scene took over Vevey this past weekend for the Heartland Music Festival, infusing the Swiss town with an eclectic mix of independent rock, hip hop, folk, experimental and pop sounds. 2010 marks the inaugural year for Heartland, and the Swiss-hosted leg of a home-and-home series of intercontinental music festivals attracted some of the biggest names in Canadian indie music to the historic Swiss town, with the return leg taking place in Toronto in early 2011.

The Salle del Castillo played host to four consecutive nights of independent Canadian talent, showcasing 14 groups both on an individual basis, and as an overarching national collective eager to mix, mingle, collaborate and create. With renowned acts like Broken Social Scene, Buck 65, Owen Pallett, Do Make Say Think and The Hidden Cameras sharing the stage with the likes of Snowblink, Timber Timbre, Zeus, Andre Ethier, Destroyer and Daniel, Fred & Julie, Heartland delivered the essence of independent Canadian music to an awestruck European crowd.

I arrived in Geneva from Edinburgh on Wednesday evening (the opening night of the festival), but unfortunately missed out on three highly anticipated sets from Eric Chenaux, Sandro Perri, and Daniel, Fred & Julie. After a night of rest, recuperation and delicious local food, I made my way to central Geneva on Thursday afternoon to board the hour-long train to Vevey, which snakes along the northern edge of Lake Geneva offering magnificent views of the surrounding Alps. After a quick walk to the Salle del Castillo from the train station, I was eager to see some familiar Canadian faces in the beautiful and unfamiliar setting.


Night Two: Snowblink, Andre Ethier, Destroyer & Owen Pallett
Thursday nights gig was well worth the journey. Despite having to leave a bit early, we were able to catch an intimate set from Snowblink as well as the rock and roll glory of singer-songwriter Andre Ethier and BC's Destroyer, whose back-to-back sets were delivered in rapid succession. Though I was disappointed to miss out on a full set from Owen Pallett, his contribution to a cover of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" during Snowblink's set offered some consolation.

Snowblink Live at Heartland Snowblink Live at Heartland

Owen Pallett Live at Heartland

Andre Ethier live at Heartland

 Andre Ethier live at Heartland Andre Ethier live at Heartland

Destroyer live at Heartland Destroyer live at Heartland

Night Three: Arts & Crafts line-up featuring Zeus, The Hidden Cameras & Broken Social Scene
Friday evening's Arts & Crafts showcase certainly did not disappoint, with Zeus kicking things off with a blistering set that showed off both their charming stage personas as well as their rock and roll prowess, effortlessly winning over the affections of the audience. The Hidden Cameras played next, delivering their own unique brand of theatrical indie pop to an inquisitive crowd with help from Broken Social Scene's brass section. As The Hidden Cameras began to wind down, the air of anticipation for a headlining set from Canada's indie rock super-collective was potent, as their performance at Salle del Castillo marked their only Swiss date on their current European tour.

Zeus live at HeartlandZeus live at Heartland

The Hidden Cameras live at Heartland The Hidden Cameras live at Heartland The Hidden Cameras live at HeartlandBroken Social Scene at Heartland Broken Social Scene at Heartland

 Broken Social Scene at Heartland Broken Social Scene at Heartland

Night Four: The Acorn, Timber Timbre, Buck 65 & Do Make Say Think
Night four featured the most eclectic line-up of the festival - the rhythmic indie rock stylings of Ottawa's The Acorn; the soft, bluesy voice of Montreal's Timber Timbre; the visceral beats and witty rhymes of Hailgonian hip hop legend Buck 65; and finally, the ethereal and atmospheric sounds of Do Make Say Think. While the rest of Broken Social Scene left Vevey following their gig the previous night, Charles Spearin stuck around to play a one-off European date with DMST to close out the first ever Heartland Music Festival.

he Acorn live at Heartland

The Acorn live at HeartlandTimber Timbre live at Heartland

Timber Timbre live at Heartland

Buck 65 live at HeartlandBuck 65 live at HeartlandDo Make Say Think live at HeartlandDo Make Say Think live at Heartland

Do Make Say Think live at HeartlandDo Make Say Think live at Heartland

In addition to a soon-to-be-announced showcase of Swiss artists playing the return leg of Heartland in Toronto early next year, plans are already being made for the 2011 edition of Vevey's Heartland Festival. The pairing of Vevey and Toronto is quite obviously a match made in musical heaven and if the success of the first annual Heartland is any indication, the intercontinental partnership will continue to strengthen for years to come.


Words & Photos by Matthew McAndrew. Videos shot with an E-PL1 by Matthew McAndrew and Jessica Knowlton Bell.

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